Recent Flo podcast with Steve Neal

Anyone listen to this. All about raising FatMax, potentially very interesting but I felt the podcast could have done with serious editing; veered off in way too many directions
It’s about raising FatMax and then we have this discussion on how not all Vo2 intervals are the same; and the host clearly was out of his depth
Linked to the (IMO) harsh complaint about Jonathan interrup[ting Chad too much; clearly Jonathan also knows a lot and wants to share. This host (apologies) does not - sometimes a host knows more than they appear and act dumb to make the guest better explain things. Alas in this case it’s clear the host does not know about excercise physiology and thus cant ‘check’ Steve when conversation veers…

Anyway I digress; a lot of what Steve said made sense; and I agree too many people chase ever higher FTP numbers when a better route (for say a Fondo riding) would be increasing power at sub threshold levels.

But very confused on some of the specifics; Steve mentioned ideal FatMax was Threshold power (!) but then also tempo power and then a great goal was endurance power. Clearly these are 3 wildly different zones

Also in terms of practical application he recommends 3*20 min sweetspot but at a 83% HR cap (is that .83 of HR Max?)

It’s a very interesting podcast; but left me with more questions than answers


Yes, I listened to it and was intrigued by the 3 x 20 minute SS capped at 83% HR (which I interpreted to be v MaxHR)

I am in a gap in phases at the moment so have programmed this in for tonight using Workout Creator, at 88% FTP and will use the +/- buttons to turn down the intensity to cap my heart rate. I’ve felt for a while after MTB and cross racing that I now have too much top end and my base has suffered so this sounds like it could be a good experiment until November when my TR Base phase is scheduled to start again.

Anyone else planning to give this a try?

p.s. Totally agree about the host, he often seems to just ask the next question on his list when there is a more interesting follow up that could be made - a little frustrating.

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Yes! Did a 3x20 this morning (Round Bald) using the 83% MHR cap. My purpose for doing this sort of workout is more to improve my aerobic capabilities since using a ramp test calculated FTP produces a number well above what I can sustain for more than 20 minutes or so! As such, the average power I can sustain up to this HR cap was actually only about 80% FTP this morning, so it will be interesting to see what effect a block of these workouts has.

I did want to know how the 83% MHR cap came about…was that just the cap being used for one particular rider resulting from metabolic tests, or is it just because of the generic HR zone recommendations for sweetspot? It must be said, that usually by the end of a 20 minute SS interval at say 90% FTP, my heartrate isn’t much higher, say maybe 88% MHR, but the difference in watts is significant compared to what I did this morning…


I will listen to this tonight, 2x20 and 3x20 is the cornerstone of my self coached winter base…very curious


Yes, it’s 83% of HRmax.

I suspect that he’s talking about a lower form of sweetspot than most TR ss workouts, more like 85-88% FTP than 88-92%. Or that it’s 88-92% of hour power which is usually lower than a TR ramp test FTP.

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Other observations:

3x20min sweetspot, anything up to 4 times a week over the base phase, watching your heart rate - I can believe it’s effective but my god it sounds like a boring winter.

Interesting that he backs up the TR guys by saying that sweetspot work can raise your aerobic capacity and FTP, but that he isn’t keen on the TR-style ramp tests and prefers 3min steps.


I would say the main takeaway is that true sweet spot work can be done day after day with little need for recovery especially as you build up to it. What TR SS workouts are for most people are actually more akin to threshold workouts if the ftp is based on a step test and doesn’t have a HR cap


I might regret doing this…but I’ve learned a ton from others on this board over the last year. So…

I’m a huge fan of Steve’s methods. In fact, towards the end of the podcast he mentions an athlete who had done an event a number of times and was ultimately targeting a top 10 finish in that event one day…and after working with Steve for 2 1/2 months he finished 4th.

That athlete is me.

The highest I’d ever finished in that event was ~50th overall / ~20th in my age group. As an aside…I also did my first ever MTB race as a practice, or “C” race a couple of weeks ago and finished 3rd in my age group. This was after achieving a 300+ FTP last spring and doing 2 different Cat5 crits where I finished between 10th and 15th.

I reached out to Steve after hearing him on the first Flo podcast, and ended up hiring him (after he agreed to let me hire him…) because I knew I needed to do something different, as my “fitness” wasn’t translating to race performance. And what he said in that first podcast spoke exactly to the issues I felt I was having.

I’d be happy to answer any questions for the forum about my observations in working with him - with the caveat that I definitely won’t be able to speak to why he prescribes what he prescribes - I’m not a coach, physiologist or any sort of an expert in this stuff. I am, however, an athlete trying to balance family/work/fitness and maximize my race performances within that construct. Which makes me identical to a lot of you all, I imagine.

A couple other things…I’m in no way authorized to speak on Steve’s behalf, and I remain a huge fan of TrainerRoad and am still a paying subscriber.

Also, I’m a masters athlete at 45 years old.


I did it yesterday but let my HR drift a bit
Today I was really strict; any time HR went above 150 I would back off
I can see these being very powerful; if you could do a block and see your power at 150HR go up 25watts thats very powerful in a race (esp the sort of Fondo races I do)

Ps Steve was mentioning the raising FatMax requires changing your diet; he went as far as saying it was impossible to raise FatMax without this, I assume he is meaning more fat and less carbs. But the host (sorry again to criticise) showed very little intellectual curiosity and did not ask for more details
I know I am being harsh; but it was a frustrating podcast - the whole topic was meant to be on raising FatMax and we ignored the role of diet; but there was time for a 10 min diversion into the UK vs Canadian MAP test protocol. WTF?


Question 1: how many 3x20 sessions have you done?

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Great - thank you
And congrats !

Obvious question is did he have you change your diet?

Toward the end of the podcast they briefly touch the balance. It seems to be a equal protein to carb ratio with slightly higher fat? 30/30/40.


Are you using xert? Did your lower threshold power go up corresponding to fatmax? How did the xert fat/carb ratios change or compare to physiological testing if done?

I’m always interested in learning about different approaches to training. And how people implement it. However, while I can see how one can have success with the mentioned strategy I’m just wondering how different it is to the “traditional” tempo first and progress from this. Yes, there is a cap on heart rate but this is not really unique either. Tempo should be tempo in the beginning. I still remember the pre-powermeter times. And my first training plan as a junior which was strikingly similar to what I’ve heard in the podcast.

Perhaps I’ve missed it but has it been mentioned if these tempo (and the progression later) workouts should be conducted with fully carb loaded, carb deprived, or something in-between?

None. That made me laugh when I heard it in the podcast, because I had never done it. :slight_smile:

I’ve done 3x30s and 2x48s – and he varies the cadence every 10 mins – but never 3x20. I will also say that the Sweet Spot workouts I do are at the VERY low end of what TR would consider “sweet spot” – that has been a noticeable change.

Also, I upload my last 6 months of workout history to Training Peaks for him to look at before we started working together…so maybe he saw something in there that indicated I was beyond needing to do 3x20s…not sure.


Not yet. But he keeps telling me that’s coming. I’ve also lost 5 lbs since working with him without changing anything. I was between 173 -175lbs, and now I’m between 168 - 172lbs depending on the day.

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He uses Xert for the analytics – so I have an account. But I don’t really use it for anything else.

I did physiological testing two weeks ago – but that was the first time. Since I started working with him 2 months before my “A” race he didn’t want to get into all my physiological stuff before the race – he just wanted to get me as prepped for that event as possible. Based on what he saw from my past workouts (I think) he determined that while my top-end FTP was good, my aerobic system wasn’t as developed as it could be – so we spent a lot of time working on that.

According to Xert, my FTP has gone from 300 down to 285. He mentioned this limitation in software modeling (both Xert and WKO4) in the podcast and – I’m not going to lie to you – doing low intensity work while seeing your FTP theoretically fall took some getting used to. It actually sucked. But now that I’ve started to have some results, it’s much easier to accept.

I’ll be honest, it’s not the results that hooked me necessarily – it is honestly the way I felt after HUGE efforts. He mentioned in the podcast that my race had A LOT of 3 minute repeats…those repeats are in the form of sharp hills that are anywhere from a 1/4 to 1/2 mile long at 12%-20% grades at their steepest…there is no way to get up them while staying in the lead group without blasting it. In years past, I felt wasted after 1 or 2 of them and then I’d get dropped. This year I hit the gas and then once we crested I felt relatively recovered in 3-5 minutes and could do it again. Even if the results didn’t end up good, I would have been a believer based solely on the way I felt by racing and how I was able to hang. I could have finished 15th in my age group, but still would have understood the difference.


If you don’t mind, what’s an example of weekly frequency. Also what kind of cadence is prescribed during the intervals?


Thats very interesting. Have you actually done longer threshold intervals at that newer FTP? How did the HR/RPE/TTE match up? Were you ever able to ride at the 300W FTP for extended periods of time previously?

Agreed; its not ground breaking and we have all done the progression from tempo to SS to threshold to Vo2
I just thought it interesting becuase it showed practical examples; for instance I too am chasing the 5w/kg threshold (around 4.7 now)
But practically what does it get me?
Whereas adding 40 watts to FatMax seems an obvious benefit to almost all my riding

And I have done SS reps before where you keep the same watts and try and get the HR to fall over time
But first time I have done reps at the same HR and been okay with power falling