World tour cyclists and professional triathletes famously train as much as 30+ hours per week, but what is the right amount of training for us mere mortals? Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or experienced athlete, deciding how often should you train can be difficult. There is no one size fits all answer but regardless of experience, here are some of the most important things to consider when determining the volume in your training.
At 2PEAK when you set up a training plan you must enter on which days and for how long you can train. We often get questions regarding how often you should train and what the inputs are here. 2PEAK does have a feature to calculate what you should do based on your goals and experience under Settings > Average training hours per week/Goal > Change > suggest new time schedule. As you can see here:
Clicking Suggest new time schedule here will give you an amount to train based on your individual goals and background. Note this feature is only available on the web. But maybe you still want to know, what all does this consider and what should I consider when making fine tune adjustments to this schedule? To answer this there are several things one must consider.
This article focuses on cyclists and triathletes. If you are training for a running event, check out the article how often should I run.
What obligations do I have outside of training?
The first thing to consider when determining how often you should train is what your calendar looks like with your other obligations. Professionals may be able to train 30 hours a week but even if amateurs were physically capable of this, it is probably not possible with a full-time job and or a family. The things you do in the 18-23 hours a day that you are not training limit not only your time but impact how you recover and therefore how you train. The athlete with a family working 50 hours a week will have very different time constraints than a single athlete working 40 hours per week who has no other time-consuming goals.
Think of times when training can regularly fit in to your schedule. Consistency here is key. Can you regularly fit an hour training session in the morning before work, during a lunch break or in the evening after work? Do you have time on the weekend or maybe even mid-week to fit in a longer ride? Does it make sense to wake up at 5am for a training session each day and what impact does this have on my sleep and therefore recovery?
2PEAK will also help you understand how you are recovering and actively adjust your training level based on this. Your recovery is automatically calculated by the 2PEAK battery but if something else in your life, for example poor sleep, is making you feel less recovered, you can make manual adjustments to this battery. This will in turn influence your training schedule to optimize it for you. Read more about how this feature works here.
What are my goals?
Are you training to stay healthy or to be the fastest strongest athlete possible? How often you should train varies based on if you are the most casual athlete, the most ambitious athlete, or anything in between. If you are a “just for fun” athlete concerned mostly with overall health, 2 or three training sessions a week could be enough. In this case, you should make sure you are moving enough every day and think of incorporating other forms of exercise for example Pilates or strength training. In any case if you are a just for fun or ambitious athlete, strength training can be beneficial for endurance athletes. You can use 2PEAK´s multisport feature to determine how different exercises impact your recovery and training.
If you really want to maximize your potential, you must train more. There is no way around it. All the competitive pros are training at least 20 hours a week, and many are doing much more. If your goals are really to be the best you can be and you have the time to do this, you can make significant gains this way. However, many competitive amateurs put in no more than 10 weekly hours of training. This is much more manageable while maintaining a normal schedule and can also create incredibly fit athletes. Most amateur athletes that still want to race as fast as possible, perform well with this volume of training. Ambitious athletes should also consider doubling (training twice per day) to reach their max potential.
What distance is my main race?
Are you training for a short single day race or Olympic distance triathlon? Or are you training for an ultra-distance or stage cycling race or an Ironman distance triathlon. For the most ambitious athletes the training time for the shorter events is not much different than the longer events. Professional athletes focusing on sprint triathlons still can train 30+ hours a week. If you want to reach you fullest potential in a short or long race and can fit 14 hours of training in your schedule, you may want to use all these 14 hours regardless of the race distance.
Of course, most athletes do not have unlimited time. In this case, the amount of training time you need varies based on the distance of your main race. If you are training for a shorter event, you can still perform well with less than 10 hours per week. If you are ambitious and training for a shorter event, 5-7 quality hours could be enough. For very time constrained athletes, frequent shorter and intense sessions will bring more benefit than long sessions. Long training sessions are however crucial if you are training for a long event.
How much should I rest?
Adaption and improvement come from a combination of breaking down your body with training and rebuilding it with rest. A crucial component to how often you should train is how much rest you get. Smart training is always organized with a periodised training plan that incorporates and considers rest. For more ambitious athletes a rest could be an easy session and they still are doing something daily but less ambitious athletes will need to take days off. Additionally, younger athletes tend to recover quicker than older athletes. If you are an older athlete, you should consider that you might need extra recovery time. Also check out or article, training for the over 50s
Other things to consider
The amount you should train can also be influenced by your history with injuries and the sport you are doing. If you are injury prone, consider reducing your training volume or doing an alternative sport some days. For Triathletes, one time saving training tip that can allow you to do more training is to incorporate brick sessions in your training. This means you run directly after getting off the bike. This will help you save time with changing and showering. The same logic can be applied for cyclists that want to do a short strength session after a ride.
Triathletes should also consider the sport they are doing when they determine how much they should train. Cycling swimming and running all have a different training impact and recovery timeline. Additionally, when setting up your training in 2PEAK you can allow 2PEAK to choose the sport for a given session. Instead of saying specifically that you will cycle you select 2PEAK chooses. This is a valuable tool because 2PEAK analyses what you would need most and suggests this. However, do not do this for every session. You need to say when you can go to the pool or if you have time for a longer ride. These training sessions should be specifically a swimming or cycling session.