How are people finding the TR Polarized plans?

I’ve just finished an 8-week polarised base block (non AT, because I only worked out several weeks in how I should have set it up). I really like the long hard interval sessions, and it’s similar to structured training I know from rowing, so I was quite sold on it. But - my FTP progression has been so-so, so I’m no longer that excited. Last year, I ended up in a fatigue hole with the regular ss plan once I hit build and I thought that longer sessions + more rest days might help with that, but now I wonder if the training impulse of polarised is sufficient. Maybe it works better with AT though. I’d be interested in other people’s experiences with it.

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I have done one 6-week block of polarized training before starting this year’s Plan Builder training plan. This was in part to gain first-hand experience after all this hot discussion on the forum. My idea was to have a pre-base base period that emphasized endurance more. This was because last season I intentionally chose the Crit Plan to increase the height of my power tower at the expense of a shallower base. This year I wanted to dedicate more time to the base.

Here are my thoughts:

  • It did exactly what I expected: it gave more emphasis to endurance and strengthened my base. This was my intention, so it did its job.
  • The threshold intervals really prepared me well for sweet spot intervals, which are now a piece of cake (I’m oscillating between PL 8.5 and PL 9.2). My next sweet spot workout has 150 % FTP spikes in them to induce fatigue :scream:
  • I don’t think the Polarized Plans are any easier than the Sweet Spot Base and Build plans. The long Z2 rides during the week were difficult because I had to get up much earlier. And the hard days are HARD, not just because the workouts are hard and the progression steep, but the workouts are boring (I think the warmup is identical for all workouts and there is zero variation among the workouts). So you need to bring your mental A game to the hard days.
  • My increase in FTP was moderate, but I emphasize again, that this was not my goal.
  • “My edge is quite blunt” if that makes any sense. But again, this was pre-base base training for me, so it was perfect for my use case.

So overall, I think they are a useful addition to my toolbox, but I don’t think they will replace the existing plans for me. Instead, they will augment the default TR plans for me. It is neither a panacea nor is it bad. I reckon some people are better off with a polarized plan while others aren’t.

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Yes I’ve been using it as a kind of pre-base as well and I’m now pondering whether I should stick with it or move to sweet spot. My aim is to extend my endurance and threshold capabilities for ultra-long events, so polarised seemed to be really good for that.

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Depends on your goals and whether you can stomach the relative monotony, I’d say. Over a multi-year span, a year with a focus on the base of your power tower seems wise. If you are curious, just try it.

But my expectations would be to not expect your fitness to manifest itself in an increase of FTP, but that you can hold power for longer. I definitely leveled up my mental game. Hard to express those gains in numbers.

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Oh, one more thing came to mind:

  • To survive the long threshold intervals and not make them into sweet spot intervals, you need to have your FTP dialed in to within 2–3 W. I had to lower my FTP to be able to finish. The difference between failing threshold workouts and finishing them was just a few W, about 2.4 %. I reckon, I could have lowered my FTP by slightly less (6 W instead of 8 W).
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Yes, I think that’s right. I’ve been following the Sweetspot/Threshold Progression threads and the discussion there is about fatigue resistance vs max power. That’s the kind of thing I’m interested in. In the summer I managed 15-20h rides at an IF of 0.75-0.8 and I’d like to get back there again, but I lost a lot of fitness since then and am now trying to work out how to get back.
And regarding the boredom - luckily there’s always something new to watch on Netflix!

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I thinhk its good that Trainerroad has added a polarized option, but I have to say it looks to me that they have almost on purpose made it as bad and as dull as possible in order to push people back to their traditional plans.

Having trained both running, cycling, cross-country skiing and triathlon, heres a few objections i have off the bat, and adjustments i would make:

  1. The interval workouts are not hard or varied enough. The whole idea with polarized training is for the hard sessions to be true quality. In their 6 week plan they have 2 weekly hard sessions, with between 60 and 92 TSS. To me this is nonsense. If i was to do polarized i would surely bump that TSS up to 100-150 with some more challenging and more fun intervals.

  2. The easy rides are too monotonous. On the high volume plan you have about 7 hours each week for easy riding. They spread this over 4 days, with 1 long day, but all the workouts are 100% boring. There almost no undulation, no sprints etc. This makes it very boring and mentally hard, but they are also not incorporating any form of other developments, like some short sprints, speedwork, etc. This is not ment to transform other sessions to “hard” but you have to give both the body and the brain some stimulus to get adaptations and make it interesting.

  3. Is this plan truly polarized? Im not sure TR really understand the word polarized. It does not mean add 4 low intensity days a week, it means that you train at the bottom and at the top of the intensity spectrum. Yet i do not see a single workout with intensity over 106% of FTP. Wheres VO2 intervals of 120% 5 minutes, or wheres the 45/15 intervals of 130%?

All in all i see this plan as unneccisarily low intensity, i really doubt an amateur needs this low of a base-phase, and comparing it to the SS-base plan is completely misleading in my opinion, as the SS-base plan is really more of a “build” plan (which i believe can be smart) but you can not compare that to this “polarized” hibernation plan. It looks more like an “off-season” plan. Perhaps i would change my mind if they introduced a polarized “build” plan, but the 6 and 8 week plans they currently have, i would not really recommend to anyone. Swap out their interval workouts with some more challenging ones and higher intensity and add some variation and fun on the easy days, and you have made some changes that will help you develop and make it more fun as well.

Please speak out of you completely disagree! @CoachNate

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Would your plan look different to someone else’s though? I’ve just started the mid volume plan from a point where my THR and VO2 career scores were at 1 to 2 and I will finish (as they stand now) at 5.9-6.0. However, I am confident that as I go over these next 6 weeks those will be pushed up even higher with adaptations. (as they have done already based on my opening VO2 max session today).

With adaptive training, it looks hard to judge a plan from the outset as for me personally, while it is right to originally prescribe what it has at the start, I am confident that it will adapt and push me harder. This ethos seems right, whilst not a newcomer to intervals (I was at 4.8 wkg over the summer) it looks to have started me off in the right place. If it doesn’t adapt properly then I will take it all back but right now, its setting out workouts that are not scaring the life out of me.

The proof as they say will be in the pudding at the end of the 6 weeks where I am expecting a bump in FTP. Mainly due the fact I will have been doing more consistent THR and VO2 work to compliment the traditional base.

The only real confusion here is that I am adding in a longer gravel ride each week…

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  • I chose to break your tag in my quote above, because I am guessing that you tagged the wrong ‘Nate’.

  • TR’s Nate Pearson is “@ Nate_Pearson” (without the space I added to prevent an unnecessary tag in my comment), so you may want to edit your post with the appropriate tag you intend.

I’m sold on an approach targeting around 8 hours/week and 60-80% aerobic endurance work. Some might call that polarized, however it is not 'P’olarized in the original ‘avoid middle zone’ definition of the term. And I hired a coach over a year ago to help me adapt that approach to my physiology and schedule. He has me doing a relatively small number of workouts, but with more variety than what I saw in the TR polarized plans. Across the board improvements versus TR’s more threshold approach. The gains were slow but just keep coming.

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I did polarized for the whole year. I had big jumps in my lower end power (sub 5min). In 2020, I had many long rides at tempo / SS. I think 2021 me could hang w 2020 me, but drop him and stay away (or at least win the sprint - I am not easy to drop!! Lol). Ftp stayed largely (~4.8 w/kg) to same but as I said lower end power is much higher as well as repeatability. Trained 8-10hpw both years so held training time constant.

To me, polarized means tapping out low z2 when I’m not purposefully doing efforts (twice a week in my Tuesday and Sat long rides). I rode a weekly group ride on Tuesday where there was maybe 30-45mins of throwing down some unplanned high wattage.
2021 polarized:
image

2020 more traditional:
image

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Interesting. I guess ultimately you improve the zones that you train. I have been feeling an improvement in repeatability, especially in the second 4-block of polarised base. Maybe I’ll just toss a coin for my next block of base.

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Yeah, so I never did a ftp/LT watts block either. Always did 30/30 @ 150%ftp, vo2 stuff, or sprints. However, my ftp stayed the same (so did weight so w/kg constant).

This is prob bc I’m pretty plateaued at my level given my available training time (8-10hpw w many years experience), but at the same time it suggests if you’re in a similar spot as me (fitness wise), you don’t have to worry about losing ftp by not explicitly training it.

Depending on what riding you want to be good at should dictate your training. In road racing / gravel, drafting makes it far less important to have a huge ftp relative to your ability to spike watts as opposed to say triathlon where it’s a TT. I’m starting to favor repeatable low duration high power efforts for this reason (you just gotta be able to bridge up to the Diesel engine guy, not be him). This is not to say neglect the engine if yours is low, but that there is such thing as ‘good enough’

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I can not really speak to adaptive training yet. My point here is simply that this is not a suitable polarized plan.

The whole idea with polarized training is to be fresh and fit for your hard workouts, and ace those without fatigue. Then supplement with low intensity work that does not compromise your quality sessions.

Trainerroad has plenty of good and interesting hard interval session that they could add to their polarized plan, so i do not know why they have chosen the mix they have. But i think anyone on a high volume plan can say that they are looking for more than 9x4 = 36 minutes of intensity in a 10 hour/week plan. And thats not even high intensity, is 106% max

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Well my ftp was fairly stable throughout the year (230 +/- 10 w, over 10 tests) so I think I’d reached a plateau more or less. But after taking September off it took a massive hit (a 60w drop) and my last 8 weeks haven’t made a massive difference, so I’m a) trying to figure out what’s going on and b) what’s the smartest way to return to roughly the same level.

There are a few VO2max sessions towards the end that go to 126%, but they’re only 3’ (x12). Still only 36’ though…

Are we looking at the same plan? All i can find with polarized is this Log In to TrainerRoad i can not see anything near 126% there.

If youre at 126% of ftp i would say 3x12 is a great workout, and i would assume TR would place is well over 100 TSS. It would be something comparable to Powell workouts I have done that i find to be very challenging and developmental for me.
Log In to TrainerRoad

Last hard week of the 8-week plan has this. Sorry, it’s 2’ not 3’.
image

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When it comes to vo2, percentage is impossible to set for users. For someone 110% would be extremely high for others with huge FRC and W’ 120% would be a joke. To get anything productive from vo2 max workout you need to tailor them to your abilities. There is no other way.

Edit–
Sorry it would be possible of course if TR would use power curve as a model for training intensity, but decided not to do this because it requires maximal testing and casual user wouldn’t do them.

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There exist several definitions of “polarized” and several evolutions of what a polarized plan should be. It seems to me that TR opted for a more academic approach, which makes sense given how they work. And perhaps they were a bit conservative in that they tried to stick too much to the letter of the law than to the spirit. The polarized workouts that I remember seeing from the academic corner looked like TR’s: very robotic and monotonous.

If they had started with their own flavor right away, they would have received even more criticism that what they are doing is not “truly polarized”. Even if ultimately that is what they should do once they have enough data on it.

It seems that many coaches already do that anyway. I thoroughly enjoyed reading @WindWarrior’s experiences with his coach who gave him a training plan that was inspired by the principles of the polarized approach to training, but wasn’t as dogmatic and more adapted to his needs and goals. (I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think this is a fair characterization.).

My hope is that TR does the same in due time. But I cut them a bit of slack here since the plans are labeled experimental and athletes need to consciously opt in.

Plus, the present plans worked in the way I thought they would, which means I can put them in my tool box and take them out when I want to. Next year I plan to continue dabbling with the polarized plans in some fashion FWIW.

Bingo. And if you are confronted with e. g. 4 x 16 minutes at threshold, you have to level up your mental game.

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