Many part-time cyclist use average speed as a measure of their training. How often have you heard enthusiastic cyclist talk about how high their average speed was on a given workout !! The problem with the average speed focus is that if you go out riding to get the best possible average speed, then you have been between using 70-80% of your capacity most of the ride. It may feel good to come home from training, and see that your average speed has been good and on Strava you can proudly tell everyone about you average speed. As a coach and cyclist, I have seen this pattern among exercisers and over again.
The problem with this approach is that when you focus on your average speed, then you tend to repeat basically the same workout every time you are training. It is not hard to figure out that the same exercise repeated endlessly will lead to stagnation in your training condition. At some point, you simply does not improve your fitness level and you will be far from your potential.
A Polarized Approach
Instead of taking out and repeat the same workout day after day, then it will be much more effective if you can split up your training into different types of workout. Prof. Seiler has conducted a number of studies around elite athletes way to train. His conclusion, based on elite rowers and elite cross-country skiers, is that these train either with low intensity or high intensity. They spend virtually no time in the intermediate intensity.
Right now there is a lot of discussion whether to follow the popular training model with a lot of training at AT 1 (ie about 85-92% of your maximum heart rate) or take an polarized approach to the training. The polarized training tells you to skip the AT training and instead run Anaerobic training (ie + 92% of your max. heart rate) combined with very light intensity training.
For present time research on polarized- versus AT training is still relatively new. Therefore the evidence of that the polarized model will lead to a better fitness, is still uncertain. What we know with some certainty is that by exercising at different intensities and thereby greater variation you will get in much better shape than if you train at approximately the same intensity again and again.
How can you use it in practice
If you want more out of your workout, then you should incorporate different types of intervals in your workout. Both short anaroebe and (maybe) longer at the AT intensity. In addition, you must insert recovery training between the days where you run hard. In other words you have to structure you training with variations.
More will follow about this subject in a later blog post.
- Aerobic Threshold ↩