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Polarized training

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J2R
20 Apr
3:13pm, 20 Apr 2018
1188 posts
J2R
So, first day with this, and am quite pleased. I ran nearly 9 miles today at a pace about a minute per mile faster than normal, but still below VT1.
J2R
16 Oct
6:15pm, 16 Oct 2018
1432 posts
J2R
I've been having some possibly heretical musings. I'm wondering if the main benefit of polarised training isn't any special magic to do with 80-20 or 80-10-10 distribution of training intensities, but more simply the focus on recovery. I know a runner who is very busy and just does 2-3 hard runs of 8 miles per week and very little else, but who achieves great times, and I've wondered how this works. Of necessity he is spending a lot of time recovering, though, which means that he is probably not continually in a state of raised cortisol, which seems to be key.

If you do lots of running at too high a pace throughout the week, you're probably not in a state much of the time when your body is receptive to training benefits, which seems to me to be at the heart of the matter. A training session will be more effective if you're not still stressed by the last one. Polarised training may be the best way to structure your training to optimise this, but it's clearly not the only way of doing it.

I think the main thing that polarised training has taught me, which is non-intuitive, is that 'toughing it out' is not a particularly effective way to train. Yes, you think you might be able to 'get away with' hard training more often than recommended, but you are not actually getting any benefit from doing so, because your body effectively 'absorbs' more training benefit when it's not knackered (and this means your central nervous system, not just your legs).
16 Oct
8:44pm, 16 Oct 2018
402 posts
SSLHP (Shoes smell like horse piss)
I think the 80/20 rules is also makes you 'sweat the big stuff'. The physiological cornerstone of running performance is aerobic capacity -even running a 10k, 90% of energy contribution comes from Aerobic and a marathon nearly 98%. So why spend all your time training the aerobic system?

The runner you know may do really well the way he trains, but perhaps he's do even better training more 80/20 ?
16 Oct
8:45pm, 16 Oct 2018
403 posts
SSLHP (Shoes smell like horse piss)
*So why spend all your time training the aerobic system?* Anearobic
16 Oct
11:21pm, 16 Oct 2018
1899 posts
Canute
J2R,
That is an interesting comment.

There is little doubt that to achieve their best as a distance runner most people require a modest amount of intense training. There is also no doubt that if you focus only on intense training there is a serious danger of over-training. Adequate recovery is essential. You comment raises the issue of whether that recovery should include a substantial amount of low intensity training or alternatively, would complete rest be as effective.

The 80:20 (low: high intensity) ratio actually implies including a fairly large volume of low intensity running. I believe that for most people, especially those aiming to run HM and marathons, including a fairly large volume of low intensity is the most effective approach. This not only promotes many aspects of aerobic development, it also promotes ability to metabolise fat, and perhaps even more importantly, develops the resilience of muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia. A major cause of slowing in the second half of a marathon is microscopic muscle damage. This is demonstrated by the correlation between elevation of blood markers of muscle damage, and the degree of slowing in the second half of the race.

The 80:20 ratio allows a the total volume of running required to develop all the capabilities required for distance running, including the resilience of connective tissues.
J2R
17 Oct
10:42am, 17 Oct 2018
1435 posts
J2R
Canute, I'm sure that's right, developing the resilience of muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia with a decent amount of low-intensity mileage is undoubtedly one of the great benefits of polarised training.

SSHLP, "The runner you know may do really well the way he trains, but perhaps he's do even better training more 80/20". Would he, though, on such low mileage? I wonder about that. I think PT seems to come into its own when you're building a good base of low intensity mileage, but if you're only running a max of 24 miles a week, would you not be losing too much of the required higher intensity work if you did 80% of your running at low intensity?

Just to be clear, I'm not actually questioning the efficacy of PT, more musing aloud about what might be making it so effective.
17 Oct
1:28pm, 17 Oct 2018
1159 posts
Brunski
J2R - I think you're right and runners can 'get away with' only doing relatively hard training of 25 miles a week and still have very impressive results (prob upto the HM), and this is probably the best use of their time if they can't commit more than 3-4 hours a week to training.

There are people I know who run sub-17 for a 5k off this sort of training:

8 miles at high aerobic,

6 at tempo,

3-4 miles of speedwork

and a weekly parkrun/race (3-6 miles)

I think they'd see real benefits by adding in the longer aerobic running (60-120 mins) and also some periodicity to their training to peak for goal races, but not everyone can commit to 50+ miles a week of running.
17 Oct
11:58pm, 17 Oct 2018
1900 posts
Canute
Individuals differ is what training suits them best. There is no doubt that at least some runners do well with three fairly demanding sessions per week, at least for a limited period when preparing for a target event. This is illustrated by the evidence that Furman works for many people when preparing for a target race. Nonetheless when preparing for a marathon, many people find that they need to augment the three intense Furman sessions with a substantial amount of cross training.

There are two situations where I would strongly recommend polarized training for most runners:

1) For building up fitness over a sustained period of greater than 6 months.

2) If you have reached a plateau and want to advance further, polarised training provides a framework for maximising the value of the intense sessions while also building up general resilience etc in the low intensity sessions, On the other hand if you have reached a plateau while doing a lot of intense training, merely adding more is likely to diminish the value of the intense sessions while creating a risk of injury. But I appreciate this might not be the situation described by Brunski.
18 Oct
4:53pm, 18 Oct 2018
1164 posts
Brunski
Totally agree Canute, I experimented with a 10k specific plan at the tail end of last year. I probably started it too soon after my Autumn marathon and by 2 cycles (8 weeks) I was going backwards.

It wasn't before I went back to the aerobic stuff (basically loads of easy miles) that I started feeling my muscles regenerating and the speed returned when it was called upon. For most of the year I use the 20% as a maximum apart from when I'm trying to tune up for a target race and I might up that a bit by having threshold and faster running in there for a short period of time (but not at the expense of continuing with the aerobic running alongside it).
31 Oct
5:02pm, 31 Oct 2018
1914 posts
Canute
Gene Dyke’s 2:55:17 marathon in Toronto last week, at age 70, was only 29 seconds outside Ed Whitlock’s phenomenal 70-74 age group world record.

Both Gene and Ed increased their training load greatly in their mid to late 60’s. Both did a lot of miles. Ed typically ran 4 or more 3 hour or longer low intensity runs each week, whereas Gene’s training is much more mixed. I do not think that Gene’s running could be described as typical polarised training, as the mixture prescribed by his coach includes an appreciable amount at faster than MP (ie sub-threshold).

Clearly there is no ‘one-size fits all’ training strategy, though there are some similarities between the two. Gene covered an amazing 2800 miles per year in the past two years. He runs several 200 mile races per year at an average pace of around 2 miles per hour (3 mph average moving pace). Both ran/run a lot of races as a key feature of their marathon training: typically 30-40 races per year. Most of Ed’s races were 5k and 10K, whereas Gene does ultra’s as base-building for his marathons.

In light of the fact that Gene includes more stressful training (in the form higher intensity training runs) and potentially stressful races (eg 200 mile ultra's) it will be interesting to see if he can match Ed for longevity.

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About This Thread

Polarised training is a form of training that places emphasis on the two extremes of intensity. There is a large amount of low intensity training (comfortably below lactate threshold) and an appreciable minority of high intensity training (above LT).

Polarised training does also include some training near lactate threshold, but the amount of threshold training is modest, in contrast to the relatively high proportion of threshold running that is popular among some recreational runners.

Polarised training is not new. It has been used for many years by many elites and some recreational runners. However, it has attracted great interest in recent years for two reasons.

First, detailed reviews of the training of many elite endurance athletes confirms that they employ a polarised approach (typically 80% low intensity, 10% threshold and 10% high intensity. )

Secondly, several scientific studies have demonstrated that for well trained athletes who have reached a plateau of performance, polarised training produces greater gains in fitness and performance, than other forms of training such as threshold training on the one hand, or high volume, low intensity training on the other.

Much of the this evidence was reviewed by Stephen Seiler in a lecture delivered in Paris in 2013 .
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