ST podcast with J Filliol


Yes, correct. Sounds like there are a lot of similarities. The difference is that the Norwegians do more “threshold”-intervals even on the run, whereas Filliol’s group do go faster than race pace when they are on the track (even though they limit the speed).

Great observation, you are correct. I have definitely made a shift in my thinking in this direction. I alluded to one of the reasons in the interview. It’s easy to study intensity and difficult to study volume (who wants to take part in a 5-year study??), which makes it tempting to put too much stock in intensity. But I’ve just found anecdotally, and coaches that I talk to on the podcast and outside of the podcast seem to see the same thing in many cases, that intensity can take you a good long way if you go from non-structured training or sub-optimally structured training to well-structured training where intensity has a major part to play. But, at some point there’s always a plateau that comes up against the athlete.

With a greater focus on volume and “chronic load” (although I don’t really like to think of that in terms of CTL or TSS anymore as much as purely hours spent training, to avoid the intensity trap) this plateau seems to come much later, and with lesser risks of obstacles along the way (injuries).

Yes, I would view the Tues, Thurs, Sat workouts as 3 intense, demanding workouts, and it’s not something I would do, at least not in a triathlon setting or in a distance running setting. I’ve only coached a couple of road cyclists so I won’t speak for pure cycling. I know in swimming one of the greatest coaches, Jan Olbrecht (the number of Olympic medals that guy has brought home is crazy, he is also very scientific and uses a lot of lactate testing) is also an advocate for limiting the number of intense workouts the same way.

For masters athletes, it’s always worth keeping in mind

  1. the additional need for recovery, so I would definitely not do 3 hard bike workouts per week (at least assuming the week will have 1-2 hard swims and runs)
  2. the declining VO2max needs to be countered, so there is a case for including some form of VO2 work most of the year (doesn’t have to be very chunky VO2 workouts at all times, some parts of the year the lighter maintenance ones will do)

Something I’ve changed in my use of TrainerRoad is how I select the easy workouts. Where previously I might have selected your typical endurance ride from any given plan, often with an IF of let’s say 0.7, now I actively seek out the much easier ones, that have 70% FTP as the maximum intensity in the workout (many of the 0.7 IF have periods of 80% FTP or so). I see no good reason to be even close to the maximum “permitted” easy intensity. It’s not as if I’m doing pure recovery workouts, but definitely the easiest of what you might call Z2 workouts.

In terms of heart rate, where my threshold heart rate on the bike is probably somewhere around 150 bpm and max HR around 175 (at least in winter) I want to do rides that keep me at 120 or so, no more than a couple of beats higher than that. With most of the endurance rides found in the plans this isn’t the case, I easily get into the high 120s, sometimes low 130s. So seeking out the right endurance workouts (for an hour of chilling on the bike, Colosseum -3 is a recent favourite) has been quite important for me personally, and I’ve also had positive feedback from my athletes when I start to give them workouts like this.

Just note that this is what I’m currently testing out, not something that I’ve landed on conclusively or have a lot of case studies and anecdotal evidence on by any means. So far so good, but I don’t want to make it sound like it’s “the way to go”.


Mikael - thank you very much for your comprehensive reply to my query. This is incredibly useful information and advice - invaluable to me personally as I have been trying to decide how best to change up my approach to enable me to push on from a current plateau (reached after 2yrs of riding - late starter). Everyone is different of course, but I had been coming to the view that I might be trying to cram too much intensity into the week - on top of increasing volume - and this might be where I am going wrong. Your comments give me clear direction on what changes I can usefully make - and not feel bad about cutting out some of the intense workouts.

1 Like

Just listened to episode 17

On vo2max training (while the question was on swimming I assume his response was more general): while time @ vo2max is a strong stimulus for developing aerobic capacity he does not recommend it. Especially under high chronic work load. He uses “indirect methods” to develop aerobic capacity but does not say what these are.

Anyone an idea?

Looking at all these studies that claim superiority of polarized training, the so called threshold groups (though they actually trained lower/mid tempo … if at all) still improved their measures related to aerobic capacity. However, all these were not really developed athletes. Probably any stimulus would help in this group. So what is JF talking about when he means “indirect methods”?


@sryke Perhaps ‘threshold’ (notwithstanding what you present from some of the literature), based on what he wrote here:

But I don’t know for certain. Just putting two and two together based on his emphasis on volume and frequency.


Higher intensity than threshold is often difficult to achieve when under a high overall work load, whereas threshold, tempo, or steady can be done effectively even when very fatigued. I agree that too much threshold could be ‘toxic’ but really it’s just a work load issue.


Yes, it must be something like threshold efforts, I came to the same conclusion as you.

I probably listened to all his older podcasts and read his older contributions. I find it partly difficult to tell where he developed further and what he still considers valid/important.

On the topic of not doing >threshold efforts, not sure about that either. Here is one of his athletes during the training camp from which he shared a lot of video snippets on twitter/facebook. These seem to be the hill intervals:

When looking into the Strava source code I can find a weight of 68.5 kg. Google tells me ~67kg. Whatever the exact weight, at least the later intervals are clearly above threshold.


I would love to!


I just listened to this podcast and I think there were so many quotes that were part of the ideology when I first started training. One of the biggest things he mentioned was that intensity should be done only up to the level of the desired adaptation. I think I had suggested the same thing to someone else the other week. I think I haven’t been following my own advice though doing 2 TR interval sessions on the bike and doing a hilly ride on the weekend. I have ended up paying the price for doing some hilly routes riding and running and not mentally logging them as “intensity”.

As far as going above threshold, he didn’t say that they don’t go above threshold, just not above what is appropriate for that particular athlete. So on the swim, that means some sort of repeatability for the swim intervals. He talked about some guys coming in at 1:06 /100m vs 1:10/100m. Both of those paces would be above race pace assuming the only reason they were doing them at 1:10 instead of 1:06 is because they were carrying a lot of fatigue.

Also, these guys are ~30 min 10k runners, so their running race pace is faster than threshold.