Quality not quantity: what does it mean?
by edwarma Jan 7th 2011
Many people involved in training for sport will have heard the phrase “Quality not quantity”, or perhaps "training smart". Triathletes tend to train a lot in proportion to how much they compete - try working out your own ratio of training hours to racing hours for last season - so they can become attached to measuring hours, miles or K’s as a marker of how well they are doing. Any coach or experienced athlete will know that smart, quality training is what’s needed. But what does this mean?
There are many ways to create the best training for you: consistency, gradual progression, recovery, race-specific sessions, strength work, the list goes on. All are vital. Something which can be overlooked is ‘form’ – related to technique, ‘form’ really means being aware of how your whole body is moving: are you engaging the right muscles, do you use your core, are you relaxed? For many athletes this requires conscious thought, and over time becomes a habit.
Just as something to begin with, as a very rough calculation: try working out how many swim strokes, pedal rotations or run steps you might do during 6 months of training. Let’s start by assuming an “average” club triathlete would swim 5k a week, of which around 4k would be front crawl. At 20 strokes per length, that’s around 13,500 strokes a month, or 80,000 over 6 months. Now work out a rough idea of pedalling and running….
The numbers get very big very quickly, right?
Something important to remember is that each and every one of these movements reinforces a pattern - the link between your brain and your muscles. Every time you train, you are not solely working on ‘fitness’, you’re ingraining a movement pattern – for better or worse!
Poor technique and poor habits increase your risk of injury by over-straining inappropriate muscle groups, and mean you won’t get the most out of your training. This is particularly important as you build up your training.
Using the right muscles in the right way will make you stronger, more powerful, more efficient – and hopefully faster! This is something which takes conscious effort to start with, literally and simply thinking about which bits of your body are doing what, and overtime the right muscles will engage automatically.
So, the choice is yours: Each and every swim, bike or run session is a chance to reinforce a useful movement pattern, helping good form progress from something which you need to consciously control, to something which happens naturally.
As the new year starts and many people get back to triathlon training, it’s worth considering: what's the link between mind and muscles, and what do you need to know to use that potential?
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My next race
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Hello! I thought I better get up to date (about 10 years late...) and start blogging! I'll be using this blog for various triathlon and coaching-related streams of consciousness...if you find something here of interest, get in touch! And if it's performance improvement you're after, we can talk about whether some 1-1 coaching might be of use to you in defining and achieving your goals.