By Rick Schultz
Like most, I have spent the better part of last year spending a lot of time at home. Not wanting to get sick and not wanting to get my wife sick, I dropped out of the regular group rides and chose Rouvy as my training and exercise platform. I feel I have gotten into a lot better shape as well as lost 30 pounds, I feel good.
The way Rouvy works is that there is a ‘career path’ that you can move through. In general, you complete more and more difficult required rides, races, and challenge rides (blocks of similar types of rides such as high mileage, Swiss alps, etc.) as you progress through the career levels. Rouvy also requires a certain number of TSS (Training Stress Score) points as you move up through the levels. For example, the top 3 levels PROFESSIONAL, NATIONAL CHAMPION, and WORLD CLASS require 3000, 8000, and 12,000 TSS points, respectively.
And that is where the main problem is and why I put this short article together. Cyclists on Rouvy are over training. Why? Since the way Rouvy is structured, in order to move up in a timely manner through the ‘career levels,’ you need to ride full-gas every ride, and this is not a good way to train. You need to mix in low intensity rides and training days, but this is not how Rouvy is structured.
I was training and riding using the Pyramidal training methodology and have now modified my training methodology to Polarized which is more in-line with the way Rouvy operates, i.e., little to no threshold riding but instead higher intensity riding and also mixing in more low intensity into the program.
This I do via low-intensity days where I turn the trainer reality level to 30% and disconnect the trainer interactivity so I am pedaling at a constant RPM and constant power output. This ‘levels-out’ the hills so I don’t need to feel the full resistance of the 8%+ grades, i.e., a nice easy spin looking at great videos while riding the Swiss Alps. Rest days are just that, rest days where I might walk around the block helping with complete recovery, so I am not fatigued on high intensity days.
So, what is Polarized training, how is it different and how do I incorporate it?
Joe Friel discussed Polarized Training (PT) back in 2014, so it has been around for a while. Joe has also written a nice blog update – for more detail see Polarized Training Update | Joe Friel (joefrielsblog.com).
Allen, Coggan developed threshold training where most of a cyclists’ volume of training is at tempo. HIIT consists of short high/maximum intensity intervals 3 to 5 times a week. Polarized training consists of 80-85% lower intensity and 10-12% at high intensity, mostly avoiding the tempo/threshold zone.
How do you plan a Polarized workout?
We first need to define several different categories of cyclists. Let’s call them BEGINNERS, INTERMEDIATE, and ADVANCED. Let’s also define intensity levels as LOW = 4 out of 12 effort and HIGH = 10 out of 12 effort and medium in between.
For the beginner cyclist, a weekly workout might be riding either,
- 4x/week with 1x high intensity and 3x low intensity, or
- 5x/week with 2x high intensity and 3x low intensity.
For the intermediate cyclist, a weekly workout might consist of
- 5x/week with 3x high intensity and 2x low intensity
For the advanced cyclist, a weekly workout might consist of
- 6x/week with 3x high intensity and 3x low intensity
A typical week for each might look something like the following:
In general, comparing polarized training to pyramidal (threshold) training, you will notice the biggest difference is between time spent in MEDIUM-intensity vs time spent in HIGH-intensity (see chart below). But note that both training methods recommend A LOT of recovery / low intensity rides.
To give polarized training a fair try, you will need to stick with it for a full 12-week block. When done, let us know your thoughts, fitness level, etc. But remember to make sure you spend about 80% of your training at LOW intensity.
So, if you are feeling burned out, or maybe you just want to change up your training method, give Polarized training a try. As stated above, the full cycle is 12-weeks. The biggest difference is you will be training at higher intensity compared to medium-high sweet spot.
There are a lot of scientific as well as cycling industry papers written on polarized training. It’s a topic worth looking into.
Coach Rick Schultz is an avid cyclist who trains, races and coaches in Southern California. Rick is an engineer by trade, and in addition to being a coach, he’s a bike fitter and prolific product reviewer. He’s the author of Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist and Bike Fit 101: Your Toolset for a Great Bike Fit in the RBR eBookstore. Check his product reviews website, www.biketestreviews.com, and his coaching site, www.bikefitnesscoaching.com. Click to read Rick’s full bio.