Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: Low Intensity Training

>> Thursday, December 18, 2014

Joe Friel, one of the best-known triathlon coaches out there, wrote on his blog yesterday about the importance of low-intensity training. He points to 2 studies that show these results, but he notes that "there isn’t a lot research on this specific topic so there’s certainly room for a counter argument here."

Here's a chuck of Friel's thoughts regarding these studies:

Assuming that we accept this train-easy-rather-than-moderate concept, there may be several reasons that it’s more beneficial. An obvious one is that you are likely to be more rested when doing a subsequent hard (>AnT) [anaerobic threshold] session. There may also be benefits of going slow such as improving fat metabolism and capillary density in the slow twitch muscles. There could even be psychological benefits having to do with burnout.

The bottom line of this research is that training should be either hard or easy—most of the time. As soon as we start looking at training in terms of an entire season, periodization must be considered. Depending on the type of event for which you are training, there are times in the year when it may be appropriate to do a considerable amount of training at a moderate effort between the thresholds. For example, if you are training for a long-distance event lasting several hours that will be raced in zone 3, then a good deal of time in the last few weeks before the race should be spent training in zone 3. Also, very early in the season, such as in Base 1 and 2, it’s probably beneficial for most athletes following a classic, linear periodization program to do a considerable amount of training between the thresholds with very little time above AnT [anaerobic threshold].

Friel wraps up his article with this:

The bottom line here is that it is often beneficial to do very easy workouts rather than entirely avoiding them in favor of a moderate effort as many do. In my opinion, perhaps the biggest mistake athletes make in training is to make their easy workouts too hard.

When I interviewed up-and-coming pro triathlete Linsey Corbin about 5 years ago, one of the big things I took away from talking with her was that she shared similar thoughts as this. She noted that we (meaning amateur triathletes) spend too much time training at 80%. She thought we need to back off a lot more, and then have some workouts that were "all-out" - NOT just going pretty hard most of the time.

Check out Joe Friel's article here (along with links to the 2 studies he cites), and CLICK HERE for all posts tagged with "Thirsty Thursday."


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