Swapping mid-volume SSB workouts with very (very) long Triahtlon sweetspot workouts

I have been looking at several workouts I would noramally not even dare to look at in normal circustances (covid-19 means working from home until the end of the year, so I get 3h of commute back). What I am currently looking at are the likes of Polar Bear +1 or phoenix +2. I did Polar Bear before and it was by far the hardest workout I had ever done. So, I had a couple of questions about those workouts.

  • What’s the best way to get to a mental position where I can do those? I noticed they are everywhere in Triathlon plans so, I wonder if the only way to complete them is to either have done lots of workout of that duration or having an incorrect FTP (low)

  • How can I incorporate such sweetspot length in my current plan? I started with a mid volume plan and swaped wednesday workout with Boarstone (2h z2) and added Boarstone -1 on Friday (2h z2). Would it be reasonable to swap one of the Boarstone with Polar Bear /+1 or Phoenix /+1 without changing the rest of the plan? I have done high volume plans before but those two are quite something else and I am worried they might just break my motivation for the rest of the plan.

I am a couple of weeks into a new plan and scheduled to do a session of over-under the next day. Would swapping some over-unders with these workouts (maybe every other week) negatively affect the plan goal?

I guess it’s best to start with shorter intervals and work yourself gradually into doing the longer intervals. Perhaps you want to start with the two hour versions of Antelope, Hunter, Juneau, Geiger, Tallac, Galena, and Wright Peak.

Once you can do Wright Peak you should also be able to do Phoenix and eventually also the plus versions of it. Then rinse repeat with Polar Bear and it’s versions.

Edit: I just looked at your career and it seems like you have taken quite some time off before starting again at April this year. Perhaps you should expect that it will take some time until you have build up the muscular endurance to do those longer sustained efforts. So as I have said beforehand, gradually work yourself into doing longer more intense sessions.


Everything @Triathlete said.

That’s a really good question. When I fail, or hate, these long SS workouts, it’s because I didn’t eat well enough, didn’t sleep well enough, or came in with a bad attitude. Really, if you’re in a bad mood, these are damn hard. You’ve got to come in confident and really attack it. Like @Triathlete said, you might want to build up the muscular endurance first, of course, but after you have that, you still need to mentally prepare yourself for just working hard for a long time. Once you start looking at the clock and counting down 30s blocks, it’s a death spiral; if that happens at 45min, you’re in for a bad time.


After reading your post @JustinDoesTriathlon I realised that I have not covered the mental aspect.
So here we go @lomsey. By gradually working yourself into longer and longer durations you will get used to it both physically and mentally. At some point it just gets easier on the head.


The progression is:

Pioneer (45 mins @target in 1hr)
Cumberland (60 mins @target in 1.25 hrs)
Phoenix (75 mins @target in 1.5 hrs)
Gibraltar (90 mins @target in 1.75 hrs)
Polar Bear (105 mins @target in 2 hrs)

I’ve done that as a tempo progression (normal versions) and low sweetspot (+1 version) through to Gibraltar and it worked quite well for me. The longer +1 get hard but for me were mostly manageable having worked up to them. I’ll try to stretch to Polar Bear the next time through, it just seems like a mental leap going over the 90 mins of work.


Thank you for your answer. One of the reasons I have been considering these is because I feel it would make shorter intervals less… painful, or at least my mind could see a 20 / 30 min interval and think “piece of cake”. Maybe that’s never the case and the pain is just the same?

Your answer has me both excited and worried: excited that it’s my mind I have to train mostly (I am normally able to do 15/20/30 min intervals but only because I know that upper bound), worried because I just can’t stop looking at the clock, even for short intervals. I know it’s terrible but I don’t know any other ways. I normally use a playlist with songs of a known duration, but I am really anchoring on those seconds dwindling down…

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I would say that the sub-threshold stuff gets easier as you keep progressing with your training. It’s a bit different with threshold and VO2 work. At least for me. That stuff always hurts.


One of the things I like about these specific longer workouts is that the whole work piece is split into shorter blocks, so you generally only have 3-8 mins on your timer at a time which for me is easier mentally than a longer single block. It’s surprising how much you end up looking forward to a 2% drop in power, and it does actually feel like a bit of a rest.

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Doing the progression that @sbothwell99 posted could help with your confidence. I remember when Cumberland was awful now it’s pretty standard.

I’m a big believer in the value of training your mind. Absolutely, sleep and nutrition will affect RPE and what you’re capable of, but when you get into these long, pretty taxing efforts, it’s really easy to just get in a bad mood and be like Ahhh eff it it I don’t care and pull the plug. Interestingly I don’t feel very physically tired after them, so when I fail in that way, it usually comes down to being mentally off game.

Wow I did it! I told myself “Look forward to the 2% drop in power” haha, it worked! From now on, this is how I am going to approach the workouts, never thought of it that way before…

Thanks a lot for your advice!!!


Thanks for your advice - I checked my fitbit for how much sleep I got last night, had a good lunch, had 2 fans blowing full strength and tol myself it’s all in the mind ;-). Glad it worked!

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Dude smashed it! :tada:

Good job :slight_smile: