Q. If I'm not really sore or exhausted does that mean I won't benefit from my training session?
A. Training isn't about killing yourself every session so that you are exhausted at the end. Training should comprise structured sessions designed to progressively give you an overload stimulus that builds speed, endurance and strength.
There are five different training stresses - frequency, duration, intensity, volume and workload. All are important but the most important is intensity. If you train too hard, too often, you will wind up sick, injured or overtrained. Too little intensity and you will not achieve your potential in races. If you get the intensity wrong it doesn't matter if you are doing everything else right - you will not reach your full potential.
Gently does it
Overloading the body by increasing the training stresses should be all that is needed but the body can be a sensitive machine. If too much stress is applied, the body's cells are weakened and may take days or even weeks to recover.
Training should build up your fitness but to do this it must first break you down to some extent. After hard workouts your body needs rest to recover and this encourages it to overcompensate and so become stronger.
If you are used to training and have trained for a year or so, a recovery session may be a better way than simply resting the next day. A recovery session will help your muscles feel less stiff - getting the blood pumping will help speed up the recovery process.
It should be a very easy session, lasting for a maximum of 30 minutes. The idea is that it is a recovery, not a way to add more mileage to your training week.
Intensity is the key to training and improving. Think about what you are trying to achieve. Not every session is about speed, so not every session should leave you sore and exhausted.
Ralph Hydes is a running, duathlon and triathlon coach. He has helped many athletes reach international-level competition and has been the trainer to corporate teams for the London Triathlon since 2001. Ralph is a freelance coach, designing individual triathlon training programmes, providing one-to-one coaching and offering nutrition advice. His new DVD is Flexibility for Triathletes and Runners. Visit ralph-hydes.com.