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How Many Hours Should We Train

#training
How Many Hours Should We Train

One very common question I often get is how many hours I trained a week or is a year.

In Germany, it was more common to get asked, how many kilometers I trained in a year. This blog post doesn't include the answer to both of the questions. In general, I am hesitant to talk about those numbers. It is not that I want to hold them back; it is more than that those numbers don't tell the whole story. Why is that? Let's get into it.

Of course, there are recommended hours to train at a certain level in a specific sport, but there is more to look at than total training hours in a year:

  • How are you spending your hours?
  • What do you count as training time?
  • What is the intensity of those hours?
  • Why you want to be consistent with logging hours?
  • Why I am not sharing my numbers today.
  • How are you spending your hours? 

When looking at the total hours, it is good to know how many of your trained hours you spent on what kind of training activities. On a bike, running, skiing, in the gym, in a canoe, etc. There are so many ways to train, and all possible and helpful options should be used but also logged differently. An hour of stretching is something different than an hour of biking. And even an hour of biking is different when done on a mountain bike vs. a road bike. Or a roller ski session on any river road (I have the feeling there is everywhere is a river road) or up a hill is a different session. When logging hours, I recommend being as specific as possible about what kind of training those hours covered, but there is still no need to go overboard with that either.

  • What do you count as training time?

I was a little bit crazy about that, but as soon as I stopped for a drink, for taking lactate, or whatever, I stopped my watch. Before you ask, I didn't stop my watch for the 30seconds of shooting, but I did stop for loading clips. For this reason, I could compare my log with my own log very well, but probably not with somebody else's training log. I don't think this is necessary if the stops are kept very short. But standing around should probably not be logged or logged as “buffer time” or whatever you want to call it. 

No kidding, I saw an athlete starting her watch, and the first thing she did was take the time to sip out of the drinking belt. I don't think this needs to be included in training time because it adds up and gives wrong information. For this reason, I like watches that stop when there is no movement going on. Those would have been perfect for me.

  • What is the intensity of those hours?

When analyzing a season, like I was talking about in Looking Back To Look Forward, we want to see if we trained a good ratio between different levels of intensity. There are different philosophies and different sports with specific needs; that's why it doesn´t make sense to come up with a number. But there was a plan at the beginning of the week, period, month, and year, which shows this ratio, and the log shows what actually happened. 

It also makes sense that more intensity in a plan could lead to fewer hours in the yearly total. That's why it´s not just important to break up the hours into the kind of training described in the beginning, but also into different intensities. Someone who trained more intensity might look bad compared to someone who only focused on hours. I think you can see that it doesn´t mean that the one with more hours trained better. It also doesn´t need to indicate that the one with more hours trained in a poor way. It depends on the philosophy.

  • Why you want to be consistent with logging hours?

This information is useful to keep on track, compare training with the numbers in the plan and adjust the plan if needed. Athletes can compare their own numbers from year to year or period to period. And they can compare them to the recommendations they follow. If they can compare their numbers with those of other athletes depends on how this other athlete is logging training sessions and also where this athlete is training. As I said before, I also was logging kilometers, and when I did a trial run for 1.5h, I had covered a different distance than if I had done a road run at the same intensity. I didn't really do any road runs, but I want to make a point that 1.5h running can be done in a different way. That is why, when comparing with others, it is important to check at least if it is comparable and what is comparable. The main use of your own data is to know what you did, to compare it with what you wanted to do, should do, and to make future plans. My coaches did a lot of this work, especially when I was young.

  • Why I am not sharing my numbers today.

By now, you may know why it doesn't even make sense to share my numbers. I might followed a slightly different training philosophy, and I don't think it is the only one which can lead to success. I might have tracked my numbers differently than you do. I also did not train the same amount in all the years of my career. I definitely did things differently at the age of 16, 29, and 35. So there is not just one number I would need to share to show the whole picture.

Now I did not answer how many hours you should train. Still, I hope I made clear that there are many moving parts and just aiming for hours should not be the goal—but aiming for the right amount of hours at the right time, at all sorts of intensities, on sport-specific as well as unspecific training equipment and elements.

I will be back with this topic because there is much more to discuss. For now, I just hope you don´t take total hour numbers as the full picture anymore.

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