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  1. #1
    LMN
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    Intervals waste of time?

    I am always changing how I train my athletes. A couple of years ago my programs had a lot of intensity in them, over the past couple of years I have been gradually decreasing the intensity and increasing the volume.

    This year I have removed most structured intensity from my programs. Other than a couple of interval sessions (of which the reps were longer in duration) and some good old fashion hard mountain bike rides there has been no intensity. Yet as race season approaches I am seeing more than one athlete do PBs in their testing. Not just a PB in a 20 minute test but a PB in a 2 minute test.

    I have observed this in the past too. It seems that most athletes that I have worked with get the biggest gains from an volume block that has minimal intensity.

    So, are the highly structured "scientific" programs necessary/beneficial, or perhaps, to quote Eddie Merkx, "ride lots" is the best way to train.
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  2. #2
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    +1

    I think you are on to something. Lots of people think you need to run yourself into the ground with anaerobic intervals, even though the gains plateau quickly - and some people will do these year round on top of it.

    As stated in #1 in Hunter Allen article below.
    Peaks Coaching: Take Your Performance to the Next Level

    Admittedly, this off season I followed something closer #2 due to time constraints
    Preparing for first MTB race of the season

    LMN - what kind of weekly hours are you talking about? What was an example of a structured intensity workout?

  3. #3
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    LMN, I have enjoyed reading your comments over the past few years. The only athlete I train is myself, for the past 20 years. I too have reduced the use of intervals the last 10 months. Adding more endurance rides, setting my training heart rate using the Phil Maffetone method. The effort is very comfortable and I must say I enjoy them. I don't dread the workouts as I sometimes did with multiple days of intervals. My race results have improved, including many PRs. I read everything about training that I can find. Have you read any of Maffetone's writings? He also trained the great triathlete Mark Allen. Check out this link about how to figure the Maffetone training zone. Articles
    dm

  4. #4
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    The Mark Allen article seems to indicate that the gains from doing just aerobic work will plateau after a time (likely depending on how aerobically fit you already are), at which point you have reintroduce intensity work to your training.

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    And from what I've read, you wil plateau after a period of intervals, at which point you will have to reintroduce base miles again. Hopefully getting fitter each cycle. Tommyrod, what did you think of the suggested heart rate in the article ?
    dm

  6. #6
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    Well Eddy might be right, I been training 3 people on our team, one a pro junior and two masters. All three are going faster than ever. We do some intervals, but the type and quantity, goes according to if it is before the race or after the race.

    A lot of riding to recover and rest. Racing provides a lot of interval work according to the power files I seen from my junior. 60 surges of 500 watts in a 90 minute race is a lot of intesity, doing 2 or 3 races per month.

    Th plateau comes regardless of what you do, the human adapts to anything. So I belief in some shock every once in a while, either rest or a overreaching block. But thats just me.

  7. #7
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    For me, it's not necessarily the high end power that intervals help with, it's repeatability.

    When I was racing on the road, it wasn't my massive power that "cracked the field" when trying to get a break up the road, it was my ability to launch multiple times within a 10 minute span, get a gap once people really started hurting, and then drive a break.

    Same thing on the MTB. I probably won't get away from most people on the first 2-3min climb, but 5 climbs later, I can go again at the same intensity as the first one.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by dmassey View Post
    And from what I've read, you wil plateau after a period of intervals, at which point you will have to reintroduce base miles again. Hopefully getting fitter each cycle. Tommyrod, what did you think of the suggested heart rate in the article ?
    I did the math for myself and got 145 for a HR by that method. I have to admit I don't use HR during workouts usually, just power.

    I admit it is very tempting to think of only doing long rides at that HR (I do regular FTP intervals for 20-40 min at ~175 bpm iirc from when I used HR). Much less stressful

    My only concern is a practical one: with a job, wife and daughter I have 10-12 hrs per week at the very most to train. Dunno if that is sufficient volume at a lower intensity like the article prescribes. 145 bpm corresponds to mid-high zone 2 for me by power.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by LMN View Post
    I am always changing how I train my athletes. A couple of years ago my programs had a lot of intensity in them, over the past couple of years I have been gradually decreasing the intensity and increasing the volume.

    This year I have removed most structured intensity from my programs. Other than a couple of interval sessions (of which the reps were longer in duration) and some good old fashion hard mountain bike rides there has been no intensity. Yet as race season approaches I am seeing more than one athlete do PBs in their testing. Not just a PB in a 20 minute test but a PB in a 2 minute test.

    I have observed this in the past too. It seems that most athletes that I have worked with get the biggest gains from an volume block that has minimal intensity.

    So, are the highly structured "scientific" programs necessary/beneficial, or perhaps, to quote Eddie Merkx, "ride lots" is the best way to train.
    Yes and no with a caveat for both. As a full time coach with N>100 over the past 5 or so years of experience, it really all depends.

    -Yes, you can pull away intervals from the athletes who have the time to 'ride lots' and leave it unstructured. A good amount of volume dosed with some spirited group rides and racing will keep them both motivated and focused and also well rested.

    -No, in that majority athletes haven't laid down the ground work to get to that point. Introducing structure and intervals will help them achieve fitness quicker and faster than 'ride lots' For the guy/gal who started in Late winter and riding the trainer most of the time, they need the added intensity to ramp up for a spring start. As they get fitter and stronger, I will remove the intervals...

    However, you must be careful. I've seen it happen to athletes and myself personally. You remove all 'work' and ride hard group rides and races. You can fall into the trap of not pushing yourself hard enough. Races don't always traditionally see the best PB's (due to high all around intensity). Sometimes you need a good ol' isolated effort or going back to that favorite climb and pushing yourself that extra few seconds to the top.

    The Protour guys and champions who have rolled through our facility (and there have been more than a few being in Boulder, CO: the past few seasons are doing intervals and supramax efforts combined with loads of riding. Something must be working
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  10. #10
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    Sproketjockey, when you refer to the Protour riders doing intervals and "loads of riding", is the loads of riding done at the much lower effort? Also, I read and enjoy the articles on the FastCat site. Thanks
    dm

  11. #11
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    Yes, they do a very large percentage of riding at what most people would consider a bit easy (zone 2/3). But then again, they are riding larger volume day in and day out (dependent on their race schedule of course). They are also holding consistent wattage at the end of these longer rides and accruing a pretty large training stress. Something the typical lay person has trouble doing on a 10-15 hour training schedule. Even with the lower volume training, its primarily about the training stress incurred from the rides. That is the magic fairy dust....

    One of the more common things we've been asked to do lately is for them they go ride 4-5 hours and then have someone meet them and motopace them the final hour or so at full gas. They want to pre-fatigue themselves with a large training dose and then do the work at the end. (Though this is mostly for the cream at the very top, most 'regular' pros will just grab a moto and thats all. Big difference)
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  12. #12
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    Im liking what I am reading.
    This has been my approach to this XC season after an interval heavy CX season. I have had good results with both approaches, but much less fatigue with volume. Still getting some intensity in the form of fast group road rides, fast MTB rides, and obviously races on the weekends.

    its definitely more fun than intervals... And more fun is always a good thing.
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  13. #13
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    Another interesting article, this one written by Phil Maffetone. His books/articles are loaded with good info. Here's the link: Phil Maffetone, www.philmaffetone.com - 180-Formula
    dm

  14. #14
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    Intervals waste of time?

    You can get faster without intervals, bit you can't get fast. "Fast" takes practice time at high turnover and intense heart rate .... Is my experience.

  15. #15
    LMN
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    When I say "Intervals waste of time" take that with a grain of salt. The athletes I am working with are still doing interval sessions, but not that many. Probably 5-10 interval sessions to date. Recently they are averaging about one a week.

    What am I talking about for volumes? Well it depends on the athlete, I am tending to look at monthly volume instead of weekly volume (I think it gives a better read of training load). The younger athletes and time constrained athletes are doing 40-55hrs. Where as some of elite athletes are peaking around 90hrs, but most are averaging around 70-80hr.

    As I said the testing results are impressive and despite doing minimal intensity the early race season results are good. Really good.
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by LMN View Post
    When I say "Intervals waste of time" take that with a grain of salt. The athletes I am working with are still doing interval sessions, but not that many. Probably 5-10 interval sessions to date. Recently they are averaging about one a week.

    What am I talking about for volumes? Well it depends on the athlete, I am tending to look at monthly volume instead of weekly volume (I think it gives a better read of training load). The younger athletes and time constrained athletes are doing 40-55hrs. Where as some of elite athletes are peaking around 90hrs, but most are averaging around 70-80hr.

    As I said the testing results are impressive and despite doing minimal intensity the early race season results are good. Really good.
    I guess when you are talking about how many interval sessions your athletes have done to date, I should ask how long they have been racing this season. We start here in NC in early March...

    Is this approach working as well for your younger/volume limited athletes? I (and most others I know) have to fit training in around work, family, etc. and though I have gotten 2 or 3 14 hour weeks in this year (a huge challenge with the cold wet weather we've had), 10 or so is where I usually average out per week.

  17. #17
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    I find the whole proposition very interesting. After all these years of competition in all the sports, training, lab tests, studies, etc. etc. really, no one really seems to know the definite answer…

    A lot of training schedules are very, very specific (I wonder how any mountain biker can possibly do some of these programmes unless they never leave the turbo!) and to me that exactness seems rather prescriptive if the basic principles underlying them are still somewhat in doubt….

    Even in the same event (ironman Tri) you can read about the completely different training strategies of two big champions: Mark Allen (huge aerobic base, massive volume) vs. Chrissie Wellington (more high-intensity no training session over 2 hours)

    I wonder if the core idea is that we are trying to change ourselves from a machine for sitting at a desk into a machine for cycling and maybe at some fundamental level, the more time we spend simply turning the pedals, the more signals to change and adapt we give to the body as a proportion of our waking hours? Could it be that simple?

    Younger / time constrained: 40-55 hrs per month
    Elites: 70-90 hrs per month
    Doesn’t that in itself say something? I know it’s a bit chicken and egg…but (genetics aside) are they elites because they do 80 hrs or do they do 80 hrs because they are elites?
    Last edited by jimification; 05-13-2013 at 03:29 PM.

  18. #18
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    Excellent points here, but it seems to be all based on available time.

    If you're short on time (5 hours a week, for example), then zone 2-only training will not induce the training load to create improved performance.

    But most people will realize that short-hard, low volume training plans are limited. 3 months typical to a plateau.

    My best season were pretty proportional to larger training hours. A couple of good coaches really taught me how to plan those hours for better success. It seems I had to ride easier than I was, but just longer. But 15 hours per week (carefully planned heavy weeks) is all this old man can take.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by sprocketjockey9 View Post
    One of the more common things we've been asked to do lately is for them they go ride 4-5 hours
    I thought I was doing good if I got that many hours in a week...

  20. #20
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    Based on my experience, I felt the best the year I averaged 25 hours/week for 4 months straight. When your average ride for the year is over 70 miles doing a 3 hour race is a breeze. I wish I had the time to do those hours now, but having a job cuts into the unlimited biking time.

    With a lot less mileage, but more intervals, I do a lot better with repeated efforts at 120%+ over my threshold

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    I must be the oddity; I'm 'training' 4-8 hours per week, which makes me very time constrained (self employed, 2 small kids will do that), but I'm having success in C2 mtb after quite some time off, those races are only about an hour. I don't do proper intervals, but my training loop is a 10 minute warmup, then a 25 minute rough trail loop with 4 hard short hills (1 to 2 minutes, up to a 180-185 bpm and the highest i can ever hit is 192) and quite a few very short smaller ups and downs). 1 to 3 laps there and ride hard back home for 5 min on a slight incline, then easy 5 min cool down spin before situps/pullups/pushups and stretch, this 3-4 x per week. Like somebody said above, quick recovery from repeated hard efforts is very helpful.

  22. #22
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    I like this type of thread!
    I use very minimal structure in my training. In fact, I use no structure other than hard med. and easy to log my efforts (strava pulls other things out that seem to help keep intensity high if I know of a timed section). I try to ride 15 hrs a week but generally digress into an 11-13 hr week. This has been my standard for a minimum of ten years now. I have tried to implement intervals over the past 6 years and feel that I have slowly gotten worse. family and work have become increasingly more time consuming but I dont think I can use them as a legit excuse... I have time and lack drive from time to time for the hard efforts.
    This year all rides are hard. I am not doing any medium or slow stuff other than family and kid riding. I do no intervals but have hill climbs in rides that change up from 3-5-10-20-40min to 1hr. 2 hrs daily during the week and 3 plus hours riding sat sun if no races. I only have one race to judge by but it went well considering I had about 4 mechanicals that each involved about a minute of down time and trying to get by the same peeps over and over again. In the end, I was 10 off of the fastest guy and I am a SS'er. It felt good. This is the first year that I have gone away from trying to do intervals to be a fast guy in 6-7 years. I think it was more stress thinking about doing them than anything. I think that worrying about how I did my intensity took away my motivation for a great bike ride. I love riding my bike and seem to love riding in fast. I have more motivation now than I have had in a long time. I think that structured training is for some and not others. If you thrive on structure intervals probably work, if you despise structure, I think it will stress a person to the point of saying f*&k it, I'll go climbing/hiking..etc and drink beer!
    Disclaimer: all of my training ideas are from MTBR and the training bible. I have more faith in the subjective pondering than the absolute thinking, and this forum has been and is a wealth of knowledge to me. I think there are some smart folks on here.
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  23. #23
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    Intervals waste of time?

    Quote Originally Posted by LMN View Post
    This year I have removed most structured intensity from my programs. Other than a couple of interval sessions (of which the reps were longer in duration) and some good old fashion hard mountain bike rides there has been no intensity. Yet as race season approaches I am seeing more than one athlete do PBs in their testing. Not just a PB in a 20 minute test but a PB in a 2 minute test.
    Advocating Long Steady Distance over structured intensity work sounds just like a return to the training methods of the 1970s and early 1980s.

    This article about running seems quite apt and applies to cycling too: the idea that training theories go in cycles. They become popular, fall out of fashion but then after a few decades can come back into vogue again.

    http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2010...-training.html

    Another example of these cycles would be fluid intake. Go back several decades and the idea of drinking lots of fluid whilst exercising wasn't widespread at all. One bottle of cold tea would do whatever the length of ride, just drinking when thirsty.

    Then you have the shift towards drinking large quantities of fluid during exercise (the famous advice to drink before you're thirsty that everyone is familiar with nowadays), followed by a questioning of that and the idea that actually the drink when thirsty approach may be worthwhile after all.

    http://www.amazon.com/Waterlogged-Se...9916998-486342

    .

  24. #24
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    jimification: I know it’s a bit chicken and egg…but (genetics aside) are they elites because they do 80 hrs or do they do 80 hrs because they are elites?

    I assure you that they are elites because of genetics, not because of 80 hour months. Always remember that genetics determine your potential and training determines how close you get to your potential. In other words, genetics is the main factor that drives both response to training and tolerance to volume.

    But as LMN mentioned, intervals are not literally a waste. They are probably still a valuable training tool, but with large volume of training, they can be greatly reduced, even more so when racing regularly. That is how I read it.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by LMN View Post
    The younger athletes and time constrained athletes are doing 40-55hrs. Where as some of elite athletes are peaking around 90hrs, but most are averaging around 70-80hr.
    Wow, those are huge hours (I track my monthly hours in a calendar). ~50 is normal for me, but 70-80 is pretty ridiculous. I once did a 70 hour month when i wasn't working, and I got sick after that; but a few months after that won my first race ever.
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