I often get concerned when elite athletes share their training with the amateur population. The typical response is either “I’ll never be good enough!” or “I need to do that (today)!” Neither response is the right one. Elites live in a world where training is their job (at least the top tier ones) which means fewer time restraints on their training and several recovery measures to help them bounce back faster than the rest of us. For most, we have restrictions on our training time, limited recovery, and additional stressors in life. Therefore, we must make the most of the training time we do have.
There are two well accepted models for training endurance athletes. The first is coined the Polorized Model which seeks to maximize workload by maximizing volume, rather than intensity. For the intensity that is done, this is mostly done above Lactate Threshold and kept under 20% of total volume. The second model – commonly referred to as the Threshold Model – seeks to maximize training hours by spending a large majority of time where the biggest gains can be had. Generally, this means going hard more often than the Polarized Model, and specifically spending a majority of that “hard” work at upper zone 3 to low zone 4 intensity. With the Threshold Model, there is still work in a variety of zones but the overall intensity is higher and a heavy dose of zone 3-4 work is given.
We find a large majority of elites with little limits on their training using the Polarized Model because they can take advantage of the benefits of heavy volume. We personally have found great success with our elites here. Working amateurs on the other hand will find limited return from the Polarized Model because time constraints will prevent them from getting the volume needed to make it successful. This leaves them with low volume + low intensity = low workload which is not a recipe for success.
Instead, if you are limited by time and life stress, you need to adopt the Threshold Model and increase your overall intensity to boost overall workload. This means more intensity overall. For example, if you have two hours to ride compared to the elite’s five hours, you better be going at a higher intensity.
Before I close, a couple things need to be said. I understand most elites are still very time crunched as most still have to work to provide for themselves and their families while preparing to race against other elites with limited time restraints which should be applauded. These elites will likely find success in either the Threshold Model or a blend of the two models. Additionally, please don’t go crazy with intensity tomorrow if you have not been going hard very much up to this point. You must build into it and allow your body to get used to the greater workload.
Next time you read one of those elite workouts, just remember this article and be confident in your training!
Be More. Live Red.
Endorphin Fitness Founder &
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