As an athlete one of the first things most other athletes ask is how many hours do you train? While this might be a good question, it really does not allow for any type of reality in terms of what work you are doing. I like to use the analogy that if you could win a triathlon by just sitting on the couch, why would you train? However, as we all know that is not the case. Training is extremely important to make us better athletes.
A lot of training plans use a plan where mileage ramps up then drops down for an easy week and then ramps back up. For example, weekly hours of 8,10,12,14,10,12,14,16. That progression looks good, but what is it really showing you, absolutely nothing.
When athletes start back up after time off or injury it is important to ramp them up slowly, allowing their bodies to build back into training volume. However, in the middle of the season changing hours just to change hours week by week does not really do anything. A down week is a good idea, but weekly hours should be adjusted based on what the training load of the particular week is.
If athletes are doing a speed week, weekly hours should be lower. Why? Because if the body is really being taxed by speed and you want your athletes to actually go fast, they need more recovery and less miles. The opposite side of that spectrum is for athletes who are doing long aerobic training, those weeks hours can be higher because their bodies are not quite as taxed for the efforts. Beyond looking at hours as a training measure, you can easily just add in more hours with easy miles on in any sport, but what is the goal of those miles. When I am writing training plans, I always think what is the purpose of this workout. If there really is no purpose but to add in more time in a sport, why am I putting it in the plan?
Every athlete is different, some can handle higher training loads and do not need as much downtime. Others can go fast and hard, but need a bit less total time training and are focused on their recovery. Each workout and session should have a purpose. Each week should have a purpose. Once I put the workouts in, that is what I see as the weekly hours for that week, not some number I need to hit before I start putting in the hard workouts.
Doing consistent hard work is much more important than focusing on hitting a certain weekly hour number. If an athlete can train consistently and does not miss workouts, he or she will be better off for it. I believe focusing on being consistent is better than getting in the most hours.