Am I ruining my aerobic base for short term gains by adding in these harder sessions?

  • Creator
    Topic
  • #42954
    derekosborne22
    Participant

    Hi Scott,

    Interesting topic that I’d like to take off on a slight tangent.

    Given Coronavirus restrictions I’ve had to move my exercise regime away from the mountains and onto the bike and I’m now a bit conflicted.

    Sept19 thro to Feb20 virtually all my exercise was walking based in the Z1/Z2 range with a weekly ME session for good measure. My last Aet test (Dec19) was around 120 (treadmill protocol) and my AnT is around the 150 mark. Between yourself and the other Scott we concluded that my AeT ceiling may be around the 120 mark – I’m 64 years young. That said, I know I’m as fit or fitter than I probably ever have been so good with that.

    Coronavirus and lockdown come along, my objectives for 2020 all disappear, local gyms close down, I can’t travel to the hills, so I dust off the road bike and start getting out on that again. As before, I stay in Z1/Z2, but even a couple of weeks of transitioning it’s pretty slow – very easy and enjoyable but pretty slow particularly going uphill. I do some digging and this is where I get some conflicts. Training Peaks talk about building quite a lot of 75-80% MHR intervals into your weekly program – for me that around 129-137 – well above my AeT and in the dreaded Z3. Then I read above (Super easy training is the most important) which talks about adding a lot of easy sessions of 65% – 80% MHR which again takes me well above AeT. So the dilemma I had was do I stick to Z1/Z2 and max of around 120 or do I move to some sessions max’ing around 137?

    I tried a couple of rides of 60-90mins with around 40-50% of the time 129-137 zone (rest below) – yes it was harder, but by no means hard – it felt good, more natural, comfortable and importantly I felt good. Net I have persevered with this higher HR over the last couple of months interspersed with easier sessions under 120. Rides are minimum of 1hour and always have one per week of 3-5 hours. Total is close to 40hrs per month. Result – I feel stronger and am faster on the bike than I ever have been. As a real example I repeated a hard ~3 hour route on Saturday that I did almost a exactly a year ago (pre starting UA protocol) without monitoring HR during the ride. I completed it 8 minutes faster – great – but even better was HR: 2019 it was AVG of 147 with a max of 167; on Saturday past it was AVG of 120 with max of 159, and I felt really good at the end. 2019 included a coffee stop, Saturday was non-stop.

    My plan is to continue with 2-3 75-80% MHR sessions per week (except recovery weeks) with easy <AeT sessions in-between until around Sept when hopefully things are back to near normal and I can get back into gym, do a AeT test again, and return to pure AeT walking base building sessions till year end with some leg strength and ME sessions.

    Any comments? Am I ruining my aerobic base for short term gains by adding in these harder sessions?

    Thanks,
    Derek

  • Moderator
    Scott Semple on #42964

    …so I dust off the road bike and start getting out on that again.

    Did you retest AnT and AeT? Weight-bearing heart rates are usually higher than non-, especially if you haven’t been cycling in a while. (Trained cyclists may have them closer.)

    Training Peaks talk about building quite a lot of 75-80% MHR intervals into your weekly program…

    MHR? Do you have a link to those recommendations? Training Peaks metrics are built on the work of Andrew Coggan who works from AnT (i.e. “threshold”, “lactate threshold”, “FTP”, etc). By heart rate, he recommends that most volume be <= 83% of AnT HR; for cycling, <= 75% AnT power.

    Then I read above which talks about adding a lot of easy sessions of 65% – 80% MHR which again takes me well above AeT.

    No, 65-80% of AeT HR if the aerobic gap is less than 10%. At 100% AeT for those suffering from ADS. (Watch your denominators.)

    Am I ruining my aerobic base for short term gains by adding in these harder sessions?

    It’s hard to tell until we can nail down the actual intensity. I would do threshold tests for cycling first, and then revisit the TP prescription you mentioned and confirm what the benchmark intensity is (MHR, AnT HR, etc).

    Participant
    derekosborne22 on #42969

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for quick reply. Going through your points in order

    1) No, haven’t tested AeT since Dec last year (treadmill test) – not sure how to test on a road bike. Re AnT it’s probably around a year since tested and that’s always been on road bike. Haven’t retested since I started UA protocol.

    2) MHR – Max Heart Rate. Link to article: https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/why-you-should-target-your-aerobic-threshold-during-quarantine. It was on their email sent out May 9th.

    3) Well …. the article doesn’t make any mention of ADS but given training history of the case study I’m guessing they had ADS, and the paragraph below cut-and-pasted from the article implies a MHR based approach rather than a measured AeT one

    ….. Prior to working with me, the athlete did very little work below 80% max heart rate. Most of the work he did in this range was restricted to just warming up for the “main event.” We made a large shift in this training emphasis by adding a lot more easy aerobic work (~65-80% max heart rate) and a lot less high-intensity work (~85-100% max heart rate) …..

    Now it may be that the persons AeT was around 80% of MHR (mine is around 70% of MHR albeit last test was 6 months ago – it may well be higher now) in which case there is a consistency, but for me it’s inconsistent.

    4) That’s fair. Actually doing AeT on a bike is difficult for me – virtually no flat terrain around me and I don’t have access to a turbo. AnT I can do. Hopefully gym will
    open up soon and I can do another AeT test although it will be treadmill based unless you can point me to a bike equivalent.

    Please don’t take any of the above as negative to UA. Your books have completely changed the way I train and the way I think about training, and I’m fitter now than I think I have been at any time in my 64 years, at least endurance wise anyway. But I have learned over the years that there is no one protocol that’s perfect for everyone, and right now I’m finding bringing in some 75-80% MHR is benefitting me greatly even if it’s above AeT. It could be that my AeT has gone into that area in which case all good, but right now I’m loving this fitter me.

    Thanks as always for the feedback.

    Stay safe,
    Derek

    Participant
    Garret on #42982

    With only hilly routes and without a turbo trainer or power meter I’m not sure it’s easy to do a cycling AeT test.

    If the hills aren’t too steep and/or your gear ratios allow and your budget can stretch to it a power meter would allow you do an AeT tests. Similar to the UA outdoor running AeT test, choose a power output instead of pace and check for heart rate drift – either with Training Peaks or the one posted here

    You can then use power zones instead of HR zones for your aerobic bike training.

    Single (left) sided crank power meter prices have come down significantly in the last while.

    Participant
    derekosborne22 on #42986

    Thanks for info/advice Garret. Given cycling isn’t my main activity I think I’ll avoid the expense and just wait for the gym to open and retest then. By doing that I also have a better like-for-like comparison with previous tests.

    Cheers,
    Derek

    Moderator
    Scott Semple on #43004

    …not sure how to test on a road bike.

    A power meter and a flat course are ideal. But a flat course at a (roughly) constant heart rate will give a good estimate. You can still calculate the drift based on the speed (if the course is flat and wind-free).

    If you don’t want to test either on the bike, then I would assume that thresholds are 10-20 beats lower than in a weight-bearing test.

    2) MHR – Max Heart Rate. Link to article: https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/why-you-should-target-your-aerobic-threshold-during-quarantine. It was on their email sent out May 9th.

    Interesting. I agree with everything they say about aerobic threshold and training it. However, they say, “for most reasonably fit individuals, your AeT falls around 75-80% of maximum heart-rate.” What does “reasonably fit” mean? How does an athlete know if they qualify for that category and can use that intensity?

    They also say, “[The AeT] power level is typically between 80-90% of Anaerobic Threshold power (FTP) depending on one’s level of aerobic fitness.” That’s not nearly broad enough. In the athletes that I train, I have athletes with severe ADS and an AeT of 70% AnT; and others that are highly trained with AeT over 95% of AnT. The generic prescription fails them all.

    If you’ve been doing most of your training at AeT and are now adding some Z3, then it makes sense that you would feel good. The Z3 work is sharpening your base, and it will feel good for a while. I would keep it to less than 5% of total training time.

    3) Well …. the article doesn’t make any mention of ADS but given training history of the case study I’m guessing they had ADS, and the paragraph below cut-and-pasted from the article implies a MHR based approach rather than a measured AeT one

    ….. Prior to working with me, the athlete did very little work below 80% max heart rate. Most of the work he did in this range was restricted to just warming up for the “main event.” We made a large shift in this training emphasis by adding a lot more easy aerobic work (~65-80% max heart rate) and a lot less high-intensity work (~85-100% max heart rate) …..

    Don’t assume that an HR description is the equivalent of a prescription. For example, I often use MHR as a reference when I’m talking to someone with little training experience or if I don’t know their level of experience. It’s the quickest way to get a point across without rabbit-holing on what a threshold is, what types there are, what they mean, how they’re trained, etc.

    As this thread demonstrates, changing the denominator to match the benchmark quickly makes the reference percentages confusing.

    Now it may be that the persons AeT was around 80% of MHR (mine is around 70% of MHR albeit last test was 6 months ago – it may well be higher now) in which case there is a consistency, but for me it’s inconsistent.

    The variation is huge, which is why I think personalization of training will always be the most effective. (For example, I’ve seen AeTs as low as 65% of MHR and as high as 90%.)

    Another confusing factor is that if someone has little to no training history, then any activity will create an improvement.

    Please don’t take any of the above as negative to UA.

    Not at all. These conversations are important.

    …I have learned over the years that there is no one protocol that’s perfect for everyone

    Exactly. Which is why personalization has to happen and MHR prescriptions won’t be ideal.

    …and right now I’m finding bringing in some 75-80% MHR is benefitting me greatly even if it’s above AeT.

    Yes, that’s what Z3 does for a while. Just be careful to only do it for 6-8 weeks, and then go back to closing the gap between AnT and AeT. Once that gap is less than 10%, preferably closer to 5%, then that Z3 work will really work well.

    Participant
    derekosborne22 on #43012

    Hi Scott …. as you say conversation is always good as we are all different in so many ways. I do hope however that my bike AeT is not 10-20 beats less than weight bearing – that would make it between 100 and 110 – I’d be cycling that slowly that pedestrians would be walking past me!!! Slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

    Re getting to a 10% gap between AeT and AnT, I had a conversation with the other Scott some months ago about my AeT test results and he firmly advised that at my age I might have to accept that my AeT might not get much if any higher than the 120 no matter how much training I did and I should accept it and focus more on the pace benefit, which to a certain extent I have done. Riding at a max of 110 however isn’t an viable option, let alone 100, but I still do regular sessions at or under my weight bearing AeT of 120. For info my at rest HR is around 50, by max is around 172 and I can maintain around 152 for between 40 – 60 minutes so I guess that’s my AnT.

    At risk of repeating myself, the only solid thing I know is I’m a lot fitter than I can ever remember being, and I have always kept myself reasonable fit – long weekends in the mountains or a weeks hut to hut ski touring didn’t really require any pre training. Specifically, looking back at cycle routes done last year, I’m doing them faster and at a considerably lower average and peak HR so it is working and working well. I also have never arrived home this season completed done-in – something I fairly regularly did under the “harder is better” protocol of the past.

    One MAJOR benefit for someone now in their 60’s is that AeT training is easy to do 4,5 even 6 days a week, week in week out, without feeling at all fatigued As you will well know, managing fatigue becomes more of an issue as we get older. Without the fatigue it’s enjoyable, and being enjoyable means it’s become part of my life structure, and without the fatigue it doesn’t interfere with other aspects of my life. I’ve done hard HIIT sessions in the past and been so exhausted that the rest of the day is pretty much wasted. The one thing I make sure I do include is periodisation – micro, meso and macro – irrespective of what training protocol you use, periodisation is always there in one form or other. As to what form that takes and what the focus of next year will be is in the lap of Coronavirus, but the “easy will be easy, and what hard there is will specific, time limited, and hard.

    Thanks again for all the feedback. I’ll continue on the bike across the summer and take your points on board and once the gym opens up again will do another AeT test. As to what form training takes from then and what the focus of next year will be is in the lap of Coronavirus, but for sure the “easy will be easy and frequent, and the hard will specific, time limited, and hard”.

    Take care,
    Derek

    Participant
    derekosborne22 on #43019

    Hi Scott,

    Quick practical question if I may.

    It’s been about 10 weeks since I started adding in intensity, so according to your advice above I should be dropping this and moving back to Z1/Z2 only. I was planning to do this during the quieter Sept – Dec period to add more aerobic base, but worry that if I do now I’ll lose the fitness/performance gains of the last 10 weeks. With an AeT of 120 and AnT of 152, Z1/Z2 sessions are very easy from both a HR and a RPE perspective so my weekly training load will reduce unless I add quite a lot more duration.

    Any thoughts or advice on what to do till Sept?

    Thanks again,
    Derek

    Moderator
    Scott Semple on #43046

    Why would you lose the gains? I suspect what would be more likely is that you’ll find your easier intensities may have increased in speed. If so, then you’ll likely maintain the gains you’ve made.

    Keymaster
    Scott Johnston on #43063

    Derek;

    I’ll chime in here; a bit late to the party perhaps and I may have missed something in this thread.

    Do a current AeT HR Drift test. The fact that you say you have never been this fit indicates that you AeT has moved up. By ‘up’ I mean speed @ AeT but possibly AeT HR is higher too. Recall the qualifier ‘may’ that I used when I said you may not see much increase in AeT HR. Individualization of training by having some physiological markers with which to anchor you intensity zones and thus regulate your training is critical. Hence our continual beating of that drum and why we provide simple tests you can do. As Scott S says; 65-80% is a large range and how would you know where you might lie if you don’t test. That sort of silly generalization does no one any good and misleads many looking for some simple formulaic solution. I’ve trained Olympians with an AeT of 90% and AnT of 95% max HR.

    After you see what you new AeT and AnT are then you can decide when and how much to add higher intensity training. In an ideal world you fix your ADS before adding HIT. But if you have an important event on the horizon you should had HIT. Or you want to do a block that includes some HIT and return to more dedicated base training, I see nothing wrong with that. Just keep the volume of Z1-2 about 80-90% of the weekly volume.

    I hope this helps.
    Scott

    Participant
    derekosborne22 on #43075

    Hi Guys,

    Thanks to you both for your input and I agree an AeT test is a priority. So that it’s an “apples for apples” I want to do on treadmill, which means I need to wait until gyms open up again – hopefully some point in July. I will do and let you know results.

    I suspect that my AeT has increased. Gut feel from how I’m feeling on the bike, plus Scott S’s comment that typically AeT on a bike is 10-20 bpm less than a weight bearing AeT. Riding around my weight bearing AeT of 120 is really easy and yes, my pace in Z1/Z2 sessions on bike has increased in last 3 months by >10%, although I suspect that may be due to addition of more intense sessions. It may be helpful to share 2 examples of fitness improvements:

    1) The mountains: a 6500 vertical feet mountain day with one 20 minute break for food was relatively easy – haven’t done that vertical in a day for probably >40 years, and certainly never with the relative ease

    2) An identical repeat ride: June 2020: 24.4km/hr, June 2019: 23.7km/hr – a small 3% improvement from pre to post UA protocol. BUT that’s not the whole story: 2020 done with an avg HR of 120, down from 147, and a Strava Relative Effort of 77, down from my all time record relative effort of 440 (both Relative Efforts were HR based not RPE (Perceived Relative Effort)) Further the June 2019 ride required a lengthy recovery stop at around 2/3rds distance and I was done-in at end. June 2020 was non stop and comfortable throughout. Not olympian pace and never will be, but a quantitive example of improvements and for that I’m delighted and grateful – thanks guys.

    I have two dilemmas however:

    1) Apart from the health, well being and general enjoyment of exercise, my sole reason for “training” is to keep myself fit enough to still do multi-day walking, ski and/or bike tours, some of which are recognisably tough, well into my 70s and hopefully longer. Some of these can have days of up to 12 hours – sometimes back-to-back – and some single day events can be >12 hours. Therefore I schedule a few training days to simulate these long days (or close to them). It’s these longer days where I really struggle to keep my HR below AeT, particularly on uphill sessions after the first 2-3 hours of work. Is this HR drift upwards not a natural consequence of continual work? In the mountains I can (mostly) keep HR in Z1/Z2 for >80% of time with the rest between 5-10bpm above AeT – nowhere near AnT or hard RPE. Looking back at my 27 week “weight bearing” training period of approx 260 hours, I averaged 89% in Z1/Z2 across the 27 weeks with only 3 weeks above 20% of AeT. On the bike however it’s more challenging … see point 2.

    2) I enjoy cycling with friends during the summer for the company, social chat etc, and for the lightly competitive side. However, I simply can’t cycle with them and keep my HR below 120 all of the time – they’d be waiting for me at the top of every hill which is simply not fair on them. My averages are often 120 or less as per the real example above, but – sad to say – I’m now averaging >40% of weekly volume above my AeT 3 weeks out of 4. Not sure if it makes much difference, but most of the above AeT work is mid Z3 – rarely near, on or above AnT. Not doing this will considerably reduce my enjoyment of cycling.

    Sorry if this is a bit rambling and perhaps my desires, age, fitness levels and physiology are unique, although I’m sure you’ll have some non-competitive clients wishing to hit a “tick list” mountaineering objective that are not too different from me. At risk of repeating myself, I’m fully bought into the UA principle and once the bike is put away end of Sept I’ll be back into “weight bearing” base building (Z1/Z2) as per last year, but I do need to go above my current AeT – if indeed it’s “stuck” around 120 – to get the satisfaction from cycling I desire. I also need to remember that I’m less than a year into the UA protocol – not long given the years of “harder-is-better” training that preceded it.

    As always any comments/advice welcome, but of nothing else I hope the above helps you understand my motivations and decisions. If it’s suboptimal then so-be-it – I’m still seeing more benefits from your protocols than from any other protocol I’ve used in past 20+ years.

    Thanks and stay safe,
    Derek

Viewing 10 replies - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.