As a coach, it’s often one of the first questions I get from athletes: How many hours each week should I devote to training? The answer begins like the answer to so many coaching-related questions: It depends.
It depends on several things:
What all of this adds up to is your training load capacity. Training for 20 or 30 hours each week is great if that’s all you really do and your body can handle it. Adding job, family, and responsibilities outside of athletics into the equation changes the result. For most of us, that means fewer training hours because we have fewer hours in which to recover from that training.
Think of it this way: training is a workload and fitness comes from an adaptation of your body to that workload. The more work you do, the more time, rest, and food it needs in order to adapt to those loads. At some point, and because of numbers 2 through 5 above, each individual’s training begins to exceed that individual’s ability to gain from it. This limit is maximum training load capacity.
In some ways, finding this balance is as simple as listening to your body. If you’re always fatigued and have lost your appetite, for example, your body may be telling you that you’ve been training too much and not resting enough. It could also be telling you that your work is too stressful, your relationship demands are high, etc. The solution is the same - less training and more rest.
On the other hand, the answer is sometimes more elusive. Besides your actual training, sleep is the most important thing you can do. The quality and volume of your sleep should match the quality and volume of your training. I’ve seen riders train well, rest well, eat well, and have low stress, but still have trouble sleeping. If you have trouble sleeping, spend some time and get some help sorting that out. Sleep is the number one recovery potion.
All of this is to say that what’s most important is finding that balance - that place where you train hard, rest well, and feel stronger with each passing Build phase. Find that balance, and then you’ll know how many hours each week you can train.