Category: Training Center

Training Center: Why heart rate shouldn’t be ignored

While power meters have revolutionized training methods in the past decade, the humble heart rate monitor remains a key component to getting the most out of your workouts.

The arrival of affordable power meters in the early 2000s heralded a revolution in cycling. Every coach and athlete with the resources got onboard the “power-is-everything” train, often tossing the old clumsy heart rate strap aside. In the frenzy, no one investigated whether power was actually a better training tool.

That is, not until two studies explored that claim. The first, conducted in 2009 by the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, used 21 well-trained cyclists. Half did intervals by power, the other half by heart rate. Statistically, the gains were equal but the group training with heart rate showed “a greater probability of a beneficial effect.” The second study, published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine in 2011, likewise found equal improvement in 11 recreational cyclists. Both research teams concluded that a power meter was not necessarily a better training tool.

Still, many coaches argue that a power meter is more precise and provides more immediate feedback to changes in effort. That’s true, but treating it as a replacement for heart rate assumes it measures the same aspects of training.

That’s a mistake, says prominent physiologist Dr. Iñigo San Millán, former director of the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center. “With watts, we’re just looking at the end product, which is mechanical energy,” San Millán says. “But we might be missing what happens at the chemical or metabolic level.”

Put another way, power meters measure what’s happening with the bike. But heart rate measures the individual. Ultimately it’s the individual that needs to be trained.

Svein Tuft (Mitchelton-Scott) agrees, saying it can be dangerous to seek an arbitrary power number. “Watts are definitely a huge help,” Tuft says, “but it’s more important to understand your body and where you’re at in that moment rather than try to live up to some impossible expectation.”

Blood lactate is perhaps the best measure of what’s going on metabolically, but there is no on-the-road lactate monitor.

Fortunately, San Millán has thousands of data points showing that heart rate directly correlates with lactate, making it a great representation of what’s happening in the body. For example, riding at a heart rate just above or below maximal lactate steady state (MLSS) or anaerobic threshold offers distinct metabolic stresses.

Of course, you can identify your power at MLSS, but since it’s not a physiological measure, that number can vary dramatically through the season — up to 60 watts according to a 2000 study conducted by respected physiologist Alejandro Lucia. Threshold heart rate doesn’t change.

As a training metric, heart rate does have its limitations compared to power. You can’t say, “I’m riding at 185 beats per minute — I’m going to crush it this year!” But if you’re climbing 50 watts higher than last season and 30 watts better than your competition (all other things remaining equal), you can make that claim.

Ultimately, using a power meter and heart rate monitor in combination makes for a more complete toolbox. While power indicates how strong you’re riding, heart rate tells the metabolic cost of those watts. So, train by power zones but use heart rate to measure how your body is responding.

Building a more complete toolbox

Neither a heart rate monitor nor a power meter is beneficial unless they’re used right. Here are a few tips for making the most of whatever you keep in your toolbox.

Get accurate zones

No matter if you rely on watts or beats per minute, use this data within the context of your training zones and physiology. European-based pro ’cross racer Elle Anderson says that finding your heart rate at anaerobic threshold or MLSS is most important. In-lab testing is best, but an on-the-road time trial can work in a pinch.

Use heart rate’s consistency

Your power at threshold will change throughout the season, but heart rate won’t. Look for changes in your power-at-threshold heart rate to gauge your fitness. A gradual increase in your power relative to your heart rate means you’re getting stronger.

Race with heart rate

In most races, power can fluctuate dramatically due to accelerations out of corners, terrain, barriers, and responding to moves. This is one reason Anderson finds racing by heart rate to be more useful. “If it’s the first 20 minutes of a race and I look down and see my heart rate is pinned close to my max, that helps me to understand whether I need to back off the pace,” she says.

Do intervals by power zones; gauge with heart rate

Heart rate is slow to respond to increased efforts, making it hard to use for intervals under five minutes and useless for those under one minute. But heart rate is a great gauge for work at or below threshold. This work should be metabolically sustainable, says San Millán, meaning your heart rate should plateau. If your heart rate steadily rises during the effort, you’re targeting too high a wattage.

Gauge fatigue with morning heart rate

Because it’s a physiological measurement, heart rate can do something else that power can’t: indicate fatigue. One of the first signs of overtraining is a rise in your waking heart rate. Get a baseline when you’re rested. Then measure your heart rate regularly while still in bed. A rise of four or more beats per minute at rest suggests you may need to take a day off.

Gauge fatigue with heart rate and power

Using both power and heart rate provides a great way to gauge overtraining on the bike. When we are tired, our heart rate will drop relative to power, especially at higher intensities. If Anderson notices that her legs are tired and her heart rate is lower than normal for a given wattage, she backs off and rests.

Get advanced with heart rate variability (HRV)

HRV is becoming a common capability of new heart rate monitors. This is a measure of how variable the time interval between beats is, usually taken at rest. Both too much and too little variability are signs of being over-reached. A recent study by the Research Institute of Olympic Sports in Finland compared classically periodized runners to runners who trained by HRV. This HRV group was only prescribed high-intensity work when their seven-day HRV average was within the rested range. The HRV group did significantly fewer interval sessions over the four weeks but improved their 3,000-meter run time two percent while the traditionally trained group did not.

Use heart rate on long rides

Suppose you did a four-hour ride at a steady 160 watts. You might start the ride holding 145 beats per minute, but hours later your heart might be pumping 20 beats faster. This is known as cardiac drift. If you ride by power alone, you may be in the right physiological range initially but not at the end. Sticking to a heart rate range will keep you at the right intensity the entire ride.

Recognize artifacts when comparing the two

Since watts are a mechanical measurement, they remain static. 400 watts is always 400 watts. But a heart rate of 150 beats per minute doesn’t always mean the same thing. Many other factors can affect your heart rate. Fatigue lowers heart rate relative to power. Heat, dehydration, stress on race day, and cardiac drift all raise it. Coaches and athletes who prescribe to a power-only training method call these “artifacts.” In reality, they are important pieces of physiological bio-data that can help your training.

Flu warning

If your heart rate is abnormally high and you’ve ruled out everything else, remember a high heart rate appears a day or two before flu symptoms.

Trevor Connor is a long-time cycling coach and elite racer. He holds degrees in exercise physiology and nutrition from Colorado State University. He has served many roles in cycling, from team manager to coach at the National Centre in Canada.

Subscribe to VeloNews magazine for more >>

Read the full article at Training Center: Why heart rate shouldn’t be ignored on

Fast Talk podcast, ep. 54: Applying the polarized training model, with Dr. Seiler

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

IN EPISODE 51, which we published several weeks ago, we had the chance to speak with Jay-Z — or at least the Jay-Z of the exercise physiology world, Dr. Stephen Seiler. We took a deep dive into the polarized model of endurance training … or so we thought.

We probably received more questions about that episode than any other episode to date. Many of you wanted to know more about how to execute a polarized training plan. We thought about doing a special episode to answer all of your questions, but instead, we begged and pleaded with Dr. Seiler to share a lovely late-summer Norwegian afternoon with us. He generously obliged.

During our conversation, we discussed:

  1. Why cycling is an aerobic sport
  2. What is meant by the two thresholds LT1 and LT2 and how to determine yours, both in terms of power and heart rate. Dr. Seiler provides a test protocol to determine LT2, which may sound very similar to Neal Henderson’s test that was described in episode 33, “Is FTP dead?”
  3. Why it’s important not to over-estimate LT1 or LT2, and how to use them to determine your zones in a three-zone model.
  4. The specifics of zone 1 training: how long, how much, how easy? We take a deep dive into what zone 1 training is all about, why it’s important to keep those rides easy, and the value of long rides.
  5. Finally, we discuss the 80-20 principle of the polarized model and how to put it into practice to map out your week.

One thing to note: A lot of listeners asked for example numbers to help them better understand the polarized approach. We chose to use Trevor’s numbers for a few reasons. First, he’s a big believer in polarized training and has much success with it. Second, he’s a very aerobically developed cyclist. Third, like many of you, he’s a master’s rider with limited time to train. Finally, the data was readily available allowing us to give example numbers throughout.

Our featured guest is, of course, Dr. Stephen Seiler, a professor of sports science in Norway, where he has lived for over 20 years. He sits on the executive board of the well-respected European University College for Sports Science. It was his groundbreaking research that helped define the polarized model.

We also hear from Dr. John Hawley, another prominent name in the exercise science world from Australia. His research over the past few decades has helped to define endurance sports training and nutrition. He talks with us about one of the important, but lesser-known, gains of long rides.

Finally, we speak with Kiel Reijnen of the Trek-Segafredo WorldTour team. Kiel spoke with us about why even pros sometimes prefer two-a-day rides.

So, are you ready to know what going easy really means? Ready to understand what some of the great endurance athletes are doing to train? Are you ready to get polarized? Well, let’s make you fast!

Fast Talk is available on all your favorite podcast services, including iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Soundcloud. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a moment to rate and comment on iTunes after listening.

Read the full article at Fast Talk podcast, ep. 54: Applying the polarized training model, with Dr. Seiler on

Training Center: How to find late-season form

For some of us, the end of the racing season is the best part of the year. Late-season events are a just reward for the many months of hard work and grinding intervals.

“I just feel more relaxed,” says two-time U.S. national time trial champion Joey Rosskopf (BMC Racing). “You know where your fitness is at. It might not be good, but at least you know.”

For others, though, the end of the year couldn’t come sooner. The excitement of early-season races is a distant memory, and so is the enthusiasm. Even if there is a reason to keep racing, tired legs make another month or two seem daunting.

Thankfully, reviving your form for one last push late in the season is not about trudging through more intervals. In fact, those intense workouts may be what led to a dip in form in the first place.

Successfully extending your season is, rather, about two things: adding a little more fun to your training and carefully managing fatigue, according to Houshang Amiri, head coach of the Pacific Cycling Centre and an expert coach at the UCI’s World Cycling Center. Our bodies simply can’t tolerate what they could in March, he says.

First, it’s helpful to understand that there are several forms of fatigue. Acute fatigue takes place after a hard training block or late night of partying. It’s easy to resolve. A more chronic form of fatigue can build over time and potentially lead to burnout. Finally, at the end of a race season, you are particularly susceptible to monotony and a loss of enthusiasm.

“Usually if you see those signs of fatigue, they come from unmotivated athletes,” Amiri says. “Keep the motivation level up and everything is going to work.”

Nowadays, there are several ways to monitor fatigue. Many forms of training software track the balance between training stress and recovery. Amiri has found these metrics to be surprisingly effective and easy for athletes to follow.

Beyond that, Amiri looks for a noticeable drop in 30-second all-out power (compared to an athlete’s data when fresh) for signs of neuromuscular fatigue. Similarly, a depressed heart rate — one that seems sluggish and doesn’t hit normal values while training — can indicate fatigue.

Resting heart rate and heart rate variability are also popular measures of fatigue. Recent research, however, is finding these indicators are not as definitive as we thought. A 2016 review of over-training measures in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found a low correlation with fatigue. The main finding of the review was that subjective measures — particularly mood disturbance, perceived stress, and perceived recovery — were better indicators than objective measures like heart rate, for both acute and chronic overtraining.

The question remains how to differentiate debilitating chronic fatigue from the beneficial acute form. The subjective symptoms of each type are very similar. New research suggests a drop in performance or power numbers in over-reached athletes may be the best indicator.

In a 2014 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, acutely fatigued athletes and over-reached, underperforming athletes performed a taper. The former group experienced a large peak in form after two weeks, indicating significant training adaptations had occurred after the taper. The over-reached group had minor improvements, which may have had less to do with adaptation and more with getting needed rest. At all points in the taper, the over-reached athletes performed worse than even control athletes.

Therefore, if your performance is waning at the end of the season, training harder may not be the solution. It may just dig you deeper into a hole.

Both Amiri and Rosskopf see the late season as a time to focus on maintaining form. According to Amiri, preserving 90 to 95 percent is fairly easy to do. A 2001 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed just how little it takes. Trained cyclists reduced both their volume and intensity 50 percent for 21 days and experienced no decline in their sub-maximal and maximal performance.

Rosskopf emphasizes that a lot of people won’t recognize if they are tired in August, and will try to train harder. “But, you can only do yourself a benefit by riding easy,” he says. “I just coast it out. Usually I come really good again. I just let all the racing soak in.”

Finding late-season form

Monitoring fatigue, reducing training load, and having fun are the best ways to get a bit more out of the legs.

Test yourself
Research has found that questionnaires are quite effective at assessing subjective fatigue. Two validated scoring systems are the Profile of Moods State (POMS) and Recovery-Stress Questionnaire for Athletes (RESTQ). Free versions are available online. Taking either one weekly can help you track both chronic and acute fatigue.

The right rest
If you’re tired from the weekend race or a night out on the town, a couple nights of good sleep may be all you need, according to Rosskopf. If you’re fatigued from a long season of training and racing, however, then you need to stop digging a hole. Hard training is the reason you’re tired. A couple weeks of easy riding may be appropriate before continuing with your season.

Watch for a drop
Remember, by themselves subjective signs of fatigue don’t mean you’re over-reached. However, if you’re exhibiting them along with a drop in performance or neuromuscular power, you may need a bigger rest.

Plan ahead
There’s only so much you can do when reacting to end-of-season fatigue. The best way to address it, Amiri says, is to plan for it from the start. When you’re building your yearly training plan, incorporate a late-season active rest period of a week (or longer), followed by a rebuild period.

Regularly adjust
“Your yearly training plan is a live plan,” Amiri says. Even if your entire season is mapped out, you should constantly adjust workloads based on your fatigue state. This makes monitoring your objective and subjective measures of fatigue essential.

Build motivation
Performing well late in the season has a lot to do with overcoming monotony and staleness. “You usually don’t see athletes complaining about fatigue if they are motivated,” Amiri says. Setting and believing in goals, such as an end-of-season race or PR, is internally motivating.

Change it up
By August, few cyclists can even think about another set of Tabata intervals. Changing the routine is sometimes all you need. A new training environment can work wonders, according to Amiri. Try new roads or training partners.

Train with races
Races give you intensity without the monotony of intervals. Rosskopf enjoys them because he only needs to ride easy for an hour or two the rest of the week. “I feel like I’m benefiting my performance if I’m doing a coffee-shop ride every day that I’m not racing,” he says.

Read the full article at Training Center: How to find late-season form on

Fast Talk podcast, ep. 53: From collegiate racing to the WorldTour in three years, with Sepp Kuss

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

LAST FALL TREVOR AND I CONDUCTED a not-so-controlled study on climbing, and we had the help of a young, talented Colorado rider. His name? Sepp Kuss. At the time of our little experiment, Kuss was about to head to Europe for a training camp with his new WorldTour team, Lotto-NL Jumbo. Curiously, Kuss almost didn’t do the study because he was worried his times up the climbs would be embarrassingly slow. Then, on a brisk November day, he proceeded to set the second fastest Strava time up the famous Flagstaff climb in Boulder. (He’s since been bumped down to third by Lachlan Morton.)

We knew then there was something special about Kuss. It didn’t take him much longer to dramatically prove that point to the rest of the world. Last week at the Tour of Utah, Sepp made the competition look like a bunch of amateurs, dominating the race like never before, winning three stages on his way to the overall title. Now, he’s off to the Vuelta to make his grand tour debut.

This spring we recorded a podcast with Sepp about what it was like going from domestic U.S. racing to the WorldTour. The theme we tried to bring out was the struggle of jumping to the highest level and the need to persist when your first year is such a grind. So much for that theme… Yet, despite his meteoric rise, there’s really one word we would use to describe this interview: humble.

There’s also some great advice about training, raising your level, and the value of persistence. So, in honor of Kuss’s Tour of Utah win, we present this interview. In it, we talk with him about:

  1. His career so far, and since Kuss did his first road race just three years ago, this part will be short
  2. What his spring was like in Europe, and surviving his first big race: the Tour of the Basque Country
  3. The mental side of stepping up to a higher level and getting beat up over and over again
  4. A comparison of training in the WorldTour versus the domestic peloton
  5. Finally, we have a long discussion with Kuss about something that may surprise you: his focus on the process rather than the results

We’ll also hear from Joe Dombrowski, a leader of the EF Education First-Drapac WorldTour team. Dombrowski was one of Kuss’s chief rivals at the Tour of Utah this year and won the race himself back in 2015. The discussion will serve as a good comparison of how the two riders train.

So, get some popcorn, pull up the highlight reel of the Tour of Utah, smile along as Sepp dances away from the competition. Let’s make you fast!

Fast Talk is available on all your favorite podcast services, including iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Soundcloud. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a moment to rate and comment on iTunes after listening.

Read the full article at Fast Talk podcast, ep. 53: From collegiate racing to the WorldTour in three years, with Sepp Kuss on

Fast Talk podcast, ep. 52: Enhancing recovery with NormaTec

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

IF YOU’RE A LONGTIME LISTENER of Fast Talk, you’ve probably noticed a theme emerge time and time again: To maximize performance you need to be as intense in your recovery as you are in your training. Put another way, the more you want to train, the better your recovery needs to be.

Of course, proper recovery requires good sleep, good nutrition, and good rest. Many athletes look for ways to aid or enhance that process. This has led some to take up pain-relieving approaches that may actually interfere with recovery.

The science on recovery has changed significantly in recent years. For a time almost purely focused on reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS), now the science recognizes that inflammation and some discomfort is a necessary part of recovery, and the best recovery tools aid this process.

The tools that seem to do this best are within the compression categories of recovery, including massage, cold water therapy, and compression gear.

Today, we’re sitting down with two guests from our sponsor NormaTec to discuss recovery in depth. NormaTec is a medical devices company that also crafts inflatable compression wear for athletes. Are they Space legs? Moon boots? You’ve probably seen them on the legs of cyclist friends or pros. Research has shown this type of recovery enhancement can have significant impacts on a host of factors, both molecular and circulatory. We’ll get to that in a bit.

In episode 52 we’ll cover:

  1. The current research on recovery: how it’s changing and why getting out of the way of our bodies and letting them do their thing is often best.
  2. We’ll also touch upon those areas where the body doesn’t always do a great job and may need some help. This includes venous return, edema, and excess inflammation.
  3. We’ll zero in on compression therapies which have been showing benefits and explain these sophisticated tools called external pneumatic compression.
  4. Our guests will talk specifically about NormaTec: how the founder, a doctor, was looking to help her patients with vascular issues when she hatched the plan to create the company and the device; we’ll also discuss some promising recent studies.
  5. And we’ll warn you now, we’ll go a little deep in the weeds about NormaTec’s effects on inflammation, and whether they’re beneficial or inhibitory.
  6. Finally, if you decide to give the recovery boots a try, we’ll give some tips on when, where, and how to do so.

Our primary guests today are two members of the NormaTec team: John Aquadro is NormaTec’s VP of Technology and Operations. He is an MIT trained molecular biologist who left the lab bench to help NormaTec develop its technology and systems. Also joining us is Matt Curbeau, NormaTec’s accounting wizard, who is a former professional triathlete and currently competes at the elite amateur level in road racing and cyclocross.

In addition we’ll hear from Frank Overton, the owner of FastCat coaching here in Boulder, Colorado. Frank and Trevor had a conversation about recovery modalities and compression gear. Frank definitely enjoys what he likes to call his “space legs” — he keeps a pair at his center for his athletes.

We’ll also share part of a discussion that Trevor had with Dr. Andrew Peterson, associate professor of pediatrics and the director of primary care sports medicine at the University of Iowa. Dr. Peterson wrote a review covering the most common recovery modalities and how effective they appear to be.

Lastly, we’ll hear from NormaTec devotee Toms Skujins of the Trek-Segafredo WorldTour team.

So, sit back, zip up your space legs, select your compression level, feel the pulses coursing through your body… Let’s make you fast!

Fast Talk is available on all your favorite podcast services, including iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Soundcloud. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a moment to rate and comment on iTunes after listening. Also, check out the VeloNews Cycling Podcast, our weekly discussion of the sport’s hottest topics, trends, and controversies.


  • Kephart, W.C., et al., A single bout of whole-leg, peristaltic pulse external pneumatic compression upregulates PGC-1alpha mRNA and endothelial nitric oxide sythase protein in human skeletal muscle tissue. Exp Physiol, 2015. 100(7): p. 852-64.
  • Haun, C.T., et al., Does external pneumatic compression treatment between bouts of overreaching resistance training sessions exert differential effects on molecular signaling and performance-related variables compared to passive recovery? An exploratory study. Plos One, 2017. 12(6): p. 24.
  • Peake, J.M., et al., Muscle damage and inflammation during recovery from exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985), 2017. 122(3): p. 559-570.
  • Chazaud, B., Inflammation during skeletal muscle regeneration and tissue remodeling: application to exercise-induced muscle damage management. Immunol Cell Biol, 2016. 94(2): p. 140-5.
  • Waters-Banker, C., et al., Investigating the mechanisms of massage efficacy: the role of mechanical immunomodulation. J Athl Train, 2014. 49(2): p. 266-73.
  • Peterson, A.R., et al., Basic recovery aids: what’s the evidence? Curr Sports Med Rep, 2015. 14(3): p. 227-34.
  • Martin, J.S., et al., Impact of external pneumatic compression target inflation pressure on transcriptome-wide RNA expression in skeletal muscle. Physiol Rep, 2016. 4(22).
  • Sands, W.A., et al., Peristaltic pulse dynamic compression of the lower extremity enhances flexibility. J Strength Cond Res, 2014. 28(4): p. 1058-64.
  • Haun, C.T., et al., Concomitant external pneumatic compression treatment with consecutive days of high intensity interval training reduces markers of proteolysis. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2017. 117(12): p. 2587-2600.
  • Keck, N.A., et al., Effects of commercially available pneumatic compression on muscle glycogen recovery after exercise. J Strength Cond Res, 2015. 29(2): p. 379-85.
  • Martin, J.S., et al., Acute Effects of Peristaltic Pneumatic Compression on Repeated Anaerobic Exercise Performance and Blood Lactate Clearance. J Strength Cond Res, 2015. 29(10): p. 2900-6.
  • Kabore, C. and J.F. Kaux, Effects of Normatec peristaltic dynamic external compression on sports recovery. Science & Sports, 2017. 32(5): p. 266-277.

Read the full article at Fast Talk podcast, ep. 52: Enhancing recovery with NormaTec on

Fast Talk podcast, ep. 51: Polarizing your training, with Dr. Stephen Seiler

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

EPISODE 51 OF FAST TALK is one that Coach Connor and I are particularly excited about. In fact, Trevor is so enamored with our guest’s research that he refers to him as the Jay-Z of physiology. I don’t really know what that means, but I’m fascinated that Trevor knows who Jay-Z is. But I digress.

Dr. Stephen Seiler has revolutionized our understanding of endurance training. Perhaps you’ve heard us refer to his findings in previous episodes. We’ve discussed several of them in the past, just not at length and in one place. Today it all comes together, and we’re privileged to have Dr. Seiler to help explain what can be, at times, some complex science.

In this episode, we’re going to take a deep dive into many of his theories, including:

1. Why both coaching techniques and the science have become so biased toward high-intensity training when that isn’t how the best athletes train.

2. Dr. Seiler’s three-zone model of training. There are many zone models out there. Most of us use five zones for training, but some models have as many as nine. In his research, Seiler has pointed out that when we test, there are two physiological breakpoints. One is our anaerobic threshold, or MLSS. Your coach may call it FTP. It tends to be right around the point where we hit 4 mmol/mL lactate. The other breakpoint, which is lower — about 85 percent of anaerobic threshold and at 2 mmol/mL of lactate — is often called our aerobic threshold. Seiler feels these breakpoints define three physiological zones. Zone 1 is below the aerobic threshold, and what we call easy base training. Zone 2 is between the breakpoints and has many names, including no man’s land or sweet spot. The third zone is our high-intensity training zone.

3. Next, we’ll talk about how, by studying elite athletes, Seiler found a remarkable consistency: most endurance athletes train about 80 percent of the time in Zone 1, around 15 to 20 percent in Zone 3, and very little in Zone 2. This has become known as polarized training.

4. We’ll take a deep dive with Dr. Seiler into both Zone 1 and Zone 3 training and how to approach both. A theme will start to emerge, and you’ll hear one of the top physiologists in the world repeat it again and again: keep it simple. That might seem surprising, but the research is clear: complex intervals and overly detailed training plans may hurt more than they help. Ultimately, it may be as simple as accumulating time in the various zones in the right ratios.

5. Finally, we’ll discuss how these principles apply specifically to training. Seiler’s research includes Nordic skiers, rowers, runners, and cyclists. So be warned, at times you’ll hear some concepts that may be unfamiliar to you. For example, cycling is one of the few places where endurance athletes do five-hour workouts. In other endurance sports, they add volume by doing two-a-days.

Full disclosure, this episode is a deep dive. If this is your first time listening to Fast Talk, we recommend starting with an appetizer. In episode 14, we discuss the difference between polarized and sweet-spot training, which give you the context you need to follow this conversation.

Our featured guest is, of course, Dr. Stephen Seiler, a professor of sports science in Norway, where he has lived for 22 years. But no, that’s not a Norwegian accent. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas. Dr. Seiler is now on the executive board of the well-respected European University College for Sports Science.

If you want to learn more about his research, he’s on Twitter and tries to make all of his research and presentations available for free on Research Gate.

In addition to Dr. Seiler, our guests include:

Grant Holicky, a head coach at Apex Coaching, a highly respected coaching center here in Boulder that has produced many Olympic and world champion caliber cyclists. Holicky talks with us about the mistakes of doing too much training in that middle zone.

We’ll also hear from past Canadian national champion Andrew Randall and past national mountain bike coach Steve Neal who, together run the Cycling Gym in Toronto, a city where traffic, bad roads, and cold weather dominate. The conditions justify doing lots of intensity on the trainer, but Randall and Neal explain why they don’t take that approach with their athletes and still follow a polarized model.

Finally, we hear from Larry Warbasse, the 2017 U.S. national road champion who rides for Aqua Blue Sport. He gives a few examples of how top pros have figured out what seems to work for them, without necessarily having read the research or knowing the scientific terms.

So, are you ready to go slow to be fast? If so, this is the episode for you. Let’s make you fast!


  • Dudley, G. A., Abraham, W. M., & Terjung, R. L. (1982). Influence of exercise intensity and duration on biochemical adaptations in skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol, 53(4), 844-850.
  • Esteve-Lanao, J., Foster, C., Seiler, S., & Lucia, A. (2007). Impact of training intensity distribution on performance in endurance athletes. J Strength Cond Res, 21(3), 943-949.
  • Guellich, A., Seiler, S., & Emrich, E. (2009). Training methods and intensity distribution of young world-class rowers. Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 4(4), 448-460.
  • Laursen, P. B. (2010). Training for intense exercise performance: high-intensity or high-volume training? Scand J Med Sci Sports, 20 Suppl 2, 1-10.
  • Munoz, I., Seiler, S., Bautista, J., Espana, J., Larumbe, E., & Esteve-Lanao, J. (2014). Does Polarized Training Improve Performance in Recreational Runners? [Article]. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 9(2), 265-272.
  • Seiler, K. S., & Kjerland, G. O. (2006). Quantifying training intensity distribution in elite endurance athletes: is there evidence for an “optimal” distribution? Scand J Med Sci Sports, 16(1), 49-56.
  • Seiler, S. (2010). What is best practice for training intensity and duration distribution in endurance athletes? Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 5(3), 276-291.
  • Seiler, S., Haugen, O., & Kuffel, E. (2007). Autonomic recovery after exercise in trained athletes: intensity and duration effects. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 39(8), 1366-1373.
  • Seiler, S., Joranson, K., Olesen, B. V., & Hetlelid, K. J. (2013). Adaptations to aerobic interval training: interactive effects of exercise intensity and total work duration. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 23(1), 74-83.
  • Skovereng, K., Sylta, O., Tonnessen, E., Hammarstrom, D., Danielsen, J., Seiler, S., et al. (2018). Effects of Initial Performance, Gross Efficiency and VO-2 peak Characteristics on Subsequent Adaptations to Endurance Training in Competitive Cyclists. [Article]. Frontiers in Physiology, 9, 9.
  • Stoggl, T. L., & Sperlich, B. (2015). The training intensity distribution among well-trained and elite endurance athletes. Front Physiol, 6, 295.
  • Sylta, O., Tonnessen, E., Hammarstrom, D., Danielsen, J., Skovereng, K., Ravn, T., et al. (2016). The Effect of Different High-Intensity Periodization Models on Endurance Adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 48(11), 2165-2174.
  • Sylta, O., Tonnessen, E., Sandbakk, O., Hammarstrom, D., Danielsen, J., Skovereng, K., et al. (2017). Effects of High-Intensity Training on Physiological and Hormonal Adaptions in Well-Trained Cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 49(6), 1137-1146.

Read the full article at Fast Talk podcast, ep. 51: Polarizing your training, with Dr. Stephen Seiler on

Analysis: Craddock’s data reveals extreme demands of Tour

On a day when his EF Education First-Drapac team leader Rigoberto Urán abandoned the race, American Lawson Craddock continued to churn away stage after stage through the Alps, despite suffering a broken shoulder on stage 1.

Through Tour de France stage 11, Craddock had ridden for 49.5 hours, 1,156 miles, averaged 271 watts (normalized power), gained 70,900 feet in elevation, and averaged a heart rate of 137 beats per minute.

“Everyday has gotten a bit better for sure,” Craddock said after stage 12, which finished atop Alpe d’Huez. “Obviously the mountains are quite a bit different than the first nine stages. It’s just been a lot more torque on [the shoulder] than usual when I stand and get up. I was really happy just to make it through today’s stage. It was carnage out there.”

Through stage 11, Craddock rode over 1,100 miles, nearly 71,000 feet, and averaged 271 Watts.

We first took a look at Craddock’s Whoop data after stage 4. As a reminder, it’s helpful to understand how the Whoop strap works. The “strain” score is a summary of cardiovascular load, or how hard the heart is working. It measures this by analyzing heart rates relative to your heart rate zones. The more time you spend in the upper reaches, the higher your strain score gets, on a scale from 0 to 21. It is a logarithmic metric, rather than linear, meaning the higher you get on the scale, the more difficult it is to build strain.

The “recovery” score is, simply, an athlete’s capacity to take on strain. In the morning, an athlete generates a recovery score (on a scale from 0 to 100; scores closer to 100 indicate an athlete has more capacity, both physically and mentally, to deal with strain). The metrics which comprise recovery are heart rate, heart rate variability, and sleep performance.

Let’s take another look at the Texan’s Whoop data to better understand the extreme physical demands of the Tour de France. Through stage 11, Craddock averaged a recovery score of 46 percent, a strain score of 19.6, and average sleep of seven hours and eight minutes, or 72 percent of what he needed.

Craddock’s Whoop “strain” scores for the past two weeks. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Since the Tour began, Craddock has accumulated a string of incredibly high strain scores. He posted his highest, 20.7 (out of a possible 21), on stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez. His lowest score, 18.3, came during the team time trial, when he was able to sit up during the last portion of the stage after dropping behind his teammates. It’s worth reminding that Craddock has been posting such scores just to make the time cut, and is obviously not competing at the front of the race. While we can’t compare his figures to those of the GC contenders, it’s fair to say that everyone at the Tour is pushing himself to the limit day after day. In Craddock’s case, that has meant altering his riding technique in order to complete the stages.

“I’m definitely riding a lot differently,” he said. “It’s not ideal. You spend seven months riding in one position and then at the Tour you have to switch it around a bit. My body has been adjusting.
I’m having to pull up with the pedals a lot more, instead of using a fluid pedal motion. I’m using my hamstrings a lot more than I usually do. And I’m feeling it a bit. I’m still here, today was one of my better days.”

Craddock’s Whoop “recovery” scores for the past two weeks. CLICK TO ENLARGE

If we look at Craddock’s recovery scores during the past two weeks, we notice that he’s actually improving from the place he was at coming into the Tour. Ironically, Craddock noted how the few days prior to the Tour are not ideal preparation for one of the most demanding athletic competitions in the world.

“The few days running into the start of the Tour de France are unlike any other,” Craddock said. “The stress surrounding the race is almost worse than the actual stress during the race.”

In the past week, Craddock has posted two good (green) recovery scores. The first followed the flat stage 8 into Amiens. Following a much-needed rest day on Monday, Craddock awoke with a 70 percent recovery.

“While I’ve made improvements in my recovery, I’m still quite sore from the Roubaix stage,” he said. “Today was a rough day for me. I felt better than expected on the first climb, but that feeling was short lived. I suffered over the second mountain pass, but once we hit Col de Romme I was cooked. I struggled mightily to maintain contact with the gruppetto, and forced myself to only look at the next kilometer.”

Despite the strenuous ride in stage 11 on July 18, Craddock still managed a yellow recovery, after getting nearly eight hours of sleep.

“Stage 11 was a nasty day,” his coach Jim Miller said. “The stage had 11,000 feet of climbing, over which Lawson posted a 261 TSS and a 308 Watts normalized power for 4 hours and 10 minutes. And with all that, he still finished 26 minutes behind the stage winner. It is hard to convey just how good these guys are.”

His sleep data reveals that over the past two weeks he’s averaging almost nine hours in bed per night, and sleeping more than the average athlete in Whoop’s database during this same time period. He’ll need to continue to rest and recover as hard as he rides to combat the high strains he’s posting.

“The last three days that have been extremely difficult,” Craddock said. “Straight out of the rest day they threw everything at us. A lot of the peloton was in pure survival mode today so yeah, I’m really happy just to make it through another day at the Tour.”

Read the full article at Analysis: Craddock’s data reveals extreme demands of Tour on

Analysis: Mathew Hayman’s massive watts on stage 9 cobbles

Get more data-driven coverage of the 2018 Tour de France on TrainingPeaks.

Stage 9 of this year’s Tour de France will go down as one of the most chaotic and exciting stages in recent times. With 22 kilometers of cobbles, it was always going to be an explosive day, and the favorites for the win did not disappoint. After a day fraught with crashes and flats, it came down to three of the best classics riders in the world sprinting for the win. German John Degenkolb took the victory; his first career Tour stage win, and an emotional comeback after a horrific crash in 2015.

Rider analysis: Mathew Hayman

Team result: 35th, +37sec
View the complete file >>

Never has teamwork been more critical than on stage 9 of this year’s Tour. The results reflect how much the GC leaders needed the help of teammates with classics racing experience, as those without clearly struggled to hold the pace and stay out of trouble.

Luckily for Michelton-Scott’s Adam Yates, there are not many better or more experienced classics riders than Mathew Hayman. The 2016 Paris-Roubaix winner played a key role in helping Yates tackle the cobbles of Northern France, and we were lucky enough to get a look at his file from the day.

The start
The race went off hard, as expected, and proved almost instantly dangerous when pre-race favorite Richie Porte crashed out of the race barely 10 kilometers from the start. During the opening 47 kilometers, which were cobble-free, we can see the speed was high as riders fought for a safe position. At this point, Hayman averaged 250 watts, 3.02 W/kg and normalized 303 W, 3.74 W/kg averaging just over 46kph.

The tension continued to build all the way to the first sector, which started at the 47km mark; riders hit the cobbles at a bone-jiggling 55kph. After the stage, many riders said the pace prior to each sector was as hard as the cobbles themselves. With every team’s GC hopes on the line, jockeying would have been intense to stay ahead of the chaos sure to ensue in the group.

Crash on sector 12
The first big split happened with around 70 kilometers to go, with a large crash on sector 12. The peloton fractured into several groups here, and unfortunately, Adam Yates found himself in the second bunch. You can see from the file that it was a panic situation for the next 22 kilometers as Hayman and his teammates drove hard to bring Yates back to the front.

Effort during the chase
30 minutes: 22 kilometers
Average power: 344 W, 4.18 W/kg
Normalized power: 368 W, 4.54 W/kg

Many of Hayman’s peak powers were completed during this fight to regain contact. On the first sector after the split, for example, Hayman produced his peak five-minute power of 400 W, 4.8 W/kg. But this doesn’t tell the full story — if we look a little closer we can see that during this five-minute period, he pushed between 600 W and 1,232 W on 13 occasions. He frequently hit between 7.5-15 W/kg, which shows what it really takes to maintain full speed over the cobbles.

Cobbles also present some unique physiological demands worth noting. When we compare a high-intensity effort on a normal surface to the pavé of Roubaix, we see massive differences in how force is applied. Riders must engage more muscle groups, and continuously adapt their posture/position on the bike. Worse, the consistent jarring takes a major toll on any hope of recovery. The ability to make these massive energy expenditures repeatedly (over the 15 sectors of pavé) is what distinguishes classics riders from the rest of the peloton.

Back in the game
The effort did not let up when the team finally rejoined the lead group, as they made contact just prior to one of the harshest sectors: Mons-en-Pévèle. Over 900 meters of cobbles and one minute long, Hayman produced 501 W, 6.09 W/kg to keep Yates with the leaders. This can’t have felt pleasant, as he had just chased for 22 kilometers at full gas to regain contact. Again, this shows that opportunities to recover or find any sort of respite during this stage were very limited.

The pace across many of the cobbled sectors continued, as crashes and attacks further split the groups. Some of the worst cobbled sectors came near the end of the stage, so it was no doubt an anxious time for Hayman and his colleagues to help Yates navigate through the chaos. On the second-to-last cobbled sector, Camphin-en-Pévèle, Hayman had to kick out 366 W, 4.42 W/kg for nearly three minutes—but it must have been a relief to finish this sector with Yates safe, near the front, and with the end of the stage in sight.

In the final five kilometers, Hayman averaged 334 W, 4.03 W/kg for 6:26. Yates finished 27th on the stage, and with the same time as Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Mikel Landa (Movistar), both strong GC favorites. Ultimately it was a successful, if challenging day for both Hayman and his team, and they’ll head into the mountains in a great position for an assault on the GC.

Read the full article at Analysis: Mathew Hayman’s massive watts on stage 9 cobbles on

Fast Talk, ep. 50: Unpacking the gospel of Joe Friel’s new ‘Training Bible’

Hello and welcome to Fast Talk! I’m Chris Case, managing editor of VeloNews, joined by the apostle of speed, Coach Trevor Connor.

Cycling can be a fickle sport. Coaches come and go; new, exciting, revolutionary ways of training take the sport by storm then grown stale; riders at the local training race who were once unbeatable age and fade from the front. Few things have permanence in this sport.

But there’s been one thing that has stood the test of time, that seems to have been there since most of us attempted our first interval workout: Joe Friel’s “Cyclist’s Training Bible.” For many of us, reading that book was our first step towards more dedicated training.

This spring Joe released his fifth, and hopefully not the last, edition of the book. Trevor and I had a chance to talk with Joe about the newest edition. We came to the interview with a list of questions that we felt only touched on the key parts of the book and by the hour mark we were barely a quarter of the way through our list. But what we did talk about was really compelling stuff. We touched on everything from periodization to energy systems, to Joe’s method of research…believe it or not, it has a lot to do with hundreds of 3”x5” note cards.

What is the central theme of this podcast? Perhaps we’ll just call it picking the brain of one of the most experienced cycling coaches in the world. Our varied topics included:

• How Joe’s philosophy to coaching has changed over the five editions of the book, and why with this most recent edition he decided to completely rewrite the book.
• How new technology has changed coaching and why Joe recommends a shift from volume-focused training to a training-stress focus
• What we mean by intensity and how both polarized and sweet spot training play in
• The three physiological assets that determine our level as cyclists — specifically aerobic capacity or VO2max, anaerobic threshold, and economy
• And finally, we touch on periodization. Joe was the one who brought periodization to cycling and unfortunately, we were barely able to scratch the surface on this fascinating subject. Hopefully, we can convince Joe to come back for an entire episode on the topic…

(In fact, there is plenty in the book we don’t even mention, but there’s a reason it’s called the Training Bible.)

In addition to Joe Friel, our guests include:

Frank Overton, the owner of FastCat coaching here in Boulder, CO. Frank has been a part of the history of cycling himself, helping in the early days when they were just figuring out the power-based metrics we now take for granted. But even Frank remembers The Cyclist’s Training Bible influencing him as a cat. 4 cyclist.

And we talked with LottoNL-Jumbo rider Sepp Kuss who gives a very modern pro perspective on periodization. It’s not the old school traditional periodization of a dedicated base period and race phase. We, unfortunately, ran out of time to talk with Joe about it, but one of the big changes in the latest edition of the book is an entire chapter on the various periodization alternatives.

Please forgive the quality of Coach Connor’s audio for this podcast. We recorded this podcast the day before Canadian Nationals when Trevor was up in Northern Quebec. The internet connection was not great. Nor was Trevor’s stress level.

So, with the power vested in me, Let’s make you fast!


(Joyner & Coyle, 2008; Lucia, Hoyos, & Chicharro, 2001; Santalla, Naranjo, & Terrados, 2009)

Joyner, M. J., & Coyle, E. F. (2008). Endurance exercise performance: the physiology of champions. J Physiol, 586(1), 35-44. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2007.143834
Lucia, A., Hoyos, J., & Chicharro, J. L. (2001). Physiology of professional road cycling. Sports Med, 31(5), 325-337.
Santalla, A., Naranjo, J., & Terrados, N. (2009). Muscle efficiency improves over time in world-class cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 41(5), 1096-1101. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318191c802

Read the full article at Fast Talk, ep. 50: Unpacking the gospel of Joe Friel’s new ‘Training Bible’ on

Fast Talk podcast, ep. 49: Training, fueling, and suffering at Dirty Kanza 200

In this episode, we discuss the science of Dirty Kanza 200, including training principles, fueling strategy, pacing, and more.

Read the full article at Fast Talk podcast, ep. 49: Training, fueling, and suffering at Dirty Kanza 200 on