Sweet Spot Training, a guide to building a powerful aerobic engine
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  1. #1
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    Sweet Spot Training, a guide to building a powerful aerobic engine

    A member from a group to which I subscribe named Frank just posted a how to on his website. It details sweet spot training (SST), which is something many, many top coaches and physiologists recommend during the base/build season and occasionally during race season.

    SST is one of the fastest and most effective ways to increase your threshold power. Simply put, it's the best "bang for your buck" training. What does this mean? It means you can finish the group ride, perform better in the group ride, and get faster in your long-duration rides (or races)...all by doing work that is usually less than 2hrs long, or sometimes as short as 20-30 minutes.



    For those of you without a power meter, I would like to make an addendum to the article. Heart rate can be used, since these are usually longer, steady-state efforts. How do you figure it out? Go and do a 60min test, all out. It has to be 60min, and preferably, on a consistent indoor trainer. After a 15min warmup, working up a bit of a sweat, start the timer and do an additional 60 minutes as hard as you can. Record your average speed and average heart rate for the trial. This is your LTHR, and will be used to gauge SST exertion level.

    Based on HR, your SST zone is between 89-100% of your LTHR. Retest once a month in the same conditions to guage improvement. The higher your speed, the faster you are now going! Realize, however, that LTHR changes only a little during initial phases. As soon as you dial in your true LTHR, it should not change much (if at all) from test to test, year to year.

    Good luck!
    -James

    https://www.fascatcoaching.com/train..._partdeux.html

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    I decided to do some SST this morning. I usually do repeats on a local hill at around 330 watts for 22.5 minutes. Today I decided to shoot for between 300-310 and do three. The first at 7:15 am with about a 7 minute warm up was ok (Avg 305/ Norm 310). The second I felt good and just tried to avg the same (avg (306/ Norm 310) and the third I felt real good but didn't want to go to hard since I have big weekend planned (avg 315 / norm 319). I feel surprisingly fresh today.

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    For those of you who would like to learn more (or just believe we should give credit where credit is due), the coach who developed this article (in full @ the link) is Frank Overton from Boulder.

    More goodness here --

    http://www.fascatcoaching.com/traini..._partdeux.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by velogirl
    For those of you who would like to learn more (or just believe we should give credit where credit is due), the coach who developed this article (in full @ the link) is Frank Overton from Boulder.

    More goodness here --

    http://www.fascatcoaching.com/traini..._partdeux.html
    Thanks, I wasn't sure of Franks last name...but I did include his link in the post ;)

  5. #5
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    Just to dumb things down for those of us who just want the upshot of all this science, does this in essence mean that I should train more often near but below the threshold level where I do 3 x 20 minute intervals?
    "It is better to conquer yourself, than to win a thousand battles." -Dhammapada

    "Fact is only what you believe; fact and fiction work as a team." Jack Johnson

    "A true cyclist sometimes has to bite the dust before he can reach the stars. Laurent Fignon

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pablo
    Just to dumb things down for those of us who just want the upshot of all this science, does this in essence mean that I should train more often near but below the threshold level where I do 3 x 20 minute intervals?
    Yes, basically.

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    +1. My training plan for much of the winter does not include 3 x 20. Rather, it will look like this: "4 hour ride with two 45-minute sustained hard efforts."

    That's what this means.

    I won't start doing 2 x 20 type stuff until maybe Feb.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by iliveonnitro
    Thanks, I wasn't sure of Franks last name...but I did include his link in the post ;)
    Yes really why cite the source you jacked the info from?
    Last edited by FTF; 11-01-2007 at 08:25 PM.

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    People are using a training system based on a graph that has one axis labeled "Arbitrary units"? One day it's pieces of leftover Halloween candy consumed, the next drops of sweat per minute- just insert any unit there and the system works? I'd say, "Wow," but I see exercise systems like this advertised on late night TV all the time- buy the gizmo, do hardly any work, and in two weeks you'll have six-pack abs.
    To the troll mobile, away...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Argentius
    +1. My training plan for much of the winter does not include 3 x 20. Rather, it will look like this: "4 hour ride with two 45-minute sustained hard efforts."

    That's what this means.

    I won't start doing 2 x 20 type stuff until maybe Feb.
    All this on big winter balloon tires? I get my Ruffy Tuffys soon.
    "It is better to conquer yourself, than to win a thousand battles." -Dhammapada

    "Fact is only what you believe; fact and fiction work as a team." Jack Johnson

    "A true cyclist sometimes has to bite the dust before he can reach the stars. Laurent Fignon

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    I probably deserve the contemptuous replies...but, nonetheless, I shall respond.

    Quote Originally Posted by FTF
    Yes really why cite the source you jacked the info from?
    The SST theory has been around for years before it was given a name, and Frank did not invent it. He simply wrote a very power-based article on it. I skimmed it, but didn't even read it since I'm already familiar with it. All of the information I wrote in my post is stuff I already knew from previous readings on many, many other websites, articles, personal contact with other coaches, and emails. In fact, Frank never mentioned anything about SST with HR, did he? The numbers I posted are directly from my current training. The picture is from pezcycling (right click on photo for "source") and the picture was made available by Andy Coggan -- so credit goes to him on this.

    Quote Originally Posted by California L33
    People are using a training system based on a graph that has one axis labeled "Arbitrary units"?
    At first, I was also critical. However, no one can benefit monetarily from making SST up -- there's simply nothing to sell.. That's exactly what the graph is for: the concept of SST. If you need a label for "arbitrary units," just plug in time, distance, stress, work, etc. It's arbitrary for a reason -- it can be compared with anything relating to work. I'm sure Andy wouldn't damage his reputation by throwing together an "infomercial" graph that has no merit.

    You cynics done? How about just enjoying the fact that this information is available to you for free and without a coach? I'm sure thankful for it...

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    Quote Originally Posted by California L33
    People are using a training system based on a graph that has one axis labeled "Arbitrary units"? One day it's pieces of leftover Halloween candy consumed, the next drops of sweat per minute- just insert any unit there and the system works? I'd say, "Wow," but I see exercise systems like this advertised on late night TV all the time- buy the gizmo, do hardly any work, and in two weeks you'll have six-pack abs.
    They're as arbitrary as the units to used to measure base and the vast majority of cyclists consider building base their main goal.

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    I'm surprised (well, maybe not) by all the animosity over someone trying to share some training tips. It's not like he posted a training plan someone was selling. The graph shows up in a lot of power-based books (like Allen/Coggan), and besides the graph is just meant to illustrate a concept, showing training intensity/volume offsets to locate a range of intensity that improves power at threshold. A lot of cyclists intuitively train at around this level (so-called level 3 rut if it's the only level one trains in) and the sweet spot concept is supposed to illustrate what benefits it confers.

    For those thinking it's somehow snake oil, almost all training is more art than science in the sense that the bulk of it is based on best practices rather than science (the latter involving controlled experimental settings, randomization, etc.).

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    Quote Originally Posted by iliveonnitro
    I probably deserve the contemptuous replies...but, nonetheless, I shall respond.



    The SST theory has been around for years before it was given a name, and Frank did not invent it. He simply wrote a very power-based article on it. I skimmed it, but didn't even read it since I'm already familiar with it. All of the information I wrote in my post is stuff I already knew from previous readings on many, many other websites, articles, personal contact with other coaches, and emails. In fact, Frank never mentioned anything about SST with HR, did he? The numbers I posted are directly from my current training. The picture is from pezcsdycling (right click on photo for "source") and the picture was made available by Andy Coggan -- so credit goes to him on this.
    If there is anyone else you forgot to cite, except Andy Coggan and Frank Overton, now would probably be the time.

    I don't have anything invested in this, except well, morality.
    Last edited by FTF; 11-02-2007 at 03:57 PM.

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    I'm surprised (well, maybe not) by all the animosity over someone trying to share some training tips.
    I'm not. Look at the signatures of the two offenders here. I wish they would get in their "troll mobiles" and go away. Actually mountain bike review has a pretty good system set up for just these kinds of trolls and flame baiters. They have the Recycle Bin board.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FTF
    If there is anyone else you forgot to cite, except Andy Coggan and Frank Overton, now would probably be the time.

    I don't have anything invested in this, except well, morality.
    "Morality"? Your snide cynicism was quite enough. Bloated self-righteousness puts you well over the top.

    Obviously, your biggest investment in this discussion is your delicate ego.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by California L33
    People are using a training system based on a graph that has one axis labeled "Arbitrary units"? One day it's pieces of leftover Halloween candy consumed, the next drops of sweat per minute- just insert any unit there and the system works? I'd say, "Wow," but I see exercise systems like this advertised on late night TV all the time- buy the gizmo, do hardly any work, and in two weeks you'll have six-pack abs.
    Trust me, there is nothing about power-based training zones and the intensity levels they represent that is a "get fit quick" scheme. Structured training takes an awful lot of discipline and commitment. Lazy recreational riders need not apply, which is perhaps why you have an issue.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by patchito
    "Morality"? Your snide cynicism was quite enough. Bloated self-righteousness puts you well over the top.

    Obviously, your biggest investment in this discussion is your delicate ego.
    Eh, I'll give you the morality thing was over the top.

  19. #19
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    thanks iliveonnitro and whoever else helped with this. it's interesting info i'll have to look more into.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iliveonnitro
    I probably deserve the contemptuous replies...but, nonetheless, I shall respond.



    The SST theory has been around for years before it was given a name, and Frank did not invent it. He simply wrote a very power-based article on it. I skimmed it, but didn't even read it since I'm already familiar with it. All of the information I wrote in my post is stuff I already knew from previous readings on many, many other websites, articles, personal contact with other coaches, and emails. In fact, Frank never mentioned anything about SST with HR, did he? The numbers I posted are directly from my current training. The picture is from pezcycling (right click on photo for "source") and the picture was made available by Andy Coggan -- so credit goes to him on this.



    At first, I was also critical. However, no one can benefit monetarily from making SST up -- there's simply nothing to sell.. That's exactly what the graph is for: the concept of SST. If you need a label for "arbitrary units," just plug in time, distance, stress, work, etc. It's arbitrary for a reason -- it can be compared with anything relating to work. I'm sure Andy wouldn't damage his reputation by throwing together an "infomercial" graph that has no merit.

    You cynics done? How about just enjoying the fact that this information is available to you for free and without a coach? I'm sure thankful for it...
    My response wasn't meant to be terribly cynical- more smart a$z- I really found it funny that an axis on a working graph could be labeled "arbitrary." Truthfully, I thought it was just a typo- some generic graph form that should have been labeled, "Insert data units here," or something but maybe due to a translation problem got labeled "arbitrary."
    To the troll mobile, away...

  21. #21
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    fyi, arbitrary units is standard scientific notation. It is used often in scientific plots and isn't problematic for scientists. In this case, you want to show the relation between training intensity and time, but the time dimension isn't well-defined in the sense that there's no defined function that plots training intensity as a function of specific units (minutes etc) but you know the general shape of the function so you plot it against time without defining the specific units (that is, you haven't collected data for a real sample of cyclists). If you specified the units, you would be indicating that each value (say intensity at time x) is well-defined, which is wrong, so arbitrary units is actually the correct way to plot it.

  22. #22
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    Thankfully not all of it, lately!

    There was a few rainy weeks on the 35mm's, but for Seattle we have had a week and a half of eerily nice weather, so I pulled back out the skinny tires for a few last rides. I even got to head up to British Columbia and ride up Mt Seymour, Cypress, and some other stuff. That was a fun ride. Both climbs are in the 45 minute range, and it was all in the upper part of the "sweet spot."

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    SST vs the "grey zone"

    Hey,

    I can appreciate the reasoning for SST, but how does it stack up against the theory of avoiding excessive training time in that "grey zone" which is too high for optimal development of the aerobic system and too low for optimal development of capacity at threshold. It seems to be that SST would put me right in that "grey zone."

    I have an open mind, just seeking explanation.

    Thanks!

  24. #24
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    I've never heard of going too hard for optimal aerobic development except in the case of anaerobic work. In fact, it's usually better to go hard, causing the body to overreach.

    I like to define the gray zone as too "easy" AND short to elicit significant aerobic changes, but too hard to promote recovery. For example, cruising in low-L3 (under SST, but not quite all-day pace) is great if you have a 3-4+hr ride in front of you. Riding at low-L3 for an hour or two isn't causing the body to over-reach and thus adapt to training stress -- because there really isn't any significant stress.

    The idea is to go hard on the hard days and easy on the easy days. SST isn't easy, but it's at an intensity that allows you to physically last ~1-3hrs. Psychologically lasting 3hrs at 90-95% of your 1hr power is another story...

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    Thanks for your response.

    I know it's "old school", but I've been used to the argument that you need to stay below a certain threshold to optimally develop the aerobic capacity and at or above a certain threshold to optimally develop anaerobic capacity. It follows that training in between has dubious benefits, hence the argument about going easy enough (and long enough) some days and hard enough on others.

    I'm not committed to this argument! Now it's cold and dark, I'm set for daily hours on a trainer. If I'll get better results by going a little harder to allow a little less time, I'll do it. Tonight, I listened to Coach Troy telling me to stay 10 bpm or more below LTHR. With a max of 199 and a LTHR or 185, that would mean 175 or less, which is way above the 160 I try to observe as an upper limit for aerobic workouts. Into the 170s is a harrrrrd workout. I know HR numbers are very variable, but I think they raise interesting questions.

    Again, thanks for any constructive comments This is an interesting thread.

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