What I am about to say will not come as a surprise to seasoned athletes that have worked with a coach or have done a lot of research into training periodization, but I am not saying it for all of those who know. This post is for the triathletes out there who are just trying to make it all work - life, training, kids, jobs...the list goes on. Sometimes when we have a lot on our plate, our natural instinct is to make every moment "count." I see people do this all the time.
Because they want to maximize every minute of their available training time, they end up doing every workout session hard or harder until they totally poop out and have to take a couple of days off to recuperate. Every run is as fast as it can be, every swim is 30 minutes of all out swimming with no drill work or attention to stroke development, every bike workout is trying to beat the last one in terms of miles per hour average.
As a coach, I see far more people making the mistake of training too hard rather than not training enough. The interesting thing is that I really believe this is more of a personality trait than a conscious training decision. It is this all or nothing attitude toward training that can really cost athletes their best races. There are scientific reasons that we should not be training at our maximum intensity every time. I am not a scientist, but what I understand is that at maximum intensity our bodies are also under maximum stress. Stress is good in moderation because it helps us improve, but if you are putting your body under that kind of stress day in and day out it can cause decrease immune function, sleep issues, and injury.
If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to save the hard workouts for once a week in each discipline, focus on stroke development in the pool even to the detriment of speed work, and spend more time doing the workouts that don't really seem that hard (well, I guess that is more than one). Instead of 4 separate hours of hard biking, do one hour of hard biking, 1 hour of easy biking (think recovery!!), and 2 hours of steady state, aerobic pace biking (think working hard, but not so hard that you wouldn't be able to have a conversation with someone.) Likewise with running. Make the hard workout really hard, and all the rest enjoyable!!
Not everyone falls into the category of go hard all the time though, and I am one of them. I am very content to never go hard! I would happily run at my zone 2 pace every single time! When I see speed work on my calendar, I don't sleep good the night before!! If you are like me, make sure you are getting that one hard workout in per week. Learn to embrace the pain and become hardcore!
But for everyone else remember that More of Less is More.