In his latest Fast10 blog 63 min half marathon man Ollie Lockley talks about training load, what it means and how to get the balance right

Training load is effectively the amount of stress you can put your body under while being able to recover and come back stronger. There is a fine line between training too hard and too little, so finding the balance to still train hard and recover is paramount.

There are different philosophies and training programmes that athletes and coaches follow, however it is important that you find one that works for you, as there is no one size fits all.

Quantity vs Quality

As a runner who favours the longer distances, I often hear conflicting theories over the quantity and quality of training – especially over the marathon distance.

With regards to marathon training, some athletes will find their sweet spot around the 85-mile a week mark, whereas others like to sit around 120-miles a week. The truth is there is no magical number that athletes need to hit in order to achieve their goal – they just need to manage their training load.

Any athlete can run high mileage, but it’s the quality of training that really matters. Yes, in order to be a better runner you need to run more, just like in order to be a better golfer you need to play more golf.

But it’s dialling down the specifics of what you are doing, with each training run and session having a purpose. For example, if you have a specific session day on a Tuesday (e.g. 4 x 2miles) you want to make sure that you are feeling relatively good for it and that you can hit your splits.

What’s the point in trying to run 120-miles a week if you struggle to get through your key sessions? Even the easy runs have a purpose, and if you run too fast on them, this could be detrimental to the rest of your sessions and subsequent recovery.

It’s not just Running

It’s not just running that athletes need to balance. You also need to counter in for other aspects such as strength and conditioning, studying, work, children, hobbies and socialising.

For 99% of athletes we all have other commitments that we need to balance along with our training. Having the correct training load is important, but also having the right work-life balance on top of training is just as important.

For a lot of athletes reading this blog, a typical week might involve double-runs (when not on lock down), intervals, long runs, S&C sessions, stretching, work, and then trying to find time to see friends and family. Unfortunately the luxury of going for a run and then recovering for a few hours just isn’t an option for many, so we have to be careful with how we balance our activities and plan our days.

This is why it is important to remember that there is no magic formula that works for every athlete. Some people have commitments and have to work long hours, so they might have to prioritise quality work over quantity.

Moreover, other people may not have many commitments so they can fit more running and gym work in the week. We all have different things going on in our lives but the principle of balancing load no matter what we do should be consistent. As they say, we should never burn our candles at both ends!

Now What?

Within the past few weeks, life as we know it has changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With races cancelled and postponed up and down the country, and with this summer’s Olympics now in 2021, our plans and goals for the season have had to be put on hold.

Government guidelines have also stated that we must self-isolate and only leave the house for essential reasons and for one form of exercise a day. This is understandably frustrating for all athletes, as the uncertainty of when all this is all over isn’t clear.

Many people are wondering what training they should be doing and how much – especially because we’re not really training for anything in the near future. This can lead to boredom, anxiety, and a loss of motivation, so having a plan each day will help you feel like you have achieved something.

Strip it back

My view on this is to strip training back and use this time as an opportunity to work on weaknesses and simply enjoy the process of running. It also opens the doors to try other forms of activity that we would never normally/might not have had the time to do.

This might include yoga, core/stability exercises, cycling, circuit training, stretching etc. Now that we’re limited to one form of exercise outside per day, it’s a good time to slow down and get back to basics.

Running type sessions that we can all do from the house is fartlek training, tempo (effort based) runs, and hill workouts. However, it is important to note that we don’t need to overdo training, but just keep in touch with it until we are allowed back off the leash!

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