Combine traditional base and polarized?

This year I completed my first full season with TR. I started with the full suite of TBHV and then proceeded with plan builder: SSBHV and sustained power. (I swapped in Z2 on Sundays.). I am 55 and relatively new to interval training, but generally did not find the intensity too much. OTOH, maybe I don’t know what I could have done with less intensity. I saw some modest improvements in FTP but was hoping for a bit more newbie gains. And also had respectable improvements in sustaining sweet spot and threshold.

This season I would like to try polarized, but am thinking of starting off with traditional base. I would definitely transition before TB III, but am wondering if maybe switching even before TB II is more optimal as it starts to include multiple days of (admittedly modest) intensity. But I’m also open to skipping TB altogether if I can understand the reasoning. I like TB but some weekday rides are a bit inconveniently long.

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I don’t think pure traditional base makes a lot of sense if you are interested in performance — with rare exceptions. Mixing polarized and traditional base conceptually makes no sense either.

Polarized training plans have fewer days with intensity and focus more on endurance. In my experience, polarized plans have raised my endurance, but did little to literally nothing to raise my FTP. So I’d keep track of performance metrics other than only FTP to see if you are making gains — and you are making the gains you intend to make. The latter is important.

Also, different people react differently to polarized training (or sweet spot training or any training).

Personally, I’d start with days of intensity: I am amazed that a 55-year-old was able to finish sweet spot high volume. This is intense. But I’d suggest you try 2–3 days of intensity (no matter the training plan). You could start with a low-volume sweet spot plan that you then pad with endurance rides. If you want 2 days of intensity, replace the weekend sweet spot ride with an endurance ride.

You could also start with a polarized mid-volume plan. In my experience, polarized blocks are harder mentally, because I find their mental difficulty is polarized as well: EASY endurance rides and HARD workouts at threshold and VO2max. Others may perceive this differently, so YMMV.

Let me emphasize that I’m not arguing against polarized, I have used polarized blocks in my training for the last 2 seasons. And next season will contain at least one polarized block, too. However, if I were you, I’d replace the traditional base block before you start your next training plan by a polarized block, and see how your body reacts. That’s what I did, and it has worked very well for me. Plus, I know what kind of benefits I can expect.

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I doubt that I am exceptional. My understanding is that the heavy investment in Z2 hours with TB should have provided some resilience for HV. (And I actually extended the first two of the blocks.). Also, the 2 interruptions in my schedule happened during build blocks, so it is possible HV build would have caught up to me. The interruptions were due to delayed fatigue from a blood donation and then COVID finally caught up to me.

I don’t think pure traditional base makes a lot of sense if you are interested in performance — with rare exceptions. Mixing polarized and traditional base conceptually makes no sense either.

I not here to argue, I’m just curious why you think traditional base makes no sense and what you define as performance in this context. Also, why do you think there’s no sense in doing a polarized block right after TB?

I think you’ve nailed it there. TB might not give you the same gains as SSB over the course of a 12 week block, but, if you have the time to do lots of Z2 in the base period, you’ll make greater gains later in the season.

You could always throw in something short and sharp (VO2 or SIT maybe) every couple of weeks to limit losses to your upper end. Once you’ve hit the polarised base you’ll be getting plenty of top end. You can move to a more pyramidal model later in the season.

One possibility is to start with POL6LV and fill remaining available time with Z2. After that can move to next higher volume plan that contains 2 high intensity days per week.

Traditional base is neither time effective nor are you likely able to see the same gains as with a polarized or a sweet spot base block. The way I understood your plan makes it seem as if you clicked on “Select All” rather than making a choice of emphasis. When you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.

IMHO you should figure out what goals you have and why you want to opt for a particular block. What gains do you want to see?

If I were you, I’d do a vanilla polarized block before you start with a training plan created with Plan Builder. Keep it relatively vanilla so that you can find out for yourself how your body reacts to a polarized block. If you mix and match, that gets watered down and you might end up doing something, but you have a hard time understanding how the outcomes differ from e. g. a sweet spot base block. Keep an eye on fitness gains in dimensions other than power.

You’d triple down on base training, and I don’t think this is a good way to structure your time. Plus, that’d make you very blunt and you likely wouldn’t see gains. Base training is to bring your level up to where it was. Adding a bit of base training, e. g. one block, is ok, but tripling up on it is overdoing it.

The different styles, traditional base, polarized base and sweet spot base, emphasize different aspects of your fitness. In my experience, a polarized base block increases my duration at power/repeatability/number of matches, but leaves my FTP pretty much untouched. Whether your body will react the same way, I don’t know. Just keep track of fitness metrics other than your FTP.

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Maybe I misunderstood @tomclune here, but my understanding was that the traditional base block was in addition to a sweet spot or polarized base block. Then your argument wouldn’t quite work.

Personally, I’d base my training plan around how many days of intensity I want in what phase. If you go for two, then a polarized mid-volume plan or a sweet spot low-volume plan is a good option. You just add endurance workout as your schedule allows.

As usual, it depends, just finished 2 month base period:

  • first month only Z2 (6d/week, HR capped, IF ~0.63)
  • second month per week 5xZ2 + 1xZ4 (~96% FTP, 5x10min)

On one hand, you’re right about FTP increase, got modest 2.8% increase. But same time, when it was time for tempo ride, i kept touching higher side of prescribed range and when matched to TR workout, it came out to be PL 9.2 SS (90% FTP, 3x30min) and yet i estimated this ride to be easy :slight_smile:


Speaking from my own experience: after one polarized block this year, I did PL 9.x sweet spot workouts, too, and found them easy. I think I refused to go higher than PL 9.2 or 9.0 (don’t remember), because before each of the 25-minute sweet spot blocks I was supposed to do 1–2 minutes at 150 % FTP (those were 1-hour sweet spot workouts), and I was concerned about the added fatigue. I decided 2 minutes at 130 % were enough for me.

Another point, though: usually, one TR base block lasts 6 weeks, and by default TR prescribes two of them. Your two months of base correspond to 2/3 of what TR commonly prescribes. So if I undestand @tomclune’s plan correctly, he’d spend much longer doing just Z2.

From the looks of things, you created a custom base period for yourself. I assume you are basing this off of quite a bit of past experience, knowing how your body would react to training stimulus in a particular zone. Correct? That’s a good idea, especially if you know what kind of fitness you want and why.

He talked of transitioning before TBIII, so I assumed he was going to do TBI or TBI & II and then move to PB🤔.

Personally I prefer scheduling 2 days of intensity. I can handle 3 only on a short term basis. I burn out trying to do it week after week. Plus, leaves me with some flexibility for long hard Tempo days. But the optimal approach is going to be different for each of us! :man_shrugging:t2:

Yep, my base period is not over yet, there is still one month to go with 4xZ2 + 1xZ4 + 1xSS.
This is actually Dylan Johnson base plan from TrainingPeaks that I do on TR platform

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That is definitely how I build a training plan. I did several years on training plans with three days of intensity and went down to 2 after seeing signs of fatigue.

And spending some time with less intensity at the beginning of the season is definitely worth thinking about. But I would skin the cat from that direction rather than mixing e. g. traditional base and polarized base without articulating why.

That’s what I understood, too, although I don’t know whether he planned on doing just one block of TB or two.

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In week 2 of SSBMVII (week 8 of base) you’ve got a VO2 workout, 2 threshold workouts and one SS workout. I don’t think that could reasonably be called base training :joy:. So @svens would have completed more base training than the plans prescribe.

Secondly, the polarised plans are 8 weeks. So TBI plus PB would give you 12 weeks, the equivalent of SSB, but with a lot less intensity.

You likely got that mixed up: I’m not the OP, so I’m not intending to mix up any plans.

However, I do see your point and completely agree: Your choice of plan should depend on your specific goal for that block and cater the needs of that goal. For example, I plan to do TB over the winter. This should fit my need, mainly because a) I want to incorporate running and (heavy) lifting during the off-season b) I want to up my endurance on the bike c) I feel like I don’t need any high intensity before early spring here.

Anyway, I didn’t want to sidetrack this thread and start a whole discussion. I was just interested in your line of argument.

Sounds like we’re coming from a similar place, in terms of experience👍. I prefer to take it handy for the first few weeks. Hence why I see benefits to TB1.

I think the SSB plans ramp up way too early, they’re structured more like a build phase than a base. But that’s just personal opinion, I guess. Still a huge fan!

My somewhat vague thoughts were along these lines. I’m starting base in October and will have plenty of time for intensity later in the season.

My goals are also somewhat vague. I do not race and don’t do club rides. I mostly ride the trainer except the occasional organized century (and maybe a few outside rides to prep each time). But now that you mention it, I am hoping to add in a bit of running (jogging) and a bit more focus on strength over the winter. An appeal of HVTBI is that it is only 4 days a week which makes it a bit easier to run 1 day each week.

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Actually The polarized plans have a 6 week and an 8 week block. But I may also repeat TBI. Which would then be longer than SSB, but with much less intensity.

what are your goals for 2023? racing at all? if so, what kind?

Yes, you are correct. I hadn’t looked at them in a bit, thought the 8 week plan was the base plan for some reason. It seems I had it backwards. The 6 week plan is the base plan, or early base at least.