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Polarized Training - Rebooted

Old 03-07-23, 09:48 AM
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Polarized Training - Rebooted

By chance a video interview with Dr. Seiler by Dylan Johnson scrolled up on my iPhone. In previous podcasts and other materials, I had not found Dr. Seiler that interesting and he seemed at times, compared with his contemporaries such as Andy Coggan, not scientific enough and out of touch.

In this video, I found Seiler on point to what I face in training and racing and I have observed and experienced with coaches over the last 15 years. Making science operational for human training is very tricky and athlete and event based.

I found his description of his own physiology very similar to my own and, of course, I warmed up to him immediately.

I think the video is worth watching and it will stimulate thinking and provide ideas about training for fitness and training for different events. And it may cause one to review what one is doing with Apps, training software, training scores and etc.

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Old 03-07-23, 12:03 PM
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Yeah, smart guy with a lifetime of successful experience and a humanistic approach to coaching. And definitely not on the Coggan level of rigor. Takes all kinds.
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Old 03-07-23, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
And it may cause one to review what one is doing with Apps, training software, training scores and etc.
Seiler isn't my cup of tea but it seems to me that a simplified training structure probably would work better for many (though perhaps not all) people. I think training scores, intensity distributions, 7- and 9-zone models, hyper-structured training, and the apps, software, books, and coaches that enable these things are, in the big picture, a mixed blessing. As an aside, next week will be the 20th anniversary of when Andy Coggan first publicly discussed normalized power, intensity factors, and TSS. I think 20 years is long enough to have some perspective on how well that's turned out so maybe now is a good time for a review.
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Old 03-08-23, 12:13 AM
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Interesting what he says about there being 2 essential training zones: low intensity and high intensity.

That seems to match up with Dr. San Milans training for the lipolytic (fat burning) and glycolytic (sugar burning) systems.
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Old 03-08-23, 05:57 AM
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My current training regime (via PILLAR AI coaching app) is polarised. What I can say is that I'm currently smashing all my PRs at the moment, without even trying to. Basically off a diet of short VO2 max 1 hour interval sessions and 2-3 hour strictly Z2 endurance rides on a 6-7 hour total week. Almost seems too simple, but it appears to be working for me. It will be interesting to see how my century events go this year. Hopefully I won't fall apart after 3 hours!

Edit: Previous winter I was doing a lot more variety of zone intervals and an average volume of 10-12 hours per week.
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Old 03-08-23, 07:22 AM
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I found the video very informative! So happy to hear somebody else gets beat up by long rides that include long sessions at threshold, but kill the 1 hr HIIT sessions. I'm going to re-arrange my weekly training schedule to give me a rest day following the long ride with threshold efforts. My schedule currently has week's longest All Z2 ride the day after the long threshold ride. That longest Z2 is the workout that I've most regularly punked out on, for example, quitting after 3.5 hrs of a planned 4.5 hrs.

Maybe this is typical, but what I've learned about training from the more experienced BF folks is how and when to rest. This video helped advance that knowledge.
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Old 03-08-23, 07:42 AM
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Not a criticism of all academics and I love dr. stephen seiler but his advice isn't generally actionable for most riders, especially those time crunched trying to race on 4-5 hours per week. He waxes philosophical and always has. What I learned from his papers perhaps 8-9 years ago was to do at least 90% of my time in zone 2 or lower and less than 10% of time at high intensity. In terms of percentage of sessions, 80% at least in zone 2. So, 4 long endurance rides for every short in time HIIT session. I bought a lactate meter to measure the LT1 transition. What was really shocking is how much LT1 increased just simplifying my training. Seiler's points on ANS balance are something I've been thinking about and thinking of not doing my intervals (5 minute VO2 max) as hard but that just runs counterintuitive to me. 3 zones runs deep in my brain. 2 Zones? ??

ISM on the other hand gives more specific advice albeit along the same vein. Both say rest is rest and to rest. ISM says he tries to ride 5-6 days per week. Only goes like hell once. 7-10 hours per week like that is probably enough for a sportif rider. Clearly not specific enough and not enough volume for someone trying to be competitive in racing.

Couzens is the one with tons of real data. Progress should be measured in years and consistency is the most important training attribute in his opinion. Year after year. His data also says volume in zone 2 is key to all improvement.

Famous older marathoner Ed Whitlock did a ton of volume as slow speeds. His VO2 max and marathon times might eventually be broken. One thing though is he raced shorter races closer to record attempt marathons (5 and 10K) and this could be seen as the specialization or the pyramid in what looks like all zone 1 and zone 2 work when seen from a macro lense but over the few months leading to phenomenal races, it was very specific. IIRC, he ran a sub 3 hour at 95% of hi 52 VO2 max into his 70's or something along those lines. Astounding.
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Old 03-08-23, 08:19 AM
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I have taken the polarized training idea to heart since last Spring and gotten my lactate curve measured in order to anchor my zones. I haven't raced on a bike for decades, but my power numbers were down considerably last season and I found it more difficult to keep up with the other old men. This with 10-14 hrs a week on the bike. I'm hoping a winter of 80:20-ish and strength training will help, but I'm afraid old age and mediocre alleles are catching up with me and I should probably be concentrating on more on being healthy and less on being fast.
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Old 03-08-23, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62
ISM on the other hand gives more specific advice albeit along the same vein.
Looked up ISM and now, in an elementary way, have my head around threshold and how Z2 training works for improving lactate clearing. I'm close to the 90/10 split at 10-12 hrs per week, but now I see the importance of completing the week's long all-Z2 ride.
https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/w...ate-threshold/
by Iigo San Milln
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Old 03-08-23, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62
Not a criticism of all academics and I love dr. stephen seiler but his advice isn't generally actionable for most riders, especially those time crunched trying to race on 4-5 hours per week.
To be fair, Seiler expressly addressed 4-5 hr/wk athletes: he said POL probably shouldn't apply to them.

Part of the reason why Seiler isn't my cup of tea is because of a communication or labeling or pedagogical issue. He's often not precise enough about what he says until someone tries to pin him down. I think another way of expressing what he says (and I think this is fair but maybe it's not and you can tell me if you disagree) is that *if you're doing high volume* then the vast majority of that volume should be very low, and a small part should be very hard.

Here's something else that bothers me a bit about Seiler: he puts a lot of credence in his observations of what champions do. He observes that gold medal winners do a lot of volume, and that their distribution of intensities is a lot of very low intensity (he cited under 200 watts as very low) and a little very high intensity. In a different part of my life years ago I used to have to review grant applications from researchers who were trying to identify the characteristics of the best hospitals, or physicians, or best practices. Quite often we'd get applications where researchers had identified, according to some metric, the best places, and they proposed to go to those places and study them. I usually dumped those applications in a pile, because not only do you want to study the best places, you also should study the average and bad places to see what the differences are. Seiler works with champions, not guys like me. I want to see what he finds from guys who only ride 4 to 5 hours per week, or guys who're taking Social Security, or guys who are bathroom-scale challenged.

But where I really agree with Seiler is that over the last two decades we've spent a lot of research time focusing on time-intensity distributions. I think "Sweet spot" training, and hyper-structured workouts that require a power meter, and the debate about 4x8's vs 3x10's is (to use a pro wrestling term) kayfabe. Many of us got seduced into thinking that there is an intensity-duration tradeoff, and that we could get by with 6 or 7 hours per week if we did a lot of it in the "sweet spot," or that we could get good results just by attaining 500 TSS per week. None of you went for my bait, but I blame a lot of this kayfabe on Coggan's invention of NP and TSS, and TP's and WKO's 7 training levels or 9 i-levels. Years ago, when Coggan and Seiler were sniping at each other, I think I may have been one of the few to say that if "sweet spot" were put just below VT1 rather than just below FTP, Andy and Steve would mostly be in agreement.

I'm coming back to the view that for most of us, the training rules are:
1. volume matters, a lot, and intensity won't really make up for that;
2. if you're doing a lot of volume, the vast part of it probably has to be low intensity;
3. if you're doing a lot of low-intensity volume, the residual amount should be hard;
4. if you can't do a lot of volume and can only do 4-5 hrs/wk, do what's fun.
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Old 03-08-23, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by RChung

Here's something else that bothers me a bit about Seiler: he puts a lot of credence in his observations of what champions do. He observes that gold medal winners do a lot of volume, and that their distribution of intensities is a lot of very low intensity (he cited under 200 watts as very low) and a little very high intensity..
Not only that, but I think he's actually said that distribution is actually pyramidal, which often gets lost in this whole discussion. He's also extrapolated a lot from other sports (I think specifically rowing is where he made these initial observations) and applied them to cycling. A strictly polarized (lower end endurance and doing vo2 work) ignores other stuff cyclists work on like time to exhaustion at sweet spot/threshold. There are definitely some takeaways, like doing 2 or 3 max hard workouts a week and a lot more easier riding, but I think there's a lot of misinterpretation.

Also, as an side, I don't really respect Dylan Johnson, he tends to do abstract summaries and, in my prior observations, address study limitations. So conclusions he make tend to become a bit exaggerated and of course a non-science literate audience is gonna jump on certain things as conclusive evidence when that couldn't be further from the truth.
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Old 03-09-23, 08:22 AM
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Originally Posted by BTinNYC
Looked up ISM and now, in an elementary way, have my head around threshold and how Z2 training works for improving lactate clearing. I'm close to the 90/10 split at 10-12 hrs per week, but now I see the importance of completing the week's long all-Z2 ride.
https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/w...ate-threshold/
by Iigo San Milln
San Milln is a legit scientist and you can't argue with Pogacar's performance, but the claim that working out at LT1 selectively improves lactate and fat metabolism is not well supported and been challenged by authorities like Andrew Coggan. In fairness to San Milln, he couches the claim in properly tentative terms like the real scientist he is, but others not so much.

That said, there are still strong arguments for training in that range, chief among them that it's the way to get volume without digging yourself into a hole.
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Old 03-09-23, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha
San Milln is a legit scientist and you can't argue with Pogacar's performance, but the claim that working out at LT1 selectively improves lactate and fat metabolism is not well supported and been challenged by authorities like Andrew Coggan. In fairness to San Milln, he couches the claim in properly tentative terms like the real scientist he is, but others not so much
So does LT1 training zone provide selective improvements, or is it simply the zone that maximizes those adaptations? Or neither?

I recently listened to San Milan's video interview with Dylan Johnson, and I took away a couple of points he made about sub-LT1 training:
  • working just below LT1 maximizes the lipolytic system activity
  • if you do a hard effort during a zone 2 ride, you body produces hormones that turn off lipolysis, reducing the training effect
  • if you want to include a hard effort during zone 2 ride, save it until the end of the ride
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Old 03-09-23, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
So does LT1 training zone provide selective improvements, or is it simply the zone that maximizes those adaptations? Or neither?

I recently listened to San Milan's video interview with Dylan Johnson, and I took away a couple of points he made about sub-LT1 training:
  • working just below LT1 maximizes the lipolytic system activity
  • if you do a hard effort during a zone 2 ride, you body produces hormones that turn off lipolysis, reducing the training effect
  • if you want to include a hard effort during zone 2 ride, save it until the end of the ride
I assume all that is true and lactate itself is the signal to turn off lipolysis, as far as I know. The question seems to be whether training in that zone provides a specific and necessary stimulus for the development of those energy systems or, alternatively, it doesn't really matter: You metabolize just as much lactate when you're really honking and there's no convincing indication that you can improve your lipolytic capacity just by burning fat all day. In support of that view are the many data on the high efficiency of high-intensity interval training for improving aerobic capacity in athletes and untrained individuals.
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Old 03-09-23, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
So does LT1 training zone provide selective improvements, or is it simply the zone that maximizes those adaptations? Or neither?

I recently listened to San Milan's video interview with Dylan Johnson, and I took away a couple of points he made about sub-LT1 training:
  • working just below LT1 maximizes the lipolytic system activity
  • if you do a hard effort during a zone 2 ride, you body produces hormones that turn off lipolysis, reducing the training effect
  • if you want to include a hard effort during zone 2 ride, save it until the end of the ride
If I can only do 4-5 hrs/wk, lipolysis isn't my main concern because I'm not likely to be doing randos where I need to burn fat for 7 or 8 or 24 hours. If I'm doing low volume, I'm looking for CV adaptations.
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Old 03-09-23, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
I recently listened to San Milan's video interview with Dylan Johnson, and I took away a couple of points he made about sub-LT1 training:
  • working just below LT1 maximizes the lipolytic system activity
  • if you do a hard effort during a zone 2 ride, you body produces hormones that turn off lipolysis, reducing the training effect
  • if you want to include a hard effort during zone 2 ride, save it until the end of the ride
That might explain the (pre-power meter) advice to aim for reverse splits on long rides. I think it also explains why, when I go out just a bit too fast, it takes a lo-o-ong time to get back to my normal pacing.
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Old 03-09-23, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by RChung
If I can only do 4-5 hrs/wk, lipolysis isn't my main concern because I'm not likely to be doing randos where I need to burn fat for 7 or 8 or 24 hours. If I'm doing low volume, I'm looking for CV adaptations.
I watched a bunch of San Milan videos and in one he explicitly said that everyone would benefit from mainly Z2 hours including people doing only 4-5 hours a week total training. My vague memory of his reasoning is if you have a bigger fat-burning engine you will have more of your total power covered by that which will give less you need to make up with the other pathways.
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Old 03-09-23, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by scottfsmith
I watched a bunch of San Milan videos and in one he explicitly said that everyone would benefit from mainly Z2 hours including people doing only 4-5 hours a week total training. My vague memory of his reasoning is if you have a bigger fat-burning engine you will have more of your total power covered by that which will give less you need to make up with the other pathways.
Yeah, he does say that; the idea being to shift the lactate curve to the right and, as you say, increase the proportion of lipolysis at higher intensities. However, that seems a bit speculative to me, since no one is checking lactates in 5 hr/wk riders or doing any controlled studies at all over the > 6 month period they say it takes to see significant improvement in metabolic fitness.

As I may have mentioned above, Im a 10-14 hr/wk guy and Im not sure its doing me much good. Itll cost me 95 bucks to go back to the lab and find out.
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Old 03-10-23, 05:41 AM
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There is a lot of misconceptions surrounding various thresholds and zones from a metabolic and physiological perspective. The following could explain Seiler's 2 Zone perspective.

We have been conditioned to think we go anaerobic as lactate builds up and it is due to low oxygenation at the working muscles but this is completely wrong. This history of that speculative leap is explained below. There is plenty of O2 all the way to VO2 max, the true limits are metabolics in the working muscles. Or at least that is my current misunderstanding.

https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.c....1113/JP279963
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Old 03-10-23, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha

As I may have mentioned above, Im a 10-14 hr/wk guy and Im not sure its doing me much good. Itll cost me 95 bucks to go back to the lab and find out.
I was also a 10-14 hour/week guy for a long time and never managed to break the 4 W/kg FTP barrier. Since October last year Ive dropped my volume by as much as 50% on a polarised plan and my threshold power has improved dramatically over the winter. My endurance power is also well up (at least up to 3 hours) and my VO2 max power is up. Ive finally pushed slightly above 4 W/kg for a genuine 1 hour effort. Thats despite putting on about 5 kg in weight due to eating whatever I felt like over the winter.

Im not really sure what to make of this to be honest. Was my higher volume plan just crap or not high enough volume to be really effective? Also my new regime is untested beyond 3 hours, so I could potentially fall apart on a longer effort. Ill find out over the coming months, but Im definitely sticking with this plan for now!
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Old 03-11-23, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62
There is a lot of misconceptions surrounding various thresholds and zones from a metabolic and physiological perspective. The following could explain Seiler's 2 Zone perspective.

We have been conditioned to think we go anaerobic as lactate builds up and it is due to low oxygenation at the working muscles but this is completely wrong. This history of that speculative leap is explained below. There is plenty of O2 all the way to VO2 max, the true limits are metabolics in the working muscles. Or at least that is my current misunderstanding.

https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.c....1113/JP279963
Thanks for that article - interesting. When I read something like that, what crosses my mind is what in the article should or could I make operational today or in the future?
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Old 03-11-23, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
Thanks for that article - interesting. When I read something like that, what crosses my mind is what in the article should or could I make operational today or in the future?
Well, there isn't a lot that's directly actionable, but there is some info that is indirectly actionable: it's because of articles like this that I've moved away from workouts that're labeled "lactate shuttle" or "over/unders" where the O/U pivots around FTP. Actually, I sorta use these workouts like a shibboleth: I mostly avoid coaches who assign workouts like these and give these reasons for them.
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Old 03-12-23, 11:31 AM
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I prefer workouts with names like “The Brutalizer” and “Don’t Kvetch, Retch.”
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Old 03-12-23, 03:24 PM
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I had a friend who was fond of saying, "no pain, no gain." I don't know about that, but I do know that no pain, no pain.
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Old 05-08-23, 06:54 AM
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Looking back at last year, I saw decent improvements in FTP both from my Vo2 block (basically polarized) but also from my SS hill repeat block. But what both also had in common was doing some long rides with climbs in them. My 6 minute power also improved in both, but much more from the Vo2 block. My conclusion is - for most of us likely it does not really matter exactly how we train, but rather, just ride as much and as consistently as you can. If you have a specific event that you want to be in shape for, do a Vo2 block leading up to it to boost your short-term power.

Additionally, I saw some of the biggest improvements after rest. Even a full week with maybe just a single or no day of riding. And that matches with what both Seiler and Inigo san Millan have said. Although Jesse Coyle has said that he feels terrible the first couple of days of multi-day events if he tapers too hard. But personally for me, rest seems to bring the biggest adaptations.
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