Old 02-17-19, 11:49 AM
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MSI, RPE, I:E and manual ERG mode

Time for intervals! In my last post, I promised to write up how to apply my protocol to higher intensity work. Here it is!

Let's start with a high level and very brief refresher on what interval design needs to address.

Training is concerned with getting the right amount of and balancing stress with recovery in order to get stronger. We workout, recover and get stronger. At least that's the idea.

First, we have to figure out how to impose stress and to do that we have three things to work with; intensity, duration and frequency. OK? Good.

Hold up. Let's back it up a tiny bit. Before we get into specifics, it's important to understand in a more general sense that the body needs to be challenged in order to adapt and progression is required to continually challenge the body as it gets stronger. Challenge ==> Adapt ==> Greater challenge ==> Adapt again ==> etc

Okay NOW we can get into the "programming variables", intensity, duration and frequency. Incidentally, these little guys (they're so cute I almost can't stand it ; seriously there's no reason to be afraid of them) combine to produce what is called load. And duration and frequency combine to make volume. So load is a product of volume and intensity.

Anyway, how do you know how to get intensity right? That's easy. It's called MSI, which is short for maximum sustainable intensity. All you need to do is perform your intervals at the maximum power that you can sustain for all intervals. Questions?

And duration is easy because that's dictated by interval structure. 4 x 4, 4 x 8, whatever you fancy. Just do them at MSI and you're good. Too much left in the tank after that last 4 x 4 interval? No prob, with manual ERG mode you can simply add an interval to make it a 5 x 4 and then you can increase the power for the next time. Incidentally, 4 x 4 MSI is a good indicator of VO2max.

All that's left is frequency and this is where cardiac drift and I:E come in. If frequency is too great, cardiac drift will skyrocket, often coinciding with and increase in RPE and abnormal decrease in average work interval heart rate. If performance is not improving, then you're probably not working out frequently enough and missing the top of the adaptation curve. Speed it up and see what happens.

Hold on, you say? How do you know whether performance is improving you say? Easy. It's called the internal:external load ratio. Or the internal-to-external load ratio might be less intimidating. I call it I:E.

What's I:E?

I:E is the relationship between external load, which is the work performed, and internal load, which is the impact it has on your body. As you become more fit, the same workout will become easier or you'll be able to do more for the same effort. It's what we all intuitively understand and have been using all along without knowing it. It's the gold standard for performance measurement when combined with fixed power under controlled conditions indoors.

External load is easy to measure, especially directionally for comparison purposes. RPE, HR, and drift all help with internal load. If a workout is easier than it use to be, you are more fit. If HR decreases without a spike in RPE or cardiac drift, you are more fit. Done.


Originally Posted by fstrnu View Post
Here's another attempt at communication. I would appreciate some genuine, constructive feedback, especially regarding how to communicate what I'm trying to communicate. You don't have to believe or endorse it. Just understand it. Or help me to explain it better.

Prescription for managing training load indoors

The universal rule of this protocol is to maintain a cardiac drift of 5-10%

If you are outside this range, you are (a) not getting adequate stimulus, (b) requiring more recovery than is worth it or (c) not getting adequate recovery

Endurance training is where most cyclists start and is the clearest example to explain why this works

Below 5% and you are not sufficiently challenging the body which is required for adaptation

Above 10% and, at best, the additional recovery time isnít worth it

As endurance improves, cardiac drift will decrease for the same duration and therefore you will need to increase duration to maintain stimulus. Thereby, 5-10% automatically progresses your training to ensure proper stimulus required for adaptation.

With excess workout frequency, fatigue will accumulate indefinitely and eventually lead to illness or injury. Inadequate recovery can also cause stagnation when the next workout is performed before adaptation can occur.

5-10% also automatically regulates recovery. How? Because, an abnormally low heart rate caused by fatigue will manifest in an increase in cardiac drift based on how cardiac drift is calculated. The more fatigue. The higher the drift. Endurance doesnít move this fast and doesnít decline when youíre training it. Fatigue, on the other hand, can build and dissipate very quickly and this is 100% reproducible every time. All you need to do to see it in action is to perform three hard workouts in row followed by a couple days of rest. Drift will build, peak and reset with perfect predictability.

This should cover new cyclists and most cyclists in the northern hemisphere who are currently working on endurance.

In the next post, I will describe exactly how to know when youíre done with base and are ready for higher intensity work and how that work should look and be managed using cardiac drift, the internal to external load ratio, RPE, and MSI.
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