Polarized Training First Workout is Breakthrough

Is the easiest workouts on VO2 max Saddle Mountain at 4.4? I’m looking through alternates for something easier, but nothing shows up.

What type of VO2 workout are the ones from the polarized training plan filtered under? Image below for clarification. Maybe there’s something similar that I can choose from.

That looks like a good start! VO2 max is supposed to be hard. I bet the reason it’s showing up as “breakthrough” is just because you haven’t done many VO2 yet, and your Progression Level is low.

Anyone can do a VO2 max workout at any time. It is just about working as hard as you can for the duration of the interval, in a way that is repeatable. This goes for running and other sports too.

I believe the research that came out of Norway years ago, that has often been cited, took people straight of the sofa, and started them on 4x4 VO2 max intervals. (running)


Simple guide on how to do VO2 max workouts:
Pick a workout with about 15-25 minutes of work (6x3, 7x3, 4x4, 4x5, 5x5 etc.)
Work - rest ratio usually 1:1
Do it in resistance mode
Start hard, about 30% harder than you think you can hold a single interval
Close your eyes and bang your lungs out

EDIT: to put this in the context of your question: don’t look at workout levels. Don’t look at % of FTP. Don’t do or think of VO2 intervals as % FTP. Just pick a workout and go all out


Yes, Saddle Mountain is always the first VO2 workout in Polarized and AT takes over from there. The hard days are hard!


Polarized requires hard


Thank you for the succinct answer. I’ll push through and see where it goes from there!


@adrian_r is right, this is looking like a ‘breakthrough’ workout because of your current VO2 max levels. That workout will be challenging, but you’re totally capable with the right prep/setup/cooling if indoors. The good news is: Adaptive Training is quick to learn from how that workout went for you and will adjust accordingly.

That said, the VO2 max workouts you’re assigned in a Polarized plan can change as your fitness changes, so there’s no ‘Polarized’ filter on our workout page.

It maybe looks like you’re sticking with Rolling Road Race High Volume (which is great!), but if you want to try Polarized, give that first tough workout a solid effort, be sure to answer your post-workout survey honestly, and keep up the good work!


@KlemenSj I always thought you were supposed to stick the power level prescribed for VO2 intervals (i.e. sub anaerobic, but above FTP). Are we supposed to be smashing it as hard as we can and forget the power target from TR on the screen? Wouldn’t that be above VO2 and into anaerobic?

Once you get past 90 seconds it’s very largely aerobic, even if your power is in the Anaerobic zone.

Think about 30/15s. The work intervals are "Anaerobic’ at 130% or 140% of FTP, but good luck getting through a 12 minute set (or four) without a good aerobic engine and your heart rate up above 90% of max.

Yes, I encourage you to stick to the power targets for VO2 Max workouts. We set the power target based on what we think is sustainable at a given Progression Level. This will ensure that your VO2 Max capabilities progress at a sustainable rate. The specific power targets determine the difficulty of the workout and thus indicate progress and ensure a steady progression while achieving the desired physiological adaptations.

1 Like

I know that this is popular advice on here, but it seems insane to me. I’ve never heard of any other endurance sport where people give the advice of “blow your pacing and finish weak”.

No track coach says, “Today’s workout is run as hard as you can for 5 minutes. Start out hard and fade aggressively until you collapse… I want to see your pace really drop off on the last 400.”

I think that this terrible VO2 Max advice comes from someone misinterpreting a comment that one of their riding buddies misremembered from a Kolie Moore instagram AMA.

Tldr: if you do VO2 Max workouts like this you will completely fall apart. It’s really bad advice and no one should follow it.


Just finished that workout and those 3 intervals took everything I had, I even had to stop for a few seconds to grab some gels. Saddle Mountain was definitely an “all out” effort. But didn’t see any adaptions, but you’re right it’s definitely doable.

Is that “allowed”, stopping in the middle of an interval to take a couple seconds to regroup? Or should I just cancel the workout?

Appendix A.
So the way I judge any workout, is if I stop pedaling to rest regardless for how long that’s “all out”.

If I’m huffing and puffing and my heart rate is through the roof that’s very hard.

Hard is when I’m breathing through my mouth, but can speak in short bursts.

Moderate is breathing though my nose at an elevated rate. And east is normal breathing through the nose.

Agreed, what the coach should have said instead is something like “In today’s workout you should start slightly harder than target and when your heart rate reaches about 90% of max ease off slightly making shure you dont exceed ~95% of max heart rate for the remaining interval”.

Imo VO2max intervals should be hard but well paced to make shure you don’t induce more fatigue than necessary. There are workouts later in the week that shouldn’t be negatively affected.

Awesome! I know those workouts are tough as hell but am glad you were able to get it done! I knew you had it in ya. :wink:

Yes, that is definitely allowed, especially in an approach like yours where you’re only pausing for 2-3 seconds to regroup. You only had one ‘work’ interval where you did this at a glance, which is absolutely fine, and doing so after the work intervals before your rest is expected.

If you feel as though you need to take rests or coast regularly enough that you’re not going to be able to achieve the scope of the workout otherwise, it’s a better idea to reduce the intensity a little bit than to bail on the workout entirely.

From there, keep answering the surveys honestly, and AT will keep taking it from there to make sure you’re getting the right workouts.

This may not always be a 1:1 relationship. I know for me, I may need to coast for a second when Im feeling muscle fatigue, but that may not mean it’s an ‘all out’ effort that’s taxing me to the fullest. It may be because of the gym work I did yesterday, or because I needed a little more warmup before getting into hard intervals.

The same goes for looking at HR. Just because my HR is really high, doesn’t mean its actually a max effort. It could just be because I’m over-caffeinated, or sometimes stress and my sleep patterns result in weird HR stuff, too; totally unrelated from the effort.

Taking the full scope of how you felt in terms of the effort is easy to over-dissect when you consider HR, muscle fatigue, how hard you were breathing, etc. Truly, it’s better if you don’t overthink it and just go with your first gut reaction of ‘how did that feel’. You’ll get better and more confident in answering those difficulty surveys as your training continues. You got it!