So my coach wants to implement a polarised training approach for base training and 2022 racing season. I’m a bit sceptical, though I am very happy to be told I’m wrong. My base phase started 2 weeks ago, and I’ve been doing one or two HIIT sessions a week, followed by 3-4 zone 2 rides (or zone 1 in a polarised plan). From my research, polarised training is something done after the base phase is completed, but I don’t really understand.
I’m just worried about getting burnt out too early in the season as I’m already doing HIIT sessions in base training. Is this normal for a polarised approach? If someone could explain how base training and polarised training go together, that would be great.
What did your previous training progression look like? We’re you only doing endurance in base? There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing a limited amount of intensity sessions in a week and then doing as much endurance training as time allows
I used to have a coach years ago and we did reverse periodization (what yours is doing now). Build high power in off season and stretch it into longer durations for the race season. Worked well for me. You might burn out if your coach is bad, you don’t follow the plan, or fill in the blank.
But the idea that you need to follow a pyramidal training plan to not burn out come race season is debunked - see multi discipline athletes racing year round like WVA, MVDP, or pidcock for example. You just need adequate rest to recover from the training load you’re taking in, IMO.
No one knows how polarised should look like but everybody can recognise it when they see it basically idea of polarised is to use all year long. But as we know after listening a ton of podcast, reading articles and interviews, every coach has khis own definition. The idea of doing vo2 and z2 was used in research but 4x16 used there was a threshold workout. Seiler himself qualifies threshold into high-intensity parts as he recognises the specificity of cycling in comparison to other sports he studies. Even he is doing sst work with burtst
Doing only vo2 max and z2 if done as reverse periodization, mentioned by @KWcycling has its place and is often used by triathletes - first you build engine and then focus on specificity. Doing vo2 max and z2 all year long will (at least in theory):
Leave you destroyed mentally
You will stagnate after some time as your body will need other stimulus to improve
You will be flying on the bike
If you have any concerns I would ask your coach what is his long-term plan and view on training phases and modalities. If he cannot answer - change the coach. If he can answer - go with it, and try what will happen.
If his plan is doing polarised this way all year long - open TR, choose polarised plans and repeat them over and over. You will save a lot of money and then hire better coach.
definitely have an open discussion with your coach; let her/him know that you’d like to understand what’s going on a bit more; I’m sure they’ll welcome this!
I see no issue with tapping those systems even during base. It’s normally just less duration or load, but a good idea to keep the vo2 active and even hit those anaerobic fibers from time to time. base doesn’t have to be just endurance riding, but you’re right, it most likely shouldn’t be as much vo2 as you would hit in a build phase.
Totally separate from your polarized question, and the specifics of the plan - I feel like if you have to ask this question the answer is probably yes. That’s not to say their plan is bad. Instead, the fact that you’re asking on an online forum implies either you don’t have good communication with your coach or you fundamentally disagree with their approach. If either of those is the case then you’re probably going to struggle to improve
I did this for 2 years and it didn’t work for me. The idea was to build power over winter and use that power in a greater watts Zone 2 later in the year, corresponding with me being a long distance MTB endurance racer - 6-12hr races.
3 years ago my coach agree to change it back to a traditional plan and since then all of my performance measures have increased and continue to do so. Not being a lifelong cyclist base is important for me to build mitochondria, but I also continue the Z2&3 during build proportionately to match my race efforts.
In fact, I’ve just come back from 4hrs in Z2 in the grim, dark and cold British weather, I can thoroughly recommended it
how is the training coming along? Can you give an example HIIT session? Did you discuss with your coach?
^^^ @franksman this guy is a coach and won two National championships in 2021. FWIW I have a coach and he says it different, but same concept and every week I’m always doing some type of intensity. Fewer intervals and more endurance work.
that sounds excessive if that is time in zone and those are actual anaerobic efforts… but maybe thats the stimulus you need. Particularly above threshold, I’ve read and been told that more is not always better
I feel the more time you have to ride the more polarized makes logical sense. Dr. Seiler, who coined the term says it can work for cyclist with around 10 hours a week (not sure if it was 8, 10, 12 but, it was way less than 20). The way each of us can handle the teeter totter of intensity and volume is so crazy individual it’s worth a shot. Super important to maintain a positive mental attitude. If you’re not having fun talk to the coach and make a change.
Polarized is for anything but what TR calls the Specialty phase where you focus on race- or discipline-specific efforts.
Polarized is meant to work exactly like that, it is meant to balance some HIIT with lots of low-intensity efforts. If your coach chooses the right volume for you, then you should not burn out.
However, it isn’t just intensity that is either easy or hard, it is also the workouts. Hard polarized workouts are hard, and are meant to be hard. This is quite different from e. g. TR’s standard plans where you have a number of easier workouts that are now marked Achievable with Adaptive Training.
Lastly, and most importantly, when you have a coach, your relationship to them should be built on trust. That is one of the big difference to something like TR, a coach is a human and if you have concerns or don’t fully trust their judgement, that’ll show. A coach is also supposed to address the human element and customize their prescribed training plans to the athlete. I would recommend you talk to your coach about your concerns. Perhaps your coach has their reasons for choosing exactly the plan they did. Perhaps they think “You can do more than you think and you need a bit of a challenge.” And if you don’t trust your coach, change your coach.
In latest base pathway Frank pointed out that he uses at least two days of intensities (SS/FTP) per week for time crounched athletes…
Sailer “invented” polarized watching elite athletes which are training well above 20hrs per week and now everyone is trying to replicate polarized into 5-6hrs per week.
Base of my base training are 2 SS/FTP workouts and at least one 3+hrs z2 (z1 in 3 zone model). I’m a selfcoached and I’m constantly adopting my plans depending on my free time. If I have 12+hrs available I would ride only long z2 rides this week and if I have less I would add some SS and FTP…
Sometimes I wonder if they take into account racing intensities. Pros may “train” polarized but then they go race and do 4-7 hours of sweet spot (average). If you count the racing in their distribution, it looks pyramidal.
FWIW, two years ago I did a polarized base with one session per week of intensity. I progressed from 6 hours per week to 13 hours per week over 11 weeks. By week 7, I was absolutely flying and breaking PRs left and right.
Interestingly, I didn’t progress further between week 8 and 11. At that point, I should have rested and then shifted gears to an SST or threshold block but I didn’t know enough about training. I still had a good riding year and a lot of endurance and durability.
I think this is the biggest gap in the arguments of advocates to a more pure polarized™ approach: it is clear that you can’t add more intensity to someone who is regularly training 15+ hours per week, you need to add lower intensity rides because you can’t add anything else. So the intensity measures as time-in-zone must become more polarized the more you train.
Sweet spot training plans (including TRs) have been designed around time crunched athletes, i. e. regular people with a job.
Same here: thanks to my polarized block I’m extremely good at suffering through something like 2 x 28 minutes at sweet spot with 1 minute at 130 % at the beginning of each interval. But my tested FTP during that block remained literally constant to within the watt. (Although I needed to lower my FTP a little at the beginning of the polarized block.) Sweet spot raised my FTP, though.
Seiler would agree that 2 days of intensity for low volume athletes that isn’t 80/20. He outlines it in the very first fast talk episode he was on. 3 workouts a week, one hard, one medium, and one long z2 ride.
Seiler from the beginning in 2009 said cyclists train more pyramidal, and that the distribution varies from base and race season.
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