Endurance before or after intervals?

I’m curious if there is any definitive research out there regarding the best way to add endurance paced riding (zone 2 of Coggan model) during high intensity interval days.

Is it best to add the endurance before, after, or maybe before AND after completing intervals?

Or maybe it doesn’t matter at all; endurance riding provides the same benefits regardless of where it’s placed.

Not that i know. Make sure your z2 is truly zone 2: use data from a test to know your z2 power /z2 HR / the feeling at z2 (when rested and fatigued).

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My thoughts are to complete the intervals in a manner that would allow for the best quality possible. With that said, is there secondary goals with the intervals (eg. completing the intervals while being in fatigued state - end of a long endurance ride)?

If I was primarily trying to elicit the intended stimulus from my intervals and adding the endurance stimulus was second, I would do intervals followed by endurance. The reason I would do this is to complete the intervals when my glycogen stores are most full so that I could hit and maintain the power target. If I was to do endurance before, the stimulus may be slightly different. That is, glycogen stores may be slightly depleted and less than optimal for completing a high quality interval session.


I have heard several sources suggest doing endurance work after building up lactate levels from HIt work will nullify the signalling from the endurance work, and the raised levels of lactate in the mucles will last a surprisingly long time rather than just a few mins of a recovery interval. Last souce was I San Milan on the recent Attila podcast.

doubt its a total waste of time and doing more cant hurt, but if z2 volume and benefits are the goal then I’d do everything I can to separate the sessions.


Good point. I listened to that podcast as well and thoroughly enjoyed it. While this is true, there is further nuance to the effect of lactate on the signaling of fat oxidation and lipolysis. Our physiology occurs on a continuum and is not an “on/off”. The endurance work and stimulus may be reduced but not completely turned off, just less than optimal (if we are seeking endurance adaptations).

Getting into the details here: when lactate is produced during high intensity efforts (and maintained at high concentrations in the muscle) it prevents the breakdown of triglycerides into free fatty acids and the shuttling of fats into the mitochondria, thus preventing ATP to be formed from fats, and as a result prevents signaling that would come from increased lipolysis and fat oxidation. However, once lactate levels return to resting concentrations or even around concentrations seen during endurance pace, this inhibition on lipolysis and fat oxidation may be suppressed. Now, the time course for which this occurs may be different for each individual and the intensity of the intervals. I referenced this article in another post, but it suggests that it may take nearly 20 minutes for lactate concentrations to return to baseline after a high intensity effort. With that in mind, the stimulus from the endurance work may not be as inhibited 20-minutes post intervals. Again, this time course will vary on the fitness and the interval type of the individual and an actual study would need to be conducted to see if this is the case.

I agree with you in that I would try to keep the session separate to provide the most optimal stimulus for each occasion, but if the sessions must be combined, concession will need to be made.


I can see these arguments for optimal stimulus. But isn’t there some argument to be made for some training that is similar to how we are racing? For example, the gravel races I am doing usually last 3-5 hours and have a lot of intensity early. Wouldn’t some training efforts that have intensity first prepare me physically (lactate clearance?) and psychologically (mental toughness) for this type of race?

Also ftiw, this last week I did 90 min of Z2 before 2 x 20 min at 91% of FTP and felt the same if not better than if I had just done a short warmup before the steady-state threshold intervals. Anecdotal, I know. But just saying, I wasn’t cooked and unable to complete my intervals by any means.


Absolutely! @jvbailey88 I totally agree that we often get lost in the physiology and lose sight in the importance of the psychological aspect in our performance. That being said, there is definitely a time and place in training to have long days with more unstructured efforts that simulate race conditions. When those are placed appropriately in your training plan can be tremendously helpful to your overall fitness and race performance.

It is interesting that you mention this. To your point this shows that we can approach our intervals in a very scientific way, but often forget the value of the subjective (feelings and perceptions) nature of training as well. If doing your endurance training prior to your intervals allows you to complete them with greater consistency and with better quality than endurance after, then that is what you may need to do. It really is a fine balance when we look at these aspects at a more global level.


I use endurance zone both before and after! One of the main benefits of zone 2 riding is the recruitment and building of mitochondria which basically are the power plants of your muscles, these are the tiny cells within the muscle fiber that help produce power as well as deliver fuel to working muscles. I might craft a workout for an athlete that is an endurance ride of 3hrs and then perform the intervals working fatige resistance. When looking at L1 and L2 fatiue technically can appear at lower intebsities it is just that our bodies can deal with it and the affects re not like that associated with near or at threshold intebsity. I find this strategy to be more event and race specific as well to help meet those demands. If I am looking for intervals done at the ceiling of power zone or if we are working on max power then I might elect to have intervals done in the fromt of the endurance ride. I have also been know to place them in the middle of a ride as well, gives you somehting to look forward to and the celebrate after you crush the intervals for the remainder of the ride. Hope this helps and train smart.


I’ve done a mix of before and after as well, not so much mid-ride. Great feedback, thanks!