Polarized Zones

Sooo…I’ve read through most of the polarized topics and posts so far, and am struggling with defining the zones. I’m a person that needs more black and white definitions.

I’ve been on the HV plans for the last few years and have stagnated in progression. So I thought I would try the TR HV Polarized plans for the next few blocks.

I ride predominantly on the trainer, really long rides will be outdoors.

FTP sits around 300W at 4.0wkg.
Last gravel event I rode 220w for 5hrs.
I’m mainly interested in increasing average power on long rides 100-200km

I’ve never used % of HR, as I have outside of bell curve max.

can I define my levels using past power numbers from endurance events.

Should I buy a lactate meter and start testing.

The current TR endurance rides in the Pol plan seem very easy at about 55% FTP.

Kind regards

I use heart rate not ftp to define my endurance zone, about .72-.75 my max hr. I’m thinking about a lactate meter.

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You already have the best data avaible… Just need to decide what percentage of your 220w (PR” for 5 hours) you want to train at for a similar endurance ride. What about shorter rides? Longer ones?

Where do you think a good starting point is?

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I don’t think polarized zones are useful for the discussion, what matters is what kind of training outcomes you want and how to implement that.

If you feel you are stagnating, changing the stimulus is a good idea. So from this perspective your plan sounds solid. However, I would not start using heart rate zones (with the sole possible exception of Z2 outdoor rides) or using “polarized power zones”. Stick to the 7 zone system and you’ll be fine.

Here are a few things to pay attention to (all my experience, so N = 1):

  • TR follows one particular way of implementing a polarized training plan. Apart from Z2 rides you have threshold and VO2max workouts.
  • Make sure your FTP is set correctly. Don’t set it too low, because then your then your threshold rides may become sweet spot rides — and your intention is to not do sweet spot workouts this time around.
  • With polarized training plans, easy workouts are easy and hard workouts are HARD. I found it much more important to really nail my prep, get in 8+ hour of sleep before a hard workout than with TR’s sweet spot plans.

I would also add don’t set it too high because you don’t want your long Z2 rides to become tempo rides, which will sabotage your hard days.


The ultimate goal is being able to hold a higher % of FTP for longer.

Maybe the AI will take a few more workouts to get my levels right. I certainly didn’t find the threshold or Vo2 max workouts overly challenging.

I’ll roll through a course of the TR Pol base HV and see how it goes. The only time I have felt this fresh before is after a week of recovery.

I felt like if I can ride 5hrs at 220 surely the easy endurance ride 60-120 should be around this pace.
But I see I’m going to change the mindset to how easy on the easy days and harder on the hard days.

In practice, there is no danger of setting them too high … for long. If you do the long threshold workouts prescribed in the polarized plans, you will know whether your FTP is set too high or not. :wink: :grin:


I don’t agree with that. I know MANY people who do “Z2” rides that leave them too smoked to be able to do the hard workouts. Historically, I was one of them because I trusted the 20 min test and the Ramp test to set my FTP, and ended up cooked half way through every training plan I started.


For what it’s worth, I usually replace the zone two rides with an alternate that doesn’t go above 70% ftp when I do the polarized plans. I then add some time if necessary for progression.

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At the risk of over simplifying it and starting another $&@? storm … er, debate … I use 75% and 100% FTP to define the three polarized zones. Yours may vary but I’ve found that these work well for me.

POL Z1: 50-75% FTP
POL Z2: 75-100% FTP
POL Z3: 100-max FTP

So, when doing a POL Z1 ride I try to keep my power 70-75%. For POL Z2 intervals I shoot for 100%. For POL Z3 intervals, depending on duration and recovery length, I aim for 120%.

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Ramp test FTP is not exactly ‘real’ FTP.
More like Fake Threshold Power.
I like a 20’ test for actual FTP

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I find that Ventilatory Thresholds (VT1 &VT2) tie in well with Polarised periodisation. As there are 2 thresholds that divides your zones into 3 levels, below VT1 for the bulk of your training (80% volume), above VT2 for about 20% volume, and as you get closer to your main event add in some between VT1 and 2.

There is plenty of of online reading about these two thresholds.

I find the easiest and definitely the most practical way to check which of the 3 zones you are in is the ‘Talk Test’. You simply say the alphabet out loud, while monitoring your breathing. Important not to try to hold your breath, just speak naturally. If you can say from A-J you are below VT1; if you only get A-D you are bordering on VT2.

Depending on your event distance, your event exertion level will be between VT1 and 2. So, even with polarised periodisation you will need to a small amount of at event speed training, closer to the actual event.

Paul Laursen, an Exercise Physiology researcher and coach, has specialised in HIIT, his You Tube and Literature is worth reading for the type of HIIT sessions his research recommends, essentially, high reps of very short intervals at high intensity, with full recovery between sets. A neat impact of these is no Lactate build up and hence you feel fresh after a hard 1hr workout.


Out of curiosity: why is it helpful to use VTs rather than e. g. heartrate or power? VT1 and VT2 correlate strongly with other processes in the body at the corresponding zone boundaries, yes.

For endurance rides, heart rate seems much better suited than checking whether you are below or above VT1.

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I’m not a researcher, hence not the right person to answer that question. But the Podcast crew have referred to the benefits of using ventilatory thresholds over other measures such as HR and Power.

Personally, I think exertion levels, where you train your self to become increasingly aware of your body and mindset, is one of the best measures, and the Talk test is a good aspect of that. HR and Power can help with calibrating your own awareness.

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Aren’t we back to just riding by feel then? Not that this is bad in all circumstances, I have done that for decades before getting a power meter or a heart rate monitor. But for most aspects of training, aren’t you better off with more objective data points, especially once you go above Z2?

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I don’t think one should consider riding by feel as a backward step. In fact the very opposite.

My local professional football club Strength and Conditioning coach, spoke about his expectations of all his athletes. Everyday they must complete RPE journal. Their other data is just that ‘other data’, no more or less important.

Most sports don’t have the ability of being able to look at their computer, they must have great self awareness. Why should a cyclist be dependent upon it, when you have a brain and neurological system that can tell you in an instant a much broader and interrelated picture than a bike computer?

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Just speaking from my own experience: ever since getting a power meter, my perception of what it feels like to be at certain power levels has improved tremendously. Still, especially once you go beyond endurance pace, I don’t think you can judge very well how hard you are going, especially once fatigue sets in.

So the answer is: because your perception is not as accurate, especially for shorter efforts.

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Clearly it is possible to train, race and enjoy cycling without a power meter. Everyone was doing this for decades. And you are still free to do whatever you want.

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I agree totally. Hence using the talk test to help identify your VT based training zone.

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It is also possible to use all the available data.

HR / RPE / talk test are all measures of what is happening inside you. While power numbers tell you something about the output / performance.

I like to look closely at how the inside measures are in sync with the performance measures, this can indicate for example you need to eat more or that something else is going on.

Where a power meter is invaluable for example, is to make sure that you are performing subsequent VO2max intervals at the right level. If you start out to hard it is very easy to end up closer to Threshold power, while the RPE is still as high as the first one.

Also to measure progress and training load, a power meter makes it much easier and precise.