More on Volume
I thought this was a good question:
Q: What do you base the statements in the blog below on (Thoughts on Volume)? As far as I can see high volume low intensity training does not affect the bodily functions that you describe in a better way than does high-intensity training.
A: Thanks for your note. Good question. I’ll try to answer it.
There are basically two ways to improve fitness. For now let’s call fitness aerobic endurance, or more specifically, aerobic capacity (VO2max). The two ways are through an emphasis on volume and through an emphasis on intensity, especially an intensity at or near VO2max. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. For example, volume-based training requires more time (as in weeks/months) to reach a similar level of fitness as when using intensity-based training. High intensity training has a greater risk of breakdown from injury, illness and burnout. Volume-based training has a greater benefit for muscle capillarization while high intensity does more to improve heart stroke volume. There are others but I won’t go into all of them here.
Of course, we don’t have to use just one or the other. Both may be used quite nicely at different times in the season (that's in part what periodization is all about) and are complimentary. At this time of year, assuming an athlete has several months (at least 5) until his/her first A-priority race of the year, I like to have the athlete focus on volume-based training. Don’t assume this means “long, slow distance.” I don’t really believe in that at all except when recovering. The volume I like includes aerobic threshold training, speed skills and force training. These are all described in my Training Bible books. I’ve found most athletes do a poor job of training these three abilities. I’ve even found riders who, when at the end of their seasons when they should be in great aerobic condition, cannot complete the long, steady aerobic threshold workouts I have athletes doing now—at the start of winter. Their aerobic fitness still is not complete. Athletes tend to be impatient and want to get to the hard stuff too soon and never fully develop their most basic abilities. A little patience goes a long way at this time of year.