Why So Much Low Intensity Training?

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Why recommend riding so much in zone 1?

If you’ve read the research on polarised training, you (like me) may have raised an eyebrow at seeing that 80% of sessions should be totally in Z1 (3 zone model – Clear here to learn more about training Zones). May be even more of a shock to see that that figure is SESSIONS, actually time in zone should be more like 90% in zone 1.

The research that is suggesting this is pretty strong. Take a look at the research gate page for Stephen Seiler to see. Study of many other endurance sports including cross country skiing, running, rowing, biathlon have all shown that the best athletes spend 80% of their sessions entirely in zone 1.

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What’s so Special about riding below LT1?

Lactate threshold occurs roughly at 78% of MHR (assuming you are fresh). When we are talking about Z1 in a 3 zone model you want to stay below this throughout the ride. With the InScyd testing we can get a much more accurate picture as everyone will be different.

The biggest reason you need to spend all this time in zone 1 is that you can accumulate the desired amount of minutes of training, without triggering a huge stress response from the sympathetic nervous system.

Frequency and duration are two of the most important factors in building an endurance engine, Z1 rides allow you to enjoy frequent rides with sufficient duration to build a big engine.

The other benefit of this time staying disciplined in Z1 for 80% of your sessions is that when you do the other 20% you can really make the sessions count!! You aren’t jaded from semi-hard sessions, you can train and race with all your available strength.

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will i still get benefits if i ride in zone 1?

When you finish a Z1 ride, you don’t really get that heavy, stinging legs feeling, which may make you think you haven’t achieved anything. This is a wrong, you have achieved something, you have triggered an adaptive response, but without the stress induced by a hard Z2 ride.

A typical sweet spot ride ‘feels productive’, but will create more stress, which means that long term you will not be able to make the biggest gains.

Interestingly, most people think it only works for pro riders doing 25-30 hours a week, but this is incorrect. There is some great science to show that polarised training scales down to those athletes doing 5 hours a week. This puts it squarely in the range of most amateur athletes.

Any questions about polarised training

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