Advice – When to train

As already indicated in my last post on skimo training, I wanted to talk about the „when to train“ question. There already is a lot of information (just google around a little).

First of all, why is it at all necessary to think about the time in training. Training in the first instance depletes your energy storage and gives some sort of challenge to your system. The body then reacts with adaption. By properly timing your next training, you can then use the „supercompensation“ to you advantage. This was training physiology in a nutshell.

I believe this comes from back in the days when men were still hunting mammoth. You had to run, in order to chase the beast. By doing this day in day out your body adapted to running after your meal. It had to adapt, otherwise humans would have faced extinction.

Nowadays things demand a more sophisticated approach. Sports became academic playground for academic endeavours (not only in recent times physical exercise was perceived to be a benefit). Nations developed an interest in increasing their knowledge in sports science because of prestigious gold medals in the olympic games.

Enough for the introduction, you should have gotten the point that there is a vast knowledge base and my article cannot cover all. It is intended to be a report more than a scientific paper. Without a coach athletes have to rely on their own training structure and have to question themselves when overtraining is lurking around the corner.

I ran into an over-training syndrome (OTS) more often in my early years when I was still doing triathlons. I just trained the wrong way and put too much volume in. Since I came directly off the couch, without any background in sports (apart from the obligate football experience in primary school), there was a lot to learn. Funny thing is: There is no scientifically proven way to prevent over-training (see Kreher and Schwartz, 2010). All you need to do and know is how stress works on your body.

For the recreational athlete this knowledge comes from experience mostly. Because your daytime job will also indulge stress on your system. It is a little like standing in front of a red traffic light and playing with the gas. You do not go, still you burn fuel. Non-training stress is exactly that. It also demands that you rest as your body can only take a certain amount. In fact the need for recovery increases with the combination of training and non-training stress. Two ways to handle that: Turn pro or sleep more. More has to be understood as at least do not cut back sleep in order to get training hours in!

A training plan then can help you understand where you are in terms of cycles. Training can be ordered in a 3-1 core cycle that replicates in all levels of detail. 3 days on and 1 off, 3 hard weeks followed by a rest week and more or less three intense months with one „off“. „Off“ means: less training load by either cutting back intensity or volume. Typically this is a day in the week that is just used for stretching and moderate(!) weight training.


A plan also keeps you from pushing too hard when you feel good. Because there is nothing worse than too much of a good. After some intense trainings you feel really strong and want to show off with your newly derived form. I often times managed to burn out just after that. A proper base and foundation period is way more important than starting running as fast as you can from day one.

When stressed from your day-time job you’d rather go for a slow jog than training intervals. Overall, it may appear counter-intuitive, but you have to go slow in order to become fast later in the season.

A performance diagnosis can help you structure the plan. More importantly you do not accidentally end up training with a too high pulse all the time. Stick with the zones identified in order to build a proper aerobic base. You’ll feel dreaded throughout not going fast at all. It absolutely is not as much fun as going fast. Nevertheless, without a proper base you are building on sand.

For more information you might want to read out this already (more to follow):

„When enough is enough“ by Chris Carmichael


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