My Polarized Training Experience (Chad McNeese & others)


I found an interesting paper and it seems to fit with the polarized discussion. The training is still distributed to Z1 and Z3 with an approximate 80/20 split but the bulk of the HIIT work is done in the first week. block training.pdf (396.2 KB)

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See the “Chad’s Test” sheet in the link, for the full data set:

Work Week Summary Data:

The summary for each of the 3 “Work” weeks are arranged left to right.

  • The Data Label is the first column on the left.

  • The “Session Goal Time for Zones” is the middle column.

    • This corresponds to the 80/20 Time Goal for Entire Sessions (not finite time in each zone).
  • The “Actual Time for Zones” is the right column.

    • This corresponds to the 90/10 Time Goal for Actual Time in Zone (not overall Session Goal).

Zone Definitions:

  • Z3 = 100-120% of FTP (Red)
    • Taken from my interpretation of Dr. Seiler’s info.
  • Z2 = 80-100% of FTP (Yellow)
    • Taken from my interpretation of Dr. Seiler’s info.
  • Z1 = 50-80% of FTP (Green)
    • Taken from my interpretation of Dr. Seiler’s info.
  • Z0 = 0-50% of FTP (Blue)
    • Added by me, to track time below Z1.
  • Z0 + Z1 = 0-80% of FTP (Purple)
    • Added by me, to track time below Z2.

Zone Labels:

  • Duration (h:m:s)
    • Total Time with Power in the indicated Zone range.
  • Actual Zone %
    • Percentage of Time in the indicated Zone range, compared to the Overall Workout Time
  • Zone Goal %
    • This is the desired Goal % to meet the 80/20 Session Goal or 90/10 Actual Time.

Strike-Through Text:

  • “Session Goal Time for Zones” column:
    • I crossed out the [Z0] and [Z0 + Z1] sections because the 80/20 approach is intended as a “simple” analysis based on Overall Time for each Session with an intended “Goal Zone”.
  • “Actual Time for Zones” column:
    • I crossed out the [Z1] and [Z0] sections because the 90/10 approach is intended as “detailed” analysis based on Actual Time in each Zone. I feel including all the time below Z2 is appropriate for this analysis.

Week 1: Test and Work

  • This week included a recovery ride and the Ramp test to establish my FTP for this training phase.

  • The Zone distribution for 80/20 is very close to the goals.

  • The Zone distribution for 90/10 is very close to the goals.

Week 2: Work

  • This was a pure “Work” week, but also included an outside ride for my “long” Z1 ride.

  • The Zone distribution for 80/20 is close to the goals, but a bit heavy in Z3 (23.4% is over the 20% goal cap).

    • Again, this is from looking at the entire session time for the particular Zone Goal.
  • The Zone distribution for 90/10 is very close to the goals.

    • This is much closer to following the Actual Time Goals.
  • There is more variability in the Zones of this week when compared to Week 3.

    • This comes mainly from the much more variable nature of outside riding. Not necessarily bad or surprising, but it’s interesting to see how much more control we can have inside.

Week 3: Work

  • This was a pure “Work” week, but the “long” Z1 ride (Longfellow) had issues and was a higher RPE and HR than intended. That means the power still reported “in zone”, but the reality is that I was probably working too hard for that entire 4-hour workout.

  • The Zone distribution for 80/20 is close to the goals, but a bit heavy in Z3 (27.7% is over the 20% goal cap).

    • Again, this is from looking at the entire session time for the particular Zone Goal.
  • The Zone distribution for 90/10 is very close to the goals.

    • This is much closer to following the Actual Time Goals.

Overall Review of Work Weeks:

  • I think I did a decent job of hitting the Session Goals and Zone distributions.

    • I did this with some quick review of workouts with the intensity and duration, then placed them on the calendar to follow.
    • I made various swaps and adjustments along the way, and am happy with most of the choices and performance in the workouts (other than the Longfellow mishap).
    • I am surprised how close I got to the 90/10 time in zone, even with guessing to pick workouts and not actually planning for the finer time distribution before hand. I think it goes to show that you can likely just shoot for the 80/20 Session Goals and likely will be really close (assuming you select "good workouts).
  • I do think more variety of having one VO2 Max workout with longer style intervals (like the ones I did) and adding a workout with more 30/30 shorter style intervals would be good. I think the variety would be fun at the very least and you might be able to tailor the TSS ramp rate a bit better too.

  • You can see I ranged from just over 9 hours in the first week, 9.5 hours in the second week and nearly 10 hours in the third week. This was manageable in overall stress for me. But the timing and demand on schedule was a bit taxing, even with a simple 40 hour work week, wife but no kids, and keeping some downtime.

    • I was close to useless after the long 4 hour rides. It was a mix if fatigue and general desire to maximize recovery after that lead me to hold the couch down after 2 of them. I did some walking and mild errands after one of them and was OK. So that couch surfing is probably more my own laziness and desire to maximize recovery time.
  • I am rolling into my recovery week and not feeling too wiped out right now. I seem to remember welcoming the recovery weeks from SSB and such. But I don’t know if it was the pure intensity or the fact that it was 5 weeks of “Work” before the recovery week?

    • This POL test, I chose a 3 on / 1 off approach. I think this works better for my 44 y.o. body and lifestyle.
    • I have already adopted the same basic approach by modifying my planned SSB1 in mid-Nov to have a similar timing (instead of the 5/1 default). I am curious to see if that feels better and allows for better adaptation, even with the SS approach.
Quality over Quantity vs. 80/20 (or Chad vs. Matt ;))

Doesn’t that assume 0 evaporation from your mat?


I updated my 3-Zone model based on some feedback. The goal was to remove confusion about the reference info on the right side of the chart. I moved the LT2 and LT1 sections off a bit in effort to clear up what they mean.

Any thoughts or suggestions to improve clarity further?

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Based on past results, and upcoming holidays, last night I was playing around with SSB1 and SSB2. Going with high volume just like last year, but this time doing 3/1 and 4/1 for reasons cited:

Was thinking of doing 2/1 as that has worked for me prior to TR, when knocking out a century every 4 weeks starting in January. But it was more important for recovery weeks to fall on the week of Thanksgiving and Christmas as my kids will be home from college. Still need to play around with when to retest, otherwise its looking pretty solid assuming I can really make time. Still tough finding that work/wife/training balance, but easier now that we are empty nesters.

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This may be of interest as well. I sort of like the consideration of AeT and VT1.

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If TR launches a set of Polarized plans (which I have advocated for in a prior post), they could easily add a feature to the app to control trainer power in order to keep heart rate constant.

Then for low intensity sessions, give the user the option to keep either power constant (traditional erg mode) or heart rate.


Great reference sheet Chad. I’ve compared my own estimates for LT1/2 vs this to sanity check them.

One thought - avoid using the term sweet spot to describe the target low and high intensity zones.


Thanks for the review :smiley:

I used those terms because they came directly from Dr. Seiler in the FT Ep 51. He mentions them as a response about avoiding Z2 Moderate Intensity (when a host says Z2 is “around what most people call Sweet Spot”).

Dr. Seiler responded that he likes to say that there are two Sweet Spots, one for each of the Low and High Intensity zones. I used his values and terms for each of them, so I think the terms are “right” considering that the whole 3-Zone model is based on his info.

I admit it’s potentially confusing, with respect to the 7-Level Sweet Spot.

Not sure what to call them instead? I am open to better terms that still get the point across.

Hot Spot
Focal Point


I think that before naming them, it’s more important to figure out what these “sweetspots” ARE - i.e. how they’re defined, and what they’re for. And the more I think about it, the more I think that HR is THE vital metric of both the upper and lower end of the training.

Watts are an indispensible tool, but ultimately just a means to an end - to stimulate certain physiological reactions and processes in your body in order to adapt and become better.

So looking at your (excellent) latest chart, you could be doing 198 watts in the “low sweetspot”, but if you’re 3 hours into the workout and your HR has drifted up to 80%, then you’re starting to put too much stress on your muscles for that Z1 session.

Similarly at the “high sweetspot”, you could be doing intervals at 274, but if they’re not long enough, you don’t accumulate enough time at that 90+% HR area where Seiler sees the most improvements in his athletes.

Put simply, 70-75% and 90+% HR should always be your low and high “sweetspots”. The power numbers are more like a serving suggestion.

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Thanks for the review and props :smiley:

Yeah. Dr. Seiler gave the new SS in HR and VO2 Max only on the podcast, and he gave only a single data point, not a range. I did my best to place them with a reasonable power point relative to them.

I have considered making more of a range before, but it ends up ben my guess, so I was a bit hesitant to go that far.

I can look at it a bit more and set a one if we think it makes more sense.

I think the Intensity and Duration relationship is important. If you are doing shorter work in either Intensity, you tend to want to be on the higher side of that zone. The opposite is true for longer intensity.

Based on that, I don’t know what if any duration relates best to the SS zones.

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I’ve subscribed to TrainerRoad for a while now and I am disappointed that there is not a Polarized plan. As a physician I am aware that there is data to back it in comparison to other plans. Does TrainerRoad not agree with the data? If they agree with the data, why are they dragging their feet on this? Is there another service that has a Polarized plan?


Guessing a bit here, but the common wisdom is that Polarized typically requires 10-20 hours of training per week for proper effectiveness (this is actively discussed above about effectiveness under the 10 hour number).

Assuming the above is true, TrainerRoad is focused on the “Time-Crunched” athlete as a rule. That means as little as 3 hours up to 10 hours per week (only on the high volume plans), with most of the focus around 5-7 hours per week usually. As such, a Polarized approach may not be appropriate.

It is about maximizing available training time (usually very limited) to yield the most benefit possible. That tends to be a more SST and/or Threshold based approach that we see here in TR.

That is my rationale for why they don’t have POL plans directly offered.

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Now that’s a can of worms…


Maybe. But I expect we will get some solid answers and more details as to the reasoning for TR’s choices when they have the mega-training detail podcast discussion.

I think at the very least, it will be some justification as to the gains shown by people following TR plans. Whether we get additional info comparing the TR approaches to others, who knows?

Even though TR doesn’t offer POL plans, they may well have data from users who do their own plans. All of this will be short of scientific worthy data due to lack of deep population knowledge (beyond weight, power, HR, age, and any other superficial data that TR has access) and the lack of creating structured testing protocols.

But there are likely some good “rules of thumb” that can be pulled from what is most certainly a HUGE data set (considering the number of users and fact that some data goes back over 5 years).

It will be interesting, even if there aren’t concrete conclusions of a scientific level.


What data are you referring to?

How many studies out there actually show that POL is far better than a TR-style plan for cyclists training 6-8 hours a week?


I think trainerroad’s data is even more robust now that TR incorporates outside rides

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Yup, it is sure to be a much bigger and more compete picture of each rider.


IMO it would be difficult for TR to make too many conclusions based on their data set (for most users); you can’t conclude what has been effective for someone without knowledge of all the training that person has been doing. For example, TR data would show my FTP has increased since starting with them, but they also don’t have knowledge of any of the other training I’ve done (or nutrition changes etc.), so they can’t directly attribute my FTP increases with the effectiveness of their plans.

For the smaller number of users that store all their training inside TR, then, yes, they should be able to see some meaningful trends.


I touched on this above. TR now incorporates outside rides into the data so I don’t think it’s as much of a concern anymore.