A lot of my athletes like to compare notes on their week’s training and try to outdo each other in terms of the hours or miles they racked up. It’s a pissing contest for who gets to be top dog that particular week.
I love the enthusiasm but has the athlete who did the most miles or hours progressed the most? i.e. what’s more important – quantity or quality?
This debate is summarized in Competitor magazine in the following article: Is There Such A Thing As Junk Miles? The article refers to running but it is equally applicable to triathlon in general.
Partly because I work long hours in the day job, I am a firm believer that you don’t need to train hours upon hours to get results. I go for quality first.
We have to be efficient, have a plan and get the most out of each session. Don’t train purely to reach a target of miles completed. Be comfortable maintaining a 3-4 sessions per week. As long as you are consistent and working hard you will see results.
On the other hand, what are junk miles? One theory is that “the only running that is not junk mileage is the higher-intensity stuff (tempo runs, hill repeats, track intervals”
A slow, steady run or swim will build your aerobic base and and burn fat. You can also incorporate drills into this session to also improve technique. Drills are always quality work if done well. Always.
In the end the author sits on the fence a bit where rather than going to either extreme he “advocates a balanced approach where mileage and faster running are given equal weight”.
I think the bottom line is don’t train for the sake of racking up a few miles.
Have a purpose or don’t do it at all. Go enjoy yourself instead.