The Myth of the Quality Workout

August 24, 2016


As you enter the world of triathlon one of the things you'll continue to read and hear about is the "quality workout."  The intention is to help athletes understand why they may or may not be improving towards their goals and so when one speaks of "quality" we need to discuss the parameters which indicate a level of training.  Novice athletes and their coaches are usually more concerned with parameters such as distance, speed, and confidence (yup confidence can be measured) and non-parametric measures such as stroke, bike handling, and transition skills: the technical aspects of the sport.

But over the last decade there has been a consistent and constant push to have athletes even at entry level focus on the "quality" workout and to make sure all the workouts are quality.  Heck, even reading the muddled mess in the other sections of this week's training letter its all about RPE, HRM, and Power and making sure you're in certain training zones.  The fundamental problems wth this especially for newbie athletes are that it causes us to lose focus and even more importantly the joy of the experience.

Triathlon is about playing for adults.  As grown-ups we really can't say seriously to other grown-ups, especially those living in the same house , "I'm going to go to the swimming hole and play with my friends then get on our bikes and ride.", while Junior is trying to paint the dog.

Quality is usually defined as the measure of a workout that transitions the athlete from one level to the next.  If the workout doesn't do that well...  And there's an entire billion dollar industry that helps people define the quality parameters.  And, yes, it can be a whole lot of fun watching the little figure on your iPhone move as you peddle along (hopefully not into a tree) as it tells you you're going 15 mph.  All fun.

But let old Coach Vic be the first to tell you that every time you get out and do something under the sun it's a quality workout even if you violate all the sacred rules of heart rate monitoring and power metering.  The Quality Workout is a myth - every time you go out you're getting better.  If you have fun measuring whether one workout was faster than another thats a totally different thing and really who cares if you did and why.  But if you really want to spend some cash on electronics without needing to measure something then get yourself a GoPro HERO video cam and attach it to your helmet to show the kids that night that fun doesn't end at adulthood.


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