Quality over Quantity vs. 80/20 (or Chad vs. Matt ;))



I’m totally with you on everything above. In fact I don’t bother stressing the 80/20 split. I’ve seen aerobic gains from just doing an early base with a mix of SSB1-MV for intensity, and low-intensity long outdoor rides.

Now if I was a Cat3 or Cat2 and had reached a plateau, then I would aggressively pursue going back to 10-20 hour weeks to rebuild aerobic base before switching to more POL training to replicate race efforts. Even looking back at my weekly mid-week “world” rides I can see those are highly polarized with a lot below AeT (in pace line) and 20-33% of time over 120%. So POL makes sense to me if I was solely focused on training for those weekly races.


Sounds like some people have forgotten that 80/20 refers to sessions. Time in zone would be more like 90% zone 1 and 10% in zone 3. Although not planned, there will inevitably be some time spent in zone 2.


Here is the analysis I did for the 3-week work portion. Seems that some basic planning with 80/20 Session time can get to the 90/10 zone time without a bunch of effort.


I wanted to have a better look at the data in the graphs I posted earlier so (sad as it may be) I made a spreadsheet…

Here’s Ingred Christiansen’s year broken down by time in zone for both the 5 and 3 zone polarized models:

And here is a breakdown of the percentage of overall training time in zones:

Hopefully this makes it a little clearer what’s happening with the percentages and overall time in the higher zones.

(I’ve changed the dark green and light green round as I though Seiler’s way of doing it was counter-intuitive)


Here’s the data for the XC Skiers and Biathletes:


To complete the set here’s the data for the top class XC Skier (The numbers may not be quite correct but I read them from the graph as best I could.)

It’s a shame that the zones aren’t broken down more.


Are those totals weekly averages in hours for each phase? If so, that volume is high but actually lower than I expected.


Yes, those are the weekly avarages of time in zone for the XC Skiers and biathletes.

If you look at the time in Zone 3 on the 3 zone model you’ll see that the total only just makes it to 1 hour/week in the competition phase. That would be equivalent to doing 2 hard sessions in the week. On top of that they’re doing another half hour or so of Zone 2 work.


Just realized that you were probably talking about the overall volume and I agree, it doesn’t look like there’s a huge amount of volume at any time of the year.

Ingrid Christainsen did a maximum of 60 hours per month which is around 15 hours per week but with quite a number of months being in the 40 hours region. That’s only 10 hours per week! The XC Skiers and Biathletes were largely within this region.

Maybe it’s time to stop thinking of 10 hours per week as time-crunched! Yes there are other stresses on our bodies when we have to go to work and look after children, etc. but it’s not that far removed from what the best athletes in the world are doing - they just get better rest.



You’re talking about Ingrid Christainsen here, right? If so, thats running, and 10 hrs is quite a decent amount of volume, even for an elite runner.

10 hrs per week for a runner is NOT time-crunched.


Fair enough - I’m not a runner…


In running, most people would be better served to run easy for the vast majority of the time. The physiological stress is much more than other sports. That is almost the equivalent of doing 20 hours on the bike, average.

10 hours of running is a LOT of running, LOT, LOT, LOT. At a sloth-like pace for a runner of their level of 8 minute miles, that is 75 miles in a week. These runners are probably doing better than that pace at zone 1 since their race pace is like sub 5min/mile


Whilst I understand that there are limitations on the amount of running that even a top athlete can do, what I’d like to know is how the aerobic adaptations compare between cycling and running when exercising below LT1.

Put another way, are runners limited in how much benefit they can get from running below LT1 by the other limitations they have on the maximum training time, or do they get as much benefit from 10 hours as a cyclist gets from 20 hours?

To follow that, is XC skiing similar to running in that regard as the overall training time appears to be similar?



Running volume aside, those XC skiers aren’t putting in THAT much volume either. I would argue skiing is pretty low impact compared to running, though certainly more “full-body” than cycling. That said, I’ve never trained for XC skiing. How does that compare for volume? Because, as Mike the magic spanner has mentioned, maybe 10 hours isn’t THAT time crunched after all.


On the scienceofultra podcast it had once been mentioned by a prof that cyclists are among those with the highes mitochondrial density. An elite cyclists has far more mitochondria than an elite runner. Reason is the low impact character of the sport that allows a much higher training volume. Thus in this respect, they don’t get as much benefit. They make up for this by training twice a day but this is probably not the same as a single long workout.


This thread has been a very good read, including all the links.
I went through the Polarized debate earlier in the year and decided that the only way to see if it would work for me is to give it a go. Everyone is different and response to any particular training model is very individual.
You can really start to over think any form of training to the point it starts to become overwhelming. I decided to keep things simple with my Polarized approach and still mix things up with a choice of training session options to keep my interest and motivation high. All my training is done on my Cyclocross bike with off road cross tyres fitted so i can mix my rides up between on and off road. Certainly makes 3hrs fly by when you mix it up a bit.
This was my approach and my results were very good:

Day 1 - L3 Hard 1hr30 4x8min @107% ftp. (5x8min after 2months)
Day 2 - L1 Easy 2hrs @60-75% ftp with high cadence 5sec sprint every 20min.
Day 3 - L1 Easy 3hrs @60-75% ftp with high cadence 5sec sprint every 20min.
Day 4 - L3 Hard 1hr30 3 sets of 20/10’s OR 3 sets of 40/20’s OR KOM day on or off road.
Day 5 - L1 Easy 2hrs @60-75% ftp with high cadence 5sec sprint every 20min.
Day 6 - Rest recover

I then repeat it all again and then have a 4 day rest period.

As Cyclocross season got closer I changed workouts to be more specific whilst still keeping the Polarized model in place i.e. instead of 5x8min i did 5x5min ladders. So a bit less time but higher intensity. And on one of the easy L1 days i incorporated skills training into it.

Over a 5 month period, my ftp gains were greater than ever. CTL climbed to mid 90’s before the start of Cross season (did try to hit 100 but was just a stretch too far). Weight loss was gradual over the 5 months (3kg) which gave me a watts/kg of 3.97. So close to 4watts/kg so will be my goal for next year as well as hit a CTL of 100.

Cyclocross season is in full flow here in the UK with 1 race every weekend (for me). Obviously volume needed to be reduced to allow full recovery between races. A race is classed as a hard L3 session. Ignore the duration and TSS of a cross race, its the IF (Intensity Factor) thats the important one here. 45min cross race will hurt and definately need recovery after. L1 is still important during cross season so a couple of L1 rides and a single L3 ride during the week along with recovery and openers pretty much sums up the cross season to help try and hold what you have worked so hard to achieve with out doing to much and blowing up. Any rides i cant complete outside, i complete on TR by either finding a workout that best suits, or use the workout builder.

Once cross season has finished, i will take a short break and then back to Polarized training for a longer time period than this year in hope to reach my goals.

IMPO, if you are on the fence and not sure, just give the Polarized model a try. You never know, i might be the best change to your training you will ever make.


That is a question that is hard to quantify. I know in the tri world most people spend 50% of their time on the bike, 25-40% running and the rest swimming. Elite runners are in the 100 mile a week range, but not year round. I’m not entirely sure how much time grand tour riders are putting in but i am assuming it is quite a lot.

Runners gain a LOT by putting in a bunch of <lt1 miles as there is more need to prep thr body for the high intensity work. Runners are not quite polarized like the xc skiers since going anaerobic running can quickly lead to injury. Runners do more intensity in traditional zone 3 to 4 as tempo work or progression runs. But with that said there happens to be a thread right now on slowtwitch discussing running volume and marathon time correlation. There are several sub 3 guys there on 40 mpw or less. However that is not elite…

Btw, i am a firm advocate of putting in plenty of low intensity aerobic work, joining tr was paradigm shift for me. I think i just didn’t work in my intensity properly in years past. Making hard days really hard and easy days really easy. I believe most endurance athletes should do the least amount of work to get the desired gain. When new to training we should be worrying about getting consistent before getting in hard days and that can take you pretty far. I would consider most of the tr plans as better suited for riders who have a few years under their belt since the plans are pretty demanding.




everything you just said…on 10 hrs a week if I did the math right?


If you work to the exact time figures then you would hit 13hrs in a week now and again and 6-7.5hrs during a recovery week. The hours are different between weeks because i use a rolling 4 day model and repeat (L3,L1,L1,L3) with a single day off the bike per week or when im feeling a bit tired.