Many ask about using the polarized method of training. This methodology is recommended by Dr. Seiler. Most of the fitness podcasts and magazines analyze his system. The benefits of this system are as follows.
- Improved lactate clearance
- Higher volumes of training
- Reduced risk of training injury
In these discussions, training volume or experience is not mentioned. With the case of the athletes that benefited from the polarized system, they were on the bike for 30 hours during the week. They also made sure to limit inflammation. They also completed yoga, stretching, and weight work in the gym. Can you afford all of this time?
In order to be a well rounded person, you should focus on improving all functional strengths. You want to be able to walk up the stairs briskly. You don’t want to complete a training workout on the bicycle and be unable to use any stairs for 5 days. You need to assess your goals and your personal time constrains. Don’t compare yourself to others. Do you really know how someone trains when you only see them on the bike for 1.5 hours each week?
Using a Polarized system is likely to reduce the amount of training injuries. The required amounts of high intensity and frequency of such are amounts are less than the requirements of a more traditional plan. You build the engine by riding many hours. Those hours often have less intensity. The muscle fibers don’t like the long hard hours at high intensity. Your heart will not have to run at 165 bpm indefinitely.
In a sweet spot typical plan provided by many of the coaches, you ride near your maximum sustainable heart rate for an hour or two. You come home tired. The next day, you might elect to skip training. Remember, you want to be able to walk up those stairs? So, you decide not to ride on the following day. You need time to recover. In the sweet spot plan, you accumulate TSS rapidly. You are earning those points.
In the polarized plan, you might find yourself holding out through the day’s workout and saying that you can repeat this, again, tomorrow. This is good. In the polarized method, you would repeat the same intensity, often. You might be able to actually ride more days in the week, consecutively. In the sweet spot training plan, you might need to take a lot of days to recover.
The polarized method might help to improve lactate clearance more than a more traditional approach for the typical American amateur athletes. The author of the cycling bible, Mr. Joel Friel, wrote a piece about polarized training. He referenced a study. You have to realize that the study was about elite champion athletes. Those athletes already have improved lactate clearance. Their Vo2Max numbers are in the 50s.
Is your typical new cyclist starting at a Vo2Max of 30? Mr. Friel dismisses the polarized method, which is contrary to his years of publications. His method pushes many complicated interval plans. Does your body really distinguish between all of these intervals?
Some of those intervals are really designed to make you think that the coach is spending a lot of time working on your plan, when they are not. They simply pull the workouts from a library. The library automatically updates the numbers within the workout based on your 20 minute endurance. Can you really rely on this method?
Go polarized. For your high intensity sessions just use the following intervals
- HIIT – 30 sec Z6, 30 sec off – repeated many times
- 4×4 – 4 minutes z5, 3 minutes off and repeat 3 more times.
- 20×3 – 20 minutes z5, 8 minutes off, and repeat 2 more times.