Ever wonder why elite athletes seem to effortlessly cruise through long training sessions, then unleash explosive power come race day? The secret might lie in polarised training.

The Power of Three Zones

Imagine your training intensity spectrum divided into three distinct zones:

    1. Below Lactate Threshold 1 (LT1): Easy Zone: Think conversational pace – you can comfortably chat with a training buddy here. This zone forms the foundation of your training, with 80 - 90% of your time spent building a strong aerobic base.
    1. Above Lactate Threshold 2 (LT2): Hard Zone: This is where things get tough. Think short, intense intervals pushing your limits. Here, you'll spend about 10 - 20% of your training time developing explosive power and refining your body's ability to utilize oxygen.
    1. The Middle Ground (LT1 to LT2): Sweet Spot (mostly avoided): Polarized training intentionally minimizes training in this "middle ground" zone. While it might feel productive, studies suggest it offers diminishing returns compared to the focused extremes.

Why Polarised Training Works:

This seemingly simple approach unlocks several key benefits for endurance athletes:

    • Turbocharge Your Engine: High-intensity workouts in the "Hard Zone" improve your body's ability to process oxygen. This translates to holding a faster pace for longer distances.
    • Become a Fat-Burning Machine: Low-intensity training in the "Easy Zone" teaches your body to efficiently utilise fat as an energy source. This spares your precious glycogen stores, delaying fatigue and allowing you to push harder for longer stretches.
    • Unlock Hidden Power: High-intensity efforts improve your body's ability to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibres, the powerhouses responsible for explosive movements. This translates into more efficient movement.
    • Stay Healthy, Train Strong: By prioritising low-intensity training, you minimize stress on your body, reducing the risk of injuries and overtraining. This helps keep you healthy and supports more consistency in your training.

Tips for Your Polarised Journey

Transitioning to polarised training can be an adjustment. Here are some coach-tested tips to help you succeed:

    • Embrace the Easy Zone: The "Easy Zone" might feel underwhelming. But trust the process! This seemingly effortless training builds a strong foundation for peak performance.
    • The Long Haul: Schedule at least one long, low-intensity session (think 3+ hours for cycling or 90 minutes+ running) every week. This helps build endurance and fatigue resistance.
    • Finding Your Thresholds: Don't have access to a lab test or lactate meter? No worries! Many training plans and heart rate monitors use the 5-zone model, where LT1 roughly corresponds to the top of Zone 2 and LT2 falls in the middle of Zone 4.

Polarised training is a powerful tool for endurance athletes. By focussing on the majority of your training being in the "Easy Zone" with high-intensity sprinkled in, you can unlock a new level of performance, all while minimising the risk of injury and overtraining. So, let the easy be easy so the hard can be hard and watch the results arrive!