Q+A: Am I training too hard for my age?

Q I’m a 53-year-old male who races all distances from 5K to the marathon. I train six days a week: four hard sessions, two easy ones, plus a rest day. Do you think this is too much for someone of my age?

A The real key to making any training programme successful is to get the right balance between the work (volume and effort levels) and opportunity for recovery (sleep, relaxation, easy/rest days etc). The ideal balance will differ for individuals, but lifestyle and age are important factors.

Rather than having a set number of hard sessions every week, I would recommend anyone to phase them in gradually. Thus, in the first phase (a few weeks) of a training programme, just concentrate on easy and steady running and gradually increase your mileage, particularly via one weekly long run. When the mileage has crept up sufficiently, begin to include one hard session per week. After a few weeks of progress on this basis, a second work-out can be added.

My opinion is that four hard sessions in a six-day training week is too many at any age. I think that at 53 you would do much better to limit yourself to one guaranteed hard session (eg Monday or Tuesday) with the option of a second one (eg Thursday or Saturday) if you feel you have recovered enough to benefit.

You should replace the other sessions with relaxed runs and moderately paced tempo sessions. Your present inclusion of one easy day and one rest day is a very good idea.

George Gandy, Director of Athletics at Loughborough University.