Maintaining VO2max Training Year Round

Hi all,

since for me offseason is around the corner I started thinking about winter training. I always have a very hard time picking up Vo2 work early in the year. After a few weeks of suffering and failing workouts it starts to get really fun to go hard.

So for this year I thought the following: Would it be a good idea (or even possible?) to maintain some form of Vo2 work year round? I am pretty time constrained and do not train more than 7 to 9 hours a week. So not really any need for a lengthy break or off season. Also I did not race much this season.

The goal would be to substantially increase my sub 5 minute power through the winter by constantly working on it. Has anyone ever tried to maintain a lengthy period of regular Vo2 work? Would something like base, build, base, build be a better way to go for it?

If you have a favourite VO2 workout, you could replace HIIT sessions in the base and builds with the VO2 favourite, or lower variation. There is plenty of evidence about the effectiveness of known workouts, both physically and mentally, so I’m sure Coach Chad wouldn’t disapprove.
Remember to dial in the recovery weeks and I don’t see why you couldn’t maintain base, build, base, build.

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i am looking at this for this off season as well. Looking at maybe 2 days a week Vo2 work but at the 5 minute power mark so like a 5min@110%-112% twice a week and 1 day of SST intervals, and 2 days of endurance rides. That’s what i have come up with, there is no science behind it and i created an 8 week block to try this to start my off-season. If it doesn’t really improve anything i will just go into base in January anyways like i did this past year. i am doing this Oct-Nov and will ride with no plan in December and recover that month.

Doing a 5 x 4 or a 4 x 5 or something year-round would probably fry most of us.

For Base, I’d say shorter efforts at 115%+ to keep the system open without too much too early – so, something like 8 x 1:00 or 4 x 2:00 @115% with :15-:30 rest between each one. That would be enough to maintain, but not strain.

Personally I wouldn’t be trying to add two Vo2 sessions per week as the benefits of those sessions will start to decline. It really comes down to what your goals are and are you following a structure plan, perhaps with the aim of peaking for an event or perhaps not.

Thanks for the replies! I think I will try to maintain SSB1, SSB2, Build, SSB1… but changing tuesdays workout in SSB1 to a VO2 session. We’ll see if this is maintainable. It might be a little taxing on the mind though to do VO2max sessions with no races in sight during the height of winter.

There’s a study comparing two groups of (I think professional) cyclists. One group did traditional base during winter and the other did traditional base but with some harder interval sessions thrown in.

Come time for build, the interval group kept a higher FTP and were able to reach higher gains in FTP by the end of the build block.

Annoyingly I can’t find the blog with the study on it. Will keep looking, hopefully someone else recognises it though.

I found it before when researching ideas on periodisation. Was thinking to try traditional base this winter but with a Zwift race or VO2 session once a week. Something intense.

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From what I know off off the top of my head.

Rønnestad BR et al. HIT maintains performance during the transition period and improves next season performance in well-trained cyclists. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2014;114:1831-1839

I’ve got the abstract, and other articles discussing it. I don’t have the full text. So take the following with a grain of salt.

24 week study. 8 weeks of either low intensity, or low+HIT, and then both groups did the same 16 week training. The low intensity only group essentially detained by omitting their weekly HIT, and never caught up in performance over the study.

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https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262786174_HIT_maintains_performance_during_the_transition_period_and_improves_next_season_performance_in_well-trained_cyclists

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Brilliant, cheers!

Going to read it through again tomorrow and see what the takeaways are from it. Usually do zero VO2 work for maybe 5 months then feel like I struggle come build plans. HV SSB has no VO2 work at all unlike LV and MV

Yes. I do VO2max and supra-VO2max work year round. About once a week I like the SIT workouts (Charing et al) or something like Mendel or Striped. 30/30 is also a staple workout. As I’ve gotten older have found its very helpful to not lose touch with threshold or VO2max workouts. Plus these are a lot more fun than 2x20 or two hours at z2 so in a way kinda refreshing when they come around on the plan

Friel hits (ha ha) upon this in Fast Over Fifty

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Yes, I think burnout is real with year round HIIT sessions. However if there is not much overall volume it might just be fine and ideally the new season you don’t have to start from zero again, regarding VO2 work.

Me too. As CX racer hill sprints a regularly part of my training. No problems with breathing in cold, because is very short.
HIIT is a bit tricky if cold. Outside i often ride 2x20 at or slightly above CP. Indoor on trainer more short series 30/30. But indoor I can’t maintain the the same power then outdoors nor i reach the same extend. So I do it only if the weather enforce it.
Last winter here was very mild and during a break in the race season in December I made a real HIIT block. On the first day with 30/30 the power output was frustrating and the HR skyrocket high while 20 min near CP was not bad. During the block i could increase power very day by few watts and HR normalized. For me this worked very nice and gave me a good start into the current season.

My interpretation with the HIIT Block: For me CX race + 2x20 word pretty good to maintain CP at a acceptable level but not V02max. On the other hand V02max recover pretty fast on this base with a nice overload.

During the CX season for me is simply not possible to maintain everything. Is not only time and weather, also I don’t have the motivation to do additional HIIT’s. But this maybe a healthy reaction.

For next winter I will try to make a HIIT block again if weather permits or if i find enough motivation on indoor.

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From what I can see the key take aways are:

  1. 1x HIT every 7-10 days appears to be beneficial. In the study this was 5x6m or 6x5m in “intensity zone 3” (The endurance training was divided into three HR zones: low-intensity zone (60–82 % of HRmax), moderate-intensity zone (83–87 % of HRmax), and high intensity zone (88–100 % of HRmax)) with a work to recovery ratio of 2:1. i.e. 6m work interval and 3m recovery interval.
  2. This was all done with athletes undertaking a traditional base followed by what appears to be a polarised build. It would be interesting to further compare to a group doing sweet spot base like I imagine an awful lot of TR users are.
  3. The HIT was additional to what the study describes as a “relatively low volume” traditional base… so the HIT group were automatically getting more volume anyway.
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These are definitely hidden away under the ‘Specialty -> Enthusiast’ label.