Training capacity: other considerations

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original Blogs.

Over the past two weeks, I went over how to define training capacity and how to find your training capacity, as well as what to do when you’ve found it.

This is the part 3 of a 3 part series on training capacity:

1) What is training capacity?

2) How to find your training capacity and what to do when you have found it?

3) Other training capacity considerations.

This week, in the final post in this series on training capacity, I want to discuss other considerations. Mainly:

1) Physical AND mental

2) Outside stresses

3) Your training capacity can and WILL change (don’t forget to address age)

4) Sometimes you’ll miss – adjust and move on

Training capacity is determined by physical AND mental capacity

We often think of the physical aspect. My body is breaking down, I must have gone beyond my capacity. My body is holding up, I’m doing fine.

That’s not all there is, though. How is your motivation? It doesn’t help at all if your body is holding up fine but you’re dragging mentally. I’ve seen it numerous times and you probably have seen it at least occasionally also if you think about it. A runner is running well, all is going right. Then, for apparently no reason to the outside world, the runner disappears. When the runner reappears, you find out there were no physical problems. Instead, the runner just lost interest.

Just as with physical capacity, our mental capacity plays a critical role. Just as with physical capacity, you can do things to increase your mental capacity but your starting point is no reflection on you as a runner. Some of us are easily highly motivated and will push through a grueling workload, others don’t have that motivation and need ways to keep things fresh and fun. Where you fall in that spectrum might affect your ultimate potential at the edges but it doesn’t have to predetermine your life as a runner.

Outside stresses play an important role

Are you facing an especially stressful time in your work or home life? This will affect your training capacity. If you don’t account for that, you will pay the price. Don’t be afraid to cut back some when stresses outside of running build up.

Running is a great release for many of us when we face stressful times but training at your capacity is also a stressor of its own type. Your body is only capable of handling so much stress at any given time. When one stress increases, another has to be decreased. The good news is that, when your outside stresses fade back down, you can increase your training load again.

Your training capacity can and WILL change

Our training capacities are always changing. As we gain fitness, we’re becoming more capable of handling a larger training load. If we lose fitness, our training capacity decreases. As we age, our training capacity is affected

To account for this, always pay attention to how you’re feeling and continue to reassess where your current capacity is. When you are gaining fitness and your capacity is on the rise, though, don’t be constantly increasing the load. It’s too easy to go too far if you do that. I like the idea of adjusting your load upward about once every 3-4 weeks.

If your training capacity is decreasing, though, make the adjustments immediately. As I’ve already mentioned, you’re better off at 90% of capacity than at 110% of capacity.

As much as we don’t want it to happen, as we age, our training capacity also changes. For most runners, the best way to handle this is to adjust the amount of time between hard days or, as I’ve seen work well, to take one of the weekly hard days and lessen the intensity of it.

Sometimes you’ll miss – adjust and move on

Hitting your right training capacity is a tough balance. Plus, with your capacity always changing as mentioned above, sometimes you won’t adjust right as the change happens. It happens to all of us. When it happens, don’t make a big deal of it. Instead, find your way back to equilibrium, pay attention to find that right balance again and understand what changed and why so you can keep watching for the same or similar things to happen again and adjust before problems creep up next time.

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