Critical Volume Again

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

Here’s a qualitative look at what critical volume is:

You have a friend that you can beat at the 5k, a 15 mile bike ride and a 400 TT in the pool even though that friend trains much more than you. However, when you go to the half iron distance he successfully beats you by 10 minutes. This is where critical volume comes in; he has gained the durability (through volume) to extend his speed potentials to longer race distances. What critical volume does is suggest how much training is required to gain the majority of the durability required for your race distance. At long distance races, this lack of durability is the major determiner of time loss for most people. Meet critical volume, and you will beat most people around your speed potential even though they may be faster than you at short distance racing. This is even more the case in IM racing where almost no one except some in the pro wave meet critical.

A lot of people misunderstand my critical volume posts to mean “he says you must do these huge training mileages to do well in IM…..that’s crazy”. That’s not what critical volume is about.

-Jesse

Comments (5)

  • IronMatron (Mary)

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    But where do the critical volume numbers come from? How do you determine them? Is this ever a function of the individual, or is it just a predetermined number that is true for every athlete? I totally buy what you’re saying– the idea of critical volume makes sense to me in an intuitive way– but I don’t get how that number can be calculated in a truly scientific way given all of the variables involved.
    Not that I’m a scientist, but you know.
    Hey, at least you know I’m reading! 😉

    Reply

  • Jessekrop

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    7/3 the race distance per week running
    8/3 the race distance per week biking
    9/3 the race distance per week swimming

    All that for at least 3 weeks during the previous 6 weeks before race day.

    Based on my experience with various athletes, these work very well to reach one’s speed potential curve. This comes from many, many samples for various level athletes at multiple race distances as well as feedback on the calculator which uses these concepts and gets about 75 unique visits per day; the athletes I coach, and my own experiences. They are not EXACT numbers but are a very good baseline. The only time I see a moderate difference from these is if an athlete has significant race experience at the particular race they are completed. In that case, with less volume they can still have the durability suggested by critical volume but without quite actually meeting it. Example: a marathoner who has 5 years of marathon racing experience. He may be able to run just 45 miles a week (critical is 60) but still meet his speed potential curve. This is why there is an experience input to the calculator. I hope this helps.

    -Jesse

    Reply

  • Donna

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    I’m still confused. What do you mean by:

    7/3 the race distance per week running
    8/3 the race distance per week biking
    9/3 the race distance per week swimming

    I’m sure once you give the answer it will make sense but I keep looking at it and can’t figure it out! Thanks!

    Reply

  • Jessekrop

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    Example: 7/3 X 26.2 = 61 miles per week running in order to be prepared from a durability standpoint for marathon.

    -Jesse

    Reply

  • Donna

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    I see. So, if I don’t do 60 miles a week for IM, then I take the walking breaks. Last year, I couldn’t get up to critical volume because of my lack of experience (or my inability to add that much vollume from my base). I have to check my schedule to see if I get there this year. It is all becoming clearer (I know you’ve said this a million times but it definitely helps to see it in writing!) When does the book come out? 🙂

    Reply

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