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Quality v Quantity
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In 2002 i ruptured my ACL and MCL playing football and was told i would not be having an op on the NHS and could never play again (along with many other things!)... After doing some freeride / downhill MTB'ing for a couple of years, I starting to swim again in August 07 and thought, i cycle, i swim...all i need to do is run a about earning a little money for charity and sign up for the London Oly! I went on to enjoy my first season in tri so much I have done a 2nd, gone sub 2:30 for an Olympic distance got round an ironman and am still going!
When not training I can be seen at the Boleyn Ground being a long suffering season ticket holder at the 1966 World cup winners West Ham Rolling Eyes
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All about hammerer

Joined: 19 Nov 2007
Location: Right Next Door To Hell

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Quantity V Quality
Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:52 pm hammerer
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A very good question to my last post by The Prawn made me go back and start to think about this a little more. I thought to myself that many people say its quality over quantity, so my first question is what makes a session quality? Many people mention junk miles, and that these are not quality so to start what exactly are junk miles?
ďJunk milesĒ is a term Iíve never understood because to me any miles are good miles. If you are riding a bike you are always gaining something, whether that is handling, climbing, changing gear or descending, when running you are always getting time on the feet, which in essence is making you stronger and as for swimming, well if you are in the water and actually concentrating on what you are doing, then you are always slowly improving by feeling what is happening with small changes to your stroke. Is there more to it than that though? Maybe there is no such thing as junk miles. So I broke it down further and thought if I have 30mins what would be a waste of that time. 30mins for running isnít much, so it is pretty pointless going for a jog around the block right?, 30mins allows for a 5k TT or a fartlek run, with minimal slow sections. These in essence are not traditional intervals but are quality sessions as you are working hard in the available time. Then I started to think that if you have 45 minutes for 5 days of the week, what would be a waste of that time? Well the obvious one is sitting at the desk eating or going to the pub. So what can you do in 45 minutes? I can do a fartlek session or a TT, but every day of the week? No chance. Iíll be burnt out or injured before the next rain shower. So a 45min steady run would then not be a waste of time. It gives me time on the feet adds miles and quantity, but without risking injury or other sessions. Is this quality? For me, yes. After 5 days Iíve added 25miles with some fast some steady some tempo, but most important Iíve got some much needed volume and consistency and without getting injured. So does that mean there is no such thing as junk miles or is it even appropriate to run like this? What if one day I was feeling a bit low of energy, had a little niggle then would that 5miles at a steady rate be worthwhile. Well simple answer is no of course not. It would be risking sickness, injury or maybe affect other sessions. If Iím tired I wonít get up at 6am for my morning swim. So that is not quality. To me thatís when I realised junk miles are not steady miles , they are not necessarily easy miles they are miles when you donít make the most of the time you have available but more than that they are miles that can adversely affect the rest of the schedule also. So itís not quality V quantity but quality and quantity V junk
I then thought about my long run, quantity run and how long would be quality and when or if this would ever become junk. I think this depends again on fitness and goals. This weekend 105mins would be quality but in 6 weeks, 180mins may be quality. My goal is a marathon but if it was 10k, then 120mins would not be a quality run, it would be quantity with no purpose. This would therefore be junk. It would be enjoyable, but for the purpose of a training goal its junk.

So I then thought whether this would apply to my swimming. Are there junk miles in swimming?
I took the 30min question from above and thought what would be a quality session in limited time. Some people would class quality in the pool as doing drills for 30mins and getting out, but for me I donít. A 30min swim could get 4*400 off 7mins or a 15*100 off 1:50ís at CSS pace. These are quality sets and they would help me improve my threshold and race pace, but what about technique and drills some may ask. For me technique is a constant in the water. I am always thinking about it whilst training, so even if doing these short threshold workouts, you can be working on technique. Do one of the 400ís thinking about breathing, the catch or recovery and focus solely on that part of the stroke and feel what happens when you change parts. This is quality for all swimmers and triathletes, but 30mins sessions arenít entirely appropriate for ironman. As I said in my last post quantity in swimming is the key. If youíre great for 2k and the stroke breaks down you will be slow, but is quantity mutually exclusive to quality, for me it isnít. In the pool itís a little easier on the body so you can do both. You can get the miles in as well as swimming hard. Take the 4*400 session above. Add in a 1k warm up and 500m of bands work and with the CD you have over 3k of quality work for an hour in the pool. Another good set I like is 3 or 4*1k @ IM pace so if aiming for a <60 (holding 1:34 100ís) that would be 15:40ís going off say 17mins. These are quantity sessions with quality suitable for an Ironman athlete and if you are tired add a pull buoy for one of the reps but during these sessions no matter how long or fast you go you must always be thinking about technique, working on areas, trying things and feeling if it works. This is what swimmers know as feeling the water. They know what theyíre body is doing, and utilise that so that they can modify it to make it even smoother and essentially faster. So the next time a real swimmer mentions the feel for the water this is what is meant. The more you do the more in tune you become and even subtle changes are noticeable. It is not something that can happen overnight, it is built up over 100ís of miles, and this is why I like bands. Bands accentuate this and this is why they are my new favourite toy.
So again are there junk miles in swimming? I now believe there are. They are any miles done without thinking what you are doing, without ďfeelingĒ the water. You can do 40*100 off 1:55 and think to yourself that was a quality set, but only if whilst you are doing them miles you are learning from it, refining technique as you go to make it easier and faster for you. Then next time, not only will you have the endurance gains but also the technique gains made also. So again itís not quality V quantity but quality and quantity V junk
As Iím not concerned with the cycling side until after April I had not thought much about it but the thought of when quantity becomes junk was very interesting. I commute and turbo during the week, this is all good miles for both handling and threshold / strength development but as an Ironman where does quantity become junk. We all know that riding for 8hrs at 12mph admiring the countryside will not make you a very fast ironman, but will be pretty enjoyable especially if you are with friends. A cafe stop is hardly the best use of time either so I suppose I could call that junk, but is 6hrs worthwhile? For some maybe, especially if they are not confident of doing 112 miles but for me it is not. Firstly I could make better use of 6hours and secondly if itís just a slow plod then what is the point. My favourite and most worthwhile ride last year was around 70miles or 4.5hrs. We went out and rode hills, and on the flat we rode tempo. It was a hard ride and when I got home I felt like I had worked hard and also felt that anymore would have tipped me over the edge. An extra hour or 2 but doing the lot steady really wouldnít have made me fitter or better prepared for ironman but doing more of this would have done...along with doing it on my TT bike instead. Perhaps you could say 4-5hours at varying intensities is where quantity starts to become a waste of time, therefore junk.

This all sounds very good to me, and this is why Iíve written it but it very much relates to me and my take on where I need to go. I then have to put this theory into my own lifestyle, trying to make me the best I can with the limited time I have available.
Hopefully this time next year I can refer back and see that it did actually work. That I improved across the board in all distances and all 3 sports, and key for me did I stay injury free!

Wed Feb 08, 2012 4:09 pm Sue
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nice working thro that for you
guess junk stuff is different to everyone, and now you know what they are for you

Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:49 am sooooooooz
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My old coach was a 6 min marathon miler in the 1960s and he only ever trained to 10 miles...but it was all quality. He would train in a pack and they would run each other into the ground..."you wiped the sick from your mouth and set off again" Very Happy
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