Are minus variants "easier"?

I tried a couple of searches first and didn’t see this topic.

This past weekend I had Tunemah on the calendar. But that morning I did the pre-ride at the a NICA race with my athletes (my kids) so I figured I’d take the workout that evening down a notch for roughly the same total workout time and TSS. I therefore selected Tunemah -2 instead. This was an hour version instead of the 1.5 hour version.

I failed the workout miserably. Of course there are lots of other reasons that could have happened (nutrition, general fatigue, etc), but a few days later I got to thinking about it a little harder. Comparing the two versions they are basically the same three sets of over-unders, but with less time between sets. I finished my first set, but bogged down almost immediately on the second set with only 3 minutes to recover between. Had there been the 10 minutes in the original workout I wonder if I couldn’t have finished it.

My original assumption was that the minus variants of workouts were “easier”. I’m wondering if my assumption was incorrect. Yes, they may have a lower TSS and be shorter in duration, but the way they get there may or may not result in an “easier” workout. Am I off base?

Yes, the minus versions are easier. Either shorter, or less intense, or both.

In the case of Tunemah, you’re right the intervals are the same 3x12mins, but the rests between them are also the same 10 mins (Tunemah at 50% for 10 mins and -1 at 60% for 10 mins). Tunemah is 90 mins and Tunemah -1 is 75 mins, so just a bit less work. What the -1 version removes is the 15 min endurance interval leading into the first over-under and gives you 5 mins at 40% instead. So, in the -1 version, you should be a lot less fatigued when you start your high intensity work. Both are still tough workouts though.

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It was the -2 that he did not the -1 I think the -2 has an IF of .9 which makes it very tough

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Right, I read the original post too quickly. Yes, the -2 version, while a reduction in TSS is an increase in IF. Recovery intervals are where the cuts are made. The -1 version looks to be the most forgiving of the three.


Yeah, I have made that same assumption in the past (minus are easier, plus are harder).

I think the reality varies a bit and you almost need another variable to better guess a workout difficulty.

Something that combines the IF and TSS, because shifts in either one (or both) can really change the “feel” of a workout.

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Good point on needing to look at both IF and TSS. I looked at the time/TSS without considering the IF. Much to my dismay come the start of the second interval.

-1 cuts down the warm-up and cool-down time for a slight reduction in TSS and overall time.

-2 cut down the warm-up and cool-down but also significantly cut down on the inter-interval time.

Lesson learned to be a little more observant next time I want to modify a planned workout.


This is good to raise. This is the first instance of a workout that I’ve seen that the minus version looks more difficult. I’m sure there are others like Tunemah, but as a general rule, the minus version is easier in my experience.


The converse is also true (or not true!) in a lot of cases. Augusta for example the plus versions are increasingly longer but the work intervals remain the same and the rest intervals increase.

To my mind the 2hr Augusta+2 (IF 0.84 with 8 minute recoveries) while longer is a significantly easier workout than Augusta (90min IF 0.9 with 3 minute recoveries) despite being longer. As is often the case it’s the recovery intervals which can define the session as much as the work intervals.

Length isn’t everything, is what you can cram into it that’s important :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

You certainly need to look at IF, TSS, and length in combination when deciding on whether a workout is ‘easier’ or ‘harder’ and it can really vary depending on the individual workout.

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A query about Eisenhower and its variants. As we move to the less demanding ‘minus’ workouts, the work duration and intensity on these sessions remains the same and the rest intervals becomes shorter (i.e. the IF rises significantly). By my recent experience this means that these are much more challenging, rather than less so. I can understand that TSS becomes lower, as TSS reflects volume more than intensity. But it makes for an odd experience as I set myself a supposedly more manageable workout and then find myself failing!

Does anyone have any thoughts on a) this categorisation and b) similar workouts that feel less demanding than Eisenhower, rather than those that simply incur lower TSS.

Common issue. The minus versions are always shorter in duration, but not necessarily easier.

As you noted, changes in duration and count of work and recovery intervals can lead to a minus being easier or harder.

Its best to take a closer look at the Intensity Factor, Duration and even the finer details of a workout to have a better expectation of each workout.

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This is so true when looking at VO2 workouts. I’m referring to the Monadnock series of workouts. They range from 110% up to 125%. You could find yourself in trouble pretty fast if you skip the descriptions :skull:

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Yep - minus versions of some VO2 workouts make them much harder because they leave in most of the intervals and cut the recovery between set! :nauseated_face: