Training capacity: what is it?
by on Thursday, July 31, 2014  (3 comments)

Do you know your training capacity?

Most people don't. They assume they know but I've seen that many runners don't even know how to define their training capacity, much less determine what theirs is.

In the next three weeks, I'd like to explore training capacity. I was originally going to write this all into one post but I think it would turn out too long and too much to digest all at once. So I'm going to break this into three parts:

1) What is training capacity?
2) How to find your training capacity and what to do when you have found it?
3) Other training capacity considerations.

So, with that, here we go...

What is training capacity?

Before you can determine what your training capacity is, you have to define the term. Many people think of miles per week as the definition. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. I can run 70 miles per week no problem. I've done it several times this year already. However, right now, I couldn't run a 70 mile week while sustaining 7 minute per mile pace on my easy days and doing two grueling workouts and a long run every week.

I prefer to think of your training capacity as the total training stimulus you can handle. It's about more than just volume. It's also intensity, auxiliary training such as strength workouts or cross training and more. It's the total picture.

The more intensity you do, the less volume you can do. This isn't a change in your training capacity, it's a change in the focus of your training. As your intensity increases, your training stimulus increases. Think of your training capacity not as just a measure of how much volume you can handle but as a measure of how much total training stimulus you can handle. This will give you a more complete and accurate picture of how much training you are capable of.

Next week, I'll discuss finding your training capacity and what to do once you've found it. Until then, I hope this gets you started thinking in a new way about what your training capacity is.

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Excellent introduction to this topic Ryan. I am looking forward to determining what my maximum training capacity is right now. (I know that it will change as time goes on) This is that edge of the cliff that I talk about - How much total training (intensity and distance) can I do without a physical or mental breakdown or in other words - falling off of that cliff.

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Thanks Ed. I really wanted to stress that your training capacity isn't just about that weekly mileage number, which is a big reason why we're going to wait until next week to discuss determining your training capacity. The first thing I want to do is let this fact sink in: it's about the total training stimulus.

By the way, don't think "maximum" training capacity. We want a sustainable level. When we think "maximum" sometimes we fall into the trap of not finding that sustainable level. I actually prefer backing off the "maximum" just a bit just to make sure it's sustainable. Better to do 90% of what you can consistently than 110% inconsistently. More on that next week, though.

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My thought was finding that maximum and then being smart about training and backing off of that to reach a sustainable level. In order to know what 90% is we need to know what 100% is. I am thinking that after Al's run we can tinker around with my training to determine my 100% so we can back down to the 90% for that most important ability to stay consistent.

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