With the help of Rebecca Gross, owner of 3six0 Performance, we field questions on polarized training, how to effectively close out a season, whether you can ruin workouts with indulgences or poor sleep, and how to get the most out of spin class.
Before Rebecca began coaching, she was an accomplished cyclocross and mountain bike racer. She was the 2012 Cyclocross Masters World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky and has twice won the collegiate mountain bike short track national championship. She continues to race professionally.
Rebecca is also a veteran of the United States Air Force and holds a masters degree in sport and performance psychology from the University of Denver.
Polarized training progression
This question comes from Eoin Cremen, from Bath in the UK. He writes:
“This question comes from a long-running debate between my twin brother and I about the optimal progression of bike intervals in a training program, moving from early / base season, into an ‘A’ race / short racing season.
We both subscribe to a polarized model, predominantly using sessions as the distribution, rather than durations in zone. The question has revolved around the balance between the final training block reflecting re-enforcing race pace at distances nearing race duration, or pushing to develop the higher end qualities (both centrally, VO2Max, and peripherally, fiber and cellular physiology).
We have both played with “Seiler-esque” intervals (4×2, progressing to 8×2) as the HIIT component of a training block, complemented with regular easy, Z2 sessions. Then for the final block we’d elongate the duration and reduce the intensity of these efforts and often include them into longer rides to allow for more time at higher intensities.
We also have considered swapping the emphasis of those training blocks, essentially training long to short, race pace to VO2max intensity.
Ramping down a season
This question comes from Sara Larsen of Brattleboro, Vermont. She writes:
“As the seasons start to change here in the Northeast, it’s about time I hang up the road bike. The thing is, I still feel like my fitness is high, and my mind is fresh. What should I do in this situation? Bottle that energy and motivation and save it for next year? I’m not really one to race cyclocross. Are there other outlets I should pursue?”
Burned out on structure
In a related question from Britt Gunnarson of Kolding, Denmark, she asks:
“I have reached a point in my season where I have decent form, but I don’t have the mental energy to do more structured intervals. With one more race to go this season, I don’t know if I should continue to push the mental side of things, scrap the season, or if there is an alternative to these.”
Ruining a workout?
This question comes from Scott Dickey from San Diego, California. He writes:
“I’m prone to indulging in an occasional beer or three after a hard workout. It helps me relax. Sometimes I also stay up late or my sleep is disrupted after a hard workout or long ride. I seem to be buzzing for hours and sleep poorly. I’ve often wondered where’s the breaking point… If I get the work in, but then indulge too much or don’t rest well, did I gain anything? Or did I just lose the chance to gain something from the work I put in?”
Can spin classes replace Zwift?
Finally, a question from Joe Uknalis. He writes:
“For the sake of motivation this winter, I’m considering spinning classes, rather than another year of Zwift. I just would rather be around people. How do they fit into a training schedule when it’s cold and dark outside? How do I use them effectively for the motivation, without overdoing it? Is that possible in that setting? Where does that leave you when you can finally get outside again?”
Sylta, Ø., Tønnessen, E., Sandbakk, Ø., Hammarström, D., Danielsen, J., Skovereng, K., Seiler, S. (2017). Effects of High-Intensity Training on Physiological and Hormonal Adaptions in Well-Trained Cyclists. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 49(6), 1137–1146. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000001214