Is it better to train a lot of hours, or fewer hours with higher intensity? This is an old debate. Thomas Alsgaard argues that the whole debate comes down to personal preference and knowing your own body.

“There are several ways to the top. If you train fewer hours, you can do more intensity and train at a higher speed. If you do a lot of volume, you have to reduce the intensity. No matter what option you choose, you have to push the limits for what your body can handle,” Alsgaard says, noting that he is speaking from an elite perspective.

When Alsgaard was racing on the World Cup circuit, he generally preferred fewer hours and more speed.

“For me, it felt right to do fewer hours, more speed and more intensity. That worked best for my body and my head,” Alsgaard explains.

Know your needs
Alsgaard was very diligent about sticking with his own program and his own training philosophy when he raced on the World Cup. However, he emphasizes that while people might have the idea that some racers train vastly more than others, the actual differences at the World Cup level are not huge.

“You got to keep in mind that we are talking about a difference of maybe a 100 hours per year from one end of the spectrum to the other. That is actually not that much,” Alsgaard says.

He suggests that if Norwegian elite skiers measured their volume in distance and how many kilometers they covered, then the discrepancy in volume between those who train the most and those who train the least might just be miniscule.

“If we had done like the Russians and counted kilometers rather than hours, it might not have been any significant difference at all,” Alsgaard says.

Quality of life and happiness
These days, Alsgaard has shifted his training philosophy.

“For me, training is all about life quality and happiness now. I train and race as much as I want to and as much as my schedule allows. You can’t compare how I train now to what I used to do when I was skiing on the World Cup. I don’t train strictly according to my training philosophy,” Alsgaard says.

That said, Alsgaard is targeting Vasaloppet in Sweden as his main season goal, and will be racing several other ski marathons leading up to that. His general goal is to put in 50 hours a month. He tries to capitalize on the opportunities that arise, but like most masters, he has to adjust his training program to fit his work schedule and life priorities.

“Some months I do very well, and some months are horrible in terms of reaching my goal,” he says with a grin.

However, September was an exceptionally good month for Alsgaard, who logged no less than 90 hours of training.

“That is more than I have logged in a single month for the last ten years,” Alsgaard noted on his blog at Team United Bakeries, emphasizing that he is not aiming for a comeback. His main goal for the season is Vasaloppet in Sweden on March 4, 2012.