Thursday, April 10, 2014

What to Do Next: A VO2Max Intensive Plan

Peaks Coaching Group V02Max Intensive Plan Hunter Allen

Spring is here, and the riding season has begun in earnest. You’ve done some racing or some fast group riding by now and found your fitness to be exactly where you want it to be, or maybe you’ve found it needs to up it a notch. We all want to continue to improve and increase our functional threshold power (FTP) each year and throughout the season, but sometimes it seems like we aren’t improving any longer. For continued success, it’s important to improve throughout the year. This is especially challenging when you get to a stagnation point where it seems impossible to nudge the FTP needle any higher no matter what you do. You try long rides, fast rides, sprinting, resting, riding slow, but none of those tactics seem to help you get off your plateau.

I’d like to give you an idea that has worked for many of the athletes I’ve coached over the years who needed to break through a plateau in their fitness. Athletes of all levels reach plateaus and struggle to break through to the next higher level, so regardless of whether you're a pro tour rider or just getting started with more serious and faster recreational cycling, this idea can help you.

Before I give this secret away, however, we have to remember what exactly causes training stagnation and how you can prevent it. First, let’s examine the impulse-response model developed by Dr. Bannister in 1975 to get a clear understanding of what it is and how it impacts us. One of the clear advantages to training with a power meter is that all of us are now training within this impulse (dose) and response model. The training dose is defined clearly by how many watts you can do for certain periods of time, whether a ten-minute interval, a hard three-hour tempo ride, or an epic six-hour endurance ride over two mountains. The training dose can easily be quantified by wattage, training stress score, and kilojoules, among other things, which are all ways of understanding the work you can do.

In Dr. Bannister’s impulse-response model below, we see three major factors at work: fatigue, fitness, and performance. The pinkish line represents fatigue starting at the far left of the chart at zero training, which in this example means you haven’t trained at all for a while. You begin with a dose of training (your first ride), and what happens to your body? First you get fatigued, so that pink line goes up pretty steeply, since you had no previous fatigue and now you just introduced quite a lot. Because of the training stress you put your body under, your body says, “Whoa, I might have to do this again really soon, so I’d better get stronger and be more prepared for the next dose of training.” Physiologists and cycling coaches call this adaptation, because your body is now adapting to the training load and improving in many ways. This adaptation results in a higher level of fitness, which is the second component of Dr. Bannister’s model.

Fitness (the blue line) increases after some of the fatigue has been reduced (one of the key reasons you always need to rest), and you’ll notice that even though the training dose has stopped, the body continues to adapt and improve from just that one session.

The third component to the equation is performance. What happens to performance when you’re fatigued? It goes straight through the basement! The more fatigued you are, the lower your performance will be, regardless of your fitness level.   


There is eventually an optimal combination of these three components; that is when you want to race. Dr. Coggan and I built the performance manager chart inside TrainingPeaks’ WKO+ software on Dr. Bannister’s model to accurately predict when you might have a best performance. Let’s flip this model around a little. What if we did a 40k time trial every day for an entire year starting on January 1? We’d all go insane by February 1, of course, but take a look at the performance chart below that demonstrates the answer to this question within the impulse-response model, set to illustrate a training dose of 100 TSS points (the number of points you score when you do a 40k TT) every day for an entire year.

First, we’d become fatigued pretty quickly, and the pink line would quickly go up to 100 TSS per day. Second, our performance would go through the basement, into the ground and down into the bedrock. Finally, our fitness would gradually begin to increase ever so slightly over the year as our bodies began adapting and digging out of this hole. Notice how the blue line (fitness) begins to climb towards 100 TSS/day, which means we’re becoming more and more adapted to that daily dose of a 40k time trial. When we look at performance, our third component, we see it begin to rebound from that massive hole to China we just dug; amazingly, it begins to ascend right along with the blue fitness line and climbs to  your zero point, where we might say you’re in balance, neither fatigued nor fresh.

On the left side of the graph we see training load in TSS per day done over the entire year in both CTL (chronic training load, the blue fitness line) and ATL (acute training load, the pink fatigue line). On the right side of the graph, we have training stress balance (TSB), which again is how fresh or fatigued you might be and indicates whether or not you might crack out a new peak performance. When your TSB is a negative number, a good performance is unlikely, because it means you’re fatigued, but when your TSB is a positive number, you’re more rested (which is when good performances are likely), and if your TSB is zero, you are in balance, neither rested nor fatigued, and a good performance could happen but may not.


Sometime around August and September you become completely adapted to riding a 40k time trial every day. This is your new norm and you no longer have any trouble doing it. You have also now entered the training stagnation zone and are no longer improving. (You thought I was just rambling, didn’t you?) So here you are, completely adapted to doing 100 TSS per day every day, but since that’s all you ever do, you won’t get any faster or stronger from here on out. This is what we want to avoid.

How do we avoid training stagnation? We have to have a way to recognize it, which is why we use a power meter and the WKO performance manager chart to quantify it. Sure, you can guess that your training has stagnated without using these tools, but life is definitely easier when you know for certain. Another factor to look at is improvement. How long ago was it that you made an improvement in your FTP? If you haven’t improved in the past sixteen weeks or longer, something needs to change.

The most likely change you need to make is to increase your overall training load, which means increasing both your training volume and intensity, and possibly frequency, as well. By increasing the amount of training you do and the intensity of that training above your current load, you will presumably rise out of the stagnation. How much more you need is highly individual. While one person might need to increase his training load by only 5%, others might need as much as 15% to see any real change in their fitness.

I’ve found that an eight-week block of intensive, focused VO2Max training can get you off your plateau and to that next level you’ve been seeking. VO2Max training should normally be done after you have a solid foundation of threshold and sub-threshold work, and it is used to sharpen and hone your shorter efforts between three and eight minutes long. These are important time periods in cycling; most race-winning moves last about this long, and many of the make-it-or-break-it, shit-hits-the-fan-riding-in-the gutter times are about this long. If you do any mountain bike racing, you know there are plenty of three- and five-minute VO2Max efforts in a two-plus hour race.

VO2 work is a key component to success in bike riding and racing. It is also quite a painful and uncomfortable place to train; you’re breathing very hard (panting), it takes major mental effort to keep focused, and your muscles are screaming at you the entire time to stop. You have to look at your miniature power meter mounted on your handlebars and hold some narrow range of wattage to ensure you’re indeed training at your VO2Max level. This discomfort is one of the key ingredients to breaking free of your training stagnation; it means you’re stressing your body’s physiological systems highly, and because of this you’re pushing hard against the glass ceiling of stagnation.

The Plan

You’ve most likely never done a long and hard focused block of VO2Max training like the one I’m going to share with you. That’s probably because no one in their right mind would want to do this unless he knew for sure it was going to work. I can assure you that it does work, and it works very well. Not only will you break out of your stagnated training pattern, you’ll also improve your threshold power and your VO2Max power, or what I like to call your velocity at VO2Max.

The VO2Max intensive program works you three days a week on your VO2Max. These are two early days in the week, typically Tuesday and Wednesday, and one day during the weekend, when you should add in some more VO2 work in your weekend ride. The Tuesday and Wednesday workouts are focused just on VO2 work and nothing else, which allows you to really exhaust the system over a period of two days and two very intense workouts. Giving that system a break for a few days before revisiting it on the weekend allows you to get back to the needed freshness in order to access that high intensity. Let’s look at a typical week’s worth of workouts so you can get a better sense of what I mean.

Monday is a rest day or easy recovery day; 1 hour maximum, with watts less than 56% of your FTP.

Tuesday is your most intense day of the week, provided you have recovered from the weekend’s activities. You can move this to Wednesday if need be, shifting things by a day. Tuesday is the day you want to do some 3- or 4-minute efforts in order to maximize the intensity. Push super hard and do all the intervals. Get motivated to crush them.

Try this workout on Tuesdays:

Warm-up (WU): 10 minutes endurance pace (56-75% of FTP).

Main Set (MS): The goal is to do seven 3-minute hard pushes at VO2 Max power. Rest at least 3 minutes between each. Your job is to hold your watts over 118% for each one, and for the entire 3 minutes! So don't start your interval on a section of road that will include a downhill. The rest period is 56-75% watts. Afterward, ride at 75-85% of FTP in your tempo zone for at least 45 minutes and include some fast pedaling bursts (about 30 seconds long) every 5 minutes.

Cool-Down (CD): 15 minutes.

Wednesday is another VO2 max workout, also very intense. I would go with some 5- or 6-minute efforts here, as the intensity is a notch below yesterday while still training your Vo2 max system. Do less than 40 minutes of intensity here. If you’re feeling gassed from yesterday, you might even limit it to 25 minutes of Vo2 work total.

The following Wednesday workout is made to really challenge your Vo2 system. Do the 5-minute intervals to get the lungs opened and pushing hard; the 3-minute final intervals are done to fully exhaust the Vo2 system.

WU: 15 minutes endurance pace (56-75% of FTP).

MS: One 5-minute interval right at 100% to ensure you’re warmed up and ready for the Vo2 work, then ride 5 minutes easy at 56% or less. Begin your Vo2 efforts with 6x5 minutes with watts at 113-118%, doing your best to hold this steady for the entire effort. Do all six and add a seventh on if your watts are still within 5% of your third interval. So if your third interval average is at 110%, then stop doing the intervals when you can’t complete two consecutive intervals at a minimum of 105%. Take 5 minutes recovery between each at 56-75% of FTP.

Finish the workout with 2 hard 3 minutes all-out VO2 max efforts with watts over 115%, resting for 5 minutes between each.

CD: 10 minutes

Thursday is either an active recovery day or an endurance ride for a couple of hours. Make sure you don’t overdo it today, especially if you’re planning a big weekend. Ride 1-1.5 hours, just easy and cruising. Try to keep the HR below 68% of your threshold HR, and the total average watts for the ride should be below 55% of your threshold watts.

Friday is a day for tuning up for the weekend, or if you are planning a big weekend of training, maybe today is a day you can string together that third day. A classic tune-up ride the day before a race is 1.5 hours at endurance pace (56-75% of FTP) with 3 x 1 minutes hard (over 130% of FTP), with at least 5 minutes of easy riding between each. Also do 3 x 30 seconds hard sprints (all out!) with 3 minutes between. Rest is just easy and cruising.

Saturday is a great day to return to VO2Max work. If you’re racing, get in some solid hard race-winning intervals during your race (hopefully so you’ll win). If you’re not racing, today is the day to make sure you get VO2Max within your ride. While Tuesday and Wednesday were totally focused on Vo2 max, today is more of a “kitchen sink” ride, with Vo2 max being an important component of it.  

Try this workout on Saturdays:

WU: 15 minutes at endurance pace (56-75% of FTP).

MS: Do 3 x 1 minute fast pedaling, then do 4 big ring sprints: 53:15 from 22 mph, two gear shifts to 14, then to 13. Rest for 3-4 minutes between each. To improve your VO2Max and your ability to win races, try out the following race-winning intervals, the exact simulation of what a wattage file would show for a rider attacking in a race for the race win. Try for at least five efforts and up to eight in one session.

Each interval begins with a 30-second sprint (15 seconds out of the saddle), and you must average 200% of your threshold wattage in these first 30 seconds, with a peak of at least 300%. If you’re using a cyclo-computer, try to reach at least 28-30 mph and hold for 30 seconds. Then ride for 3 minutes and really hammer at 100-110% of your threshold wattage (or the best speed you think you could maintain for an hour), finishing with an out-of-the-saddle 10-second burst after the three minutes is over. Try to reach 200% of your threshold wattage again or 28-30 mph. Rest for 5-6 minutes between each. Then ride at endurance pace (56-75% of FTP) for 45 minutes, but slow down every 5 minutes and do a big gear burst from almost a dead stop. Stay seated and push that gear over until you reach 85-90 rpm; then you’re done, and it’s back to endurance pace.

Now, for some threshold work! Do 4 x 12 minutes just above threshold, about 100-105% of your FTP watts. Do your best to hold it there! Rest for 5 minutes between each. Finish with 45 minutes at sweet spot (88-93% of FTP) and do a burst every 3 minutes to 120% of your FTP, holding for 10 seconds before returning to sweet spot. Endurance for 20 minutes.

CD: 5 minutes

Sunday is a great day to ride long and just pile on some training stress. If you’re feeling decent, I recommend doing plenty of sweet-spot and threshold work here if you can. Try this workout:

WU: 15 minutes, just getting the legs and heart pumping at endurance pace (56-75% of FTP).

MS: The goal today is to push it up another notch in your distance. Try for at least an hour longer than your normal long ride; ride for 4 hours if you normally go for 3 hours, or 5 hours if your norm is 4 hours. Keep the watts between your endurance and tempo pace (70-90%) for the majority of the ride. Mix it up with some pushes at the upper end of tempo (85-90%) and get in some solid endurance riding, as well. In the second hour of riding, do 2 x 15 minutes at your threshold (91-105% of FTP) watts. Rest for 10 minutes between each with some easy pedaling watts, <56% of FTP. In the last hour of riding, just try for some tempo pace (around 40 minutes) with watts from 85-90% of FTP.

CD: Nice and easy for 15 minutes. Recovery shake!

Many athletes and coaches alike think they should focus solely on one energy system or another and that if they work in the other systems, they’ll somehow mess up the adaptation. This is a myth. When you focus on one specific system, yes, you’re pushing hard on at least two focused workouts a week, along with executing that work in the beginning of the workout when you are freshest. The other days can still have work at different training zones or levels, and that’s actually encouraged, as each of the levels can enhance others and create a more rounded level of fitness. VO2Max is hard, but it helps to give you head room for your FTP to improve, so FTP work is necessary when doing Vo2Max work. In order to break through your fitness stagnation, you need to do at least 4-6 weeks of work on the Vo2 system, though 8 weeks of work would probably be fine, as well.

As you examine our own training this spring, make sure to ask yourself, “Am I doing the work necessary to continually stress my body so that it adapts and improves?” You can answer that question easily if you’re testing yourself on a regular basis (in order to learn whether or not you’re improving, it’s imperative to test yourself a minimum of every six weeks). You can also answer this question by continually increasing your training load, intensity, and even frequency, along with the focus of your training. We all get stuck in our little training ruts and forget we’ve been doing the same thing over and over for so many years, though unfortunately this rut hasn’t really led to any meaningful improvement.

This VO2Max intensive program isn’t for everyone or for all the time, only for those specific instances when you’re at a plateau and have a solid foundation of fitness in your legs, or possibly when you’re just ready to mix it up a bit. Keep these factors in mind when training this spring.

Make it a powerful day!


Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of Training and Racing with a Power Meter and Cutting-Edge Cycling, co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Hunter can be contacted directly through PeaksCoachingGroup.com.

64 comments:

  1. Hunter. Great article. I've shared this with a number of people (of various categories, experience), and the general consensus is "WTF? Do people really do this?" Even one week looks daunting let alone for 4-6 weeks. What recovery routines are your suggesting to your athletes so that they can handle this kind of load across multiple weeks?

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  2. Sorry. One other question. TSS for this week seems to come out around 850-900TSS, with the potential for higher doing all the variations (over a 15.8hr week). What level of athlete could comfortable do multiple back-to-back 900TSS weeks of this sort? In your opinion, what would be the requisite amount of experience required? What CTL ramps would you deem as appropriate, and and what other caveats might you consider?

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  3. Yes, people do this. Just have to commit! Recovery has to be complete and just as focused as the efforts: massages, recover shakes, yoga, and naps in afternoon, etc. So it takes a bit selfishness to make happen. If you get into the block and you start to fatigue heavily, then you need to take a complete recovery week and come back to it.

    In response to the second question, it will take someone who has been riding and training hard for multiple years. Of course, by definition, if you are doing this plan, it means you are “stuck” (stagnated), and generally if you are “stuck,” it means you've been training for, say, more than five years and therefore need a large change in your training dose to make an improvement. If you're young (under 25) and have been training hard for three years, you can do this. If you're an old fart like me (over 40), you have to have been training hard for at least five years and have the ability to recover day after day (similar to a stage race). CTL ramp will be on the edge of “doable” at an 8-12 TSS/week increase, so just be careful there.

    Other caveats are: Start this when fresh! Do not even think about starting this plan if you're already tired, sick, or in a state of NFOR (non-functional over-reaching).

    Hope this helps!

    Hunter

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  4. Great information and very helpful. Thanks.

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  5. Hunter,
    How would you adapt this for someone who isn't racing on Saturdays, but instead is only racing crits on Sundays?
    Thanks,
    Marcus

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  6. Thanks for reading, Marcus! I would suggest an EASY ride on Friday (always rest two days before your race), then a tune-up ride on Saturday. Hope this helps!

    Hunter

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  7. Love it! I'll be certainly adding this to the end of my ATP program! Thanks Hunter.

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  8. Thanks for the tips...I've been stuck in the 250 to 260 FTP rut for 2 years so a change can't hurt. One question...if I wanted to keep my one day of lower body weights (i.e squats, ham. ext., ect.) when would you suggest I do that? Thanks,

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  9. very interesting article. Just to be sure to fully understand (I'm french so my english is so so) when you talk about the exercices at VO2 you are always giving % of FTP ? 118% of FTP for example ? Thanks. Fred

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  10. Thanks for reading, Trevor! NO weights. It will hinder your improvement, as you can’t recover fast enough and do all the workouts. If you want to do weights, then do upper body!

    Hunter

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  11. Fred, yes, it's % of FTP always. So Vo2 is 106-120% of FTP. Thanks for reading!

    Hunter

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  12. This plan is majestic! Can I repeat this routine for 7 or 8 weeks?
    Tanks and bye bye from Italy!

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  13. Thanks for reading, Domenico! Don’t repeat for more than one eight-week period. Do this for eight weeks and then return to threshold work.

    Hunter

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  14. Hunter,

    Did the first Tuesday set today. All went well with the exception that 118% wasn't achieved. I managed to average 110% over the seven intervals and I kept a three minute RI throughout. This came as no real shock as this is my weakest system. I’m confident that my FTP is right so the question I have is should I increase the RI to try to get the average up some or just lower the exception slightly (i.e. 113% next week) and build to the 118% number?

    I also do it first thing in the am on coffee only so I’m sure that doesn’t necessary help the latter sets.

    Also, I used average power instead of nominal...for the three minute intervals does it really matter so long that I am consistent?

    Thanks a lot for the feedback.

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  15. Trevor, you really want to hit between 113-118% on the intervals, as this will create the needed training stress to address your Vo2Max system. So I would increase your rest intervals to be able to hit at least 113%. Of course, you will fatigue throughout the set, and once you fatigue to 108% you should stop doing the intervals, because you aren’t going hard enough to be effective any longer. Use average power for three-minute efforts. Only use normalized power when you're doing a hilly twenty-minute+ effort.

    Hope this helps!

    Hunter

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  16. Great article. Will definately give it a try. Could I do the plan for 4-5 weeks and see great imrpovement as well? Thinking of doing it through July to the beginning of August where racing starts again for 1,5 months.

    Also, any articles on how to lose muscle mass?

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  17. You have to do it for the full eight weeks to see a difference!

    How to lose muscle mass? Buy two arm slings, one for each arm, like you would if you had broken collar bones. Put your arms in slings. Don’t use them for a month. I had a guy do this once....lost eight pounds off his upper body. Otherwise, try caloric deficit and don’t use any muscles except your legs so that everything else atrophies.

    Hunter

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  18. Excellent article! Thank you for sharing! Would you recommend the mentioned protocol to a triathlete specializing in long course events (ironman and half ironman distance)? I am on a bike plateau at the moment; I mostly do threshold intervals throughout the year. Thank you!

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  19. Rob, I would definitely recommend this to you. Too many long-course triathletes train too much endurance. Get in some intensity! That would be HUGE for you! Go for it!

    Hunter

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  20. Hi Hunter. What sort of recovery should I be looking at when I reach the end of the eight weeks?? In terms of duration, type, weeks, etc. I'm 42 years old, train 4-5 times a week, and race pretty much every weekend. Thanks! Sam

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  21. At the end of eight weeks, I would make sure you take a solid rest week and then get back at it! You shouldn’t need too much rest, really, but if you're still crushed at the end of the rest week, it won’t be too bad if you take another week easy. Thanks for reading!

    Hunter

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  22. Im not sure I could complete the saturday WO - I dont think I would have enough muscle glycogen left - for example after the attack intervals you then practically ride an hour TT (48 mins) and then finish with more SS. Think I wouldnt have anything left after the 4x12 and it would take me days to recover.

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  23. Yes that Saturday session looks pretty brutal, I don't think I could complete that even on week 1, but I guess those are the adaptions you need to trigger and push through.

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  24. Thanks for sharing. do you recommend any consecutive days off during the 8week block? Also, this seems like it can be a good peaking block before a 'goal' TT event of 70.3 event - do you agree?

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  25. Thanks for reading, Kirk! I definitely think it’s important to have consecutive days off in this plan and have built it in to the plan. Check out the 5.1 plan (https://home.trainingpeaks.com/trainingplans/author?key=OLYHZJRGJ3ZHW). It can definitely help you peak, but my “8 Weeks to Your Peak Event” is more rounded and would probably be better.

    Hope this helps!

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  26. What do you mean by string together that third day on Friday?

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  27. Thanks for reading, Chris! That means that you can substitute a hard ride on that Friday instead of this tune-up workout, and then you can get three hard days in a row. Hope this helps!

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  28. For a marathon rider who has done alot of very focused FTP training (long FTP intervals ~30mins, lots of muscluar endurance, tempo sweetspot etc) for his events lately and is still very motivated would it be feasible to do this at the end of the season to bridge the time before going into basetraining for the next year? Or is this total overkill? Theorized this would maybe a nice way to start base training for next year at a very high level. Have to add I am not someone who gets burned out easily, but I am not sure wether that#s nonsense from a physiological perspective...

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  29. Hi Bart! This would be overkill. I definitely don't recommend this in the winter. This is best done at the end of your winter or in the early summer or mid-summer lull.

    Hope this helps!

    Hunter

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  30. Hi Hunter,

    one more triathlete. What would you suggest regarding additional run and swim workouts? There might be not much time, but two easy(?) run and one swim workout would be perfect. Any time for this or not at all?

    Ronald

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  31. Thanks for reading, Ronald! For running, I would suggest one middle distance run a week to maintain your endurance and form and one shorter run that is easier. With swimming it would be great to get in two workouts also, following a similar pattern of a longer swim to keep your endurance and fatigue resistance and a shorter one that's more to keep the feel of the water.

    Hope this helps!

    Hunter

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  32. Hi Hunter,

    If this VO2max block contains more Zone 5 (106-120% of FTP) minutes, we will have to decrease the minutes done in Zones 2 (70-75%) and 4 (91-105%) for the weekly load to similar to what we would normally be doing at this time of the year.

    Normally at this time of year, a week would contain roughly:
    850' Zone 2
    80' Zone 4
    15' Zone 5

    Using this plan, a week will need to be:
    570' Zone 2
    60' Zone 4
    72' Zone 5

    What effect will doing 280 minutes less Zone2, and 20 minutes less Zone4 have on performances in two and 3.5 months?

    Our performance duration (rowing) is 7-7.5 minutes.

    Cheers,
    Alex

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  33. Correction, 2 month target performance duration is 20', 3-4 month target is 7-7.5'.

    Also, apart from a plateau in FTP improvement, could this plan be used to lift the VO2max for someone that is weak in that area? If so, is there a test to determine whether to priortise the improvement of VO2max or Threshold power?

    Example athlete has a FTP of 200W and a 4' max test power of 273W. Considering 273W is 137% of FTP, it seems their threshold is weaker than their VO2max power, hence an intensive VO2max plan may not be worthwhile. In this case is there an intensive threshold plan?

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  34. Thanks for reading, Alex! The focus is on the VO2Max, so you're reducing the time in other areas to really emphasize VO2Max. I would say your endurance will go down but your FTP will stay the same. If you're a rower, your races are too short to worry too much about the reduction in endurance, but then I am not a rowing coach.

    In response to your second comment, it could definitely help someone’s VO2Max if they're weak in this area, but it sounds like this person needs a threshold improvement plan instead. Check out some of those here: http://home.trainingpeaks.com/trainingplans/author?key=OLYHZJRGJ3ZHW.

    Hope this helps!

    Hunter

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  35. Thanks Hunter.

    I got the 'Example' athlete do do a MAP test on Sunday, where the top step attained was 282W. Considering this is 72% of their FTP, it falls on the low range of common values of 72-77%.
    However there is no clarity as to the possible determinants of where an athlete would sit on the range - genetics, training history, FTP and VO2max workload, and other factors are all mentioned, so the only weak conclusion I can draw is that this example athlete has relatively higher VO2max to FTP power. A threshold improvement plan as you suggest sounds the best way to go.

    I am looking for more definite understanding of the relationship between VO2max and FTP, ideally finding a link between the tests for each that can identify if an athlete is weak in either area. Coggan, talking about demands of the individual pursuit in 2010, could identify the required physical characteristics of a four minute event, but did not have the quantitative information that could establish a firm enough relationship to form the basis of training decisions. Unfortunately rowing physiology does not have the interest and funding to drive such investigations, so we do borrow a lot from cycling.

    Thanks for your help.

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  36. From my experience in coaching cyclists, a “normal” (whatever normal is) relationship is that the 5-minute power is 115% of FTP. This is fairly common and shows that the athlete’s FTP and VO2Max are in sync. When I see a 5-minute test that is 120%, 135%, 150% of FTP, that tells me that the athlete could have a very large lung capacity or may have an underdeveloped FTP. There are also individual differences as well, which is one of the reasons that Coggan has come up with individualized training levels in WKO4. This really nails the relationship clearly.

    Hunter

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  37. Thanks Hunter.

    I did have a copy of WKO2/3, but will have to look at the 4th version.

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  38. Hi Hunter,

    Did I read this correctly? 8 consecutive weeks of hard VO2 workouts. Not even a rest week on the 4th week?

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  39. Lukman,

    There is a rest week in week 4. So, not 8 weeks with no rest. Yes, it’s a hard program! But, will make a difference if you go for it!

    Hunter

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  40. Hunter, another great article. This program requires one to recover as fast as possible as most people are mentioning. Attention towards recovery is even more important for Master athletes so I wonder if you could provide some more insight on strategies to speed up recovery for master athletes possibly in another blog. Thank you in advance. Anderson

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  41. 115% of FTP for a 5' test? And you're suggesting numerous repeats of 5' done at 113-118%.

    Either I have no idea what 5' test protocol is, or that seems pretty impossible. 6x5' at 5' power doesn't really seem possible.

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  42. LM —

    I have seen lots of files with 150%! Of FTP for 5minutes! And plenty more that have 115% of FTP for 6 x 5 minutes.
    What % of FTP is your best 5 minute power? Maybe that’s unrealistic for you? Everyone is different.

    Hunter

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  43. LM -

    Your peak 5 minute power is not the same as 115% of FTP during 5 minutes.
    For instance : you can have peak power of 400W during 5 minutes, but your FTP is 260.

    The exercise Peaks Coaching says you ride at 115% of 260W for 5 minutes. Not 6 x 5 m inutes at 400W.

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  44. Hi!
    I've bought the TP-program and I do a lot of commuting during the weeks. Can I split some of the workouts to one in the morning and one in the afternoon when there two main sets? (Not the long endurance rides in the weekends)

    ReplyDelete
  45. @Unknown June 11, 2016

    Yes, that would be fine. Just add in some additional work. So for example, if the workout is for 7 x 3 minutes at Vo2 max, then do 5 x 3 minutes in the morning and 5 x 3 minutes in the evening. That way you’ll get in the extra training stress and you’ll have time between for recovery to make the 2nd workout just as good as the first.

    Hunter

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  46. What is better before important race on Sunday:
    Mo: rest
    Tu: 3hrs vo2max tr.
    We: 3hrs treshold interval 4x 15min
    Tu: 5hrs endurance
    Fr: 1,5hrs easy
    Sa: 1,5hrs opener
    Su: race

    Or plan B:
    Mo: rest
    Tu: 3hrs treshold int.
    We: 5hrs endurance
    Tu: 3hrs vo2max - 6x 5min
    Fr: 1,5hrs easy
    Sa: 1,5hrs opener
    Su: race

    Or plan C:
    Mo: rest
    Tu: 3hrs treshold int. 4x 15min
    We: 5hrs endurance
    Th: 1,5hrs easy
    Fr: 3hrs 2x 10min sub treshold and 2x 1min all out 2min rest
    Sa: 1,5hrs rest
    Su: race

    Or somethink different ?
    Thank you for your help.

    ReplyDelete
  47. @Jan91

    Plan H:
    What is better before important race on Sunday:
    Mo: rest
    Tu: 3 hrs vo2max tr.
    We: 3 hrs threshold interval 4x 15 min
    Tu: 2 hrs endurance (REDUCE this from 5 hours. That’s too long.)
    Fr: 1.5 hrs easy
    Sa: 1.5 hrs opener
    Su: race

    Hunter Allen

    ReplyDelete
  48. Oh, people are responding to this. Awesome!

    You guys responded to my comment with:

    "I have seen lots of files with 150%! Of FTP for 5minutes! And plenty more that have 115% of FTP for 6 x 5 minutes.
    What % of FTP is your best 5 minute power? Maybe that’s unrealistic for you? Everyone is different.
    "

    First off. I agree. I too am aware of people that can do at least 140% of FTP for 5'. And certainly 6x5' at 115%.

    Since you asked about me, I'm sitting right around 300w-305w FTP, and can do 405w for 4', so probably 385w-400w for 5'. In my case, 6x5 min at 345w-350w is not an easy workout, but certainly possible on a decent day.

    Where my confusion started was with this comment:

    "From my experience in coaching cyclists, a “normal” (whatever normal is) relationship is that the 5-minute power is 115% of FTP. This is fairly common and shows that the athlete’s FTP and VO2Max are in sync. When I see a 5-minute test that is 120%, 135%, 150% of FTP, that tells me that the athlete could have a very large lung capacity or may have an underdeveloped FTP."

    As I understand it, this means that in a rested, one off, 5' effort all out the 'typical' athlete is capable of 115% of FTP, especially assuming the FTP is well developed, which is when this plan is recommended.

    But the plan itself calls for 6x5 min at 115% of FTP. Which seems fine if you're 5' peak power is like my case, where I'm at 130% of FTP. But if 5' peak power is 115% of FTP, I can't picture doing 6x5 min reps all at peak power. It would be the same as asking a runner with a 5 flat mile PR to do 6xMile repeats, each one at 5 flat. Or asking a guy that on his best day can do a 5' TT at 350w to go and do 6x5' at 350w. A more extreme example would be a guy with 110% of FTP as his 5' peak power. It certainly isn't possible for a 300w FTP, 330w 5' guy to go and do a 5' interval at 350w, let alone do 6 of them.

    More or less I'm just trying to reconcile the 115% of FTP 6x5' target recommendation for the Wednesday workout, with the idea that it's not uncommon for athletes to have a 5' peak power that is 115% of less of FTP.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the best thing at this point is to give it a try. Legitemately do your best and give it a try. Remember that peak effort and repeatability are different things. With training, it might just be possible for you to repeat over and over the effort. You might just surprise yourself. ;-)

      Hunter

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  49. Dear hunter,

    I just started the vo2-max program, i found some usefull tips about splitting the workload over 2 workouts (commuting takes me about 45 minutes, so would be perfect).

    My q is, i did some solid sweetspot, ftp work the last 6 weeks, this as my base for this program. I'm racing cyclocross this winter just to improve for next spring. i planned some A races that i would like to win or podium. I imagine this would be a perfect plan for winter training in combination with the intense 45 minutes cyclocross races.
    Also i dont have the time to do as much sweetspot as i did these last weeks because of the daylight time :-(.
    I want to get strong out the winter. The cyclocross season helped me last year without a lot of structured training at that time. I imagine with this structured vo2 plan i'm flying at the end of those 4-6 weeks. After that i would return to structured ftp work so much as possible.

    am i aplying the right strategy? i never done structured vo2 work or anearobic work. Just a lot of sweetspot/ftp and racing.

    I also struggle to hold 115% 5 minutes, i guess beacause not training a lot anearobic is a cause of this? shorter bursts like 7x3 seem to be more easy hitting 118 to 121%.
    Is this work gonne give me that edge i need to win races? I finished a few third places last year. I guess with my structered ftp work and some intense marathon racing my ftp will have likely risen over last year (did not have a pm at that time)

    Just hope the weather will be not as bad in netherlands.

    Thanks for youre puplished plan.

    Best regards,
    Glenn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Glenn - Great questions. Doing Vo2 work in the off season can be a good and a bad thing. One, it can give you a boost in your Vo2 and FTP, which you can then use to step up to the next level from over the next 3-4 months. This is great if you have a lot of “room to grow” at your FTP, which from your description sounds like you have plenty of room to improve. It can be a bad thing if you are already close to your best fitness and then doing this in the winter will make you peak too soon.

      Doing the short, hard Vo2 work will definitely improve your ability to win races in Cyclo-cross and in road races as well. So, you might want to do this Vo2 program now, then get my “Threshold” improvement program next and then follow it with my “Spring” program. You can get these other plans on www.TrainingPeaks.com/hunter

      Hunter

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  50. Hi Hunter.
    Thank you for all the great articles.
    I'm think going to purchase the 8 week Vo2max plan for an upcoming TT race I want to win.

    Do you have any recommendations for a tapering/resting period after this training plan? I figure I should do some longer intervals up to the TT as well, or even a 20 minute test to find the FTP level again if this plan is so effective as you say :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kudos Simon. I know you are going to love the plan.
      After the plan and your race, I would give yourself at least 3-4 days easy, then begin training again. The goal would be to solidify your fitness gains from the plan and then build on that. So, I would do plenty of sweetspot work, with FTP mixed in there and then add in some Anaerobic Capacity as well. You might consider the Summer Race plan after the TT plan. That works really well after the TT plan.

      Definitely you want to do a mock TT before your actual TT and get those intervals up. The plan progresses you along nicely.
      Go for it!
      Hunter

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    2. Hi again Hunter.
      As you predicted I am loving the plan! I am two weeks in, and it seems like a very delicately put together plan.
      I read your power meter "bible" a year ago, and I've used the guideline for when to stop doing intervals since then with great effect.

      My question is: Do I do the prescribed number of intervals, or do I keep doing them till exhaustion as your book reads?

      For now I am playing the plan a bit safe and not doing extra intervals even if I had no problem completing the last effort, since some of the workouts seem a bit daunting and I don't want to risk doing too much and burn myself out.

      On the other hand, I thought I would be fatigued after a week of this, but I am responding really well, and I can already see great improvements in my efforts, so of course the thought arrives that If I do more, I will improve more.

      For me, I've done so much sweet spot training over the winter that I feel I don't need more of it, even if I don't have a problem handling the amounts in this program.
      For me it's more about whether or not doing more FTP and Vo2max intervals.

      I know it's hard for you to tell from not knowing more, but if you have a tip it's welcome.

      Delete
    3. @Simon Toft Hansen

      Great to read Simon! That is exciting and glad you like the plan and book.

      Pick one of the workouts PER week to do “intervals to exhaustion”. That way you can really push that day and go to failure, and then the next day you’ll still be ok and same for rest of week.

      Go for it!
      Hunter

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    4. Thanks for your inputs on the training plan. I enjoyed it and learned a lot from it. What seemed really hard was in fact a very doable amount of work, when the mindset was right. Will surely do more of your programs in the future and recommend to others!

      And I won the targeted time trial :-)

      Delete
    5. Congratulations! That is awesome!!!!
      Hunter

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  51. How close do you find an athlete can generally bring his FTP to his 5' peak power, looking at it from a "what is this athletes long term potential" standpoint.

    Obviously it's a fairly unknown quantity, but I imagine like most things there is a large cluster between certain %'s

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have seen an FTP as close as 93% to 5 minute power. The “norm” is that FTP of 85% of the 5 minute power. So, anything above 85% is impressive. Really depends on how much of a “slow-twitcher” they are and also how close to their “potential” they are.

      Hunter

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  52. Love you articles¡ what great piece of valuable information.

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  53. Dear Allen,

    please could you help me with training. If I race on Saturday and Sunday and next week again on Saturday and Sunday. What is the best training between that (from Monday to Friday)?
    Thank you for your answer, Pavel.

    ReplyDelete
  54. This looks interesting and I look forward to trying it. However, I'm wondering:
    How does one replicate precisely the prescribed workout on real roads? For instance, I live in an area of rolling hills and moderate 4-6 minute climbs. I could use a climb for a work interval, but the next climb might be further away than what the recovery interval calls for. If I rode the next work interval between climbs, the next hill could interfere with the recovery interval. Does that make sense? It seems like the only way to guarantee that the prescribed intervals are followed would be for me to ride along the river, which is really the only flat route available to me. I'm not sure I could ride the same road every workout. How does one reconcile the reality of actual roads and the requirements of specific training intervals?

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It’s always difficult to align the workout with the terrain. In this case, I would extend your rest intervals so that you can use the available hills to help your power output and effort.
      Go for it! It’s hard, but WILL make a difference!
      Hunter

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