My experience going from primarily SS to sort of Polarized

So, I’d like to preface this with acknowledging that I think TrainerRoad is a great product and the guys and girls who are behind it are awesome and I love the podcast. I’d also like to say that for 95% of everyone I ride with who ride totally unstructured and just go out and kill themselves every day TR would be a massive improvement to their training.
So, I used to race in my late teens, very early 20s (20 hour week training type programme) before stopping for around 10 years before riding on and off and starting to get more focused again about 5 years ago. I’m 45 and have the usual work commitments and also a family. I’m slightly more of a fast twitch sprinter type physiology. Definitely not a time triler. I started on the SS mid volume 1 then 2 programs and went through them following them pretty much to the letter about 2 years ago. I made a small FTP improvement which was nice but found I was continually on the verge of over fatigue which was limiting my performance and also I was just tired a lot. Also I was finding that to get through these sessions I’d have to eat a tonne of carbs before and after. (which seemed strange to me as when I was racing I didn’t need anywhere near as many carbs). I stopped about 10 months ago to try a type of polarized training. Starting out with lots of MAF type training (180 minus age as a max heart rate) to start to get my base back, then progressing to a lot of level 2. No high volume, 3 1 hour zone 2 type intensity during the week. Saturday 1 hour Tempo followed by 1 hour zone 2 and then 2 hour zone 2 on Sunday. I rarely need to eat around riding, maybe a banana and some peanut butter after rides. My fuel levels never feel like a limiter to me now whereas before if I wasn’t really on top of my carbs I’d really struggle with the SS work. Also SS felt really hard to me. I did 2 20 minute SS intervals yesterday to see how I’d get on with it (20 min SS used to be a killer) and it felt really not that hard. It took focus for sure but it felt how I assume it’s supposed to feel and also I wasn’t wrecked when I came home. Also, I didn’t eat any extra carbs and was fine with that. While SS programs can be a great tool and for your first 3 years or so or you’re just coming to structured training then it’s great and/or you’re quite young or have a time trialers type physiology maybe but for more experienced riders who are older maybe especially if they’re more fast twitch type riders then I think too much SS just leaves you burned out. (also I just remembered that I haven’t mentioned my FTP, I haven’t tested in a bit but the last 20 min test I did was about 20 watts higher than the 20 minute test I did after SS programs. Also, since leaving SS training I realise that I don’t care about FTP so much because it’s only one parameter that it’s easy to get overly obsessed with during SS programs. God that was a long one!


A standard ‘switch’ experience/realization. :+1:t2:

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I thought I was special!

I think Coach Chad told us we aren’t. :tired_face::joy:

Yep, he’s not wrong, I think about that a lot actually.

Good for you!. Customization is the name of the game. H

What is your high intensity session or session?

Or are you doing just Z2 and a sprinkle of Tempo?

I read it twice and didn’t spot any intensity.

This mirrors my experience. I seem to have higher bumps in FTP after periods of zone 2 training than after SS training. We’ll see, I’m back to SS training at the moment.

Same here, however I’m simply doing zone 2 training all the time. And then 2-3 days of z2+intensity while using a stock masters plan from a coaching company. A couple months ago I signed up for coaching and he is really dialing things in. This past week I used the trainer on Thursday morning and saw lowest HR ever for both z2 and SS intervals.

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This is mostly the effect of rest and natural adaptation.

A few more ways to say it:

  • Less is more (less intensity)
  • Fresh is faster
  • Lower aerobic endurance can drive additional adaptations versus advanced aerobic (upper tempo / lower threshold aka sweet spot)

This is in line with traditional general consensus of 2 high intensity sessions/week is optimal. H

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I think if you’re off the couch as I was at age 64 with no significant base, low intensity zone 2 is more useful than SS. With TR and some zone 2 I’ve gone off the back to the front of our local Sat group ride. FTP is still less than 200.

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Five years in and I’m still seeing benefits.

A few months ago I did what was for me an abnormally long zone 2 ride and after a couple days recovery my fitness was measureably improved.

I have absolutely no doubt if you have the time for it (I sure don’t, not in this lifetime) then long z2 rides are super effective.

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No, not much intensity, my “intensity” day is Saturday and I just see what my body wants to do, I keep an eye on my heart rate and if I feel good I may do up to 2 20 mins intervals of SS intensity. I’m definitely in base phase and will add some real intensity sometime in March. Unless I start feeling stuck that is. I take a de load week after every 3 weeks.

I think off the couch anything and everything will work.