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Sweetspot

sweetspotAim of Session

Simultaneously developing basic endurance while lifting performance at second threshold. 

 

Session description

WARM UP: Ensure 15 mins warm up before starting the efforts, worth considering having this contain 5 mins in low end zone 3 to make sure the engine is ready, include this time within the session duration
MAIN SET: Perform specified blocks of effort in the upper end of zone 3 i.e. approx 90% of your 25 mile power (or FTP). THIS IS NOT A ZONE 4 EFFORT, but more controlled. 10 mins of easy pedalling in between.
COOL DWON: add 10 mins of spinning onto session duration if required, not included in session duration

Typical progressions are:

  • 3 x 10 minutes
  • 3 x 15 minutes
  • 2 x 20 minutes
  • 3 x 20 minutes

Physiology

Training at a 'sweetspot' intensity is a very powerful stimulant for improvements in "Maximal Lactate Steady State" (or FTP or 25 mile TT pace). This intensity is considered a balance point: The intensity is great enough that lactate metabolism is under considerable stress - the body is forced to adapt to low blood and muscle pH and improve the shuttle mechanisms that allow lactate to be shifted to other cells more suited to lactate metabolism; yet the intensity is not so great that it significantly limits the volume of training that can be carried out at this intensity. Indeed elite athletes may be able to manage upto four 20 minute blocks at sweetspot intensity within a ride of several hours. For more information see the fact sheet on 'Training in Zone 3' in the PBscience library.

Application for the Rider

Sweetspot training is commonly used to transition between basic endurance training and more specific work at higher intensities as the race season approaches. Moving from pure endurance sessions to sessions in zone 4 and above can be a big shock to the system so sweetspot sessions are a fantastic means of bridging that gap.

Being able to complete fairly long duration workouts at a high level of metabolic stress means sweetspot sessions are capable of developing a degree of athletic 'base' (i.e. performance around lactate threshold) in addition to stimulating improvements in MLSS. This makes it ideal for athletes short on time, or for maintaining basic endurance during the competitive season. 

Practicalities and tips!

  • Increased levels of blood lactate are a result of dependence on glycogen as a fuel source. To be able to sustain this intensity during your session, and to minimise the subsequent recovery time, it is VITAL that you focus on consuming sufficient carbohydrate (and fluid) during and immediately following sweetspot sessions
  • Choice of training route can make or break this session - choose a route that allows you to maintain a consistent effort on the zone 3/4 border. Traffic lights, technical descents and slow moving traffic make it nigh on impossible to keep the right intensity. Consider using your local time trial course for this session.  

Evaluation of the session

  • Were your intervals performed at the correct intensity? The more time spent between 88-94% of your FTP the better!
  • Did you complete each interval duration?
  • Look at your HR profile - if it is 'flat' chances are you have stayed the right side of the zone 3 / 4 boundary. If its rising, it might be that you have just nudged the intensity too high
  • What quantity of carbohydrate did you consume? You should be aiming for around 60-80g per hour as the most that can be digested but more advanced riders can use less to maximise the adaptation to this session.
  • Were you sufficiently recovered to train on the following day? If not, double check your nutrition or consider whether you need more time building endurance at lower intensities.

 

More in this category: « Hard hilly Sweetspot bursts »