How to bring my level to that of my competition

Hello, I am 55, been training and racing for 20 years, male.

In the covid time I discovered, through Fasttalk, and thank you from the bottom of my heart (I mean that seriously), polarised training. Dr. Seiler is a true guiding light. Thank you sir.

In the few years before that I had come to understand the Coggan zones (very helpful), and had a good sense of my levels.

To the time of learning of the polarized model I did random self rides/training and super hard local group rides, and races.

To the extent I “trained” it was some sort of half understood sweetspot. I will say in retrospect I knew on some level about polarization, both by self learning and the off comment on the wheel during group ride lulls: “you know the pros (training), when they go easy they go really easy and when they go hard they. go. really. f–ng. hard.” The pro’s on our rides would talk about avoiding going “medium.”

This made sense, but the advice out there was sweetspot.

I hated it. I couldn’t understand what level. FTP? LT? how far below what level? Etc. Etc.

Utter torture. Burnout. Never got better when I “trained.”

The only way I got able to ride with my competition was to ride hard and race hard with my competition, with one exception.

We have a canyon climb in my area. Basically at VO2Max power I can climb it in sub-4 minutes.

My buddy, who knows how to train and wins big races, crits, climbs, a sprinter, set us up to ride out there, do a 2 minute hill sprint up a steep hill on the way, then repeat the canyon at top rate 6 times.

We did this once a week for several weeks leading up to Gila.

When I got there I rolled the Thursday race with no problem, solid TT, we won the crit as a team (he won the sprint), then I got in the break on Sunday, he came by me on the main climb with the group, then won the stage. He thanked me for the help and gave me half the prize money, as me being in the break let him sit on while the others chased.

That was all great, then work and family evolved and my training time was cut by 30%.

That’s when sweetspot wrecked my happiness. Also, no more x3 hard group rides a week, which were actually fun and productive, though, obviously not efficient in terms of real life schedule.

Side note: no shortcuts- timecrunched may mean “weakling,” but anyway:

I found polarized, loved it, keeps me near even with my competition.

Question is, what do I add to raise my level.

Real talk; not like “doing well at my level.”

To put it simply- I am not able to ride as fast as my competition, even though I kick butt on my polarized system. My numbers are good, my feelings are good, I’m happy.

Need to bump it up a notch.

Is this possible with limited time?

If so, how?

To be specific:

I can do 4 days a week of training and one hard/long group ride. One run a week for health/balance, one day off. This means, basically 4 one hour training sessions and a 3 hour weekend ride,

Maybe you should consider a coach? I’m your age and at 55, you can spend a few years trying to learn how to level up and maybe you figure it out or you don’t. And maybe you get to 60 and find out that you never really figured out the training. Or just pay a good coach for a year or two to get you there as fast as possible?

I’ve been road cycling since I was 13, raced many years. At 50, I decided I wanted to be the fastest I could be. I had the time and the motivation. I’m faster now at 55 than I was at 52 because I’ve learned so much. It would have been awesome to fast track that knowledge acquisition.

Your 7 hours per week jumps out at me. The top masters riders I know are riding a lot more - 10, 12+ hours per week or more. One of my team mates won his masters category at Gila. He put in quite a few 20+ hour weeks in preparation.

1 Like

I have some questions:

  • When you talk about training polarized, are you doing this year round? Are you strictly abiding by the notion that you either ride at or around your aerobic threshold for your easy rides and your hard rides are nothing but VO2max or higher?

  • Are you ignoring training at tempo, sweet spot, and LT wattages? Perhaps you would be faster if you employed blocks of training that focus on other intensities? I.e. do some tempo, sweet spot, and work at threshold.

  • Do you do any strength training?

Re: Polarized

Do realize that LOTS of pros do tempo, sweetspot and work at or around their lactate threshold?

Hi @Lmasursky,

Thanks for the great message! Really appreciate that you found the show and it has been helping you. Loved your story about Gila… sounds like a really fun experience and always great to experience that sort of teamwork!

In terms of raising your level, I will qualify my answer by saying that time is always a factor. You can get strong with 7-8 hours per week, but you can only get so strong. I wish there was a way around that, but it doesn’t matter what method you employ (sweet spot, polarized, high-intensity, etc) time caps our potential.

That said, there’s still a lot you can do with 7-8 hours. I don’t think it’s a matter of changing your approach. I think there’s a lot you can do staying polarized. It’s just perfecting what you do. All of us respond differently to different interval work. I think the trick for you is finding the interval/intensity work that you respond best to and also trying to make sure you really execute your long slow rides well (i.e. keeping that very steady pace just below aerobic threshold.)

So, I agree with the suggestion that you should find a coach to help you. A good coach can help you identify the right work that’s going to make the most out of your limited time… particularly the right intervals work. It’s just going to take some experimentation.

That said, you already know you respond well to those 2 minute hill repeat efforts. I’d keep that in your repertoire.

On that note, to give an example, I personally only do two intensity sessions per week. I’ve just found, through a lot of experimentation, the work that I respond really well to. So, for me it’s not a matter of doing more sessions to raise my level, it’s a matter of making the most of the two sessions I’m doing.

Hope that helps!



Hi Trevor, thanks for your response, I got a bit side-tracked, time went by, really appreciate you taking the time.

Hi @Lmasursky, just hope it helped! Thanks for the message