Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.
In this episode we’re taking a step back — way back — to see the forest for the tress. Let me explain: Many of you have been fascinated by our recordings with scientists and coaches like Stephen Seiler, John Hawley, Iñigo San Millan, and Joe Friel. We’ve received a stack of questions about polarized training, the two thresholds, how to execute long rides, and many more. They’ve been great questions, and they’ve made us think about how we can answer all of them.
The complex concepts we’ve discussed in our deeper science episodes were developed by far smarter people than us. Still, that science is only valuable if it’s communicated to our listeners in a way that makes it approachable and applicable to you. After all, what good is any of this if you can’t use it to improve your performances.
So, in this episode, we want to play the humble role of science communicators, to make sure we get the message right. We’ve also sifted through hours of Fast Talk recordings with our many distinguished guests to bring context to what we hope is a simplified, unified message about the fundamental principles of these previous shows: there are just three types of rides. Yes, that’s a simplification. Yes, you’re getting our bias. Yes, you’re going to listen to this episode and think, “Well, what about the…” Fill in the blank. And you’re right. If you want that level of detail and scrutiny, please return to those past episodes. In this episode, we’re talking about the forest. We’re hoping to give you a framework to understand all that scientific detail. And we’re going to keep it simple.
- First, when you take away the complexity, training boils down to three ride types in most training models.
- We’ll give a simple zone system, based on physiology, and explain why that’s important.
- We’ll define the long ride: why it’s important, how to execute it, and why there are no shortcuts.
- We’ll define the high-intensity ride: why less is more with this type of ride and why executing it with quality is so critical. Dr. Seiler actually divides these rides into two categories — threshold rides and high-intensity work. For this podcast, we’re lumping them together, but we will hear from Dr. Seiler about why we shouldn’t neglect threshold work despite the current popularity of one-minute intervals and Tabata work.
- We’ll discuss the recovery ride. Ironically, for most of us, this is the hardest to execute. When we’re time-crunched, we might think that spending an hour spinning easy on the trainer is not time well spent. We’ll discuss why that philosophy is dangerous to take.
- Finally, we’ll talk about some of the exceptions, including sweet spot work and training races.
We’ve included excerpts from Dr. San Millan, once the exercise physiologist for the Garmin-Slipstream WorldTour team, among others. We’ll hear several times from Dr. Stephen Seiler, who is often credited with defining the polarized training model, which developed from his research with some of the best endurance athletes in the world. Dr. John Hawley will address both long rides and high-intensity work. Dr. Hawley has been one of the leading researchers in sports science for several decades and is a big proponent of interval work and carbohydrate feeding, but even he feels there’s a limit. Grant Holicky, formerly of Apex Coaching in Boulder, Colorado, has worked with some of the best cyclists in the world. He sees undirected training, those “sort of hard” rides, as one of the biggest mistakes athletes can make. He’ll explain why. And finally, we’ll hear from legendary coach Joe Friel about sweet spot work and why it does have a place… even though technically it’s not one of our three rides.
Now, to the forest! Let’s make you fast.
Fast Talk is available on all your favorite podcast services, including iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and Soundcloud. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a moment to rate and comment on iTunes after listening.
1. Seiler, S., et al., Adaptations to aerobic interval training: interactive effects of exercise intensity and total work duration. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 2013. 23(1): p. 74-83.
2. Seiler, S., O. Haugen, and E. Kuffel, Autonomic recovery after exercise in trained athletes: intensity and duration effects. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2007. 39(8): p. 1366-73.
3. Munoz, I., et al., Does Polarized Training Improve Performance in Recreational Runners? International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2014. 9(2): p. 265-272.
4. Sylta, O., et al., The Effect of Different High-Intensity Periodization Models on Endurance Adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2016. 48(11): p. 2165-2174.
5. Sylta, O., et al., Effects of High-Intensity Training on Physiological and Hormonal Adaptions in Well-Trained Cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2017. 49(6): p. 1137-1146.
6. Skovereng, K., et al., Effects of Initial Performance, Gross Efficiency and <(V)over dot>O-2peak Characteristics on Subsequent Adaptations to Endurance Training in Competitive Cyclists. Frontiers in Physiology, 2018. 9: p. 9.
7. Esteve-Lanao, J., et al., Impact of training intensity distribution on performance in endurance athletes. J Strength Cond Res, 2007. 21(3): p. 943-9.
8. Dudley, G.A., W.M. Abraham, and R.L. Terjung, Influence of exercise intensity and duration on biochemical adaptations in skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol, 1982. 53(4): p. 844-50.
9. Seiler, K.S. and G.O. Kjerland, Quantifying training intensity distribution in elite endurance athletes: is there evidence for an “optimal” distribution? Scand J Med Sci Sports, 2006. 16(1): p. 49-56.
10. Laursen, P.B., Training for intense exercise performance: high-intensity or high-volume training? Scand J Med Sci Sports, 2010. 20 Suppl 2: p. 1-10.
11. Stoggl, T.L. and B. Sperlich, The training intensity distribution among well-trained and elite endurance athletes. Front Physiol, 2015. 6: p. 295.
12. Guellich, A., S. Seiler, and E. Emrich, Training methods and intensity distribution of young world-class rowers. Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 2009. 4(4): p. 448-60.
13. Seiler, S., What is best practice for training intensity and duration distribution in endurance athletes? Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 2010. 5(3): p. 276-91.
14. Joyner, M.J. and E.F. Coyle, Endurance exercise performance: the physiology of champions. J Physiol, 2008. 586(1): p. 35-44.
15. Faude, O., W. Kindermann, and T. Meyer, Lactate threshold concepts: how valid are they? Sports Med, 2009. 39(6): p. 469-90.
16. Coyle, E.F., et al., Physiological and biomechanical factors associated with elite endurance cycling performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1991. 23(1): p. 93-107.
17. Santalla, A., J. Naranjo, and N. Terrados, Muscle efficiency improves over time in world-class cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2009. 41(5): p. 1096-101.
18. Lucia, A., J. Hoyos, and J.L. Chicharro, Physiology of professional road cycling. Sports Med, 2001. 31(5): p. 325-37.
19. Seiler, S.a.T., Espen, Intervals, Thresholds, and Long Slow Distance: the Role of Intensity and Duration in Endurance Training. SportsScience, 2009(13): p. 32.53.
20. Urhausen, A., et al., Plasma catecholamines during endurance exercise of different intensities as related to the individual anaerobic threshold. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol, 1994. 69(1): p. 16-20.
21. Coffey, V.G. and J.A. Hawley, The molecular bases of training adaptation. Sports Med, 2007. 37(9): p. 737-63.
22. Deley, G., et al., Effects of two types of fatigue on the VO(2) slow component. Int J Sports Med, 2006. 27(6): p. 475-82.
23. Nimmerichter, A., et al., Longitudinal monitoring of power output and heart rate profiles in elite cyclists. J Sports Sci, 2011. 29(8): p. 831-40.
24. Messonnier, L.A., et al., Lactate kinetics at the lactate threshold in trained and untrained men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2013. 114(11): p. 1593-1602.
25. Perry, C.G.R. and J.A. Hawley, Molecular Basis of Exercise-Induced Skeletal Muscle Mitochondrial Biogenesis: Historical Advances, Current Knowledge, and Future Challenges. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med, 2017.
26. Aughey, R.J., et al., Muscle Na+-K+-ATPase activity and isoform adaptations to intense interval exercise and training in well-trained athletes. J Appl Physiol (1985), 2007. 103(1): p. 39-47.
27. Yeo, W.K., et al., Skeletal muscle adaptation and performance responses to once a day versus twice every second day endurance training regimens. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2008. 105(5): p. 1462-1470.
28. Hawley, J.A., et al., Training techniques to improve fatigue resistance and enhance endurance performance. J Sports Sci, 1997. 15(3): p. 325-33.
29. Schoenfeld, B.J., et al., Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2019. 51(1): p. 94-103.
30. Gleeson, M., Immune system adaptation in elite athletes. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, 2006. 9(6): p. 659-65.
31. Gleeson, M., et al., Influence of training load on upper respiratory tract infection incidence and antigen-stimulated cytokine production. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 2013. 23(4): p. 451-7.
32. Gleeson, M. and C. Williams, Intense exercise training and immune function. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser, 2013. 76: p. 39-50.
33. Suzuki, K., et al., Systemic inflammatory response to exhaustive exercise. Cytokine kinetics. Exerc Immunol Rev, 2002. 8: p. 6-48.
34. Fehrenbach, E. and M.E. Schneider, Trauma-induced systemic inflammatory response versus exercise-induced immunomodulatory effects. Sports Med, 2006. 36(5): p. 373-84.