My Polarized Training Experience (Chad McNeese & others)

This is a documentation of my personal test using the Polarized Training approach for a 4-week period. It is a simple attempt at using this method with no actual scientific documentation and lacks a full attempt to make this wide reaching. I want to try this process in contrast to my 3 prior years of using the TR SST approaches.

4-Weeks Prior to POL Test Period:

4-Week of POL Test Period (3 Build + 1 Recovery) & 1-Week with Ramp Test Follow-Up and Disaster-Half Workout (for Fitness Evaluation):

Wk 1 - Test & Work

Wk 2 - Work

Wk 3 - Work

Wk 4 - Recovery

Wk 5 - Testing

My TR Profile for Review of Workouts (if desired):

Week 1 Summary, Build:

  • Ramp Test:

    • I did a solid Ramp Test (254w, my highest tested FTP ever) and it was at least in part due to performing it “blind”. I had a friend hold the phone and only tell me if my cadence dropped below my preference.
  • First Z3 VO2 Max Workout - 7x 4/2 VO2 Int 108%:

    • There is an error in this workout. Claims to be 2 mins of recovery, but is only set at 1 min. I manually extended them to 3-4 minutes.
    • The first 3 intervals were hard, and more work than I have done recently. I needed more recovery and bombed halfway thru the middle interval. I lowered Intensity to 98%, to approximate a 250w FTP. I did a bit better after that and finished the last 2 intervals at full time (4 min).
    • I need to go back to shorter intervals (thinking 3 min) with equal rest time for now. VO2 Max intervals are my nemesis. I need to work on my mental game as much as anything as well as accepting that I can probably complete them at my tested 254w FTP. But I do wonder if that is fully true based on my age (almost 44) and general difficulty with VO2 Max work.
  • FTP Reduction:

    • I ended up reducing my FTP from 254w per the Ramp Test to 250w. I did this because of the difficulty I had in the Z3 workout above.
    • I want to consider raising it back up to 254w, but I will review that after doing the Z3 workout at the beginning of next week and seeing how that goes.
  • Long Z1 Workout - Vogelsang:

    • Performed with 100% Intensity. My typical goal is to do these long workouts with absolutely no coasting or non-pedaling. I aim to maximize the payback on this trainer time by not wasting even one second, if I can.
    • I completed the whole workout with only one non-pedaling moment. I dropped my sandwich at 2 hours in and decided to stop and get it vs going hungry.
    • I am mildly sore today without the major DOMS that followed the pre-POL period of the 4-hour day followed by the 2-hour day.
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Week 2 Summary, Build:

  • First Z3 Workout - Mount Deborah:

    • Changed to Mount Deborah per recommendation from Nate, and it was a perfect fit. The 1:1 work to recovery suits me well, and I was able to increase workout Intensity for most of the intervals.
    • I shot for around 109% of FTP and felt like I worked hard, but not impossibly hard to the point of panic gasps at the end.
    • I plan to increase intensity on the Mount Alyeska on Thursday to get a similar increase, but I will evaluate as needed since the intervals are 4 minutes (1 minute longer than last night).
  • FTP Increase/Reset:

    • I ended up increase my FTP from 250w to 254w per the Ramp Test. I did this because of the solid completion of the Z3 workout above.
    • I think the test was accurate, but the poor choice of the first Z3 workout lead me to question my FTP more than it should have.
    • I will leave my FTP at 254w for the remainder of this testing.
  • Second Z3 Workout - Mount Alyeska:

    • Did Mount Alyeska with it’s longer intervals. Took some effort and I wanted to stop short or backpedal more than once… but I stayed on it and finished with no breaks. Super happy to have nailed that and fought through some internal doubt.
  • Long Z1 Workout- Outside Ride:

    • Did this outside since we had great weather and my friend really wanted to get off the trainer. Definitely not the consistent work I prefer, but it was fun to get out. I won’t lie though, because I really felt a bit shorted on the stress I get from a non-stop 4-hour trainer ride.
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  • Medium Z1 Workout - Town Hill:

    • I chose a slightly longer ride to make up for the shortage on the long ride the day before. Felt good, once I got going, but the legs were surely tired from the long ride already.
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Week 3 Summary, Build:

  • First Z3 Workout - Mount Deborah +1:

    • This one scared me a bit. I did the Mt Deb on the second week at my reduced 250w FTP (because I was worried about my reaction in the Z3 workout on Saturday in the first week). So this is the same as the first MT Deb, with my 254w FTP, and added 3 more of the 3 min intervals.
    • I got into it and started ticking them off and did ok up until the end of the 6th interval. Slight breathing panic during recovery scared me (as happens sometimes). I pedaled through it and got into the 7th.
    • I decided to backpedal at the recoveries (30 seconds with the workout paused) in the final 3 recoveries. I wanted to make sure I nailed the final 3 work intervals. I was able to get them all and got 30 mins in mid-VO2 Max, so I think I did pretty well with this one.
  • Second Z3 Workout - Mount Alyeska +1:

    • This went very similar to the first Z3 workout this week. I got through the same number of intervals as the “normal version” of this workout before deciding to take a 30-second backpedal to recover.
    • I did back pedals in the final 3 recovery intervals. I did this again to make sure I could fully complete the work intervals and that worked.
    • You can see the HR increase and cadence decrease in the progression of the work intervals. That shows my fatigue.
    • I used the same reminders “hard days hard” and “this is the last hard workout this wee” as motivation to help me push through the final minute of the last 4 work intervals.
    • These may be around a 107% of my FTP and not high VO2 Max work, but they still take some effort and focus to finish each time.
  • Long Z1 Workout - Longfellow:

    • Something went very off the rails on this workout. I don’t have conclusive answers, but a I suspect incorrect power data is the likely culprit. The RPE and HR for that indicated power was well over what it should have been and not what I had intended for that ride.
    • I should have stopped mid-ride and re-calibrated the trainer, but I had it in my head that I would get “over the hump” somehow. But that never happened, unfortunately. I fully recognize that it is not a shining example of a “proper” long and easy ride. It is what it is, despite wanting it to be better, so I have to go with it for now.
    • I selected this ride as a basic step up in power from the prior Vogelsang and outside rides. Additionally, I set it to 101% in attempt to increase the TSS for the week. I ended up dropping the Workout Intensity around hour 2. I did this in attempt to “recover” from what was more RPE and HR than I should have had. It didn’t really help even after Hitting a low of 97% for a while.
    • I ended up finishing at 100% and just accepted the fact that I had screwed up this workout.
    • The intensity ended up higher via RPE, despite what the power shows. Thinking back to the objective of these long rides, it’s to stress the aerobic system and muscle fibers in particular ways. I likely over-performed and stepped above the goal zones. I know I really strained my system overall, but likely not in the way that is intended.
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  • Medium Z1 Workout - Boarstone:

    • I was dreading this workout on the heals of the mishap in Longfellow. This workout is essentially a 2-hour version of Longfellow, with nearly identical power intensity. So I didn’t know what to expect.
    • I did the 10 minute warm-up, and then calibrated the Kickr 2017 in TrainerRoad. I did this because I suspected bad power data in the prior workout.
    • I started a new session of Boarstone to run the whole workout, including the full 10-min warm-up again.
    • I figured the excessive work from yesterday would lead to big fatigue and make this workout as bad. Fortunately for me, that was not the case.
    • Amazingly (or perhaps not) RPE and HR were right where they should have been. Things felt “normal” and easy again, even at the same power levels that put the hurt on my in Longfellow. This seems to be a reinforcement that I likely had bad data the day before.
    • I have no idea why the data would have been so far off yesterday. I did not load/unload my bike or make any changes to the bike/trainer setup in any way. It sits fully prepped all of the time. Room temp was similar on both days and not excessively hot (thanks to my fans and open window).
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Week 4 Summary, Recovery:

Week 5 Summary, Fitness Evaluation:

Ref Info: (Weekly hours over the last year, from Strava)

Super short summary:

I like the feeling from long rides and plan to do them more in the future.

VO2 Max hard workouts around 108% FTP worked well for me.

I need to do some higher effort anaerobic workout as the sister to the VO2 max for variety and to stress systems differently.

I think the change in stress distribution was good for me, even though it’s far from conclusive from my stats.

FTP change was minimal, but I hit some PRs after my recovery week and did some really solid rides.

Overall, a good test and worth trying something different. I will take these basic notes into my new season of TR that starts after THX giving.

Adding more short notes.

I don’t have a hard summary. I finished my POL period as planned but don’t offer a firm conclusion for a number of reasons.

  1. My experience may or may not be applicable to any other rider. I never planned to make a strong claim of failure or success.
  2. The thread was sharing my experience and maybe help share info that is confusing about how POL might be planned and applied. But there aren’t many prescriptive plans out there, so I made mine up as best guesses. I can’t begin to say my experience was even “correct”.
  3. I only had a short window of time and made a 4 week effort. In all honesty that’s too short to make any call.
  4. I completed the POL period and planned to follow with SSB for direct, personal comparison. Bit I got sick before that and ended up with 3 weeks off the bike. So my planned comparison kinda died.

Overall, it was a great experience and the biggest takeaway for me was the value in the long and easy ride. I plan to include a couple every month based on what I gained from them, even while following the regular TR plans.


Subscribed. Thanks for sharing. I love geeking out on data

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Following, good luck.

VO2 stuff kills me too, I feel horrible doing those type of intervals, which I’ve always taken to mean that I really need to do them.

You’re setting your zones according to that spreadsheet I saw over in the other thread?

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Yes, Zones at 250w FTP right now. I will add the link and a pic above. Thanks for the reminder.

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Great stuff Chad. I see your long ride of 4 hours is at 60-70% ftp. Why is it this level and not 65-75%?

I’m interested in the polarised method and fancy giving it a go but want make sure I’ve got the levels understood first.

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Yeah. Guinea pig weeks. Like that! Good luck.

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The Vogelsang [4 hours] is at 60-70%. I chose this because it was a good start for the official Build week. I also did this as you can see in the week prior to the official POL start, I did that workout. I followed it with another 2 hour workout [POL Z1]. I had major DOMS for 2 days after both of those [4 hours + 2 hours, all in POL Z1]. It really surprised me the toll that the body can take from “easy” rides when done long enough.

Also, the overall average power for the actual workout (158w) was pretty much dead center in the Z1 range for me. I figure that the absolute efficiency of an indoor workout, coupled with the fact that I only coasted for about 10 seconds, gives me the more likely benefit of doing a 5+ hour ride if I had done it outside [based on the 4-hour Vogelsang workout].

Check the schedule and you will see that I have Longfellow planned for the long ride next Sunday. This will be 65-75% if I do 100% Intensity. I also have Longfellow planned for the long ride on the final Sunday of my 3rd Build week.

I may decrease the first Longfellow 1-3% in effort to give myself a small “step” from Vogelsang to the full Longfellow (2nd time thru). Or I may do Longfellow at 100% the first time and increase 1-2% on the second time.

Related: I am not necessarily driving by HR, but I am watching it in the rides, to see that I don’t get it too high towards the end of the long rides. Fatigue is inevitable and probably somewhat desired, but I want to keep it within a desired jump (not into Z2 if I can help it).

All this is done because I am aiming to get some TSS ramp that is notable and worthwhile, but also not too extreme from week to week. Trying to balance everything and I may not have it right, since I am still very fresh with setting this much of my own training plans. I may well be off on part or all of it :stuck_out_tongue:


Chad, thanks for the heads up on the 4/2 intervals. I edited the workout to make the rest breaks two minutes long and republished it. I checked the other workouts in the library and they all have 2 minute rest periods.


Nice! Thanks for fixing that Steve. :smiley:

@mcneese.chad Are there any discussions going on within TR about assembling polarized plans for users to take advantage of?

Nothing I have heard about for plans.

It seems that they play to discuss Polarized Training as part of a deep dive into training discussion overall. They mentioned a future podcast cover this and much more.

For reference:

4-hour trainer rides? Chapeau!


Thanks :smiley:

My cycling friends and family think I’m crazy. But I actually get lots done during them.

  • I downloaded the TR Workout Creator, learned how to use it, and made a “Half” version of Disaster so we have an “easier” 2.5 hour version for practice.
  • I do ton’s or reading and comments on the TR Forum.
  • Watch TV or movies I don’t otherwise have time to enjoy.
  • And in a funny way, I actually enjoy them. I get tons of good work in less time and without outside variables that can mess up a planned “easy” ride.

As a side plug, it would be far less comfortable without my rocker plate. A worthy (required?) accessory for rides over 2 hours, IMHO.


I commented about this on the other thread, and specifically that these long z1 rides have no real muscle impact on my slow twitch muscles. Don’t recall if you commented on muscle type… do you have fast twitch muscles?

I’m not getting any soreness from the 2.25 / 2.5 / 2.75 hour Z1 rides in traditional base 1, which started immediately after finishing SSB1. Usually eat lunch at noon and start riding around 4pm, without any mid-ride fueling. Rode 2.75 hours last Saturday morning without eating first. Just electrolytes. These long TR workouts only leave me hungry (~1300-1500 calorie burn) and with a sore ass LOL. Maybe I will be making my own rocker plates after all!

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  • I have never had a biopsy, so I don’t know for sure. But I think I am pretty solid on fast twitch based on experience below.
  • At 145 lbs [66kg], I hit 1200+w in sprints on the trainer (Kickr & Hammer) and outside (as measured by Powertap Hub and P1 pedals), with decent regularity every year.
  • 18w/kg at that 1200w, and I hit 1400w peak when I was really on for short efforts two seasons ago, 21w/kg.
  • I have great snap from BMX, Trials and MTB explosive efforts, not sure if those are evidence of it, but I think I have a decent anaerobic sprint capacity.

I started these rides fasted from the night, but had a full and regular meal the night before. I took food (PB & Honey sandwich) about 1-2 hours into the ride, when I got hungry.

In addition to the rocker, I do plenty of short (and sometimes longer) standing breaks. Can be done on a regular trainer, but feels way better on a rocker. So, I gain comfort from small movement while seated, and when standing since it is easier and more natural. You can typically see the standing frequency on my rides by looking at all of the cadence drops from my usual 95+ to the 65+ standing cadence I often use.


I just joined TR at the beginning of the month and am just beginning the third week of the Traditional Base Low Volume 1 plan. As I’ve never deliberately trained for bike events in the past, I expect to have great success/gains following the established plans in TR. However, I am curious about the polarized method.

Before joining TR, I had listened to all the FastTalk podcasts, also repeatedly and carefully, and am now tracking in my own very basic spreadsheet how adhering to an established TR plan relates to the the three-zone model. It’s just an exercise in curiosity that I may end up abandoning as I get further into my training.

For now, I’m placing each running and cycling activity I complete, both indoor and outdoor, whether structured or not, into one of the three zones and also tracking how much time I actually spend of each workout in each of the three zones. I’m curious to see where things fall, percentage wise, in relation to the three zones. I wonder how far off I’ll be from the 80/20 split for sessions and the 90/10 split for actual time in zone.

Thanks for sharing all of your efforts with us.


I’ve been following this polarized approach for awhile myself and going to start after cross season. I have done 2 seasons of SSB with good results. When i start the polarized program I’m going to do 3 week blocks. 2 weeks hard with 1 week recovery because of my age (50) What are your thoughts on that? @mcneese.chad

@mcneese.chad Thank you for all of the info on polarized training. Def saved me some time trying to sort this out

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Same on the biopsy front. My wife asked about the difference, told her I was a slow sprinter in middle/high school and only competitive at the long distance running events where I would annihilate my fast friends. Pretty much known I was slow twitch since 12 years old :joy:

p.s. at top of this thread your zone chart has entry field for weight - which is confusing for anyone trying to understand 3 zone model as your weight has nothing to do with the 3 zones. LOL, I know, this chart is for you, no need to comment, just saying :wink:

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Oh, I should nuke that weight part. It relates to the Threshold model where I added the w/kg column.

That or I add the w/kg there too. Hmm.

I’m not familiar with threshold model, or any model that uses W/kg. I’m in the bottom half of most climbs due to weight, but more than hold my own on the flats and rollers. Not sure how W/kg impacts any training model…

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