My Polarized Training Experience (Chad McNeese & others)

I’m finishing an 8 week POL block this weekend. Averaged 6 rides week, 9-11 hours, 450-600 TSS, closer to a 90/10 split. Hard to determine the effects from it but I definitely noticed a little improvement on my bottom end from all the Z1 rides. At the very least, it’s gotten me to extend my duration on some of the longer rides. I used to think 90 min was a long Z2 ride.

Still not sure I like it much. Maybe another tool in the bag and maybe I blend it with a more pyramidal type scheme next time. Something like 70/20/10. I think my body responds better to more SS/Thresh work so I’ll probably tweak a TR SS block by adding more Z2 rides to increase the volume without the added stress.

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Let it bake in.

I thought the same thing when I finished my 8 weeks of POL. After a week of feeling kind of blah, I was flying. Finished POL 3rd week of July, spent Aug setting a lot of all-time power PRs (literally half of my rides since POLend have had new PRs).


Well I hope so. Although I just had my absolute worst LSD ride of the block today. Not a great way to end it, but oh well. Feeling burned out now and I guess it’s good timing now that I had to take two weeks off for work. Hopefully it’s all there when I get back…but it’s certainly a bit discouraging.

I am trying an experiment this fall that may work out all right, or may be a complete disaster.

Since I bought a Concept 2 rower last March, 30% of my training from March-August was on the erg. I took a month off the bike and tried to row and ski erg, but the ski erg had to be sold (I thought it wouldn’t bother my right shoulder, which tolerates rowing all right, but…the combination of SLAP tear, impingement, and posterior instability from two previous dislocations made the ski erg movement intolerable…except for the SLAP, all that stuff is getting fixed next June, after this school year is over).

Right now my rowing base is just a bit better than my cycling base. I’ve decided to maintain some intensity through the fall and winter, but to do those two hard days on the erg, not on the bike. No 4-5 minute intervals, but sets like 8 x 1min on :15 rest at my 2k pace, or 4 x 2min on :30 rest – enough to keep the glycolytic system “open” but hopefully not enough to induce any kind of early peak and staleness on the bike. On the bike, just days of high zone 2/low zone 3.

I’m mentally done with sweet spot on the trainer or the erg. Also, FTP has always been my strength, shorter duration power the weakness. What races I might do in the spring will hinge on 2-4 min efforts, so maybe this is a good general conditioning foundation, or maybe my body is going to burn out on zone 5, even though it’s not on the bike. It’s a change, and this coming spring will be my last season anyway.

I’ll get back to ya’ll in January.

Great analogy here @Captain_Doughnutman. I like to think of it in terms of construction too.

VO2 + Endurance below LT1 (POL) = gives me central adaptations from the VO2 sessions - mainly increased stroke volume. The Endurance sessions give me more peripheral adaptations - increased capillarization, increased mitochondria density etc. I’m raising the roof per-say.

Threshold + Endurance below LT1 = working more on my lactate markers. Over/unders help my ability to clear and shuttle lactate. Endurance (mostly longer fasted ones here) gives my aerobic system a greater ability to oxidise fat and reducing the the need for anaerobic energy production at a given power output. I am filling the space I have created.

I also have a lactate machine on its way this week so I am very excited to test LT1, LT2 and VLAMax alongside FTP and TTE moving forward.

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I can tell you from experience…painful experience…if you want a successful lactate threshold, you need to work on BOTH the production AND shuttling aspects of things.

When I started with TR, I had done only threshold and VO2 work – no endurance work whatsoever. Over-unders were mega painful for me simply because I produced waaaay too much lactate, it was overloading my clearing capacities. Now, after a couple years of Z2 work under my belt, the two sides are in much better balance. Mr. Miyagi would be proud. :chopsticks: :mosquito:

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Daniel Son, it is taking all my might to not launch into a 10,000 word thesis reply that agrees with you here.

I have collectively listened to about 14 hours of podcasts on this topic and also read a tonne of research papers about it all. It has definitely sparked my interest. My only confusion is when Z2, or more specifically LT1, moves from Z2 in the Coggan model to more mid Z3 in the same model. Does one just stick to below Z2 in Coggan or does one stick to below LT1?!

Wax on, wax off = Z2 on, Z2 on.

Well done DanielSon…

Combine this with an optimistic set FTP (long thread elsewhere) and there is a recipe for disaster. So besides Z2 work…somewhere in the forum it was mentioned some coaches prescribe lower unders (iirc ~80-90% FTP) in the O/Us to better ensure and stress the clearing part. That’s what I’m going to consider too (could also be a good fit good for some Zwift races).

Do you recall what the Overs were set at … 90-100%, 95-105%?

One cantankerous “up and coming” coach prescribes ‘ats and unders’ - 90-100% - but also doesn’t shy away from classic O/Us - 95-105%.

For myself I’d use O/U at around 105% overs and ~90% unders. (Besides taking RPE into consideration in every session…(if you have a good feeling for FTP)).

Found some discussion here:

Would recommend Q&A episode #80 of That Triathlon Show.

Full text is out now:


The main finding of this study is that a polarized TID program is not more effective than a traditional, more moderate training program in the training of triathletes.

However, who trains this way?

Apparently not even Norwegian xc skiers according to the interview with @Mikael_Eriksson. Their current coach is prescribing intervals closer to filliol and tveiten’s prescriptions, which sound more like high range sweet spot/lower side of threshold.

The thing is… those also follow seiler’s prescriptions for how intervals should be performed, i.e. you should always feel like you have something left in the tank at the end of the session, as if you could do 1 or 2 more. Much of the z3 workouts described here are incredibly hard to complete, do many of us really think we could do 5x8 @ 105% makes me think the real world data skews more towards threshold or just below as the main target zone. Arild tveiten prescribes 8 minute intervals at his athletes lab confirmed threshold.

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I was more referring to the MIT training program in the study, not so much the POL. Should have been clearer on this.


I used to do 4x10 at around that intensity on a regular basis. It’s harder than doing longer efforts at 100%, but clearly not as hard as doing true VO2max intervals at an even higher intensity, and people do those all the time.

So you’re saying you could have done 5 or 6 x 10 at that same intensity?

It’s been a while so this is just conjecture, but thinking back to what they usually felt like I’d say doing 5, or 50 minutes total, would have been possible. 6, I’m not so sure.

But in any case, my point is that 105% of FTP isn’t really that hard - after all, we’re talking about roughly 10 mile TT pace here, but rather than having to stay on the gas the whole time you get to sit up and rest periodically.

Are these small studies typically masters or phd thesis studies?

Six weeks is such a short period of time that I don’t think one can draw this conclusion comparing polarized or pyramidal.

The periodization of the year also changes things. These studies never seem to include racing. A pro cyclist may “train” very polarized but then racing season starts and the end up doing a huge volume of middle intensity riding during races.

you get to sit up and rest periodically, and repeat it without degradation of the effort. last one just as good as the first, as those are important factors that are more important than what % of effort the intervals should be done at. In the research, the intervals were always highly repeatable, and should be done with something left in the tank. The oft repeated workout by Seiler was Olaf Tufta’s 6x10 minute bread and butter workout leading up to the olympics. I’m betting that these guys who get a significant VO2 response from those workouts have rather quick O2 kinetics. For me it’d take almost 3 intervals at that intensity before I got to 87% of max HR. I’m curious how some hard-start intervals fit in to all of this as one of the dangers of going too hard too early is then the stress of the workout is higher than necessary and you dig yourself in to a hole.

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