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Toying with intervals

Old 11-18-19, 11:27 AM
  #1  
sanmateoclimber
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Toying with intervals

Hey all,

I'm a relatively inexperienced rider with plenty of room for improvement. I started using Zwift and a Kickr last month, which is my first foray into using power data, which has been cool. I feel like even on outdoor rides where I don't have a power meter, I'm becoming more conscious of the idea that I need to be generating consistent power and targeting the right level of stress to get to the top of the hill optimally. Yesterday I crushed my previous PR up Old La Honda (a classic bay area climb,) and I'm hoping to keep up the progress. I'm very much a "C" rider on Zwift right now with an FTP around 3.0 W/kg, and would love to edge into the "B" space.

So, training with power. I don't think I really want to jump into a fully structured program right now, like with a detailed calendar of workouts and rest days. I would love to take a middle of the road approach this winter: every week do a couple of well-targeted ERG rides, a couple of free rides (outside as much as possible,) a Zwift race here and there. Try to ride about 5 times per week and work in rest days when I need them and when other life stuff gets in the way.

Basically my question for anybody out there would be this: can I just casually integrate ERG rides into my training, and what's the best way to go about doing so? Last week I poked around in Zwift and found a ride that was part of a structured calendar but looked like a good simple intro to ERG ("hunter's challenge week 2 day 3 - earn your bacon.") It was centered around 4x10s at FTP (which for me right now is 250W, 3.0 W/kg,) and it felt like a really good workout-- attainable but challenging. But it also finishes off with some hard 4x1s that were at 420W and I wasn't even able to get through the first one, it seemed like waaay too high a wattage for me, at least at the end of a ride like that. I'm tempted to make a modified version of this workout with just a less intense ending (maybe bump those last kicks down to 300W or something,) and try to do that twice a week. But then I'm thinking, since I was pretty able to manage the 4x10s at 250W, maybe push that a little further to 260W, or make it 4x8 at 270W or ...? The possibilities are of course endless, so I'm wondering if someone can point me in a good direction. If someone wants to generally improve their FTP and endurance with a couple of ERG rides a week, what kind of suggestions would you make?
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Old 11-18-19, 11:30 AM
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That's a pretty substantial FTP for someone who considers themselves a C rider.
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Old 11-18-19, 12:32 PM
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My opinion on interval training is, stop when you can know longer maintain the intensity.
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Old 11-18-19, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by jadocs View Post
That's a pretty substantial FTP for someone who considers themselves a C rider.
A C rider in zwift is Cat 3/4
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Old 11-18-19, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by jadocs View Post
That's a pretty substantial FTP for someone who considers themselves a C rider.
I was thinking the same.
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Old 11-18-19, 12:40 PM
  #6  
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Originally Posted by jadocs View Post
That's a pretty substantial FTP for someone who considers themselves a C rider.
C in Z racing is 2.5 to 3.1 w/kg.

Not C on the local critical mass group slog.

Dont rush the move up. If anything, choose races that wont have those 20min efforts that may jump you to B quite yet.

B goes up to 4.0. A solid well rounded 4.0 rider is a LOT faster than 3.0.

Enjoy C for now and dont do tts for a bit to avoid the class change.
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Old 11-18-19, 12:42 PM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by sanmateoclimber View Post
Hey all,

I'm a relatively inexperienced rider with plenty of room for improvement. I started using Zwift and a Kickr last month, which is my first foray into using power data, which has been cool. I feel like even on outdoor rides where I don't have a power meter, I'm becoming more conscious of the idea that I need to be generating consistent power and targeting the right level of stress to get to the top of the hill optimally. Yesterday I crushed my previous PR up Old La Honda (a classic bay area climb,) and I'm hoping to keep up the progress. I'm very much a "C" rider on Zwift right now with an FTP around 3.0 W/kg, and would love to edge into the "B" space.

So, training with power. I don't think I really want to jump into a fully structured program right now, like with a detailed calendar of workouts and rest days. I would love to take a middle of the road approach this winter: every week do a couple of well-targeted ERG rides, a couple of free rides (outside as much as possible,) a Zwift race here and there. Try to ride about 5 times per week and work in rest days when I need them and when other life stuff gets in the way.

Basically my question for anybody out there would be this: can I just casually integrate ERG rides into my training, and what's the best way to go about doing so? Last week I poked around in Zwift and found a ride that was part of a structured calendar but looked like a good simple intro to ERG ("hunter's challenge week 2 day 3 - earn your bacon.") It was centered around 4x10s at FTP (which for me right now is 250W, 3.0 W/kg,) and it felt like a really good workout-- attainable but challenging. But it also finishes off with some hard 4x1s that were at 420W and I wasn't even able to get through the first one, it seemed like waaay too high a wattage for me, at least at the end of a ride like that. I'm tempted to make a modified version of this workout with just a less intense ending (maybe bump those last kicks down to 300W or something,) and try to do that twice a week. But then I'm thinking, since I was pretty able to manage the 4x10s at 250W, maybe push that a little further to 260W, or make it 4x8 at 270W or ...? The possibilities are of course endless, so I'm wondering if someone can point me in a good direction. If someone wants to generally improve their FTP and endurance with a couple of ERG rides a week, what kind of suggestions would you make?
Sweetspot: 2x20's at 90-ish %
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Old 11-18-19, 12:46 PM
  #8  
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The SST workouts on Zwift are pretty good for incorporating into your week, not too strenuous if you'll be doing other riding. Historically though, my best training on Zwift has come from doing regular races and smashing the event rides as hard as I can - but I can't do that all the time and usually only attempt when I feel my fitness is in a good place. Also a C ~ 3.0w/kg which gets old quick as the Cs blast off at the start @ 4.0+!

Edit if you can do 4x10s try 2x20 or The Gorby - great training for those ~5:00 climbs.

Last edited by MagicHour; 11-18-19 at 12:52 PM.
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Old 11-18-19, 12:59 PM
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You don't want to get in to a program, so you're looking for a non-program program to compliment your other indoor/outdoor rides of varying intensity? I don't know that anyone is going to be able to give you specific interval recommendations for a situation like that. If you just want to slide some stuff in, whatever - just slide some stuff in, pay attention to your body and play it by ear (by that, I mean dial it back when you're feeling fatigued, etc). If you're tracking your training stress, fatigue, etc on Zwift or Strava or whatever, you could keep an eye on that, too, to make sure that you're not overdoing it (if you're not very in tune with body feedback, otherwise).

FWIW, I'm doing trials of both Zwift and Sufferfest after riding TrainerRoad for years. I've gotta say that I'm liking Sufferfest because it addresses one of the problems that you may be experiencing - intervals that scale solely off of FTP while ignoring the rest of a rider's power curve. I had the opposite problem that you're having - short intervals on TR/Zwift were too easy because my FTP is relatively low compared to my 5min, 1min, 5sec, etc (and I assume that you're talking about 10 min and 1 min intervals, not 10 sec and 1 sec intervals). Sufferfest tests all four of those durations and bases workouts on those results, so that I don't end up with too-easy 1 minute efforts whereas someone like yourself might end up with short intervals that are too hard.
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Old 11-18-19, 01:02 PM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by MagicHour View Post
Also a C ~ 3.0w/kg which gets old quick as the Cs blast off at the start @ 4.0+!

Edit if you can do 4x10s try 2x20 or The Gorby - great training for those ~5:00 climbs.
Thanks MagicHour (and others!) Sounds like some grueling 20 min SS intervals await me tonight!

Yeah, I've already been experiencing what you're describing with the fast starts and was pretty lonely out there on a KISS ride the other night because I got dropped at the outset by other C folks. I'm pretty sure I'd like to do some training specifically for those starts and shorter bursts, I seem relatively weak in those areas in comparison to other guys around my FTP...
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Old 11-18-19, 10:39 PM
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Based on a few responses here, I set up and completed a workout tonight that felt pretty solid. 2x20min at 245W, with 2x1min at 310W for an extra push at the end. A few follow-up questions if anybody's game:

1. What's the functional difference between 2x20 and 4x10? I suppose the longer the interval, the better I'm preparing myself for relentless hill climbs where I have no choice but to keep trudging on. But is it preferable from like a TSS standpoint? (I know approximately zero things about TSS.)

2. I stood up a couple of times during the 20 minute intervals to vary things up a bit. Normal? Or should I try to plow through them seated?

3. I built the ride in zwofactory and included the standard ramping "warm up" and "cool down" bookends. Especially for the cool-down, ten minutes seemed pretty long and boring, and took me down to what felt like an excessively low wattage at the end. Is a long and easy cool-down important, or should I just shorten it to five minutes or something? Is the idea that I'm clearing lactic acid during this period?
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Old 11-19-19, 05:13 AM
  #12  
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Three thoughts, well - 4 really:
  1. I have created a set of Tabata interval workouts in Zwift - I'll throw one in every now and then when I only have 30-45 minutes or less to ride. I've become a big believer in their benefit.
  2. I found most of the workouts in Zwift to be pretty weird - just constant changes for no real reason - but there are lots of group workout rides that were set up by more experienced trainers. There are interval ones, sweetspot ones, etc - I find the group nature also makes it less boring, YMMV.
  3. There are also group rides (vs. workouts) that advertise a W/kg level that do multiple laps with sprints at the climbs and sprints in Zwift - HIIT training with longer time between the intervals.
  4. Check out the book "The Time Crunched Cyclist" and Chris Carmichael's thoughts on intervals. I'm not disciplined enough to stick to a rigid training schedule, but I did the Seattle to Portland ride earlier this year and wanted to train. I bought the book, put the workouts in Zwift and mixed them in during the weeks leading up to the ride. I'm not a racer but I did 122 miles the first day and my average speed was higher than I would typical do on flatter century rides - I think the program is well designed.
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Old 11-19-19, 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by sanmateoclimber View Post
Based on a few responses here, I set up and completed a workout tonight that felt pretty solid. 2x20min at 245W, with 2x1min at 310W for an extra push at the end. A few follow-up questions if anybody's game:

1. What's the functional difference between 2x20 and 4x10? I suppose the longer the interval, the better I'm preparing myself for relentless hill climbs where I have no choice but to keep trudging on. But is it preferable from like a TSS standpoint? (I know approximately zero things about TSS.)

2. I stood up a couple of times during the 20 minute intervals to vary things up a bit. Normal? Or should I try to plow through them seated?

3. I built the ride in zwofactory and included the standard ramping "warm up" and "cool down" bookends. Especially for the cool-down, ten minutes seemed pretty long and boring, and took me down to what felt like an excessively low wattage at the end. Is a long and easy cool-down important, or should I just shorten it to five minutes or something? Is the idea that I'm clearing lactic acid during this period?
1. All else equal, 2x20s are harder and more effective. That said, 4x10s will sometimes be at a higher % of FTP, in some cases 100%. Just depends on your objectives for the day. Good to mix it up.

2. Standing is fine as long as you can maintain power after sitting back down.

3. 5 minutes is fine. Just enough to spin the legs out. Yes, you're clearing out lactic acid and other by-products.
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Old 11-19-19, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by redlude97 View Post
A C rider in zwift is Cat 3/4
Oh that is bull, IRL I'm a Cat 4 but my FTP (measured multiple different ways with multiple power sources on multiple occasions) is 290 which, since I weigh 135lbs is 4.7 w/kg. I can place top 10 in A races easily but barely hold on to the breakaway group in a real road race. I also have many other cat 4-3 friends who can crush zwift A races but have a significantly harder time on the real thing.

IMO C-D are equivalent to CAT 5, B is pack fodder Cat 4, A is a Cat 4 who might actually win races and up.
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Old 11-19-19, 09:11 AM
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Also, there's quite a bit of controversy as to the effectivity of Zwift workouts:
https://www.bicycling.com/training/a...youtube-video/
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Old 11-19-19, 09:13 AM
  #16  
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Originally Posted by firebird854 View Post
Oh that is bull, IRL I'm a Cat 4 but my FTP (measured multiple different ways with multiple power sources on multiple occasions) is 290 which, since I weigh 135lbs is 4.7 w/kg. I can place top 10 in A races easily but barely hold on to the breakaway group in a real road race. I also have many other cat 4-3 friends who can crush zwift A races but have a significantly harder time on the real thing.

IMO C-D are equivalent to CAT 5, B is pack fodder Cat 4, A is a Cat 4 who might actually win races and up.
You realize that he was just talking power generalizations and that actual, individual results will strongly rely on other things such as, oh, race smarts?
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Old 11-19-19, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by firebird854 View Post
Also, there's quite a bit of controversy as to the effectivity of Zwift workouts:
https://www.bicycling.com/training/a...youtube-video/
Right thanks, I saw that video a few weeks ago. I think it's important to be clear though, that he's specifically bashing the oh-so-colorful premade interval programs that you can select from the Zwift workouts menu. With really no experience or clue what I was doing, I found it remarkably quick and easy to create my own much simpler workout. It's odd that Zwift promotes all these busy rides that seem to bounce you around zones at random and don't make sense to experienced trainers, but that doesn't detract from the fact that it's real easy to bypass those workouts and do much simpler ones that these criticisms wouldn't apply to.

I'd be curious if anyone has a counterargument to this trainer's message. Why is Zwift's workouts profile so chock full of this stuff if it's so terrible?
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Old 11-19-19, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by firebird854 View Post
Also, there's quite a bit of controversy as to the effectivity of Zwift workouts:
https://www.bicycling.com/training/a...youtube-video/
Yep. I recently started the one of the FTP booster programs, combined with 8 mi/day of commuting and group rides on the weekends, and quickly got into overtraining territory. Problem is I am a compulsive fool, addicted to the feeling of physical exhaustion, and find the presence of the trainer and all the little games a huge temptation. Going to have to get back to the discipline of a real, periodized, training plan. For essentially nothing.
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Old 11-19-19, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by firebird854 View Post
Oh that is bull, IRL I'm a Cat 4 but my FTP (measured multiple different ways with multiple power sources on multiple occasions) is 290 which, since I weigh 135lbs is 4.7 w/kg. I can place top 10 in A races easily but barely hold on to the breakaway group in a real road race. I also have many other cat 4-3 friends who can crush zwift A races but have a significantly harder time on the real thing.

IMO C-D are equivalent to CAT 5, B is pack fodder Cat 4, A is a Cat 4 who might actually win races and up.
Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
You realize that he was just talking power generalizations and that actual, individual results will strongly rely on other things such as, oh, race smarts?
Exactly. I'm pack Cat 4 pack fodder and I'm an C rider rider with a 3.2w/kg FTP outside. I dont road race but ride with lots of 3/4s. I'm a cat 4 CX racer and can hang in those races with other Cat 3/4 roadies as well. If you have a real 4.7w/kg FTP and can't win a Cat 4 race I dunno what to tell you
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Old 11-19-19, 09:50 AM
  #20  
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To actually answer the OP's question though, I'm in a similar boat, in years past I've done Trainerroad, Today's plan, zwift works, and Xert workouts.

When I initially knew nothing about zones, TSS, etc. I found my largest gains by actually following the Trainerroad sweet spot base workouts, this helped me quite a lot. However, I am no longer in that mindset for cycling and instead, am following my own workouts interspersed with fun events and such. The problem is, if you have a couple of days a week you want to do workouts and get the best return on investment of time, it's pretty darn complicated. There're many ideas on what is best out there, periodization towards and event with low steady efforts during the winter ramping up to high-intensity intervals nearing the event.

There's sweet spot training, best explained here https://fascatcoaching.com/tips/how-to-sweet-spot/
There's polarized training, best explained here 8020 Endurance ? Training Plans for Runners and Triathletes.
There's all sorts of definitions of TSS, CTL, ATL, etc. here https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/what-is-tss/
There're solid arguments between polarized and sweet spot training here Sweet Spot, Threshold and Polarized Training ? By the Numbers ? Xert and here https://fascatcoaching.com/tips/swee...g-plan-design/

From my experience and research, if you want to get the most out of training you must first have a goal. Your goal appears to be improving your FTP, quite valid, no two people are the same if your hour power isn't too far off from your 10 minute power, then something like sweet spot intervals (long intervals between 84-97% ftp) will likely give you plenty of gain. In zwift, you could focus on climbing mountains or doing certain segments around this power level for 20-40 minutes at a time!

If your 5-10minute power is significantly better than what you can hold for an hour then you might want to focus on polarized training where much of the time is spent quite a bit below FTP, and you get nice and rested so you can utterly destroy threshold/VO2 max level workouts, but only very occasionally (80% of the time you would spend far below FTP and 20% you would do at or above). This could be achieved quite easily in Zwift by simply doing easy group rides and wandering about most of the time, then when you feel nice and rested, doing a race or going for a couple of KOM jerseys.
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Old 11-19-19, 10:00 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by redlude97 View Post
Exactly. I'm pack Cat 4 pack fodder and I'm an C rider rider with a 3.2w/kg FTP outside. I dont road race but ride with lots of 3/4s. I'm a cat 4 CX racer and can hang in those races with other Cat 3/4 roadies as well. If you have a real 4.7w/kg FTP and can't win a Cat 4 race I dunno what to tell you
I can win a road race if it ends in a very large hill or mountain, I have a couple of problems, 1, I'm quite timid in a pack and usually end up in bad position only to regain it on a climb then quickly lose it again. 2. I'm very slow around corners, having crashed badly in the past, I lose a considerable amount of time here and have to sprint back wasting much momentum. 3. While I can maintain near 5.0 w/kg on a steady straight or climb for 10-20 minutes at the end of a race, I have a paulty sprint, only 850 watts maximum completely fresh.

Also, I should point out, there's many cat 4s with a 4.3-4.5 w/kg FTP who are pretty large, and if they can hold 330 on the flats and I'm hurting at 290 it becomes a problem (I also have issues drafting close enough...).

So frankly, IRL, I can win a race if it ends in non-technical uphill time-trial , in ZWIFT I find it far easier, so long as you go full blast off the start, stay in the break, and use your powerups wisely, it's not that bad at all.

I should also point out that I really only need to maintain around 3.5watt/kg to bounce around in the pack in a real race, but staying at the front, bridging breakaways, and making moves will require considerably more raw power, experience, and ability.
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Old 11-19-19, 10:21 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by firebird854 View Post
I can win a road race if it ends in a very large hill or mountain, I have a couple of problems, 1, I'm quite timid in a pack and usually end up in bad position only to regain it on a climb then quickly lose it again. 2. I'm very slow around corners, having crashed badly in the past, I lose a considerable amount of time here and have to sprint back wasting much momentum. 3. While I can maintain near 5.0 w/kg on a steady straight or climb for 10-20 minutes at the end of a race, I have a paulty sprint, only 850 watts maximum completely fresh.

Also, I should point out, there's many cat 4s with a 4.3-4.5 w/kg FTP who are pretty large, and if they can hold 330 on the flats and I'm hurting at 290 it becomes a problem (I also have issues drafting close enough...).

So frankly, IRL, I can win a race if it ends in non-technical uphill time-trial , in ZWIFT I find it far easier, so long as you go full blast off the start, stay in the break, and use your powerups wisely, it's not that bad at all.

I should also point out that I really only need to maintain around 3.5watt/kg to bounce around in the pack in a real race, but staying at the front, bridging breakaways, and making moves will require considerably more raw power, experience, and ability.
I mean, you've seen the watt/kg thats been around well before zwift right?

Ftp is just one of the numbers but there is way more to racing IRL as pointed out above
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Old 11-19-19, 10:27 AM
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Oh an OP (or anyone else that wants to), feel free to add me on Zwift, I'm Eric Semianczuk, I'm on fairly often rolling around in long sweet spot intervals, it's always more fun with more people! Although, please refrain from looking at my pathetic zwift runs... I'm working on it...
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Old 11-19-19, 11:54 AM
  #24  
sanmateoclimber
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Originally Posted by firebird854 View Post
To actually answer the OP's question though, I'm in a similar boat, in years past I've done Trainerroad, Today's plan, zwift works, and Xert workouts.

When I initially knew nothing about zones, TSS, etc. I found my largest gains by actually following the Trainerroad sweet spot base workouts, this helped me quite a lot. However, I am no longer in that mindset for cycling and instead, am following my own workouts interspersed with fun events and such. The problem is, if you have a couple of days a week you want to do workouts and get the best return on investment of time, it's pretty darn complicated. There're many ideas on what is best out there, periodization towards and event with low steady efforts during the winter ramping up to high-intensity intervals nearing the event.

There's sweet spot training, best explained here https://fascatcoaching.com/tips/how-to-sweet-spot/
There's polarized training, best explained here 8020 Endurance ? Training Plans for Runners and Triathletes.
There's all sorts of definitions of TSS, CTL, ATL, etc. here https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/what-is-tss/
There're solid arguments between polarized and sweet spot training here Sweet Spot, Threshold and Polarized Training ? By the Numbers ? Xert and here https://fascatcoaching.com/tips/swee...g-plan-design/

From my experience and research, if you want to get the most out of training you must first have a goal. Your goal appears to be improving your FTP, quite valid, no two people are the same if your hour power isn't too far off from your 10 minute power, then something like sweet spot intervals (long intervals between 84-97% ftp) will likely give you plenty of gain. In zwift, you could focus on climbing mountains or doing certain segments around this power level for 20-40 minutes at a time!

If your 5-10minute power is significantly better than what you can hold for an hour then you might want to focus on polarized training where much of the time is spent quite a bit below FTP, and you get nice and rested so you can utterly destroy threshold/VO2 max level workouts, but only very occasionally (80% of the time you would spend far below FTP and 20% you would do at or above). This could be achieved quite easily in Zwift by simply doing easy group rides and wandering about most of the time, then when you feel nice and rested, doing a race or going for a couple of KOM jerseys.
This post is enormously helpful, thanks so much! I'm definitely going to work on SST in various contexts (ERG rides, hill climbs, group training) and see if I can get a good bump on my FTP this winter that way.
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Old 11-19-19, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by sanmateoclimber View Post
Based on a few responses here, I set up and completed a workout tonight that felt pretty solid. 2x20min at 245W, with 2x1min at 310W for an extra push at the end. A few follow-up questions if anybody's game:

1. What's the functional difference between 2x20 and 4x10? I suppose the longer the interval, the better I'm preparing myself for relentless hill climbs where I have no choice but to keep trudging on. But is it preferable from like a TSS standpoint? (I know approximately zero things about TSS.)

2. I stood up a couple of times during the 20 minute intervals to vary things up a bit. Normal? Or should I try to plow through them seated?

3. I built the ride in zwofactory and included the standard ramping "warm up" and "cool down" bookends. Especially for the cool-down, ten minutes seemed pretty long and boring, and took me down to what felt like an excessively low wattage at the end. Is a long and easy cool-down important, or should I just shorten it to five minutes or something? Is the idea that I'm clearing lactic acid during this period?
In the Tempo/Sweet Spot range I would consider anything from 10-30min to be equivalent training stress if you keep the rest short ( 2 to 3m). Use shorter intervals with brief rest help you to progress overall time in zone. For example; 3x10 to 2x20 to 3x15 to 3x20. Keeps progressing time up to a rest week, then FTP test, reset power levels & start over a few rungs back in the progression.

You need progression for the stress to stay adaptive.
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