How many different interval workout types in a given week?

Hello all. I’m new here and have so, so many questions. I’ll start with this one. I’m happy to provide any additional info if it would be helpful.

I usually do 2 high-intensity sessions per week. Generally speaking, is it best to do similar intervals on those days to really focus on a particular adaptation, or would it be better to do a different type?

Consider the following weekly schedules:

M: off T: 4x4 at around VO2 max, W: 2.5h Z2, Th: 3x12 just above threshold, F: 1h Z1, S: 5h Z2, Su: 3h Z2 with some tempo efforts


M: off T: 4x4 at around VO2 max, W: 2.5h Z2, Th: 4x4 at around VO2 max, F: 1h Z1, S: 5h Z2, Su: 3h Z2 with some tempo efforts

Any thoughts on what I should be considering in choosing an approach?


I’m actually very interested in this question myself.

The non coach response (mine) would be, at the end of the day, unless you’re training for a specific event does it really matter? If so, then specificity dictates the nature of the hard days.

BTW, how much tempo on Sunday? I’m guessing not enough to make Sunday “hard”

@dedenburn, great question to kick off your forum journey. @Schils brings up a great point. To some degree there is truth to the suggestion of “does it really matter” if you’re not training for a specific event. There is plenty of research to support your selected approach to nearly any type of training. So you could approach it from the standpoint of doing more of a mixture of efforts (e.g., VO2 max, then threshold on day 2) if you’re looking to build general fitness or even getting ready for a specific type of event where this would be useful. This could also fit the bill for a training camp scenario where you do your highest intensity first, and then follow-up with more moderate intensity as you fatigue. I’ll do an approach like this more in the off season and early season when I want a mixture of training and am looking to keep the enjoyment high.

Your second example is what I tend to go with once the rubber hits the road. Figure out what physiological attribute you want to train, and then go after it. So 2x per week VO2 max training would be ideal for a training block where that’s the attribute you want to promote. 6 sessions at 2x per week gives you a nice 3 week time period to work with for that block.

You will get a number of opinions on this one, but my suggestion is to try a variety of methods to see what works best for you in different scenarios. Some things to consider would include:

  1. Available time per week or day - this will help to workout just how much load can be applied within any given microcycle
  2. Other activities - to determine the layout of your “key” training sessions, any supporting sessions, and other activities that might be present but not contribute to your fitness (e.g., the company softball league on Tuesday evenings that leaves you sore for Wednesday rides)
  3. Life stress - do you have the lifestyle that allows for regular application of a training load, or does it require a more strategic approach? (e.g., I’ve coached firefighters in the past where we had to work with 4 days on, and 4 days off. Sleep becomes an issue, so it’s important to figure out where you can do the most work when you’re most recovered).

Are you leaning toward one of those two options you posed initially for your weekly schedule?
Coach Ryan


Good point and great question @Schils . My training goal is general road racing, so there’s nothing specific right now. I’ve been doing the tempo on that Sunday ride as spontaneous efforts just for fun. I know that middle zone is sort of frowned on in the polarized approach, but it’s not that hard and it seems like taking Monday off is enough that I can hit it hard on Tuesday.

Appreciate the reply @ryan . I’m leaning towards focusing on one or the other as the racing season gets closer. That brings up the question of which one, and I really need some testing to decide on that, as we discussed yesterday. I spent a lot of the past few months focusing on extending the duration of efforts rather than their intensity. My guess is that it might be time to focus on raising the ceiling with VO2 max work.

It’s funny that you mention the work schedule constraints. I spent all of 2020 working in a specialty practice that required rotation between clinic (normal hours) and hospital (10-12 hrs x 7 days). It was tough to keep any kind of momentum going with 1/3 hospital rotations. Fortunately, I’m in a clinic only position now and have normal work hours. I like doing 60 minute rides before work, which is perfect for 4x4, for example (which is what I did on Tuesday).

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So really the tempo efforts are rather organic vs. structured? Sometimes those kind of efforts are “needed” from a mental standpoint during longer “steady” rides. At least for me and my self-diagnosed ADD.

Also, depending on the terrain your riding and your power output; tempo efforts or even higher might be unavoidable. It has been a while since I admitted a climb is too much and walked (at least on the road). :dizzy_face:

While tempo is often viewed as no mans land while training, it is most definitely a zone that will be used during most events (half and full course tri, road race, gravel, group rides, mountain-course dependent). If one wants to keep up with the kool kids, one can’t always stay below LT1. Plus, threshold and higher efforts are kind of like lighting a bottle rocket. When your done, your done and the explosion can be glorious! :fireworks: Then your left riding by yourself or with the gruppetto.

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This is great @Schils. While I don’t frequently prescribe tempo riding to athletes that are doing a lot of racing (since they get it in the races as you said), I’ll use it for athletes that aren’t racing much or just need to build some training load without being blown. We do have a lot of polarized training going on, but there are certain tools available that can be built in for various reasons, and tempo rides are one of those in my opinion. Early in my coaching career I got slammed for prescribing an athlete 90 minutes of tempo riding as 3x30 minutes with 5 minutes rest between during a long ride. But that was part of a larger block of training that this athlete was building up to, and when he completed it, his fitness and cruising speed were very strong and he felt better prepared for the duration of his upcoming event. So long story short, I think tempo is a great intensity to use at certain times.

Coach Ryan


@dedenburn, wow, that’s quite the schedule you had! And I"m glad to hear that things have improved time-wise for you. That makes those morning sessions much more consistent.

If you haven’t done the high end stuff like working on raising the ceiling, now isn’t a bad time to start on some of that. The 4x4, as you’re doing, is a great workout and easy to get in during those hours. Training is a give and take, so if you’ve been doing a lot of extension of the duration, it would make sense to work on the intensity a bit.

Coach Ryan