How to Manage intensity


When I did my Sports Science degree back in the 90’s there was a lot of emphasis on improving endurance performance by finding and training at ‘lactate threshold’ (LT). In fact, my undergrad dissertation was on developing a ramp test protocol for determining LT in rowers.

As a masters athlete, my learning journey started in a fresh direction. The increase in popularity and quality of podcasts was a big part of it. I was training increasingly on the turbo trainer because of time restrictions and music didn’t do it for me after a while. That’s when I started listening to podcasts.

After a couple of years using Trainer Road I was stuck in a pattern of training, burning out, getting ill and repeat!! Very frustrating and led me to stagnate in my racing.

Of course, a new direction was needed. Thankfully, I made the best decision ever and started working with Joe Beer. Joe is an incredible coach who guided me through a winter of training and onto my best season ever.

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So what changed?

The change came from the intensity distribution. Trainer Road used a huge amount of sweet spot and threshold training. My change to a polarised model wasn’t necessarily easy, but learning from Joe, his support and committing to the process the results soon started to build.

I think the learning was a crucial part of the process for me. Helped me to commit to the process. Reading and listening to Stephen Seiler was a big part of it.

People are so afraid to go easy, but the research is very clear, it works!! My intensity distribution ranged from 90-95% EASY training each week. Which works out to be about 8-9 hours easy with about 40-50 minutes on high-intensity intervals.

How do you set your intensity zones


 

The easiest way to get started is with Stephen Seilers 3 zone model. All you need to know is your maximum heart rate (MHR):

 

  • Zone 1 = up to 78% of your MHR
  • Zone 2 = Between 78-86% of MHR
  • Zone 3 = Over 86% of MHR

Start by going out easy and monitoring your HR. If it’s an easy day you should stay in Zone 1 the whole time (a few seconds above here and there won’t matter…but don’t con yourself…stay in Z1).

On hard days do your intervals targeting the competition you are doing or the metabolic system you are trying to improve.

It’s actually very easy…the hard bit is staying disciplined. If it’s a Z1 day, don’t go for a KOM!! Don’t chase down that rider who just overtook you…BE DISCIPLINED!!! Remember you have bigger fish to fry, race days are for racing…save it for then.

 

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Summary

Endurance performance comes primarily from frequent, consistent training. Frequent consistent training is best achieved with good control of your intensity distribution.

Get control of your intensity and good things will happen.

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Returning to Fitness


If you read my post in September on Returning from a Break in Training, you’ll know I’ve had a very disrupted season due to a move of country.

As luck would have it, I started using Aerotune Metabolic Profile Testing just before life overtook me and was in decent shape. So I got a reasonable look at my profile when in racing shape. Then there was a big gap in training, where I had limited training time and the training I could do was only of limited use due to stress!!

When life started to settle down I did 3-4 weeks of easy training to get back into the routine of it, then I tested again to see where I was. So I have a picture of where I was when near my lowest fitness.

My most recent test was last weekend. I really felt like it was time to test as my feelings on the bike were much improved and I wanted to re-calculate my zones to keep the training accurate.

Metabolic Profile – Test 1

 

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These results while in decent shape were a little surprising. Particularly my VLamax,  which is much higher than expected.  I’d recently done my second fastest 10 mile TT ever (20:13) so it was a good representation of what I can do, but clearly, there is room for improvement. If. my VLamax was lower it would improve my threshold power, which is what I am after for my time trialing.

Test 2

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Not surprising to see big drops in my testing in September. The training I had been doing had included some effort in lower my VLamax, which seemed to be working, though not as much as I expected.

Though this was the second test, it was the first one that I really used to plan a block of training. My plan for the next month was to increase the volume a little, keep it to 6 sessions a week and really work on lowering that VLamax.

My strategy was to mix up my sessions with 4-5 endurance rides each week at FATmax, sometimes with carbs, sometimes fasted. Then 1-2 sessions a week with OGE (over-geared efforts) at sweet spot.

Training was really good during this period and I would have waited to test another 2-3 weeks normally, but I think because I was coming from a relatively low point for me, I progressed more quickly and really needed to re-test at 4 weeks to re-set my zones and keep my training moving forward.

Test 3

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I was right to get the test in when I did, things had moved on quite a bit!

I could really feel the difference on the road. My work to bring that VLamax down was working and you can, even though my VO2max has not returned to its highest point, the combination of VO2max and VLamax now allowing my critical power to be at its highest of the 3 tests.

These changes are also very obvious when you look at the improvements in FATmax, a 30 Watt improvement since test 2! So the controlled intensity of endurance rides and the carb periodisation were really paying off. 

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Summary

In short, I am really pleased with the results from the training. I averaged 10-12 hours per week for the 4 weeks and as you can see on the right the intensity distribution of Heart Rate was 92% in zone 1 (the HR zones are set up for Seiler’s 3 zone model). The power zones are in the default 7+SS zone model. Gives you a good idea of how ‘easy’ the training was for the vast majority of the time.

The main changes that the metabolic testing made for me were:

 

  • My endurance rides were at a lower power average
  • I put greater emphasis on lowering the VLamax

Though these technical changes to my training are of vital importance, I actually think one of the biggest benefits of the testing comes from the belief in what you are doing is really the right thing to do….and the results speak for themselves.

If you have any comments or questions leave them below or email me:

coach@summitcyclecoaching.co.uk

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Metabolic testing


Having a Sports Science background makes me interested in all things physiology and testing. I’m sure we are all familiar with various tests, FTP tests, lactate testing, VO2max tests, etc. But it was some interviews I listened to with Sebastian Weber of InScyd that got me really interested in metabolic testing.

What previously would have required a trip to a lab, was now accessible to those with a power meter…with all the testing done at home. Though I went through their demonstrations and some of their education, I decided it was a bit expensive for me and my clients.

However, I was listening to the brilliant Endurance Innovations Podcast a while back, they were interviewing the guys behind the website AeroTune. I’d not heard of them previously, but I really liked what they were saying.

There were two episodes, the first one I heard was about their aero-testing platform…and actually, that was what made me download the podcast. However, during that interview, they started talking about their metabolic testing platform and that was much closer to the price range I was looking for.

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Easy to do a home or on the road, following their very clear instructions.

Find out your:

  • VO2max
  • VLamax
  • Fatmax
  • Critical Power

Why metabolic testing?

The reasons for getting metabolic testing are actually something I hadn’t considered a huge amount before, mainly because of expense and the fact you’d have to travel to a lab to get it done. This new type of modelling allows you to test at home with the power meter on your bike. This makes it both far more convenient and far more affordable.

These two factors combined have the added benefit that you will not only be able to get tested, but you will also be able to re-test at appropriate times to check on progress and correct course if necessary.

Metabolic testing goes beyond simply finding out a simple measure like FTP…WAY BEYOND!

With accurate metabolic testing, you find out the ‘how’ behind the threshold measure. What metabolic pathways are you using to achieve your FTP.

As a time trialist, I was particularly interested in my VLamax. I was keen to see if I could take advantage of lowering this in the pursuit of a higher sustained power. Without this knowledge, training is less targeted, exciting times!


I was also interested to find out where my ‘FATmax zone’ was too. Definitely keen to take advantage of knowing that and seeing if I can improve it.

That’s key with the test and re-test…you can find out if what you doing is having the expected results!

 

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interpreting the results


Aerotune also gives you some great feedback in your results form that has some information about your results and some suggestions on how you might direct your training.

Beyond that, the information is just such a great starting point and can give your training some real focus.

As with any training, it starts with your goals. What do you want to achieve? The goals you set are the ‘end point’ if you like (or more likely a waypoint), but what’s key here is that with metabolic testing you have a starting point. A much more accurate starting point.

I think metabolic testing is the missing piece of the puzzle. You can certainly make very educated guesses at your starting point and there are other ways of establishing your starting point and therefore the focus of training. However, I believe this is a more accurate way of finding the starting point.

 

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Models of possible changes

Your test on the day is the starting point, the programme models the potential benefits of changes to your VO2max (above) and VLamax (below). This allows you start planning your training too make the changes you want. No more guess work!

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Obviously, you still have to put in the hard work!! But there is a comfort and confidence that this testing brings to your training that is very motivating. Also, because this is a very convenient and affordable platform you can re-test and check your progress.

The day to day planning and the month to month progression of your workouts is still of vital importance. You can’t get away from that, but with a look into your metabolic profile, you can make all the hard work pay off to the maximum.

Any questions

If you have any questions or comments you can ask them in the comments section below or email:

coach@summitcyclecoaching.co.uk

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