Workout intensity vs number of workouts

I’m in my first few months of TR (starting with SSBMV). I’ll have 2 years of structured training under my belt this June. I’m 43yrs old, so I need to watch volume and recovery carefully (as to not over do it - this was my issue my first year. I regularly had 700+ tss weeks and thus my progress was stunted).

I’ve learned a lot about training, my body, etc, in that time, but one mystery remains. Because I’m so careful about making sure I get proper recovery, I’m constanstly holding myself back on workouts, so I can make sure I can do the next one. I do exactly what coach Chad prescribes, but I can usually go deeper if I didn’t have 5x15 SS staring me in the face the next day.

So my question is, why not do 2-3 super hard, ‘all in’ workouts a week, instead of 4-5 ‘semi hard’ ones? What’s the difference? Don’t get me wrong, a workout like Carpathian Peak +2 is tough as hell, but if I didn’t have a 2hr SS workout the next day, I could do 20’ over/unders instead of 16’ and bury myself. Then I’d have 2 days to recover before the next workout.

Hopefully this makes sense.

During different parts of your training phases, less more intense efforts probably makes sense, depending on your goals. I find it much harder to recover with high intensity VO2 max plus efforts versus sweet spot. It’s doubtful that doing more than two of those HIIT workouts per week would be useful.

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You shouldn’t need long chunks of time to recover from sweet spot if you’re doing it right. In fact you should be able to do those day in and day out with proper sleep/nutrition. VO2 is another animal. Takes more time to recover from that.
I know that as you age/people with slow recovery their training needs to be a bit different. In fact Joe Friel suggests that once around 50 you need to do at least one session of VO2 intervals per week so you’re not losing that high end. Nothing crazy like 3-4x3 min.
It’s all about what system you’re working on improving

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3 workouts a week describes the Low Volume plans. I subscribe to those and fill in the gaps with whatever I please, with no pressure to be “compliant” with the filler rides/workouts.

I choose harder workouts all the time, again as a luxury of Low Volume. The next day I can do whatever I want. If I’m feeling good I’ll go for a 2 hour sweet spot or an outdoor hammerfest. If not, I can do Baxter, Pettit, or Dans. Or take the dog out for a long walk.

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Mid and high volume workouts are meant to get you on the bike more times per week. I completed the century low volume plan and still averaged around 600 to 700 TSS per week as I did a lot of endurance rides. I slightly modified the plan by substituting the weekend sweetspot workout with a 3 hour endurance ride so I had 2 hard workouts per week and that was enough to prepare for a 19 hour indoor training camp after the training plan.

Much depends on what event you’re training for and your goals, but in general I think you’ve followed the exact right path in holding back. I’m doing the base-build-specialize for a triathlon, which means I’m going to do hundreds of workouts. No single workout, not matter how hard I go, will make me that much faster. What matters is consistency, doing as many of the prescribed workouts at possible. Sure, it’s good to go really hard on occasion, which is why we add a race or two in preparation for our A race. Occasionally burying yourself prepares you mentally and physically for the main event(s). But if you go too hard too often, you risk injury, burnout, or simply missing workouts and undermine your training.

As for your question, I think the reason you do more workouts, rather than fewer, is that we all need volume. It’s the volume that allows us to finish strong. You might gain fitness with just 2-3 workouts per week, but you need the volume to hold your pace in the closing miles of your race. Anyway, that’s my experience.

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