Yeah, I think that is likely what is going on here. I’d also say that if you catch Seiler in a more colloquial setting, he is more vague. When he talks about himself, he adds a lot of context that is important when adapting a training philosophy to an individual. He said he has a larger share of fast-twitch fibers, so this workout works well for him whereas this doesn’t. Etc.
What irks me with Seiler is that he often lacks of precision when he purports to speak as a scientist.
IMHO how you spend your intense workouts and the ratio between endurance and intense days are two different axes. Some approaches of polarized add ratios (e. g. time-in-zone) that relate the two, so at least in some versions of polarized these are not independent.
FasCat’s stock base plans and TR’s stock sweet spot base plans are both sweet spot-centric plans for the base period, yet they are quite different from one another. And likewise, one only needs to look at our different understanding of what polarized means to see that there is are wildly different plans.
Moreover, once we up the volume, most training plans eventually add mostly endurance work, because people cap out at a certain number of intense days. So the simple diagrams you posted will likely shift more to the endurance side for sweet spot.
I agree with every point on this list in broad strokes. But nothing none of these points have anything to do with polarized training. These are more fundamental training principles that lie below sweet spot and polarized.
That’s another reason why this debate isn’t just about semantics: fundamentally, it is important to distinguish whether you are doing too many days at intensity or whether the intensity distribution on the hard days isn’t stimulating for you. These are two different diagnoses with two different solutions.
You might be surprised at the number of people that read about polarized being the exciting new way to train, hire a coach, and then demand to be trained polarized and ask why they are doing tempo or sweet spot LOL
Sweet spot doesn’t indicate the ratio of endurance-to-hard days, but it indicates what your hard days look like.
I don’t see it that way. FasCat’s plans were built from the FasCat Coaching’s experience coaching hundreds and hundreds (thousands and thousands) of individuals. They were in a different market segment than TR started out in: if you are willing to spend 10+x of what TR costs per month on a coach, it is likely you are more serious and you will adhere to a coach’s recommendation. FasCat’s plans are in a sense outdoor workout plans where you can do some bits indoors. FasCat’s plans are more rounded in that they include things like strength training and yoga.
TR started out with indoor trainers in mind. Lots of decisions can be traced back to this, e. g. TR’s endurance workouts tend to be shorter but at a higher intensity. TR’s decision to replace Sunday’s endurance ride with a sweet spot workout was born of TR’s experience that completion rates for such a long endurance workout dropped. TR’s plans don’t yet include strength work by default, just as an extra curricular activity.
My point isn’t to excuse TR’s plans or some such. Both approaches could both be great plans for the majority of the respective audiences, realizing that both audiences are different and have different constraints on average.
However, the more experience you have, the closer you are to your limit (given the constraints you are under), the more you need to deviate from standard plans. TR has tens of thousands of users, so statistically, there will always be a great number for which a stock training plan doesn’t work. And the reasons might just be user error: people are too ambitious and train themselves into the ground. This is TR’s problem to solve, but you have to understand the reasoning why. E. g. compared to their training plans now is it better if TR prescribes more vegetables (= endurance rides) and then a large share of athletes simply not eating them? Does consistency trump healthiness? I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem like a simple question.
TR’s solution was to help athletes by giving them tools and the knowledge (through their blog and podcast) to customize their plans and eventually introduced AT v1.0 and AI FTP. You don’t need to use any or all of these tools, but likely you are using some. With that in mind, your criticism that “I don’t follow TR’s plans.” is a bit weird: I’m using TR as intended and officially supported. I work around the limitations of its current automated functionality by amending plans manually. That has worked well for me, also because it has forced me to learn more about training. And when you understand better what you are doing, your training improves.
As a fellow scientist, I think it is absolutely crucial to be precise when speaking scientifically. Defining what we mean by e. g. polarized is important if you want to analyze the efficacy and have comparable results. That is why e. g. I find the 3-zone system useless for cycling: not only doesn’t it distinguish between e. g. sweet spot and tempo, but it also doesn’t distinguish between threshold, VO2max and anaerobic work. Yet, all polarized training plans implicitly use Coggan’s system when they prescribe threshold on one day and VO2max work on another. Furthermore, since you don’t resolve the difference between tempo and sweet spot — both are Z2, the data that you posted does not say whether the athletes who do spend quite a bit in Z2 are doing tempo, sweet spot or both. In this discussion, a distinction seems essential.
@WindWarrior mentioned a good distinction: are you looking at this from the perspective of a scientist working in exercise physiology (i. e. you want to look at the effect across many individuals, but are limited by the number of participants and duration)? Or are you a coach (i. e. you are focussing an individual, and your experience spans many individuals in less controlled conditions, but across much longer spans of time)?
Both approaches can be scientifically valid, especially since people need not respond to stimulus like the majority in a trial did. It also depends on the athlete’s goals what they want to do. The significance of TTE at 95–100 % FTP is different for a crit racer participating in races that last about 30 minutes than an Iron Man athlete. Also, you could be maxed out on a particular stimulus and you need a different stimulus to grow.
It’d be interesting to know whether “a lot” is really a lot. I wonder how many people are following the TR Polarised plans, or who is substituting in workouts or some other ride in place of the long sessions.
It still seems to me that “most” people don’t want to spend the time on the trainer to make Polarised worthwhile.
I’d also love to know what the original plans/ @chad 's optimal plan would be for Sweet Spot Base MV (for example) if he didn’t have to concern himself about compliance and TR athletes skipping long trainer sessions.
I suspect/hope there will be more energy put into this type of training with WLV2 and the next big update as it seems there will be an option to choose length of training time available, and that would logically change the type of training one might prescribe.
I definitely find 2–3 polarized days harder than the equivalent sweet spot block with 3–4 days of intensity. (I have never done 5 days of intensity, only 4.)
However, a few caveats here: when I joined TR, my FTP was 277 W (about 3.7 W/kg, I think). I had a good aerobic base from riding tons, spending 6–12 hours in the saddle at one day of the weekend before we had kids. Doing the mid-volume vanilla plan felt very easy. My FTP has risen steadily to 348 W (4.7 W/kg). As I have increased my fitness, I found I have become more sensitive to perturbations, e. g. I am more sensitive to not sleeping enough or sleeping badly and not having eaten the right thing or eaten enough. And within the last 5 years, we have had 2 kids, and often they wreak havoc on my sleep schedule.
And I have started experimenting with plans very early in my TR career. So I am not sure I have done more than a season of bone stock TR plans, if that. I followed TR’s recommendation of adding endurance work rather than upping the volume, and that has worked very well for me. For example, I added a Friday endurance workout, and that didn’t agree with me at all. Instead, I found out that it is much better to tack on 30 minutes of endurance to all scheduled weekday workouts. Even though I spent 30 minutes more per week doing Z2 work, this was way easier on my body. Next season I might experiment doing 2 longer days of intensity rather than 3, but keeping the overall duration at intensity roughly the same.
In 2019 and 2020 I essentially did MV+/HV- plans (as measured by TSS, which, I know, isn’t perfect). And at the end of 2020, I decided to strategize across several seasons: doing a crit plan to focus on my short power (i. e. increase the height of my power tower) and then in 2022 broaden my power tower’s base. I don’t know when I started substituting endurance workouts for Sunday’s sweet spot workouts, but I did this, because I have heard the recommendation on TR’s podcast and wanted to try it. Personally, I didn’t feel much difference, and found sweet spot workouts more engaging. Yet, I erred more on the endurance side, because I didn’t want my endurance to fall behind my FTP if that makes sense.
I did a polarized block at the first opportunity to see what the buzz was all about and how my body would react to it. Specifically, I did a 6-week block before my Plan Builder training plan (with sweet spot base), and that combo was ace. My endurance-at-power greatly improved, peaking at sweet spot PL 9.1 or so this season. I gained about 20 W that season (peak-to-peak FTP). I again based my training plan around a mid-volume plan and added endurance work.
Now I use polarized blocks strategically when I want to work on my endurance-at-power (when I want to increase my PLs). E. g. I took one month off in spring because of a family vacation, and to my surprise, my FTP hadn’t fallen that much — but my endurance was atrocious. So I added a polarized block to address that.
However, I have never substituted a sweet spot or built block for the equivalent polarized block because I felt I had too many days of intensity. Instead, I dropped down to low-volume and added endurance work (which was only for the current block). Essentially, the only difference is that my Saturday workout (scheduled on Fridays) is an endurance workout and not threshold.
Because coaches and CEOs aren’t scientists?! When you invite me to give a talk about semiclassics in condensed matter or topological phenomena in periodic media (some of my areas of expertise), then I would hold myself to a higher standard than when I post about training and exercise physiology (where I’d call myself a somewhat self-educated layperson). Seiler is one of the experts in the world on polarized training, and it makes a difference whether or not he is consistent in his definitions and analysis. That’s because if the scientific community doesn’t define polarized training properly, then studies become hard or impossible to compare, something that Seiler himself admitted.
Coach Frank and to a lesser degree @Nate_Pearson follow a scientific approach, but they are not scientists. (I think Coach Frank’s podcast where he tells his story before becoming a coach full time is excellent, he really susses out the difference between being a scientist and a coach that follows scientific principles. And he was directly involved in the development of Coggan’s approach and sweet spot base training.) Now you could say they are just trying to sell their services, yes, but I really believe them that they are trying to base their approach on science coupled with experience, because ultimately, good results is what brings them repeat customers.
All of this sounds as if I am bashing Seiler and don’t like polarized training. I do use polarized blocks and they work for me, especially in combination with sweet spot. And in terms of general principles, I found myself nodding with much of what Seiler has said. Still, I think if you are recognized as one of the (perhaps the) foremost authority on polarized training, you are judged differently than a coach or a CEO.
If people neither educate themselves nor hire a professional, then their training will likely not be as effective. Is that surprising? Not really.
Is TR really sidestepping the issue? I have had no problems using TR’s tools to create training plans that suit my needs. Customizing training plans and picking the right training plans has been a perennial topic on the blog and TR’s podcast. And I listen to my body, not marketing and the proof is in the pudding: am I getting faster? What metrics do I use to gauge my fitness? Can I sustain the training I am doing now? Is my training too hard or can I do more? Software can only help me to a degree.
Just to clarify: TR could do a lot do make their training plans better and to steer people towards a training plan that is more in line with their abilities and try to automate some parts to help beginners. At least some of the features I’d like are actively being worked on, e. g. that I can determine how long workouts should be on a given day. That’d help me a lot. And there was repeated talk about a plan below low-volume.
Judging non-scientifically from the forums, it seems a lot of people opted for polarized blocks who just could not sustain the overall intensity. There is also a large intersection with the crowd who claims that the ramp test overestimates their FTP. (This is not meant as a ding or an underhanded compliment.) If you combine both, you get a training plan with more endurance work, 2 days of intensity instead of 3 or 4 (if we are staying on mid-volume). And if the FTP the athlete chose is lower than their actual lactate threshold, their steady-state threshold workout might be a sweet spot workout.
Perhaps this is exactly what these people need, but I’d say they are following a sort-of sweet spot plan with less days of intensity.
+1 as well. Didn’t know this was an option. @SarahLaverty how does it handle the different block durations? For example polarized base is 6 weeks and build is 8 weeks. Where I think build for other is 6? Also is this option available for traditional base swaps? That’s definitely different. 3 blocks of 4 weeks. So same 12 week total time as SSB but that 2 blocks of 6 weeks.
When going through Plan Builder, you have the option to swap in any of the Build Phases.
In the Base phase, you can swap in any alternative Base Phase, except for Traditional Base. Traditional Base’s unique block length makes it difficult to use as a direct substitute for Sweet Spot Base. This is something we’d like to address in the future!
I am now in the 4th week of HV polarized (6 wk). So far I am really enjoying it, and am even starting to lose my usual dread for VO2 and long threshold workouts. But AT is really having me scratch my head in several regards.
First, AT seems to be very “active”, updating after nearly every workout. Once even updated overnight, and annoyingly added 15 minutes to my morning endurance ride, where I had purposefully set my alarm for the shorter ride.
It also often reduces the WL for my endurance workouts whether I mark them as easy or as moderate. Generally this means changing an achievable to an even easier achievable. I don’t mind this, except for the Sunday ride where I want to progress duration. (Did give me Vogelsang @4hrs last week though, but all others have been under 3hrs.)
And finally, it tends to downgrade my weekly threshold workout. Granted, I generally rate these as hard, as they are never pleasant. But last week I responded with “moderate” and it set this week to the same WL. And, since I had to skip yesterdays Z2 due to American Thanksgiving plans, I used alternates to bump todays threshold WL by 0.3. Set many PRs and definitely could have done more. Marked it as “hard” and AT reduced next weeks threshold down by 0.3, a bit lower than today’s.
It feels almost like AT wants my “hard” days to be “moderate”. And my “easy” days to be very easy.
So I wonder how TR views declining adaptations in their definition of compliance. If we’re declining adaptations and doing our own tweaking are they learning from that, or do they chalk that up to people not doing what TR/AT is saying and therefore the data is invalid… I don’t think putting that out there reveals any internal secrets… @SarahLaverty, @IvyAudrain,what do you think about helplng us understand that?