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Training & Intensity Distribution

There’s a lot of talk about polarised training—most training is performed at low intensity and a small amount at higher intensities, once a solid foundation is developed. Training needs to become more polarised as an athlete’s fitness level increases in order to ensure that metabolic load is maintained. However, a lower level athlete can’t really train in a polarised fashion because low intensity is already a high load on the system. Unfortunately, this can be incredibly difficult to put into practice for people who have a lower level of fitness.

Lack of fitness is not due to lack of intensity. In fact, it’s the exact opposite, it’s due to inadequacy of consistent low intensity training. This continues to be proven time and again, even more so as an increasing number of top level athletes and coaches choose to share training data instead of keeping it secret.

Looking closer, even a person with a high level of fitness will need to tone down training intensity if there’s any underlying condition: examples include, medical conditions, medication, auto-immune issues, history of repeated illness (even slight sickness if it’s at all repetitive), family or life stress, injury, or for any reason not having trained consistently for at least two years in full health.

I call this the ‘history coefficient’ that acts as a governor. Dr. Phil Maffetone, founder of the MAF test (Maximum Aerobic Function), modifies the upper level of aerobic function based on the same parameters. The point is the same: if there’s any acute, chronic or latent inflammation in the body, or a tendency for it to quickly develop then workloads must be adjusted to account for it.

Here’s my personal example:
My cardio-respiratory system is much more robust than my connective tissue. It’s able to recover more quickly than my soft tissues. Intensity zones are determined by heart rate and substrate utilisation (glycogen and fat). This means that my zones reflect my body’s ability to provide energy and oxygen at various workloads. We typically assign workouts based on these parameters. However, if I work at those levels I get injured. I’ve seen the pattern over, and over again across decades starting in my teenage years. I therefore have to tone down every training zone by 5-10 beats per minute, not because my circulation, breathing and energy systems can’t keep up but instead because if I work at “normally” assigned levels I can’t train consistently over weeks and months. It’s the consistent training that leads to fitness.

During the past 6 months I’ve been far more disciplined about applying my ‘history coefficient’. The result is that I’m in the best fitness of my 55 years.

Be honest with yourself about your own underlying conditions. Work with them, not against them.

✌️ ∙ 🌱 ∙ 🙏