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



YES!! EXACTLY!!! yes, yes, YES!!! hahahaha . <-- those were very unscientific too. :slight_smile:

(that’s what I meant by “and then what?” you get the quick win, but then…here were are)

Not sure it’s that cut-and-dried with the fiber types but it’s close enough and I generally agree with this.


@tshortt spending training time at AeT (traditional base, or POL >10 hours) is about teaching your body to use fat for fuel. It “raises the floor” so that (in the case of a road race) you can ride for 3-4 hours with less effort, and have more ‘left in the tank’ at the end so that you can put in a much harder effort for the last hour or so.

Did you read my earlier post in this thread (I’m not a coach or expert): Quality over Quantity vs. 80/20 (or Chad vs. Matt ;))

Better yet, read the conclusion section of Joe Friel’s polarized part 2 blog post:

I just completed traditional base part 1 and it was silly easy (all below 75%) except for the time commit. And without any high-end work I lost some ftp (on the ramp test), in exchange for some small AeT gains (which I can’t directly measure). Traditional base is definitely something I would never do again on a trainer - the long rides on a Kickr were brutal on my butt. And so I quit traditional base and moved on to SSB-HV plan. Time permitting, in the future I would do traditional base again but only outside.

And regarding your “then what” question, its about figuring out when to use POL in your training progression. If you decide to use POL as base, or even traditional base, there are still the build and specialty phases. There is a lot more to discuss/debate on when to use it.


@bbarrera Yes, I’ve read that Joe Friel article about a dozen times. That, and the cited study (as well as others on ResearchGate), brought me to the discussion.

I don’t blame you :crazy_face:

totally agree. and I think they’re rock solid. I’ve had success with those recently and of course many others have as well. But they’re not really that different from the way other endurance sports build and peak. It’s a pretty standard, well-accepted approach. What differs is the way “time-crunched” cyclists seem to handle base training.


Going back to your original point:

Hmm, intensity is in the eye of the beholder… and I’ve not experienced the stagnation you mentioned. But I only have 3 seasons of structured training.

Maybe think about it this way:

  • Traditional base prioritizes 1) teaching your body to use fat for fuel (“wider aerobic base”) by spending 10+ hours a week at low-intensity

  • Sweet spot base prioritizes 1) muscular endurance, and 2) aerobic endurance by spending 6-10 hours/week doing intervals at 88-94%

  • Polarized prioritizes 1) teaching your body to use fat for fuel (“wider aerobic base”), and 2) raising VO2max and lactate threshold by doing 10+ hours at 80/20 or 90/10 split. The only real questions in my mind are a) how far down (# hours) does it scale, and b) when during a season does POL provide the most advantages.

Personally speaking, even if I did polarized for base all of the riding I care about involves a lot of muscular endurance. So naturally my emphasis during build and speciality is on sweet spot and threshold work, with some VO2max thrown in. Starting in late August I did a “early-base” that wrapped up with TR Traditional Base. Feeling pretty good about my aerobic base, as measured by aerobic decoupling, I’ve now moved to SSB-HV to lay a strong muscular endurance foundation for outside riding in January. I’m not a coach, and hope my understanding of the different approaches is correct, and am applying them in a logical progression to get stronger and faster by March.


Not sure if I’ve mentioned this here or in the other thread. Can’t keep track anymore and perhaps someone has already linked to this.

Norwegian Triathlon Team. Sort of polarized but not the Seiler-way. Show notes included, you don’t even have to listen to it.


I’m not really into triathlon, just wanted to check what race durations these have:

2 hours, that’s actually not that long. Really uncommon that they do not go >LT2 in training.


Really like the scientific triathlon podcast. Yeah, a few interesting point in this episode:

We have a lot of focus on intensity control in training.

We started with heart rate monitors, but we now also use power meters on the bike and lactate testing on the run.

We also use oximeters when at altitude.

For Kristian, when he is running his lactate is 2.5-2.6, so he will never do intervals significantly higher than this level.

In intervals, we want the athletes at or below their lactate threshold.

Interesting that they do very little high intensity work.


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.



Fantastic point that I just wanted to call out and highlight as I think many of the posts in this thread ignore. The idea of polarized training isn’t around a base phase that uses the polarized model and then you go to a non-polarized build. You do polarized all the time


I started listening to that earlier and will finish it later, maybe after work. I’m not familiar with the bike leg of a draft legal triathlon. I’d like to understand the demands/tactics of that a bit more as we’re talking about their training. How does it compare to a normal triathlon bike leg, or conventional cycling pack racing?


Fitzgerald’s work is in his book: “80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower”. He’s also written numerous articles for Runner’s World.

It’s also important to point out that Seiler’s take on a polarized model (based on his population studies and follow up experimental work) is not entirely in line with what Matt Fitzgerald presents in his book. Seiler is a scientist. Fitz is a science writer. Fitzgerald cites Seiler quite a bit. And the overall thesis (“slow down! but also go really hard”) is the same. However, Fitzgerald attempts (and personally I thinks succeeds) in distilling these principles down to runners who didn’t go through a Division 1 cross country program.

Much of what I’ve challenged about Sweet Spot intervals in this thread comes right out of 80/20 running. No runner would do:

Tempo run --> Tempo run --> Endurance run --> Tempo run --> Tempo run --> Slightly longer tempo run

“Tempo run” being the roughly equivalent of a Sweet Spot interval session. And yet, SSB-HV is exactly the above pattern. It’s very monochromatic. It’s the same workout, nearly every day, for 5 straight weeks. I have about 10hrs/week to train. SSB-HV requires 8.8 hour/wk. So in theory I could do it. But I’m not doing tempo intervals everyday for 5 weeks. But maybe that’s what cyclist do. Never mind polarized, it’s not even marginally varied in intensity distribution.

You can’t really (easily) get an idea about what it is about from Seiler’s work alone. From his work, it seems like it is actually about blurring the phases, like Bob Kennedy (the runner, not the Senator) used to do. You’re always working on ALL of it. It’s just some times during the year gets more attention than others. So basically, ye olde periodization.

True. He touches on it a bit here

(about half way through)

And he (Seiler) suggested to Trevor Connor on the Velonews podcast that he’d like to come back and “talk about intervals”. So we’ll see.


I just started listening to that very interview this morning on my way to work.

I think it’s been said before in one of the threads on here, that Seiler isn’t a coach trying to sell anybody his ideas or get them to sign up to a training plan - he’s just doing research. That, along with the fact that training isn’t, by and large, particularly prescriptive (despite what online coaching want you to believe) leads to a situation where the information isn’t as cut and dried as we’ve become used to.

That’s not to say that there isn’t bias in his work - he has a lot of time and reputation invested.


I think you can’t compare running tempo to sweet-spot, in the sense that the former is not as well defined by coaches as the latter. Sometimes they use (5K) pace as an anchor, other times % of HR, and sometimes some sort of RPE (i.e. “90% of maximum and feel comfortably hard”). I’m not even sure that tempo for runners who do 1500m is the same as for those who race 10Ks.

Sweet-spot on the other is a fairly (if abstractly) well-defined range based on a pretty objective metric (power) and on a set “anchor” (FTP, which a theoretical “hour” capacity).

Good point about the variance in SSB-HV, though SSB-LV and MV have over-unders thrown into the mix. I also believe I’ve heard coach Chad say that it’s almost always a good time to do suprathreshold sessions (if you think you can recover).

Cheers :slight_smile:

Running Equivalent to Sweet Spot Interval

Not polarized at all. Lots of aerobic base, and threshold work. Everything I’ve read, including here at TR, says you can never get enough base.


I am curious to see how much actual intensity the top athletes are doing during the offseason. The Lydiard approach, which is where much of this dogma of training came from, did absolutely no intensity except maybe some fartleks during the base phase. There were then two interval phases leading up to the major event/season. First a block of strength through hill work, and then a block of speed work just before the event. This is much like what Friel used to suggest as well, with the majority of intensity coming in build/peak. From an observational standpoint the 80/20 figure is in a large aggregate timeframe, not necessarily year round.


Don’t forget his two runs a week consisting of 10 mile @ marathon pace during base. That’s “intensity” although not higher than ftp. Hard runs nevertheless.



This graphic shows the zone distribution of Ingrid Christians over a year.


This one is from a top class skier.


So the skier is doing the same intensity year round while Ingrid was not. Although the skier data lumps all z3-5 together, we can see that Ingrid did not do VO2 max work until Feb/Mar/Apri, Tapers in April/May and does a lot during competition following a pretty standard race preparation periodization schedule.

Of note though is that late season, the percentage of intensity is higher for the skier, doing only about 10% of intensity during the offseason base period.


It’s good point about Z3 to 5 being lumped together for the skier.


I think I’m staring to realize something. Many folks on TR don’t think of work above aerobic threshold and below anaerobic threshold as “intensity”. Oh boy. :scream: