An Athlete’s Guide to Training Volume

It’s important we learn to appreciate longevity.
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It’s important we learn to appreciate longevity.

Two years ago, I proposed a hypothetical question to spark some debate.

“Is there a difference between a person who lives and dies never having trained or eaten for performance and a person who did the same except for two years of quality fitness training and nutrition?”

As I expected, there was an explosion of feedback. There were numerous approaches to answer my cheeky question. Some very literally made the claim that surely some training and quality nutrition is better than none. Others provided the odd rebuttal that two years outside the usual sedentary, American diet routine would actually be psychologically damaging because this person would know how bad he or she felt. Much of the chatter, as I intended, began to note that over the course of 70, 80 or 90 years of life, two years seemed quite meaningless.


If you made a decision to quit your job, had access to perfectly measured and sourced meals, and pursued your optimal self with fitness for the next 24 months without any deviation, it would feel like a big deal. It certainly seems like a big commitment. Hell, it might even be exciting to see what you’d be capable of two years from now.

But if you stopped training on the last day and never trained again and ate like an average American for the rest of your life, how much would it matter? Is this massive two-year commitment enough insurance against the detrimental effects of poor fitness habits thereafter?

Regardless of how you’d answer the specific question, it’s important to note that in this context, we can learn to appreciate longevity. When athletes ask me how much they should train CrossFit, I’m completely uninterested in them training more than they can commit to indefinitely. We don’t sell unlimited memberships in my gym for this very reason.

In reality, compliance to training is more important over a lifetime than volume or intensity. Someone training two or three days per week for the rest of his or her life is a force to be reckoned with. Someone who had a gnarly CrossFit phase for a couple of years might not have any notable fitness dividends years later.

When considering training volume, think about training only as much as you can recover and that you can show up for. The more you can be recovered, excited and ready to train every time you show up, the better chance you have to do this for a long, long time.