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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This has been bugging me ever since I first heard about polarized: it's easy to pick how hard to go on your hard days - as hard as you can for the prescribed duration.

The problem is, how easy to go on your easy days.

Seiler and the academia all seem to be working with heart rate alone (understandably); Seiler's window is huge, possibly because he's addressing a variety of sports, and I can be convinced that totally untrained riders may have a rather high Aerobic Threshold compared to me (while not being anything to write home about, I still have a wake up HR of 40)

Friel is the only one who talks about power, but his posts confuse me. They say, stick to H1 if going by HR, but you're allowed to ride L2 with power. Golden Cheetah is seemingly also using Friel's recommendation for binning into polarized zones.

Point is, I use Coggan's zones and they line up well enough for me: if I'm riding Zone 1 by HR, most of the time my power will also be Zone 1; if riding L2, then HR will be in H2 at some point.

So to make a long story short, how do you pace yourself on your easy rides?
 

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This has been bugging me ever since I first heard about polarized: it's easy to pick how hard to go on your hard days - as hard as you can for the prescribed duration.

The problem is, how easy to go on your easy days.

Seiler and the academia all seem to be working with heart rate alone (understandably); Seiler's window is huge, possibly because he's addressing a variety of sports, and I can be convinced that totally untrained riders may have a rather high Aerobic Threshold compared to me (while not being anything to write home about, I still have a wake up HR of 40)

Friel is the only one who talks about power, but his posts confuse me. They say, stick to H1 if going by HR, but you're allowed to ride L2 with power. Golden Cheetah is seemingly also using Friel's recommendation for binning into polarized zones.

Point is, I use Coggan's zones and they line up well enough for me: if I'm riding Zone 1 by HR, most of the time my power will also be Zone 1; if riding L2, then HR will be in H2 at some point.

So to make a long story short, how do you pace yourself on your easy rides?
It's tricky to directly translate the Seiler prescription to cycling because cycling involves greater variation in power than does many other endurance sports. It only takes variable gradient terrain to make that apparent.

The other issue is that the polarised description relates to the RPE of an entire exercise bout, rather than the moment by moment effort.

In general the distinctions for effort are:
<65% VO2max,
65-85% VO2max, and
>85% VO2max.

Translating to power levels is also slightly problematic because the relationship between VO2max and power at threshold is:
i. individually variable and
ii varies in an individual with fitness and training.

So coming up with a training intensity distribution (TID) requires a reasonably decent measure of VO2max as well as your individual fractional utilisation of VO2max at threshold. It's possible with the right software.

This is one of the various issues with how you determine how to classify a ride when using the polarised schema.

If you use session RPE method then it's pretty straighforward: easy/moderate/hard but as we know when using power meters, easy rides often have hard bits and hard rides have easy bits.

When you use a different filter (e.g. proportion of time spent at the VO2max levels mentioned above) then often what would be classified as polarised TID with session RPE actually appears to be a more typical pyramidal TID.

In essence I think if the ride overall is Level 1/2 then it's classified as easy, whereas for a hard ride you need to be doing dedicated blocks of supra-threshold work. Pretty much everything else will be in-between.

Then you have to ask yourself the more important questions: i.e. does this matter and what TID is actually best/appropriate for my training development needs?

People go on about "polarised" as if it's the best thing since sliced bread but there really isn't anything overly convincing on that, especially when you start to apply finer filters to assessing training intensity distribution. It's also a natural consequence of higher riding volumes - the more you ride, the lower the overall intensity will necessarily be or a the greater proportion of you miles will be ridden at lower intensities. IMO it's a bit of a training fad.
 

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fyi, my "easier" days will typically have normalized power (NP) that falls in mid-to-high L2, and IF in the mid 0.60s. I try to target ride durations of at least 3hrs and preferably 4+ hrs those days , so total KJ and TSS can still end up being fairly large.
I don't claim to be super-precise, structured, and disciplined.
YMMV.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the replies!

@ Alex that was food for thought. FWIW, I see the main appeal of Polarized in its being dead simple: no longer deal with many types of sessions, just two, easy and VO2Max day. Very limited needs to check the training plan for that day or week: the main variables are volume and whether the week is standard or deload. On other plans my Edge was chock full of Workouts and, whenever my FTP changed, the targets had to be updated accordingly.

With polarized, as long as I know my CP, anything above is going to produce VO2max, combined with a suitable duration - so the bike computer only provides time guidance.

Also, I think there's value in drawing attention to the notion that most rec athletes may be training too hard on most days.

As for Friel's prescription, your input was key to reaching an eureka moment. Let's begin with a step back: on polarized with HR alone, a coach will give the athlete a cap, that is not to be exceeded. Of course, as HR has a smoothing effect, there is some leeway for temporarily increasing power output, as long as the effort is not too hard and/or too long, as you pointed out.

OTOH, if I ride L2 steadily, my HR will have to enter H2 at some point (unless something is wrong, like an outdated FTP), there's no escaping that IME. Friel's prescription, however, begins making sense as soon as I factor in HrNP.

IOW, an easy ride may produce a lower heart rate some days, but higher on others. To throw numbers around, my HrNP on an easy day can go past 1.4, and also drop under 1.3, with comparable NP figures.

So by setting a cap in low L2, such fluctuations in Efficiency are covered - effectively, HR remains the main controller of the athlete's effort. Maybe HR modulates the effort so that the athlete will take it a little easier when they're not in optimal conditions? (counter: but that only works for overreaching, as overtraining will make HR stay low)

Translating to power levels is also slightly problematic because the relationship between VO2max and power at threshold is:
i. individually variable and
ii varies in an individual with fitness and training.

So coming up with a training intensity distribution (TID) requires a reasonably decent measure of VO2max as well as your individual fractional utilisation of VO2max at threshold. It's possible with the right software.
Interesting. After your remark, I went looking up and found stuff I didn't know about, including the ACSM formula (that I now realize is the same GC is using for its VO2 estimations). Is that proprietary/expensive software?

fyi, my "easier" days will typically have normalized power (NP) that falls in mid-to-high L2, and IF in the mid 0.60s. I try to target ride durations of at least 3hrs and preferably 4+ hrs those days , so total KJ and TSS can still end up being fairly large.
I don't claim to be super-precise, structured, and disciplined.
YMMV.
That's more or less what I was doing as well, sticking to H1 seemed way too slow a pace, and let's face it, L1 is considered by most to be active recovery, not producing any adaptations.

If the stuff above is correct, 0.5 should be more like it. Then again, being able to put in quality efforts on hard days is the aim, as long as you can do that within your training regime, then I guess everything is fine.
 
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