I’ve been wanting to chime back into this thread again for some time but just never found the time.
I’m aware that the conversation has moved on a little from where it was last time I participated but I wanted to keep things grounded to the overriding principals that govern 80/20 / Polarized training and particularly what the top end athletes are doing. My focus will be on Seiler’s work as I haven’t read any of Fitzgerald’s work in any depth.
For the purposes of this I’m going to ignore the time-crouched aspect of the conversation, for the time-being at least.
It is clear from Seiler’s research that the top endurance athletes do not do much periodization in the sense that is being discussed. Typically, they may have a month away from any high intensity work after the end of the season but when things kick in again the split will be 80/20. Simple as that. They do not do a block of ‘Traditional Base’ as there is always high intensity work work. As the year progresses the main change is that the overall volume is ramped up but the spread of low to high intensity stay the same. Approaching the race season, the intensity of high intensity training goes up and the low intensity goes down. As I think he said in one presentation, there’s no ‘fancy periodization’ going on.
One of the things that is obvious from this is that base training is so fundamental to the fitness of any endurance athlete (anyone doing a race that last for about 4 minutes or more) that it must continue all throughout the year.
Base, build and specialty phasing reduces the amount of aerobic (or sweetspot) endurance work quite dramatically in search of preparing the athlete to work at threshold and at high percentages of FTP.
One of the things that is missing from the conversation is how athletes prepare for race intensity efforts. For athletes who race for less than an hour this is pretty much done already through Vo2 workouts. Typically, cross country skiing races are 30 minutes or so but can be up to 2 hours at world cup level so there will be some sweetspot work in there.
It’s not clear from Seiler’s work exactly how this works, but I’d hazard a guess that almost all of the race preparation for a pro athlete is done very close to the start of the season or actually during races. It’s impossible to peak for a full 4-month season so there’s no harm in using races as preparation for the later and more important part of the season, especially If everyone else is doing that. Unlike most average joes these athletes are racing up to 3 or 4 times every weekend for large parts of the season.
How does this fit into a race plan when an athlete doesn’t race much, or at all, in the lead-up to an A race, which I imagine is pretty typical of a huge number of TrainerRoad users? Maybe that’s the next step in the puzzle.