Sweet Spot - Continuous Time or Total Time in Zone?

Hey folks - I know @chad was experimenting with this a bit last year, but I’m not sure where that landed or if there’s a general consensus on the topic.

For Sweet Spot work, are the adaptations mostly dependent on the total time in zone, or is there something especially beneficial about the length of the interval. For example, I can complete an almost endless number of “4 minute on 30 second off” intervals at 90% FTP, and this has a much lower RPE than a time in zone matched set of 10+ minute intervals. However, I see that the majority of the TR Sweet Spot workouts do have that longer “3x20-style” format, so wasn’t sure what if anything I’d be giving up by moving from the longer intervals to shorter ones that increase my total time in zone.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts here!

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Before coming to TR I never saw sweetspot workouts prescribed with short intervals. It’s sort of defeats the whole point of making you stronger. OK, perhaps if you’re new to cycling you would benefit from shorter intervals before leading up to longer ones but if you’ve been cycling a few years you’d be better off going straight into the longer efforts.

The difference between SS in TR and what I have done in the past is that TR will add in quite a bit of time at the high end of SS range @93-94%. I used to always stay at around 90% and could hold that for 60+ mins at a time. I’m finding that hitting those slightly higher percentages does call for shorter intervals of 10+ minutes.

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It’s a both/and: accumulating more time in zone helps build FTP, while continuous time builds fatigue resistance and FTP.

The true iron-head would just start with 30min@90%, say, and then extend that to 40, then 50, then 60, and on, up to say 120min. That’s quite difficult psychologically, especially indoors, so breaking the time in zone into chunks helps accumulate the training stress.

But, the hard parts in races, and races themselves, don’t turn back into pumpkins after 15 or 20 or 30 minutes, so you have to work on extending the continuous time at a “sweet spot” effort, or better yet, extend the time you can over-under (like :30 sec @ 110%+ of FTP, then 2:00 at 88-90% of FTP, for 30 or 40 min…doable, but ouch).

From Tim Cusick, in Pez Toolbox:

Here’s a simple example. Say you do a lot of 2 x 20 minutes at tempo, sweet spot, or FTP training levels. This probably means you’re trying to get more watts each session, often turning tempo and sweet spot work into FTP intervals. I recommend that you focus more on increasing your time in those zones and let the power come up more naturally as you grow more fit. Instead of doing each 2 x 20 a few watts higher, progressively expand the duration of your time in that zones.

You could start at 2 x 15 minutes of SST and progress to 2 x 20 minutes and then then 3 x 15 minutes, which leads to 3 x 20 minutes of SST. I progress my athletes incrementally (often 1- to 2-minute increments) over the course of their base training, but there’s no reason to sit stagnant; I will rarely plan more than three workouts at the same time length before increasing the time demand. Just remember that your power numbers will be coming up as the time increases, so you’ll need to test and monitor other data to gradually move up your power targets.

Why give this a try? Results! Increasing your power duration/fatigue resistance is more likely to improve your results than adding a few more watts of pure power in the base training phase. How many times have you made the break and got into the lead pack only to be dropped or be unable to hold? You had the power, but you couldn’t sustain it. It’s time to change that.

https://www.pezcyclingnews.com/toolbox/toolbox-trainer-base-building/

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Initially, those short durations can be really effective in building fitness and accumulating time in zone. But sooner or later, they’ll have to be tailored to the specific demands of your riding and/or racing. So there are a couple things to consider here, @KatuskaMTB.

First, everything eventually comes down to specificity and it’s unrealistic that you’ll only dole out Sweet Spot efforts for 4 minutes at a time since it’s typically a more sustained effort level. So at some point, training for longer durations is highly recommended if you plan to race in such a manner.

Second, progression is still a key training component and you can only cram so many 4-minute efforts into a workout before you need to elevate the demands in some other way, and longer durations are one of the most practical and specific ways to do this.

So, much like VO2max intervals, I like to start with shorter, highly repetitious repeats that ease the entry into an unfamiliar type of training and then grow their durations as the body and brain become more accustomed to a particular form of stress.

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This was super helpful - thanks @chad!

One other question here, looking to apply this advice to my training plan as I work through Sweet Spot Base. For me, something like the Garrowby series (up to 20 minutes at SS but broken up into 3-4 minute intervals) is way more enjoyable than Hunter (classic 3x20). Clearly the training you do is better than the training you don’t, but I can’t tell how much fitness I’m missing out on by checking down from Hunter to a similar time in zone with Garrowby.

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My favourite sweetspot workout on TR is Geiger. It’s only 3x 12min varying intervals of 88-94%. But the short 3 min recoveries make the workout “tough”.

I also find the shorter recoveries more enjoyable, ~3 minutes seems fine for Sweet Spot, some of the longer SS intervals lead to 8-10 minute recovery, can be a bit mind-numbing.

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I have also wondered this! Can we swap stuff around by zone, TSS, and IF? Hunter is 121 TSS and .78 IF with sweet spot intervals, so maybe Garrowby +7 at 128 TSS and .80 IF would have a roughly equivalent training effect?

It’s just learning to sustain the effort level. SS is just hard enough to be uncomfortable. Learn to embrace the suck.

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Another great T-shirt idea. :stuck_out_tongue:
For real though, this is important.

You have to come to terms with and tolerate that level of discomfort. The longer the better, IMHO. I actually think think this leans more towards the mental side than physical to a point.

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Agree with @mcneese.chad and @ErickVH with long SS intervals. Yes, having shorter SS intervals versus longer SS intervals, but the same time in zone, is probably very close in achieving the same physiological training. However, what you don’t get is the same psychological (mental) training. Those short SS breaks are a mental crutch and eventually you need to learn to overcome that.

Long SS intervals (3 x 15-20 mins) is just as much mentally demanding as it is physically. You CAN finish long SS intervals, but it’s just very uncomfortable and your mind doesn’t want it. The goals are too far away and the mind does better with checking off shorter goals and moving on (4 x 10-12 mins is easier). So challenge yourself to do these longer SS intervals and be a stronger rider because of it. You may need quick backpedals every 5 mins to start with, then eventually train yourself away from relying on those.

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A fair criticism of TR is that it doesn’t progress sweet spot duration enough in most of the plans. Wright Peak -1 only goes up to 3x30 with breaks. To some extent you’re limited to what you can do in 2hr blocks, but pushing up to those 40-45 min intervals would be nice.

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The TR plans as a whole seem to be after raising the power curve vs extending it (i.e. making you a faster cyclist). This is an inherent fault in any “time crunched” plan.

No one says you have to rest during those rest intervals. Keep pedaling, see how long you can go. The intensity of SS work is narrow so it’s the volume and/or duration which must change. So yeah, your goal for SS intervals should always be longer.

It’s the difference between lifting 3x300lbs vs 18x50lbs.

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Generally the first 2-4 years of a cyclists career is going to be focused on pushing the curve up. Because you’re body is able to handle the work to drive those adaptations. Getting your 30 min of VO2 and 60 min of threshold a week isn’t that demanding, and that’s really all you need to push the curve up. You’re body has to spend a ton of time to enable the adaptions to just sit there churning out watts for an hour.

I’m sure they know their demographic and ‘newer’ cyclists dominate. If you need to push the duration out further there are coaches and tools that will help you with that.

Or…just ride longer.

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Workout creator!
It’s what I’ve done, less rest intervals, more sweetspot in the same workout durations.
I’ve set mine to increase every week. Plan to be able to do hour long intervals.

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Yeah, not impossible. Just lots of faffing about that I would rather be taken car of for me.

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Sunday workouts on 40k TT mid volume specialty plan has really long 60+ minutes at 85-95%.

I’ve found SSB1 medium and high volume to deliver more than enough training to allow me to go out on the weekend and do really long work at high percentages of ftp (up to 2.5 hours).

After that I think it’s time to progress to start doing one long threshold effort per week.

Or just do Gibraltar, Phoenix, Cumberland and click the intensity button up 3 or 4 times. Even better, do it in standard mode, you can “intervalize” it however you want in real time. Not unlike riding a bike.

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