Fast Talk podcast, ep. 75: High intensity training with Dr. Stephen Seiler

In episode 75, we discuss high intensity training within the polarized model, with one of the most influential researchers working today, Dr. Stephen Seiler.

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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 episode 75, we’re joined by one of our favorite guests, Dr. Stephen Seiler, who is one of the top exercise physiologists of today. Dr. Seiler has talked with us previously about the polarized, or 80/20, model of endurance training, he’s shared his thoughts on zone models, and he’s helped us understand how slow your “slow” should be. For more with Dr. Seiler, return to episodes 51 (Polarizing your training) and 54 (Applying the polarized model).

You’ve sent us more questions about those two episodes than any other episodes we’ve done, but the most common question has been “when’s part 3?” Well, this is that episode.

We’ve already talked about the overall polarized approach and how to do that 80 percent — the long, slow ride. Today, we’re going to talk about the other 20 percent: high intensity work.

In this episode we’ll address:

  • Why, even though Dr. Seiler recommends 80 percent or more of our work to be at low intensity, he is by no means against some hard work. After all, he did put himself through a one-hour FTP test for our last show.
  • What you should use to structure the intensity of your interval work: heart rate or power, percent of max or percent of threshold. Or, is there another approach? His answer might surprise you.
  • Dr. Seiler’s multiple studies on interval work, including the three protocols he’s studied — 4×4 minutes, 4×8 minutes, and 4×16 minutes.
  • Notice that while each workout is hard, none of those three protocols is very complex. We talk about why things like execution, accumulating time, and consistency are more important than complexity.
  • Some of you may cringe, but we also discuss why the specificity of interval work isn’t as important as a lot of people think. To a degree, most work hits most systems. So don’t get caught up in being a few beats or watts over or under the target.
  • We’ll briefly discuss the periodization of interval work.
  • We’ll wrap up the show with a discussion of higher intensity anaerobic intervals such as Tabata’s, and ask both Dr. Seiler and some pros about their favorite interval work.
  • Finally, we’ll answer the pressing question: Who’s the biggest nerd of all.

Our primary guest today is, of course, Dr. Stephen Seiler. At this point, he needs no introduction. He is one of the most influential researchers working today. Along with Dr. Seiler, we’ll hear from Michelton-Scott rider Brent Bookwalter about balance in interval work. This is the third episode in a row that we’ve heard from Brent, and that’s because as a top pro, who’s raced 10 grand tours, he has a lot of good things to say. Next we’ll hear from Ruth Winder, a talented racer on the women’s Trek-Segafredo team. Finally, we’ll hear from Bruce Bird. Bruce took up cycling in his 40s and has since won the Gran Fondo World Championships multiple times. At 50, he can tear apart the local pro races in Ontario. In other words, he’s figured out a few things about proper training.

So, if you’re ready to get intense, if you’re prepared for a smattering of nerd bombs, it’s time to make you fast!

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