Essentially it is a training method that looks at using the various isolated energy training systems to achieve different results from different types of training.
It is a training method that we have been using for the last 3-4 years to try and demonstrate how to achieve more for pro athletes and also prevent the regularity of injury or illness that normally plagues pro athletes.
However, it is applicable to anyone who takes their training seriously and especially for the 40 plus age bracket. As we get older we still want to be competitive and we still want to be able to train hard. The problem is that as we get older our rate of recovery declines and it is all too easy to over-train and suffer from fatigue.
What was evident when we looked at training programmes of professional triathletes and cyclists 4 years ago was the amount of training that was done in the mid zone. This mid point is right on the aerobic/ anaeraobic threshold point and requires high levels of energy, expertise, strength and skill. It is also over long duration and therefore requires serious amounts of controlled recovery to be able to benefit from the training.
One of the most common problems with endurance training is balancing the volume of training with sleep, recovery and good health. This is why we see so many quality days lost to training in high-level Triathletes. This is also why we see much higher than normal levels of Achilles issues, foot issues and knee injuries.
To prove this method what was done was that a number of coaches were asked to look at splitting the training cycles into 70% base level training, a much high amount of base work than was ever traditionally done, 20% high level 90%-95% intensity intervals, and only 10% threshold work and race simulation. This immediately took away a large amount of the exhausting mid level work, reduced the amount of actual training time and kept the training very controlled and very technique driven.
The base level work started the season relatively flat and allowed a controlled build up of time doing the activity, to effectively build the engine. This base training then built towards bringing some low intensity hills to start to build some specific strength to the engine. By doing this over time the athlete gets fitter and the speed they are running at and the power they are generating on the bike for the same energy output go up.
The high intensity sessions varied greatly with rest periods getting shorter and the work periods getting longer as the Lactate system became better adapted. Some of the key points to take from the experimenting that we did was that very short high intensity burst did very little in terms of race performance. What we found was that to achieve the greatest performance return you had to be working hard for a minimum of 3 ½ minutes and up to 8 minutes in Pro athletes. It is safe to say that to see benefit you need to hold these very tough high intensity sessions to force the body to adapt not just work hard in short bursts with limited return and an exhausting effect.
Most of the 10% Threshold work was used for Time Trialling and race work close to the race season.
The other variable that we looked at was Heart Rate Variability (HRV). This was of interest to assess the resting heart rate of the athletes every morning. This allows you to see how often they had a wide variability and therefore were not in peak condition to train at threshold levels that day.
A number of the findings have been very interesting and have proven the point of how endurance athletes should train, in my mind at least.
Using Polarized training the athletes were actually doing less hours per week, as much as 15% less.
HRV had a low variability rating, and therefore the body was showing NO signs of fatigue, 42% more of the time. This means that 42% more of the time you could push the body or have the comfort of knowing that recovery from whatever you did would be given the best chance of success.
Athletes were able to hold race pace lactate threshold levels for 34% longer than the non-Polarized training groups. Thus allowing long high intensity race winning performance.
These are early stage results in the research we are doing. However, it shows a clear pattern that working wiser will have greater effect than working longer. It also shows us that altering your training based on how your body feels on any given day will help recovery and more importantly prevent fatigue. Taking an easy day of training today is much better use of time than take a week out due to Overtraining and Fatigue!
In my mid forties I still train hard, I still get great results but I am now more controlled about what I do and when, and I listen very closely to what my body is telling me having gone through this research.