Tim Cusick periodization podcast

Tim Cusick: Periodization, Training Modalities, And Getting Your Training Rhythm Right

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About this episode:
In this week’s episode, Adam interviews coach and product leader of WKO, Tim Cusick, and dives into periodization, the different training modalities, and why getting your training rhythm right is critical to your overall training plan.

Episode Highlights:

  • What is periodization and how to use it for your training
  • The different training modalities you can apply to your training
  • Getting your training rhythm right
  • Early-late base training strategies

Guest Bio – Tim Cusick:
Tim Cusick is the TrainingPeaks WKO product leader, the owner of Velocious Endurance Coaching, and the leader of BaseCamp. His expertise in training, racing, and data analytics offers a unique approach to training that guides his clients to amazing success. He currently coaches world champion Amber Neben, road pro Emma Grant, Rebecca Rusch, and other pros and racers.

Read More About Tim Cusick:

https://www.trainingpeaks.com/coach/timcusick#about
https://www.instagram.com/tim_cusick_coach/
https://twitter.com/tcusick123
https://www.facebook.com/tim.cusick

 

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherGoogle Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.


Thanks To This Week’s Sponsor:

Stages Cycling

This episode of the TrainRight Podcast is brought to you by Stages Cycling, the industry leader in accurate, reliable and proven power meters and training devices.

Stages Cycling offers the widest range of power meter makes and models to fit any bike, any drivetrain and any rider, all manufactured in their Boulder, Colorado facility. They’ve expanded their offerings to include the Stages Dash line of innovative and intuitive GPS cycling computers covering a full range of training and workout-specific features to make your workouts go as smooth as possible.

And now, Stages is applying its decade of indoor cycling studio expertise to the new StagesBike smart trainer. Check out their latest at www.stagescycling.com

 

CTS TrainRight Membership

This episode of the TrainRight Podcast is brought to you by the CTS TrainRight Membership. The TrainRight Membership helps you get the most out of your limited training time so you can improve your performance and achieve your athletic goals. 

With the membership, you get access to science-based training plans, an 800+ workout library, an app to track your progress, and advice from professional coaches in a private forum.
Go to trainright.com/membership to learn how you can start training right and use code TRAINRIGHT for a free 14-day trial. 

Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Adam Pulford (00:00:00):

Well, Tim, last time you and I were dialoguing, we were in what Topia, I think doing some sweet spot intervals. And, uh, as I joined, uh, uh, a ride with you and Rebecca Rush doing some training. And so, um, I wanted to welcome you back to the podcast, but before we do, I want to ask you a question before we get into this podcast, was that actually you writing and doing the coaching, like motivational stuff during that Swift session. Yeah,

Tim Cusick (00:00:31):

No, that’s so funny. People ask me that all the time. It is a question I get. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s cool. Right? We, we have this great base camp program. We’re out there training with the community. And part of it is I like Rebecca are trending along right along with them, but I got to tell you, Adam, it’s become, it’s like, it might be new training science now because my, my threshold has gone up because I’m riding kind of hard. We were doing sweet-spot stuff that day ended up doing talk to text, ongoing coaching people and motivating and explaining what we’re doing. I swear it’s been a positive training effect. I might be on his wifi secret where you just ride your bike a lot on Swift, kind of hard and do a lot of talking and you’ll get much faster. It’s kind of funny.

Adam Pulford (00:01:17):

I think that’s it in folks, man. I was like going for it. And I was like trying to reply and be like funny to, to Tim and Rebecca and Savannah. And I just, I couldn’t get it out. And I’m like, Tim, how the heck are you doing this? He’s like, Oh, we do voices. And then I tried that. I was, I was terrible at that. I don’t know. I, then I was like, Kevin Williams is Rodan.

Tim Cusick (00:01:37):

Yeah, no, a lot of people think that no, I I’ve traded right alongside I, you know, the funny thing is though, once you pop, when you’re doing that, you pop, so it is a little dangerous. You gotta be careful about the incident.

Adam Pulford (00:01:50):

Well, nonetheless, I’m, I’m impressed by your, uh, coaching, uh, abilities on and off the bike, Tim. So, um, for those who don’t know, Tim, uh, Tim Cusick has been on the train ride podcast before. And, um, we’ll, we’ll make a couple comments in the landing page to bring you back to his first episode, but he’s back for round two. And Tim, for those who don’t know you, could you just do a quick intro for who you are and what you

Tim Cusick (00:02:19):

Sure. Well, uh, I always, I have the luxury of wearing kind of two different types of hats. Uh, I am the head coach@jointbasecamp.com and fellowships and Dorrance coaching. So, and I’ve been coaching for, I don’t know, getting close to 20 years now. Um, I’ve had some, the luxury of working with some pretty amazing athletes like Rebecca Rush, who you just mentioned and, and former world champion and Olympian, Amber Neiman, people like that. So I definitely, you know, have been fortunate to work with some of the best athletes out there. And then on the other side, I wear a software hat. I am the training peaks WKO product leader. And along with my partner, Kevin Williams, who you just mentioned, uh, lead the development of the WKO analytic software. So for me, it’s kind of an excellent blend of, you know, I’m a practitioner I’m coaching and, you know, high touch, all the experience that all the other coaches are going through. But I also have the luxury of seeing and working with a lot of performance, data training, data and information, which, um, I find both pretty interesting. They keep me busy,

Adam Pulford (00:03:26):

Busy, indeed trying to track you down from the, uh, the, all the webinars, wind tunnels and coaching that you do. This was a little more challenging to do. So thank you for taking the time to do it. Sure. No problem. And, and to that end, as I’m working with Tim, um, on some of those analytic things and sharing ideas, we, we both had the same sentiments that there’s a lot of confusion out there in the endurance community in terms of what is a good training, what thing that you should do all of the time. And then what’s what’s happening is athletes and coaches alike. They’ll read a thing or watch a thing, and then they’ll change their whole approach, like halfway, halfway through the season or midway through the midway through the stream. And that’s, that can be dangerous. So the goal for this episode is to get Tim on and start talking about some of the very basics, the basic concepts of training that I mentioned in the previous podcast, and then start to apply it into what training actually looks like. So, um, Tim, should we just get right into this thing?

Tim Cusick (00:04:36):

Jump in. I’m ready to roll. All right.

Adam Pulford (00:04:38):

So I want to start with periodization, periodization and planning. Could you give our audience an overview of what periodization is?

Tim Cusick (00:04:47):

Sure. Periodization is really simple, and I think it’s important that one, thanks for bringing up this topic. I think it’s great to just go back and look at these general principles and make sure we understand them in a very simplified way. I think what we have going on in, in kind of our endurance sport industry right now is more information and data and stuff is flooding in. There’s almost like an over complication going on. So I appreciate you doing this. Uh, and I think it’ll be helpful. So when you think about periodization, let’s keep it simple. Periodization is just a system of planning and training, and it’s a, you know, it’s a system that just breaks that down into, you know, it breaks down a larger goal into a bunch of smaller phases and that’s it, you know, when you think about periodization, it really is that simple. It’s a planning system that delivers through a series of phases, a process of putting together training and executing that with an athlete.

Adam Pulford (00:05:45):

Very simple, very simple. So how do you use a puritization plan or process with an athlete that you’re working with?

Tim Cusick (00:05:54):

So, you know, periodization has around for a while. It kind of comes from the weight training world and I’m sure everybody kind of knows that and, and, and Eastern block Russia, you know, it depends on who you give credit for starting it, but as we’ve adapted to it to endurance training, the reality is at its most basic principle, it allows us to take this big macro phase, right? This macro cycle, let’s call that a season a year, right. And it allows us to break it down into smaller, more manageable phases. And the general principle appeared visitation is that we start with a generalized approach towards training. And as we move forward through the phases, we become more specific.

Adam Pulford (00:06:40):

So it’s basically creating a roadmap to where you want to go with this athlete. Yeah,

Tim Cusick (00:06:45):

Yeah. You know, um, I think it’s the roadmap that defines the season, but you know, I think it’s important to think about it this way to the athlete has defined the, the, the destination. They’re like, Hey, coach, I want to go hear a national championship. Uh, just crush everybody in my local group ride, you know, whatever their goal is. They define that goal. And then the periodized plan is the roadmap of not only how they will get there, but when they should arrive, like when is that point where they’re going to get there, because you, as the coach, you’re using periodized planning to kind of organize your thinking, but to also time your thinking. So the athlete is out on their peak has their best performance when they want it.

Adam Pulford (00:07:31):

The timing is critical and there are some, there’s some art along with the science that goes into that. But let’s, let’s save that one for another episode. I think

Tim Cusick (00:07:40):

That’s a longer one.

Adam Pulford (00:07:42):

Yeah. So in terms of how to use puritization mean, what are, what are, if you could break it down to like three variables, three aspects, like what are those three things that go into creating a paradise plan?

Tim Cusick (00:07:56):

Wow, great question. Okay. Um, first off, when we say periodized plan, right? Periodized plan or the idea of periodization, that’s just a construct, that’s a scheduling system. It’s not a process of training. You know, it’s this idea that we’re moving through these phases general to specific, but it’s not like, wow, what is training within this construct? It’s neutral. Like training load is neutral. It’s just a neutral scheduler. So to bring it to life, to give it relevancy or to make it effective, you have to then have a process within that period is [inaudible]. And I think that means when it comes down to all training, right? You are manipulating two slash three major, uh, parts and elements. So first off you’re manipulating volume, and then you’re also manipulating intensity. So when you think about the volume manipulation in your process of training, that’s just simply the quantity of work that you do.

Tim Cusick (00:08:59):

And that will actually, uh, you know, that actually drives the depth of your adaptation. There’s a certain amount of reality that if you want a lot of adaptation, you’re going to need a fair amount of work. Then we manipulate intensity. Intensity is the quality of work we do. And that intensity, that quality of work we do that really defines that adaptation. So volume drives the depth intensity, defines the adaptation. But also in that, when we think about those two, we need to manage something, you know, we’re manipulating volume and intensity, but we also need to manage rest and recovery. So one of the things I know if I say, wow, your coach’s job is to manage volume and intensity. That doesn’t mean we’re always doing volume and intensity, zero volume and zero intensity also play a role. So let’s just know that as we implement volume and intensity, we also have to manage both in an acute fashion and a chronic fashion rest and recovery, because you need that resting recovery to allow for the expected adaptations from that volume and intensity manipulation. Now, if you could put those things, those three volume and intensity and rest and recovery, just to make sure it doesn’t get forgotten into some type of a pattern and system, that’s where you really talking about the process of training. And there are systems of that that people typically refer to as training modalities. And I think it’s your ability to manage volume and intensity and rest into, and as part of training modalities applied into a scheduling system like periodization, that produces results,

Adam Pulford (00:10:49):

Very simple, straightforward. And I love the fact that you mentioned the rest and recovery aspect, because in the previous episode, I did talk about [inaudible] general adaptation syndrome in the equation of stress plus rest equals adaptation. And I think as, as coaches, as content creators, as, as athletes where we focus and put a lot and talk a lot about the stress, meaning the training, and we forget about the rest component, oftentimes

Tim Cusick (00:11:21):

Absolutely. You know, I tell all my athletes, like one of the things I’m going to teach you about is you have gas. I noticed you avoided the acronym, but that’s just a great way to get them thinking about it. All right. General adaptive syndrome. I mean, you’re going to, you’re going to say here’s who I’m going to give you gas. And the reality is that is understanding that there is load and rest required to adapt

Adam Pulford (00:11:44):

There. You heard it folks, uh, gas is a good thing. You need more gas in your, in your life coach, coach, Tim says

Tim Cusick (00:11:50):

Your one takeaway from our podcast is you need gas. Got it.

Adam Pulford (00:11:57):

All right. Well probably a lot of athletes like, Oh man, that’s great news right now through the internet. What is gas? So let’s recap that real quick. So volume the depth of training. I really liked that. It’s a great way of describing that intensity is the quality of the work that the athlete does. And then the training modality. I want to, I want to talk more about that training modality and really drill deep on that. But if we could maybe zoom out and then zoom in on volume and intensity looking at it, as you said, from a macro application and then a micro application, big picture, a little picture. What are some of these, like, what’s the depth of trainer? What is the volume of training example that you would give?

Tim Cusick (00:12:46):

All right. So we talk about volume first and it’s really great to separate these out, even though in reality, you’re, you’re, you’re mixing them back together as part of a training prescription, but it’s really helpful to understand that the each play a role, um, as a matter of fact, that it’s really important. So in volume, right, it really is that the quantity or the depth of training that you’re doing, and it will drive the amount of adaptation, but you have to think about it that overall, when we say volume, um, it really just in its simplest sense, he is talking about how much do you train and how much work are you doing? But there’s a macro and a micro application to that. So when a macro application, you’re talking about forms of progressive overload training over years, building training, um, maturity and progressive tr training majority chore at T.

Tim Cusick (00:13:40):

So if you think about what I mean, you know, you have a younger athlete coming into the mix and they they’re just getting into an enduring sport. And this is true for any endurance sport. You don’t just say, wow, I want this athlete to be a star. We’re going to do the maximum amount of volume. I think that can absolutely handle, you know, and you’re going to take volume. And you’re going to think at that younger athlete, younger could just be new to the sport. And you’re going to say, wow, over two to three to four years, here’s going to be some application, the macro application of volume. That’s going to allow me to progress this athlete in a way that lets them get better year in and year out, manages their chronic fatigue. Well, meaning not pushing them too hard and getting in trouble, but then there’s also, and probably the place we’re more familiar with the term volume or working with volume is the micro application.

Tim Cusick (00:14:30):

And that’s when we think about some form of applying progressive overload to our training formats, right? I’m going to ride three hours today and three and a half hours tomorrow, or whatever that volume, you know, estimate, whatever that volume progression that you have going. So volume has a macro application over the years, your total seasonal volume, your big picture volume. And it has a micro application. You as a coach prescribing it, or you as an athlete, self prescribing it, how are you going to progress your volume load in relationship to intensity and, and rest to, uh, achieve the results that you want.

Adam Pulford (00:15:10):

Great. And I guess, I mean, we could think of intensity like that as well in terms of having a bigger scale view as well as the daily or weekly, uh, applicant.

Tim Cusick (00:15:21):

Absolutely. Right. So we get into a Kent intensity, this idea of the quality of the work that we do. Remember a tensity is going to define the adaptation. So intensity can be a lot of things, its own way. And it’s more complex than volume. Volume is like how much, right? And that’s pretty easy. I can look at duration of a ride duration of a week duration of a year and get there. When we start to talk about intensity, here’s where we’re talking about specificity. Here’s where as the coach practitioners, prescribing, applying a specific target of intensity and a specific time at intensity, and this can be viewed in a macro and a micro sense in the macro sense where I think it’s really important that people look at this and they’re seasoned planning. You have a time in zone distribution thinking, and that’s a very important part of the coaching scale of, of manipulating volume and intensity and time and zone distribution needs to all not only be specific and there’s different types of specific meaning you could be specific because you’re trying to improve an athlete limiter, or you can be specific because they have a big goal of change or rising to an event and they need it specific about the event.

Tim Cusick (00:16:40):

But the reality is time and zone distribution is really important to manage. So, and that’s your big picture. You can look at like, wow, how many sweet-spot intervals could this athlete do last year? What was their total time in sweet-spot? What was their total time at, at let’s, you know, using his own name of VO two max or anaerobic capacity, but then you have the micro application, which kind of a little easier to think about man, that athletes doing five times, three minutes, that’s 15 minutes of applied intensity at a target somewhere over threshold. So I think you have to have that same approach, but there’s more art in the intensity application because that will define the type of adaptation, you know, the specific, uh, prescription, right? The said principle, right? When you apply a specific intensity, you’re going to get a specific response and you’re going to get some other, uh, costs, some other changes in, in the, in response to that.

Adam Pulford (00:17:42):

Yeah, that’s it. And I’ve got a couple of Dean isms again in my head right now, Tim, and then for those who don’t know, Dean Golish, he’s, he tends to get in your brain and linger there. But one of the things that he always says is as soon as you start to go hard, that’s when everything changes, right? Yes. And that’s a specificity that you’re talking about, uh, in, uh, you know, in addition to that, and he’d always say, you know, practice makes perfect practice, Mr. Berg. He goes, careful practice makes permanent. So again, looking at what you’re doing is that what you want to do is that this specificity that you want the athlete to be pursuing, right?

Tim Cusick (00:18:19):

No, that’s a great point. And all specificity comes with a cost. You raise one area of your power, duration relationship. Chances are, you might be reducing another. So you really need to, you need the science and the art. When it comes to the management of intensity, it’s a very, uh, important area of the manipulation and creating that training.

Adam Pulford (00:18:41):

Well. So speaking of organizing the intensity, let’s, let’s talk more about training modality, uh, in one of your webinars or probably all of your webinars. You speak of the rhythm of training and I, and I, and I’ve been using that term a lot or stealing it a lot from you, Tim. Um, for those who’ve been telling that to my athletes is this is where we define the rhythm of the training. Could you talk more about, um, what you mean by rhythm of training? And then can we talk about some different training modalities?

Tim Cusick (00:19:11):

Sure. Yeah. No, it is something I preach a lot and you’re absolutely welcome to use it because I certainly stole it from other people probably even from Dean in reality, though, when I say like, when you talk about training modality, let’s define it. And then actually it’s kind of, I guess we can go back and forth a little, but training modality is the rhythm of pattern, the rhythm or pattern of you applying that manipulation of volume intensity to the schedule when you work hard, when do you go easy? When do you rest? Right. And that, to me, it’s so crucial that coaches focus on that hard, easy rest pattern because that truly is where improvement in gains come over time. I mean, think about it this way. Right? All of us could lay on the couch for six months and do nothing jump up. And for the next three or four weeks, just randomly ride our bikes, you know, accelerate a little or run, run hard, a little run, easy a lot and whatever.

Tim Cusick (00:20:13):

And you’ll get faster. You’ll get fitter for a couple of weeks, maybe in as many as six or seven or eight weeks. But at that given point, you won’t because if you don’t have the ability to apply a rhythm and you know, a specific pattern of that manipulation of volume and intensity and athlete will stagnate or plateau pretty quickly. And I think as I watched this industry of coaches and, and look, there’s a lot better coaches than me out there in the world and a lot of smarter people. So I only know what I know. I think people have gotten so focused on the utilization, so drilled down on like individual pieces of data and individual secret training and workouts. And this one solution, I think if they would just pull back out and pay more attention to that rhythm and pattern and ensure that not only are they applying a good rhythm or pattern a training modality, but then measuring if their athlete is adapting to that, which is really important, you don’t want to just apply it for the sake of applying it. I think a lot of coaches would find better results looking at that level versus maybe drilling down and searching for that perfect intensity. That perfect workout. That perfect training mode.

Adam Pulford (00:21:30):

Yeah. In, in to that end, I’ve I harp on my athletes quite a bit with this is because we will talk about metrics and in fancy graphs and charts and people are super into it. And I, and I take pause and I say, Hey, look, none of this matters unless you’re sleeping properly. And then no, none of this train trainee matters unless you do it. Okay. So first let’s get your sleep, let’s get your recovery. Then let’s actually do the training. Then we can nerd out on some charts and graphs. Cool, great. Let’s go do the session.

Tim Cusick (00:22:04):

I think that’s a great starting point, you know, and then if you can apply those sessions in a really great pattern that triggers their adaptation it’s game over, that’s all you really need, right?

Adam Pulford (00:22:15):

Yeah, exactly. So let’s, let’s talk about, um, let’s talk about some of the patterns or perhaps patterns of training. Are we talking about like going hard on hard days, easy on easy, or should we define hard and easy and what that means?

Tim Cusick (00:22:32):

No, I think, I think you should talk about what’s hard and easy because I think there’s a lot of confusion out there about what’s hard and what’s easy. Um, so, okay. Let’s when we start thinking about training modality, right? It really is that, you know, we’re going to end up talking about polarized and pyramid and threshold and, and high volume, low volume, all these different modalities. But at the end of the day, we’re applying these modalities to impact physiological systems. Meaning we’re attempting to, to apply a specific pattern of training that is, you know, a mix of volume and intensity to manipulate a response. But to understand that, right, as coaches, we tend to prescribe in more complex training zones, anywhere systems out there of five to nine, I even saw a system of 10 training zones the other day. Right. And that’s important as coaches because there’s a fair amount of specificity we need in the application of, uh, and the communication of training and training, intensity targets and things like that.

Tim Cusick (00:23:34):

But in reality, from a physiological sense, again, we’re better off just boiling it down and simplifying it into the three zone system. And one, the things that I thought, or I believe has been really healthy as people are talking about training modalities again, and I think high intensity training kind of brought this up and then polarized training is that became popular. And the, and the powers behind that did an excellent job of explaining what it was and getting people to think about it. I think we are now relooking at the three zone model of understanding impact on physiology. So in a three zone model, you basically have three zones, right. But two individual markers that separate those. So, and this gets a little complex. You have different thresholds. You have let’s, if we’re talking about lactate, right, you have lactate one and lactate two was, you know, if you talk about as Venturi thresholds, you have VT one and VT two. Um, the reality is for simple, let’s call them first threshold and second threshold because I want to avoid the argument is the VT one, the same exact as the LT one. And the argument of is LT two, the same exact as FTP. The reality is there’s a lot of ways to cut that up, but let’s just keep it simple. So when we think about that three zone system, the top of that three zone system is that first threshold, which generally, you know, is your VT one or VT too, but first special

Adam Pulford (00:25:08):

Meaning the, the most intense of the easiest system that’s at first-line

Tim Cusick (00:25:13):

Correct. The top was zone one. The most intense of that easiest zone is your first threshold or LT one or VT one, the top of zone two, the next most intensive, the next harder system is your VT two or LT two or FTP, which we will now refer to as your second threshold, right. That is the top of that zone two. And then simply put anything over that threshold to over your FTP that’s zone three. So those are your three zones. You basically have zone one below your first threshold zone two between first and second threshold and zone three, anything over that’s.

Adam Pulford (00:26:03):

Gotcha. Gotcha. Okay. So you mentioned functional threshold power, which a lot of us listening, uh, here I hopefully understand, or at least have heard of. Um, and, uh, another element that I think a lot of people hear or say is VO two max. So could you give some grounding in where like FTP and VO two would lie in the three zone system?

Tim Cusick (00:26:27):

All right. So let’s start with FTP because FTP is a transitional, a metabolic, uh, transitional event. It’s where, you know, you no longer can sustain your maximum latte or your maximum aerobic steady state. It aligns very well with your lactate steady state and your LTQ that can be argued at times. So how I’m going to avoid that argument, but generally I’ll tell you a secret LT, two VT, two maximal lactate, steady state end FTP. If one changes, they all change. They’ll change in general precision with each other about 98, 99% of the time. So it really doesn’t matter. We can use that as a demark, a marker for that, you know, threshold the second threshold, right? So if you’re talking about FTP as the basis, so zone one, the top end of zone, one’s about, and these are all approximates because this isn’t a perfect estimate world.

Tim Cusick (00:27:24):

It’s about 75% of threshold. I would say in general, anywhere from 70 to 75, with 75% being the top of that zone one. And then the top of zone two is a hundred percent. It is that FTP, right? So zone one is up to 75%. It’s not zero by the way, but I’ll talk about that. And VO two max, um, it’s up to 75% zone two is 75 to a hundred percent and zone three is a hundred percent plus. Got it. Now, when you start talking about VO two max, which is probably actually a better and more concise way to describe it, if you have access and understanding, and if you’re modeling or being tested in the lab. So the top end of zone one, actually zone one has a bottom. I think this gets lost a lot when we talk about riding very easy, right? And the bottom of zone one is best defined with VO two backs. It’s about 50% of your VO. Two max is the bottom of zone one. And the top of zone one is about 65% of your VO, two max weight.

Adam Pulford (00:28:34):

So like all my coasting and descending and all that kind of stuff, that’s not zone one training. It doesn’t go well, I actually get that. A lot of people were like, see there a lot of zone one. It’s like, actually, no, you don’t. You’re just hanging out. Exactly. I removed that training.

Tim Cusick (00:28:58):

We’ll appreciate it. So you have that 50 to 65% of power at VO. Two max is zone one. The easiest zone then is own two, right? That’s 65 to about 90% of power at VO, two max, and then anything over 90% of the power of VO two max is zone three. And those are very rough estimates. There’s a lot of variables in here. You know, it’d be a great point to make it this way. When we start talking about training zones, this even in a three zone model and we have these transitional points zone one becomes zone two becomes zone three because we want to know, like, we want to make it very tangible. We apply a single number to it. It’s not a single number. It’s a fuzzy line. It’s not a clear toggle black and white line where if you do one more watt, you flipped over to zone two. It’s a fuzzy, hazy transitional area, right? It’s just not, your body just doesn’t work that way. It isn’t a series of toggle switches on or off. It’s a phase and transition. So even though I’m giving a specific number, I’d be more comfortable saying each one of those is a range around that percentage I just gave. And it’s not exact in that way. And it’s not even the same every day. There are some other factors that could impact that a little. So just know those aren’t exact black and white lines. They’re fuzzy, transitional areas.

Adam Pulford (00:30:25):

How I described this to my athletes when they’re like, man, I felt great today. And I felt ready to, you know, the top of the range and I could have done more and all this I go, yeah, awesome. That’s that’s being a human. Yes. Like we have ranges just on our day. Sometimes we show up to work and we feel like a 10 out of 10 other days, it’s like a two, right? So sometimes we would come up to the bike and we feel like an eight, right? Other days we feel like a one and I just want to go home. And so, and there’s so many things that go on with that, including sleep and depletion and mood and caffeine and whatever else, but like there’s ranges within human physiology and there’s ranges within being a human being. And this is why it’s not just one.

Tim Cusick (00:31:07):

No, absolutely. Adam. And I would add one more thing to that. Your fitness also impacts those ranges. And I think people get lost in that when I say 65% of power at VO, two max, if you go out and ride a lot of time in zone one, right. Or you’re doing a lot of time at 62% of VO, two max, there’s a point where you’re going to become 70%. That threshold becomes 70% of the CO2 max. So understand that your fitness also plays a role in these generalized approaches. So it is very hard to pin down. It is, it is just a fuzzy transitional area.

Adam Pulford (00:31:42):

Got it, got it. Okay. So now that we’ve defined intensity or, or in these zones in particular, we can then start to organize the intensity into rhythms of training in, is that what we’re kind of referring to as modality training modalities?

Tim Cusick (00:32:01):

Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, that is, to me, they’re the same thing. It’s like I say rhythm, because I think modality sounds like really fancy, like, Oh, I wish I had a modality. Your rhythm keeps it simple. What is the pattern of application of training load?

Adam Pulford (00:32:18):

So are there like, are there some common rhythms out there that you’re seeing and what do we call those?

Tim Cusick (00:32:24):

Oh yeah. I mean, it’s not like, this is some unique idea to me. I think a lot of people have been out there helping talk about and, and, and enlightened people with simple, you know, modalities or rhythms. So like most common one high volume, low intensity, H V L I T. Right. That’s kind of the one that started at all. You know, you were training on the old days over in Europe and you just rode your bike really, really lot of kilometers, you know, you just spent a lot of time on the old bike. Right. And that’s, that was the first modality. It really was that point at that phase of training, a lot of people were saying, this is the way we do it. This is how we’re going to pattern on training. Today. We go along, guess what we’re doing tomorrow, tomorrow we go long after that, we’re going long.

Tim Cusick (00:33:12):

And that was the pattern long, long, long, a lot of work, but lower intensities until it became time to race. Then you kind of, you know, what’s funny and there’s others. Uh, you have, um, low volume, high intensity training. So the reverse LV hit to me, high intensity training or, you know, high intensity interval approaches. I think that really got people in the dialogue of trying to figure out pattern maybe because of some of the negative effects and I’m not being negative. Any one system, they’re all tools in the toolbox, but I think a lot of people jumped right into HR, you know, low volume, high intensity training without great guidance. And they kind of burn themselves out pretty quickly. Um, and I think that got people thinking about this pattern, this rhythm, what was training wrong? Or was I just doing too much of it?

Tim Cusick (00:34:02):

Was it too many days in a cycle? Was it not applied correctly? And I think that really opened people’s eyes. As a matter of fact, then I think Siler came along and talked about polarized training. And I think that really helped part the clouds for people, which I think one of the biggest impacts, uh, bringing that polarized system to the forefront was again, to get people to think about the rhythm. So polarized as one. And I think that was a breakthrough one, not, not that these ideas hadn’t been discussed, but really brought it into the public eye and there what it did. And, and I intensity training did the same. It kind of educated the athlete enough to really start asking questions of the coaches, right, where they were actually beginning to discuss in a common language format, a training modality, or a rhythm. Now I think when polarize first came out, there was a couple of things that were presented incorrectly, which have been corrected.

Tim Cusick (00:35:03):

So we had some fallout from that one too, but I think it was really great, did and well presented and really helped people understand the idea of rhythm. Gotcha. Yeah. And I think two of them were kind of fell victim, like two other ones that I just know, I end up talking about all the time, our pyramid, UL, and threshold, and for a short amount of time, those two modalities became the victim of polarized training and they became sort of like opposites or, or, or, or enemies, right? Maybe they were frenemies more, but one of the other, but they were certainly the victims as everyone first looked at polarized training to some degree in the public way. It demonized some of these other modalities. And I think now, as it’s really been brought into the awareness, people are really understanding there’s more to it than just this works and this doesn’t good, bad, you know, I think we’re understanding how to use these tools in the toolbox better than ever.

Adam Pulford (00:36:01):

Gotcha. So of the high volume, low intensity, low volume, high intensity, polarized peer, middle and threshold, let’s just, let’s take that handful. Are there commonalities, commonalities that you see in these modalities try to say that makes for a good podcast. Yeah, that’s right.

Tim Cusick (00:36:26):

No, there are. And there’s more as you say so, but those are a good core group to focus on. Yep. They’re purposeful. Meaning they are part of that roadmap to the athlete’s destination and through research and people, uh, you know, bringing these modalities and to the public and, and stuff like that. We’re understanding that they each have a purpose. Now, of course, the end purpose, um, is to, you know, what’s the end purpose of a training modality of all training. We want the athlete to get to the highest possible performance for the least amount of work. Right. Because the reality is we want them to be fresh enough to adapt and perform and race when that time. So that’s what we want. That’s common throughout all of these modalities in one form or another, they all can, or they’re purpose built to support that end goal.

Tim Cusick (00:37:23):

I gotcha. So I think the second thing that confuses a lot of people is that they all are about session application rhythm. It’s not about time in a zone or time and zone distribution. Like I should be going hard X percent of the time of every moment, amount of bike or going easy on X percent of time, you know, I’m on a bike. It talks about if I have a workout today, you know, that is a hard or an easy workout. Now, if I have a workout tomorrow, is that a hard or an easy workout? So they’re built on the premise of workouts or sessions, not time and zone distribution. That’s common throughout all of them.

Adam Pulford (00:38:10):

Got it, got it. Well, let’s, let’s clear up some of the confusion for say, let’s say this handful of modalities for people let’s, um, let’s start with high volume, low intensity. So if we’re talking about, uh, say sessions, like if, if I am in a mobile-first, when would you use a high volume, low intensity session, and then how many workouts would follow that pattern? Do you want to walk through a few examples like that? So we can start to paint pictures of, of what this would look like for the listeners.

Tim Cusick (00:38:45):

Sure. Um, so let’s do it the way I said, when would I use to me, uh, high volume, low intensity training is an excellent way to begin, uh, or end your transition period and appeared as used to plan and do your early base training to it, to use the kind of common terms. And remember the idea of periodization is general to specific, and it needs to be progression, meaning you have some progressive system of work that you need to do, but also in my belief, it needs to be linear. Meaning you need to design a period plan that roadmap, right, in a way that allows for appropriate, um, response, desired response, better than DIYers your response by building one system on top the other. And that doesn’t mean mutually exclusive. Like we’re absolutely focused on one thing, but the general underlying principle, as we apply modalities to an annualized or a period plan we want to do so in a way that allows us to build one system on the next system, on the next system.

Tim Cusick (00:39:53):

Because as we progress forward through that period, as plan from general to specific, we also want to carry forward the greatest fitness and performance with us. We can, that has a specific role. And that specific role is as I get later in my plan, I can work harder. I can do more. I can get in more intervals, higher quality of work and accomplish that. So I think you have to, you know, when we start talking about how to use multi modalities or the question you asked, when you would place it, you have to understand that’s my system. Others might have their own, but I, I want it to be progressive and I want it to be linear building on top of each other.

Adam Pulford (00:40:32):

That makes sense. That makes sense. One question though, to clear that up for the listeners, when you say you’re going to layer or stack a system or build a system upon a system, what is the system that you’re there or the systems that you’re talking about?

Tim Cusick (00:40:47):

So usually in general, when I talk about it, I’m looking at a muscular metabolic approach and let’s just take, and you can kind of go back to the three zone system, right? Your ability to produce at the core, it’s an aerobic sport. You need to build the aerobic system. And it’s so funny, here’s where you can go down a ton of paths, but that is both, you know, when we think about it, metabolically, we say aerobic system, and we think cardiovascular, you know, how much air can I get in there and utilize? And that’s part of it. But also we have to think about how we use fuel in our system, how we create byproducts and deal with those by products in our system and other factors. So in a general term, we start aerobic. Then we move towards more of a lactate approach. But in simple terms, let’s just say, then we evolve into the anaerobic system.

Tim Cusick (00:41:38):

And now we start thinking about how we make energy and how we produce power. Anaerobically, that’s a little more broad and a little more complex. We get into the intensity discussion there, we get into lactate and some other factors and system transition, but it really is that simple evolution. That is what we’re doing now. One other system that runs alongside with that. And it’s hard to explain in a podcast to some degree, but you also have to think about normal, muscular manipulation in there. The athlete has to be able to make power. You can’t just build capacity so I can build your aerobic capacity. And once we get that really big, right, then we can start working on your anaerobic capacity and build that really big. But if we don’t have elements of normal, muscular manipulation, whether that’s strength, building, um, power, lots of ways to look at that, you might not be able to make enough power to capitalize on that capacity. So you need to run those both in succession as you evolve through your period I’s plan.

Adam Pulford (00:42:42):

Got it. So you’re layering those systems with the end goal of making this athlete as durable as possible to handle the training, to be able to perform the best

Tim Cusick (00:42:52):

I call it training resiliency. Absolutely so important in a lost concept for another day. Um, training resiliency, though, the more resilient you make your athlete early by, by taking that capacity and power and making it like a beautiful love story. And they meet in the end, you really build a resilient athlete, capable of really pushing a very intensive peak and performing at, you know, unbelievable levels.

Adam Pulford (00:43:20):

Well, we’ll, let’s, let’s talk about the love story another day and let’s, let’s get back to our modalities. How about that? Okay.

Tim Cusick (00:43:28):

High volume, low intensity training is way more boring.

Adam Pulford (00:43:32):

Did he really, actually really is, but it’s so important people, right?

Tim Cusick (00:43:38):

It really is. You know, and people miss that, you cannot, anything you build on top of not, not appropriately building your aerobic engine, which to me starts with high volume, low intensity training early in your base period. You’re just building castles in the sky. Eventually it will fall. You are,

Adam Pulford (00:43:56):

I was going to say castles in the sand, tippy, tippy skyscraper on, you know, wobbly, swampy soil. I mean all the analogies apply there. Yeah.

Tim Cusick (00:44:06):

So that’s why I start with high volume low and to old school, you know, we’re going to get on the bike and look not everybody. What is a lot of time on the bike that differs, you know, everybody has a time limitation they have, but I don’t believe you should ever skip this phase of annualized planning of a paradise plan. You need to start with a high volume, low intensity approach when it starts out, because I think the progression is important. And I think foundation that that brings HBL, it brings, uh, is important. Even if you have, you know, eight to 10 hours, even, you know, little lower, maybe a little bit of it, maybe then I start changing my story. But you know, probably anything over eight, I think starting out with a high volume, low intensity training in a generalized principle is a pretty good starting point.

Adam Pulford (00:44:55):

Yup. Yup. So before we leave high volume, low intensity, and you’re talking about the rhythm or the, the work sessions, um, how many sessions would have this high volume approach and what would that rhythm look like in a early base phase of training?

Tim Cusick (00:45:13):

Um, in applying into most people’s schedule, I kind of work, let’s talk about a week, right? Micro cycle. Cause it just makes it easy to imagine for me when I plan a training week, I have kind of like two rules rule. Number one is I plan what I don’t have first. So let’s say the athlete just cannot work out on Monday. So I put an X on that and they cannot work out on Friday, maybe. So I put an X in that and they can only do one hour on Wednesdays and Thursdays. So I write that down, right. So I know I want to know what I don’t have first, but then in my high volume, low intensity training phase, I then start out with the long day. And what I want is one long day, one medium long day. And the others can, I wouldn’t call them short because we’re in high volume, low intensity, but shorter days.

Tim Cusick (00:46:04):

So to me, I don’t, I’d rather have the athlete get in a three to five hour day, uh, you know, once a week, then maybe two hours a week or two hours a day, just, you know, five or six times. I really want to get to that one long day a week. Now I would add a caveat as I’m listening to myself. I still want them to be consistent. Meaning I would rather, if you said, Tim, I can only train 10 hours a week. I’ll get, I’d rather see you do two hours, five days a week. But if you could do that long day and give me the other four or five, a two hours, I want the one long day, because there’s a lot of metabolic response we need in that longer ride that will give benefit above and beyond just two hours a day.

Adam Pulford (00:46:52):

Perfect. You just answered the questions that I had in my head that I was like, please clarify on the long in the cost benefit behind being consistent. Okay, excellent.

Tim Cusick (00:47:01):

And I would address that. Meaning if, if, and then I would try, maybe get a little extra time on Wednesday. So Sunday becomes my long day maybe, or maybe it’s Saturday and then Wednesday I can do, I try not to stack it all the time on the weekend, even though that’s often the reality for most of us, but you know, and then the other days are just kind of that mid range. But what I want to do is then each week on progressing that meaning I want a little more volume as either measured by duration, but for me, I’ll use training stress score, and I want to progress that, but progression is overall volume. And if we can, I try to progress that long day.

Adam Pulford (00:47:42):

Now, do you, do you instruct athletes to go solo on this ride with a ride with a friend group ride what’s getting in trouble? I figured I’d try it.

Tim Cusick (00:47:54):

It is really difficult to be disciplined in group riding. Um, you know, if, if you have a group that’s committed, cause you need to ride this in zone one, somewhere between 50 and 65% of your power at VO two max, right somewhere between 65 and 75% of your, your functional threshold power. You know? So the reality is you need to be steady and I think is two things happen when you get with friends, as, you know, one, you tend to go too hard and then two you coast way too much wasting a lot of time in your training. I would recommend if you really have a goal of improving, right. It’s so low as frequently as you can.

Adam Pulford (00:48:36):

Got it. Got it. So are you good moving from early base to mid base now?

Tim Cusick (00:48:43):

Yeah. I mean, this is a great way to talk about it. So for me, this might be like a standard road race approach because you also have to know, like if somebody came and said, I want to do 200 mile gravel race, I might say different. So this is, uh, you know, the thinking here is how do we take just like a classic road racing approach because

Adam Pulford (00:49:02):

Sure, sure. And I think that that’s important to you. I mean, anytime that you’re creating, if any, if you’re giving any sort of advice, it’s really tricky because you have to make assumptions for a lot of things, which is why, if you listen to any of Tim’s webinars and whatnot, it’s answering an individual question is almost non-existent because there’s just too many variables. So yeah. I’m glad you provided that assumption, Tim. Cause it’s, it’s good to put some, uh, put some boundaries on what we’re talking.

Tim Cusick (00:49:32):

Yeah. But I also think it helps understand modalities. Cause you might use that. What is your tools, right? This idea of having a pattern and system or a tool to use in a plant and understanding that, you know, each tool does a job and therefore it fits within the plan. It’s not just one. And maybe there’s just one, but the reality is you have these different approaches in your toolbox. You need to know how to use them. And then it’s just about applying them and when you apply them and that really comes back to the need for specificity, what is your athlete’s big goal? You know, so all of that individual diagnostic is occurring somewhere else. You and I are just giving a generalized approach right now, but it should give some good insight.

Adam Pulford (00:50:11):

Exactly, exactly. So, um, general kind of road racer. Um, if we move from early to mid base, how does some of the modality change or intensities shift? So I shift modality, um,

Tim Cusick (00:50:28):

And, and depending on their schedule and, and, uh, what they’re doing, I tend to go to a pyramid of approach in let’s call it mid to late base. And again, it can all be moved around. This is all a little fuzzy, but, and I’ll evolve into a pyramid of approach at that point. So to me it, the idea of peer middle and the approach, which is pyramid, the idea there is that unlike polarized, we, which I will do next. So we can talk about that. Next I got pure middle is, is this idea of about 70% of your workout sessions in zone one, somewhere between 50 and 65% of your VO, two max or sorry of your power at VOT max and 30% of the sessions in zone two, some occasional zone three work. You don’t want to totally neglect that, but 30% of your sessions in zone two, which is that zone in between zone, uh, you know, in between your first threshold and your second threshold now in the polarized system, this is a no go zone. And that’s where a lot of confusion and problems can come up with. But I believe in the pyramid of system, and I think in this, uh, mid to late base type timeframe, it’s the best approach. What I would call an intensive aerobic approach towards evolving the athletes, linear system-based approach and building fitness as they prepare to actually go to polarize training later in the paradise plant.

Adam Pulford (00:52:08):

But Tim, I read on an article online that tempo is a silent killer. Sure.

Tim Cusick (00:52:13):

Um, you know, it’s funny, one of the things I think that happens online so much is everything gets painted into this good or bad right or wrong it’s binary. It’s not binary, right? These are tools. Um, I have a screwdriver in my toolbox and the other day I spent like an hour trying to bash in a nail with it and it work. Couldn’t get the nail on the wall. Well, the reality is, if you don’t understand the tool and you can’t use it, it’s easy to say, Oh, it’s broken. My screwdriver doesn’t work. I can’t nail in the nail. What happened here, right? And I think you have to step back people, mistake, peer, middle, and threshold training all the time. Pure middle is the application of 70 30. And that is a lot of tempo and sweet spot. Sweet spot is just high tempo.

Tim Cusick (00:53:02):

Don’t overthink that. And an excellent tool for building fitness and foundation tempo is not the science silent killer doing tempo every day, not having a good pattern or rhythm I E modality, right? That’s when anything can become bad. So tempo is bad. If you go out and ride two hours of tempo, seven days, a you’ll get faster for bout, I don’t know, three to six weeks, pick your poison. And then you’re going to go right down. The other side of that Hill, as the fatigue builds up. And the reality is you can’t contain, but on the same side, you do need some tempo. You analyze road races, you analyze gravel races. The athlete spends a lot of time making tempo power. If you ignore that zone because you read online that tempo was the silent killer. You’re going to struggle when it comes down to that moment, when you’re making the break and the break is sit in a tempo for 45 minutes and you’re going to be like, wow, I just can’t hold this. You know? And you get spit out the back. You’ve got to have a certain amount of specificity in there, but how you apply it is key.

Adam Pulford (00:54:16):

Yup. I’m, I’m so glad you brought that analogy up because that’s, I wanted to bring that scenario up because the people who don’t are the people who think that tempo is the silent killer. They get themselves into that situation. They make the break, they start grind and maybe there’s a group of four or whatever, and they don’t have the durability or the resilience to keep up that higher aerobic effort. And so when people say, Oh, the pros are doing polarized only, no, they ride it crap. Ton of tempo to correct. Okay. Because it’s a specificity that is needed in all racing scenarios. And I do think that people are overlooking, missing and getting really confused if they don’t understand that.

Tim Cusick (00:54:59):

I couldn’t agree more as a matter of fact, because the idea of threshold like this, this threshold approach, right? Shoulder modality kind of emerged as let’s go out and do sweet spot five days a week, seven days a week, got a bad rap and it should get a bad rap that would not bring about good results. And if somebody chose threshold modality as defined by 60 or 70% of your sessions being at threshold, or, or just below that probably isn’t a sustainable, uh, training paradigm. You’re going to fail right now, the proper application of tempo in a good pattern, 70, 30, maybe, you know, 75, 25, you guys can play with it a little bit, maybe 65, 35. But in that general pattern, that’s where we’re using the tool in the toolbox. Correct. And that’s why exactly why we should be thinking about modalities so that we can understand there’s ways to apply, to manipulate volume and intensity, because that’s what we’re talking about right now. You and I write the manipulation of volume intensity to prepare the athlete for something. But if we can’t put that manipulation in a modality, in a pattern, in a rhythm schedule, it would hurt them. But as soon as we take that same manipulation of volume and intensity and put it in the right and correct pattern and rhythm, they thrive and benefit from it. That’s why the modality right there is important.

Adam Pulford (00:56:32):

Yeah. That that’s it 100%. And the last thing I’ll say, say about this in, in kind of the wiggle room or the, the, the fuzziness of it is there’s also athlete phenotype or how you produce your power, make your power. And for somebody who maybe they’re not great at tempo, like sprinters, for example, if they go out and they start on the high end of that, and they’re like, who I’m getting cooked out, just bring it down a little bit, bring down the time zone, bring down that, that total time that you’re spending there and build yourself up in that regard. So there’s some trial and error that goes on with like, who you actually are as an athlete. Who am I, am I right in saying that

Tim Cusick (00:57:10):

Dude you’re so right. And I see athletes because they over-focus on that one. They can’t just temper that one workout. They blow the pattern, right. Cause it’s like, Oh, I just have got to hit this number today. It’s gotta be, and this goes back to that black and white interpretation, but then they, they fatigue out or they’ve done some and after a C, then they can’t sustain a good, sustainable rhythm in the end of the day. Right. All of your training success is built on the consistency of your training consistency. And you know, as the bottom foundation for me of, of superior training, right. And then right on top of that is rhythm, but they work together. But if you can’t, you know, if you’re chasing all these kinds of oddities and beliefs and, and or if you can’t mock correctly, modulate that individual workout, I would much rather have you fail on a workout and get back to your rhythm, then die trying to succeed. The workout just hit the numbers, but then not be able to get or stay in your rhythm. You know, I’d much rather, I don’t want to see that. I’d rather have you just shut her down. I’m not trying to say, Hey, I just couldn’t do that today. I shut it down. And I’m going to just, reassume my training rhythm.

Adam Pulford (00:58:29):

Yeah. And we will get to polarized here in one second. But one thing I just made note of is, um, Tim talks about self-determined training goals throughout the week. I call them the weekly focus and it is something that I tell my athlete either verbally or put it on training peaks so that they are equipped to make changes on the fly. If they need to. Can you speak to that, Tim? And like how you do that and what that means,

Tim Cusick (00:59:00):

Kudos to you. Super smart. What a great coaching tool, right? So athletes go out in the road and you have a defined training. And particularly in today’s world, you load your training to your garment and it’s little squares, right. And, and ups and downs and blocks and all those things. And it starts beeping at you. And you’re like, Oh, I gotta hit this number. And I got to do exactly this. I’ll tell you right now. I don’t my athletes using that much perfect structure.

Adam Pulford (00:59:28):

Yeah.

Tim Cusick (00:59:28):

Yeah. But I have, as you said, it’s called, we’re going to use all the acronyms here. My SDT, which is myself determined training, where I am giving an athlete saying, look, during the cycle, if you’re having a really good day, here’s how I want you to behave. Here’s how I want you to execute, capturing that. Meaning if I’m having a great day and I’m so structured in the sense of man, I have all this extra energy. I feel like that 10, as you were talking about four, I’m really just rocking it today, but I can’t break the structure and you go home, you’ve left some training on the table. So I tell my athlete, if you have that great day, here’s what you add. And that might be time in a zone. It might be some additional intensity, but I, I always have it. And it’s not a specific, like do an extra interval. It’s a rule. It’s a theory. It’s knowledge. I want the athlete to be listening to their body and making good training decisions. So I don’t say, go out and do exactly this. I’ll say, Oh, you’re feeling great. And you’re doing sweet spot right now. If you’re feeling that great, don’t go harder. I want you to add two minutes to each interval, four minutes, go a little longer, sustain it longer because that’s what we’re focusing on right now. That type of self-determined training with a little bit of coach guidance.

Adam Pulford (01:00:50):

Yeah. And that, and that helps bring awareness to the athlete, which for me really is, is one of the end goals as well, because the, the more I can equip them in the more knowledge I can give them, the more confident they are out on the road, whether it’s a training situation, a racing situation, or I’m cooked, I need to go home. And they’re, they’re confident in that

Tim Cusick (01:01:12):

Great point. I’ll steal that one from you.

Adam Pulford (01:01:16):

Excellent. A lot of stealing going on. I like it. Let’s call it sharing so much better. Yeah, exactly. Okay. So polarized training. Let’s talk about that. That is a big one. Tim, what the heck is polarized training modality.

Tim Cusick (01:01:30):

So for me through my period, I’m, it’s funny that it’s kind of my first blush. So we go high volume to pyramid, but then when it comes time to peak, I want to use polarized. And I do find that polarize is really good for peaking, particularly if you’ve done your high volume and your pyramid of well, because the systems will stack, they’ll build on top of each other and you’ll have a very resilient and ready to train athlete that can take a lot of hard work on the hard days. So once we get to that point, what is polarized training? 80 20 is a great and simple way to describe it and the way that most people mentally associate it. But when we talk about polarize, you’ve got to remember, they’re talking about 80 20 is the number of sessions, the number of workouts. So you, 80% of your workouts are in zone. One 20% of your workouts are in zone three. And as a matter of fact, high up like hard, really hard kind of zone three work. So the reality is, that’s why they’re polarized. You’re spending a lot of your workout sessions writing easy somewhere between 50 and 65% of your power, a VO two max, and then you’re spending 20% of your sessions doing workouts that include some time above 90% of your power at VO two max.

Adam Pulford (01:03:00):

Okay. So to clarify, 80% of the sessions, 20% of the session. So if I’ve got, if I train five days a week, how many sessions am I going? Full tilt?

Tim Cusick (01:03:14):

Well, if you follow the 80 20 version of polarized, it’s, it’s just math, right? That’s one hard session, right.

Adam Pulford (01:03:22):

That’s it. Okay. That’s pretty simple then. Yeah. 80 20. Yeah. And so it’s, so we’re not talking about the, like the distribution or time in zone. We’re talking about sessions.

Tim Cusick (01:03:32):

Yeah. Really great point, Adam. And I think it’s so important that people understand that. And I can tell you, that’s probably the number one is that the train peaks, WKO a leader hat. I get that question all the time. I want a report that shows me my time at 90%, uh, above 90% of VO two max power at VO two max, right? Like why? Well I’m polarized training. And I’m like, eh, that’s not quite what it means. So I have to claim that all the time, if you’ve looked at your time and zone distribution of 80 20 executed by sessions, probably 90 to 95% of your time is in zone one and 10, probably more like 5% of your time is in zone three. The training distribution, the actual power distribution is significantly less than the session distribution, if that makes sense.

Adam Pulford (01:04:24):

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’m, I’m glad to clarify that because I think that is, it’s a common thing that I hear from say my athletes, it’s, it’s a common thing I hear from online coaching forums and, and webinars and Q and a and all this kind of stuff. Hey, you know, if, if you, if you think you’re polarized training, look at your data, see if you actually are it’s WKO five has some great methods to do that too, by the way, soft plug.

Tim Cusick (01:04:51):

Thank you. No, no, it’s interesting. And it is where understanding that and you can’t, but the reality is it’s a prescription to a compliance relationship, I think. And this is for me as a coach, like when I apply 80, 20, and sometimes I might be more polarized. I might be more 70, 30 at times. Like, I’ll do a little more hard work. It depends on the, and the athletes maturity and where they’re at, but never really more than that. So there’s a little wiggle room in there. You gotta find what works with you and your athlete. Not much but a little, but you know what, that time of the year, the feedback I always get from my athletes, I want to go hard more. They literally want more. And it’s like, I want to use those hard sessions. I think when you look at polarize, the other mistake people make is they don’t run the paradise plan.

Tim Cusick (01:05:46):

Like the, that whatever you want to call it base and build phases or the base and, and early build phases, they don’t execute that. Well, they don’t build an athlete that they’re really ready for peak training. They don’t have the resiliency, they don’t have the durability that, that you were mentioning earlier. So they get into this polarized session, right. This timeframe to peak. And they can’t really do that. They can’t access that power. They might’ve built some capacity, but they don’t really have the power. So when you polarize train, the hard days really need to be hard. And if you know, it’s funny, I joke with one of my athletes. I know when it’s hard enough when they don’t ask for another hard day, you know, I want to make sure you’re leaving that hard day. Like that’s good for about five more days. I’m happy with that. You know? And they’re not looking for more, if they’re looking for more, you know, the resources, right. A lot of the athletes, they want the best, but still at hard days gotta be that kind of hard for you to make it work. Right.

Adam Pulford (01:06:48):

Yeah. And if it’s like this, this feathering of the needle, and I know exactly what you’re talking about. Cause it’s like, okay. In, oftentimes I think it’s confirmation that you layered properly. If they’re say, if they’re like, Oh, I want to go, I want to have another harder day. But then they do the hard day and like, well, okay. Maybe I don’t, but then it’s like a couple of days of zone one and they’re like, okay, I’m ready to go. And then they do. It’s like, Oh, so it’s, it’s that balancing. And that’s why we call it polarized.

Tim Cusick (01:07:12):

Right? Yeah, no, that’s great. Example, if I’m getting that kind of feedback from my athlete, I’m like, cool, we’re delivering, you know, what we want to do here. We are getting, you know, we’re going to, we’re going to hopefully get the desired adaptation from the stress and strain strain we’re introducing. So, you know, the reality is the other thing I see in polarized, right? And I think this is important for you and I to talk about polarized training is an excellent way to drive a peak. But in reality is if it’s well executed. Exactly. As you just said it, most of the benefit the athlete will get will come in the first three to five weeks. Then they will slow significantly in their improvement rate. And if you keep polarizing at that heavy intensity level beyond, I don’t know, eight weeks, maybe 10, you’ll get into a situation of, of stagnation and decline.

Tim Cusick (01:08:04):

You go back to gas, your G you know, type of thinking, the person is moving into the exhaustion phase in that modality. And it will stop paying off. It’ll stop paying returns. That’s one of the downside I had with polarized when it first came out because people were all polarized all year long. And I think that led to a fair amount of training stagnation. And I think that was a misconception. I don’t think that was what it meant when it came out, that you should just be polarized all year long. As a matter of fact, if people would listen carefully, um, you know, uh, Siler was saying that that’s not what he meant. He was observing people who trained and they did a fair amount of volume, but, you know, and they progressed into this scenario. But I think what happens in the internet today, we see this solution and we go black and white, right?

Tim Cusick (01:08:56):

We go all in it’s binary, I’m either polarized or nothing else. And I think now that it’s been there for awhile and, you know, as a modality and the education on it has improved, and there’s actually been some really good studies showing that polarized and peer middle training have the same results, which to me, and reinforces the fact that it’s more about the rhythm back to understanding modality, right? Not, not pounding in the nail with a screwdriver, um, that I think really is the takeaway lesson and understanding there is, uh, a time and place for everything. And polarize is an excellent way to drive that peak, but you got to go really hard when it’s time to go hard and you can’t mess around, meaning don’t go hard. You know, when go easy, you’re supposed to go easy, be disciplined. But that reality is after about eight weeks of that, you usually get into a point of diminishing returns has been my observation.

Adam Pulford (01:09:51):

Yeah. Uh, same thing here. And I think it’s just to simplify it. It is. If you always do one thing, you’ll always kind of be that same way. Right? And the, the, the call it, the plateau call it, the staleness, call it the whatever. And whether it is just, you know, tempo all the time threshold all the time, polarize all the time. At some point, the lack of variety in an athlete’s training will lead to a demise.

Tim Cusick (01:10:16):

Couldn’t agree more. And that’s why I think you think about all these modalities, right there, tools in your toolbox, because we need change. The human body is an adaptation machine and it’s adapting to everything you do. Anytime you apply stress, the body goes under strain and it’s going to adapt whatever that stress is, it’s going to adapt. And that adaptation isn’t always good, but that is the process, right? So you, as the body adapts, you need to have changed because what adaptation is, is a return to homeostasis. And if the stimuli that you’re applying is no longer knocking that body off that homeostasis, you don’t get, what’s known as a, an adaptive signal. You don’t get a strong adaptive signal. So your ability to use modalities and intensity and volume and all these things we’ve talked about to also have a pattern, but not always the same pattern. So, okay. You want to give the body about, I dunno, eight, maybe, maybe a little more, maybe 12 to get used to one pattern. And that’s probably the, body’s probably then a pretty adapted to that pattern. So change the pattern, change the PR that’s where different modalities can really be an effective part of a paradise annual plan.

Adam Pulford (01:11:32):

Variety’s the spice of life. Tim wait, now we’re back.

Tim Cusick (01:11:36):

Absolutely. You know, that’s, that’s, uh, you know, and it, it’s a principle in training that people don’t tend to think about much progression is way easier to think about right then variety. Um, so I think it’s really great. You brought that up.

Adam Pulford (01:11:48):

Yeah. Well, Tim, I’d like to summarize, because we have gotten over this, uh, hour timeframe, but it’s been wonderful. Um, but if I could summarize, I mean, just in simple terms, puritization is a neutral construct that we use to organize training modalities of variety of training modalities, to layer training, to make an athlete more resistant or durable in order to get a desired and outcome E performance. Is that what we’re saying here?

Tim Cusick (01:12:19):

It’s a pretty good overview. Okay.

Adam Pulford (01:12:22):

Well, if, if the listeners fell asleep while we were talking, and I don’t know why they would, because we were fascinating in my opinion, um, w what is the number one takeaway that you would want each listener to, uh, take away from this episode?

Tim Cusick (01:12:37):

You know, it’s funny. I, I, it’s a great question. And I had to think about it for awhile, and I know you and I actually had this discussion the other day. So I’ll, I’ll use it a presentation talking about, I was doing for, for WKO. I was talking about these like paradise plan. I was talking about this whole idea of analyze and paradise planning and executing. And I was mentioning training modalities and different things. And I had a slide prepared because I knew I would get the question cause I get it all the time. Somebody asked me which one is best. And my slide, I had a picture of Rome, right. And I said, well, all roads can lead to Rome. And I think for me, the takeaway that I hope people take away is there might be some, some bad answers. There might be some great answers, but I just really important that we don’t just jump on the bandwagon of whatever the new popular idea is.

Tim Cusick (01:13:34):

Right. Learn and understand, build the tools in your toolbox, understand that it’s not about, it’s not binary. All of these training modalities, different systems of training, you know, different process. They all can work. Well, I shouldn’t say all of them, a fair amount of them work, but you, as the practitioner, you got to understand that you could put them all together. You could put your map together in a lot of ways and get to Rome. Um, don’t get locked in like, Oh, wow. High, high intensity training is the new thing. I’m only gonna do that. Oh, wait. Now polarized training is new thing. I’m going to do that. Learn and build your toolbox. That’s what I hope people take away.

Adam Pulford (01:14:16):

I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t agree more. Well, Tim, if, if, um, if people like what you said and they want, they want more, Tim, how would, how would they find you social media website? What,

Tim Cusick (01:14:28):

Um, you can always find us at, uh, I have two websites, volution cycling, adventures.com. That’s our coaching and training and travel company. Um, and join base camp.com. That was a that’s our online training, uh, group training, community training that Adam was part of that kickoff, this podcast. So you can always join us there.

Adam Pulford (01:14:49):

You just picture me sweating and fumbling my phone, trying to like yell into it into Tim and be like five minutes behind the ball. So that’s, that’s what, and which was fantastic. I encourage everyone to get on some base camps,

Tim Cusick (01:15:00):

Dude. It was a, it’s taken me three years to master all those skills. So one workout just isn’t enough. You need some period training.

Adam Pulford (01:15:10):

Hi, apparently I do. Excellent tip. Well, thank you again for joining us on the train ride podcast. Uh, I always have a ton of fun chatting with you and learning with you. So I hope our listeners experience the same.

Tim Cusick (01:15:24):

Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.


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