Starting to Train – Too Conservative on Volume?

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  • #7263

    Forum –

    In starting for the first time with a disciplined program as an active, but not highly trained athlete, I was looking to avoid mistakes of the past (too much volume too soon, injury, etc.) However, the 200-250 annual hours estimates yield individual, non-strength workouts shorter than an hour until well into the Base period, with “remaining Zn1 volume” larger than the longest workout recommended. Will this even yield a strong enough training effect? In other words, is there a risk of actually starting off TOO conservative in volume and actually under-training – never accumulating enough volume to adequately stress one’s body and thus improve?

    Please excuse the very basic question, but I’d rather get it right than be too proud and ill-advised.

    – Ken

  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #7267

    Hi Ken,

    Good question. Yes, it’s possible to undertrain relative to current fitness levels, but it’s easier to correct undertraining than overtraining. In general, it’s best to start conservatively, and then increase if appropriate.

    A big mental adjustment that I had to make when I moved from active-but-unstructured to structured training is that although I may have trained similar volumes in general, the chronic nature of structured training brings a unique (and necessary) type of fatigue.

    The chronic stimulus is necessary for ongoing adaptation, but it can be deceptively easy for days and weeks until a big enough load adds up.

    I’m afraid I don’t understand the rest of your question. Can you clarify the following?

    …the 200-250 annual hours estimates yield individual, non-strength workouts shorter than an hour until well into the Base period, with “remaining Zn1 volume” larger than the longest workout recommended.

    Are you asking if the 200-250 hours isn’t enough volume? Or if a workout shorter than an hour is too short? Or if the remaining hours in Zone 1 have to be done in one workout? Or all of the above?


    kengreenbaum on #7270

    Thanks for the reply, Scott. The three questions you posed are exactly what I’m asking. For example, I’ve attached (a screen shot) of a spreadsheet which shows the recommended times for each activity based on the book for a 200 hour annual training assumption. I’ve broken the “remaining Zn1 minutes” into two days for scheduling purposes, but the point is the same. If combined, they would be longer than the “Long Zn1” as recommended. Also, the workouts do seem very short – even the longest workouts in the meat of the Base Period seem shorter than some of the HIIT stuff I was doing (although I understand the completely different nature of the training effect; just sayin’.)

    Bottom line – I’d rather start under-training than overtraining, but I also don’t want to be 20 weeks in and discover I was too far below a minimum threshold of volume to make noticeable change. Sorry for any lack of clarity and thank you for taking the time to answer!

    Anonymous on #7273

    Scott S is very correct when he says it is way easier to fix under training then over training. One of the most important purposes of the Transition Period, for those new to structured training is to figure out an appropriate load. If after 8 weeks you are routinely hitting 6 hours of aerobic training and it still feels light then you may need to bump up. But keep the weekly jump to no more than 20% in these low hour weeks. Pay attention to how this feels. How are you recovering? It may take weeks to feel the accumulation of fatigue so be aware. Keep notes , monitor fatigue. You may very likely NOT get the overall training load dialed in during your first full training cycle. This is as much art as science.

    As Scott says, it is the chronic and progressive nature of the training load that gives better benefits than a randomize non progressive loading that typical non structured exercise provides.

    It could well be that 200 hours is too low. It is not possible for us to tell you the right amount. Consider that your training cycle may be shorter than 12 months and adjust accordingly. 200 hours spread over 48 weeks is lot different than 200 hours done in 24 or 36 weeks.

    I have a little saying that has severed me well in coaching: It is much better to be a lot undertrained than to be even a little overtrained. If you are undertrained you can always dig a little deeper and push a bit harder. But, when you are overtrained you can’t dig deeper. The well is dry.


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