My Polarized Training Experience (Chad McNeese & others)

Finally got round to doing a FTP test after a change of tact this winter.

I’d been following TR plans this last 4 years and while I had great improvements for the first few years I’d plateaued and couldn’t shift my FTP upwards at all.

So this autumn and winter I’ve replaced many of my rides with easy rides <LT1 to see the effect. Still doing 2x hard workouts every week, mix of SS, VO2 but mostly threshold efforts to be honest.

Happy to say I’ve saw a 10% increase from the end of last season. Surprised myself with that increase after the stagnation that I’ve had for the least couple of years.

I’m pretty much following the fast talk podcast’s 3x types of rides now every week. 2x short and hard, 2-4 short and easy recovery rides and 1x 3-4 hr easy ride.

Interested now to see how far I can push on until I need to refresh my plan again.

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I think there is definite logic to support a training approach that incorporates some longer easier rides, in addition to the usual intense stuff.

I think a polarized model works well for a certain profile of athlete, but not everyone, and some athletes will benefit significantly from adding sweet spot workouts to the mix.

This thread is well worth a read.

Mikael is going to be interviewing Dr Seiler for an upcoming podcast, so that should be very interesting.

Since I had a little bit of a free period I figured that I would give an update. I am just finishing up the recovery week of my build, so will be might be seeing some fitness more gains over the next week if everything is consistent with my progress in the past.

Once again, only doing the short power weekday interval sessions from low volume. This period, doing the 2nd bike interval day the day after the run based intervals was a bit of a breaking point. Maybe I overdid the running intervals, maybe not. Maybe the three minute intervals are just that hard, and judging by a few of the pro workload threads, trying to do 9 VO2 intervals of 2.5 to 3 minutes is a hero task, there is supposed to be a point of diminishing returns and I think I at least reached it. What was good though is that I did hit all my power targets in the short power workouts of williamson and ansel adams.

Weekend zone 2 rides were roughly 75% of FTP for main target, but would usually put me at the zone 1/2 threshold. Here’s the first endurance ride I did. It says tempo, but I did a 5% drop from the power targets since I liked the duration of the workout, but wanted to give it a slight bump down to my HR target (around 125, I have a max of 175)

And here was my most recent indoor endurance ride, slightly modified for short power, doing 4 sprints during a mainly 75% of FTP power target

And here’s the most recent outdoor ride, power/HR is going to be very different outdoors since the power demands of outdoor riding cause more spikes in power necessary. If there’s a blind turn coming up, I will hustle a little bit to get past it when I know no cars are coming, but I still think overall HR response was ideal.

Overall, I have hit TSS numbers on the bike that I was only able to hit as one week spikes, and did these consistently through the build. 300 TSS on the bike was about my limit when doing harder weekend rides, and I think also being smarter about my runs has made it possible to get an overall higher TSS.

On to the run:
Here’s a long run from early in the build:


And now the last long run that was on pavement, a very comparable course to the one linked above. Almost 25s/mile faster at the same average HR, lower HR peak. Once again, no training in the middle zone. 133 is 74% of my max of 180 for the run. Maybe slightly higher by a few beats than people who would be doing longer, but I think that as long as I’m doing a pace where there’s almost no decoupling, that I’m going to go ahead and run/ride at that pace.

In all, I’ve been manually changing my FTP in TR, starting at 290, and now have it set to 300. Since short power and the XCO specialty have so many high power workouts, I’m going to be cautious about jumping too quickly.

I didn’t really summarize the Z4/Z5 workouts here, but don’t quite have the time now, and those are in the plans. Basically, I would get confirmation of correct power targets if I had a repeatable power, and it would eventually get me to >= 92% of HR Max from about the middle of the workout and beyond. So even though my FTP might be a little bit lower than I’d get from the 8 minute test, my HR response is telling me that I was right in the sweet spot for the high intensity work. As I mentioned briefly, I did have one failure on Kaiser +2. It was the day after a 20 minute tempo and I just could not hit the power target. I did ok on Matthes +2 the week before, hitting target on the first 6, but then things started dropping from there. As I said before, after reading through some of the pro workouts, 9 repeats at that power is a HERO workout, so hats off to people who can complete those as designed.

In all, 3rd year of TR, and highest compliance rate of my build yet. My compliance for the plan, swapping out the middle effort rides with z2 rides has made this a rather enjoyable experience as seeing consecutive progress keeps my motivation high. I think that I am a good responder to this kind of training since I have a pretty good background on sustained efforts. I had been doing too much middle intensity work as my high intensity and I had not been doing true VO2 max work as my hard work. With this focus on VO2 max, I am tapping in to an aspect of training that has been lacking for me in the past. Clearly the polarized aspect of this is working for a short power kind of athlete, but the improvements in the run, which are steady state efforts shows that increasing ability from the top up, pulls up the ability in the “easier” efforts. 200-220 watts isn’t a high power, but having that as a 3-5 hour power ability for someone my size (I float between 152-154) I’ll definitely take it.

Now that it’s finally drying up around here, I’ll be getting out on my mountain bike more, and that will mean more middle zone work, but my main target workouts will be the 2 weekday interval sessions from the XCO specialty LV plan, and 1 day of running intervals. I will try to swap one of them out occasionally for an XC ride, and will try to get in some longer XC rides on the weekends. Might shorten the time on those since there will be different power demands than the road rides and don’t want to add too much stress with them.

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I agree. I also think that Sebastian Weber’s theory regarding VLAmax goes a long way to explaining why both approaches (or even a combination of them) work - it all depends on an individuals physiology, not forgetting that that can change over a period of time depending on what training they do. It’s almost like The Unified Theory of Training.

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Here is the latest podcast with Stephen Seiler, always interesting to listen to.

We have an active thread discussion that episode in particular.

Which is the better book - the endurance diet or racing weight?

I only read the endurance diet. But i heard a lot of great feedback about the other book. Maybe someone else read it here?

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Racing Weight is mentioned in several threads. I didn’t dig in to find which ones cover the content, but I think you will find something in these links.

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For those who want the exact ACE Talk Test protocol:

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I’ve been toying with doing a polarized approach for my coming season. My recent few weeks have been a bit base heavy as I am unwinding from the season still

I’m thinking I’ll increase duration of the LSD rides and start making the hard days a little bit harder with workouts like Mount Deobrah, Jobs, Taylor, or Kaiser.

My baseline cardiac drift is pretty good (this is from Warren this past Sunday) so I’m not expecting significant gains there - just looking to try something different for a few months

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Any suggestions for how to work in different interval duration workouts? Scatter them, increasing duration, decreasing duration? Does it matter at all or can I just do what works based on my schedule? Anything I’m missing from the general approach from you polarized experts?

I very quickly put together this three week block - any thoughts or suggestions?

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I would usually go with coach Chad’s way of going short intervals and progressing to longer ones, but it really depends on what you’re shooting for.

When does your season start? If it’s not until next Spring then starting vo2 now seems a bit keen.

I was planning (once my last race is over in early October) to spend the rest of the year just doing Z2 rides with maybe one sweetspot and one low-cadence tempo workout per week, with some gym work thrown in. Then change up the sweetspot and tempo into suprathreshold / vo2 in the new year.

My understanding of the Polarized model is that it is about doing the time at VO2 more than the duration of the specific intervals. I could very well be wrong, thus my question. I’m not really sure if there’s benefits to progressing the duration other than your own ability to complete the intervals. I guess even if that is the main benefit that isn’t nothing - might change up the order.

My thinking was to give this a trial run now and see how my body responds to 4 or 8 weeks of this approach (typical 3/1 work/recovery split). Then, go into a true break before putting together my actual plan for next season

I guess this leads to one of my biggest knowledge gaps around this approach. I had thought it was supposed to, more or less, replace the Base->Build->Specialty progression in that you just do this setup for your entire off season, albeit still with block periodization.

So - if I like this trial and my body responds well would I, after my 3-4 week rest period in the November time frame, be better served diving right into some polarized blocks or should I still do some dedicated base work where I drop all intensity before switching to this model?

I’m mostly thinking of it to replace the build period. Although I might extend it to 12 weeks as I think it takes less of a physical toll than a standard TR build plan. In fact I might do 4 weeks of a TR build plan but replace the weekend workouts with 5-6 hours of low’n’slow.

I won’t be doing “specialty” (I don’t think those plans work if you race regularly), but keeping up a polarised model with plenty of easy riding, the odd 4x8 for maintenance, and some anaerobic sharpeners.

TBH I don’t whether the intention is for it replace base as well, but I just fancy taking it easy for a while - especially with the weight training I’m planning to start.

That’s what I’m hoping to figure out by spending some time on this now - see how taxed I am by this - maybe I can do 4:1 instead of 3:1 - maybe not.

I had thought to use this to replace base and build because have a strong aerobic base already and it feels like with the amount of LSD in the polarized approach I should be able to strengthen it further. But…I’m not positive that’s the intent or if it is sustainable. I guess I can see how fatigued I am after a few weeks of this and go from there

Like you I don’t find a ton of value in the specialty plans other than the taper weeks. I copy workouts from that regularly, and sometimes cherry pick some earlier workouts to mix in during my race season.

This year I just did build throughout the race season but cut volume before important weeks and inserted some of the Rolling Road Race taper week if I cared about a particular race more than others

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Well I did my first baseline/profile testing with a lactate meter yesterday I had previously gotten VLaMax numbers from doing a sprint study last January, so I knew I wasn’t someone who had very low lactate response, but I also knew it wasn’t super high like Jonathan.

Frustrating part is that the lactate meter’s single numbers aren’t terribly accurate, they can be off by as much as 0.5 mmol, is what I think I saw as the standard deviation. So finding a true baseline is difficult. I’ve got the results included in this ride here:
https://www.trainerroad.com/career/bioteknik/rides/61441904-free-ride-60

Starting lactate was 1 mmol at 160 watts, but was already close to 1.9 at 180, jumped up to 2.6 at 200, back down to 1.7 at 220 and then 2.8 at 235. Respiration rate would say that LT1 is between 220 and 235 (more on those results later). In previous data set, I was closer to 2 mmol after the warm up period… maybe I did the warmup/baseline reading wrong, or it was a low reading.

So starting to get in to the middle intensity zones, if I got 4 mmol or above, I would then test 1 minute later to see if lactate went down at the next reading, this would indicate that it was in a steady state, and not increasing/building at a rate that couldn’t be consumed. This is what typically happens in a suprathreshold effort, you’ll usually reach peak lactate in minutes 2-3 after stopping or greater under passive rest. I say typically as this did not happen in one of the sprint tests I did.

So at 4 mmol for me, that was 250 watts, but next reading dropped. 280 watts, it jumped up and got errors in trying to read successive measurements. So I decided to give the estimated FTP setting I’ve been using. Initial reading 9 mmol, but the next two went down. 5 minutes at 295 wasn’t very hard, so I can definitely try some longer sets with that. There’s another protocol where you do a 10 minute set, test at minute 4 and then at 10 minutes, but I think for now I’m done being a pincushion for a bit and should just see what my TTE is at that power.

now I can really see the difficulties in using 4 mmol as a guide for MLSS…

Yes, time at VO2 is important, as in time around 90% of max HR, not necessarily a specific power target. Seiler has posted slides in some of his presentations that the shorter intervals take longer to get the HR up to VO2max. Billats are supposed to keep you at VO2, but when cycling, they seem to take a fair bit of time to get to that point. In running, HR response is much quicker so maybe that is why the original data shows how those 30/30’s are good at keeping VO2 high with lower physiological stress.

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Thanks for the response.

This point makes sense to me - I was doing 30/30s today at 125% and while I was feeling some stress my HR didn’t get that high. Certainly not comparable to what happens when I do 3 minutes at 115% or even longer at threshold

VO2max is difficult to measure in the field - there isn’t an inexpensive oxygen mask available - and so power, HR, and RPE are used as proxies.

Based on my research and current fitness, I’m slotting in a 9 week polarized intervention between traditional base 3 and build.