#86 — Make Training Fun for Better Performance (p.1 of 2 with Hunter Allen)

Hunter Allen Bio:

  • Ex-Pro cyclist
  • Peaks Coaching Group Founder, CEO
  • USAC Level 1 Coach …. Focusing on : Road Cyclists, MTB and Tri
  • Co-Founder TrainingPeaks WKO
  • Co-Author “ Training and Racing with a Power Meter ” 
  • Co-Author ” Triathlon Training With Power “
  • Co-Author “ Cutting Edge Cycling ”
  • 2008 Olympic USA BMX Team Technical Coach
  • And, it should be noted, still a super fit dude (298 FTP)

Peaks Coaching Group:

Download slides from Hunter


5 Levels of Intensity Countdown (the Wise Athletes simplified version)


Short maximum output efforts above threshold. This level includes VO2max testing efforts (so a 10 second flying 200 on the track to a 5 minute VO2Max effort), — you are using everything you got. All out for a short time.  Pacing is hard without practice but what is notable is how, even with proper pacing, you fail to maintain the power output after a very short time.  This is similar to weight lifting…the bigger the weight, the fewer the reps. The fast twitch muscles fatigue quickly from using up ATP and accumulation of waste products that make the muscle environment more acidic and interfere with the muscle function. At this level, oxygen is the limiter.  After a rest, the muscle recovers and can go again but not quite as well. This process can be repeated a few times but the fast twitch muscle will get fatigued (maybe damaged?) and need to heal and adapt before the next effort (hopefully a couple days hence if you went to failure).  At this level, you really need a power meter or smart trainer to measure your power output for the training interval.  HR won’t help because of the delay in HR response. 


Lactate threshold / FTP/ steady state (around an hour) — it’s a concept as much as it’s a power output that can be sustained as long as glucose is available to burn and lactate can be cleared and used by the mitochondria. Similar to this is the Functional Threshold Power….It’s called functional because an hour is a nice round number and is approximately the time needed to complete a 40k TT which is a standard TT distance in cycling.  This might also be about the time it takes to burn through available glucose.  You are breathing heavily but steadily.  You are not talking.  At this level, if you paced it correctly, glucose is the limiter, not oxygen.  A power meter is helpful but you could also do an FTP test based on distance covered in 1 hour or time to compete 25 miles. 


Tempo / Sweetspot (also called “no man’s land”) is in-between lactate threshold and endurance pace. This is where racing lives unless it is a very short or very long race.    This is advertised as being more time-efficient than polarized training.  Sweetspot is the high end, just below Threshold, while Tempo is the lower end, just above Endurance/FatMax level.


Endurance/ fat max (a long time). This is the famous Zone 2 which is said to be where your fat max effort level is located as well. You can talk in sentences because you can easily breath in enough air for this effort.  This is the effort level that not only maximizes the burning of fat, it stimulates the building of healthy mitochondria and the volume of type 1 muscle fibers. Building more type 1 muscle fiber gives the cyclist the ability to ride harder for longer, and clear the lactate generated by the fast twitch muscle for a much high power output for longer time.  At this level, paced correctly, you don’t have an obvious limit.  If you are not used to the time in the saddle, then all sorts of things can go wrong eventually, but it isn’t oxygen or fuel.  Here a HR monitor is most helpful.  After you figure out your endurance pace HR, stay below it.


Recovery ride.  This does not feel like exercise.  Just get the blood flowing to help with repair.  Use the time for focus on technique:  perfect pedaling, higher cadence coordination, deep rhythmic breathing training.  Go easy at whatever HR or power comes out.  Easy.  Recovery. 

The ever curious athlete who demands answers.
About the Author
Curious athlete who demands answers. Husband to Susan ( Father of 3 daughters. Athletic pursuits over time, in reverse order: cycling, skiing, mountaineering, rock climbing, triathlon, golf, tennis, football.

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