Does volume matter - a retrospective study (Read 355 times)

Feeling the growl again

    Interesting concept.  But do you think this concept taken to the extreme also explains why we have sprinters and marathoners?  Even within the distance running world there are folks that seem to be better at shorter races as opposed to longer races.  The majority of folks can train up and have relative success but few can excel at a variety of distances like Haile G.


    It seems that it is logical that more mileage will produce an improvement but at some point there will be a breaking point.  Once past that point your body will not be able to recover and properly adapt to the training load.  I agree that most people have not hit that point and could always do more volume but I also am starting to think that the breaking point for everyone would be very individual.


    I like the way you tried to account for variability by adjusting all races to a calculated 10K for better comparison but don't you think that it would be a better comparison by restricting to only one distance (ideally only one course for that distance).  The graph is great but, if for example, one year you did a slightly higher number of one type of race that really suits you or the volume of training, it could skew the data.


    The difference between sprinters and marathoners has nothing to do with the depth of talent under the surface; sprinting is all about fast twitch muscle fibers the difference is hard-wired into the muscle.


    I agree with you entirely that there will be a breaking point, and that it will be highly individual.  I knew a sub-15 5K runner who broke (due to injuries) at around 50mpw; obviously he had shallow talent.  My breaking point (primarily due to accumulating fatigue and lack of recovery) was 95-100mpw in my second highest cycle and 105-110mpw in my highest (these are averages, single weeks were well above that at times).  Your breaking point can affect your ability to bring out your talent, especially if you have deep talent but can't handle much volume.


    As to your last paragraph, of course it would be best to have exactly 6 months of training culminating in a fixed goal race of 10K on an indoor, climate-controlled track where I ran exactly to my potential in that race.  But that is not reality.  Reality is doing different races, having different weather, running different distances, feeling different even on different years of the same event, etc etc.  Those are simply real confounding factors.  This is why selecting the best performance, the single point that most represents fitness level achieved that cycle, was selected.  We are interested in top fitness achieved due to mileage, not some average.  As for running more of what suits me skewing it, well, of course I always ran more of the races that suited me than ones that did not.  Smile  I was most suited for 10K-marathon and, not surprisingly, picking the best race each year meant that all data points represent races in that distance window.  I could have just said I was only going to include 10Ks, but there were years I did not run any good 10Ks but ran great HMs.  It would not serve the data to select a sub-standard 10K when there is a known correlation in race performance used by race predictors which is acceptably accurate for these purposes.  This is also why I selected the 10K.....it is more accurate to adjust 5Ks up to 10K and HMs, marathons down to 10K, than to pick a distance at either extreme.  And 10K was also the most frequent distance in the data set so the fewest points needed adjusting at all.  I do not have the raw data in front of me but of the 11 points, IIRC 6-7 of them were actually 10Ks.

    "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand


    I am spaniel - Crusher of Treadmills



      Interesting that you bring up the topic of talent.


      When I first started I had no obvious talent...I was not one of those kids that stepped on the track and within months or a year was leading his peers.  Quite the opposite; I was at the back for 4 years 7th-10th grades before out-training my peers and taking most improved, then most valuable.  College was somewhat flat as we didn't run high volume, then post-college I ran much higher volume than post of my peers to get in front of them in races.  So I considered myself not very talented but a hard worker.


      Then after awhile I felt this was somewhat arrogant and that I was talented but it just took more work than others to bring it out (the whole "the more I trained the more talented I became" view).


      Then, in a relatively short period of time, I watched it all erode away.  Running 50mpw consistently, with workouts, and all I was doing was slowing down the rate at which I got slower.


      The way I look at it now, there is shallow talent and deep talent.  People with shallow talent are known to be talented early, with little training.  Often running high mileage is not required or does not gain them a whole lot.  Whatever physiologically constitutes "talent", they already have it there and it takes little to bring it out.  People with deep talent still have the genetic potential, but they have to actually put in a large volume or work to physiologically develop that talent.



      This is great stuff, spaniel.  I am going to share it with my oldest son, who like you, I think has "deep talent", and he is different from my second son, who clearly has more "shallow talent."   I just want boy #1 to continue to believe -- as long as he wants to continue in the sport -- that through hard work he can continue to progress to "most improved" and then to "most valuable."  True stories like yours serve as great sources of inspiration to all of us that probably more often than not hard work results in excellence, and that we shouldn't give up just because it seems to come more easily to others.

      - Joe

      We are fragile creatures on collision with our judgment day.

        Just for grins I calculated my yearly mileage vs 10k equivalent PR going back to 2009.  I'm nowhere near Spaniel or Jeff's speed so you won't see any 10k times in the low 30s.


        Over 5 years there was only a 50 second difference between fastest and slowest time versus 1500 miles between lowest and highest mileage.  Things aren't as simple as just looking at the numbers though.  Over the last couple years my focus has shifted to trail ultras with race distances 50 miles or more.  Speedwork has taken a backseat in 2012/2013.  It would be interesting to see what I could do with 4000 miles in a year but focused only on shorter distances...


        Anyway, here it is:

        <colgroup><col width="100" /> <col width="64" /> <col width="161" /> </colgroup>
        Year Yearly mileage 10K equivalent
        2009 2500 37:15:00
        2010 2872 37:21:00
        2011 3134 36:50:00
        2012 3714 37:11:00
        2013 4077 37:39:00