Differentiation of L5/L6 intervals



Bullseye_blam

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The goal of this post is to better separate [hone] the training effect of my L5 intervals from my L6 intervals. The anecdote I will relay is under the supposition that I wanted to accomplish L5 intervals, but my workouts seemed more akin to L6 intervals, and thus may not have the desired training effect.

Here are some details before I begin:

Me: I'm 25.3 years of age, 5'11", 76.5 kilograms.

FTP approximately 220 [tested two weeks ago as my highest average power in an hour's riding]. For reference, one week ago I had my highest 20-minute average power which was 228. It is possible my FTP is very slightly underestimated, but I do not believe it is higher than 225.

Power Training Zones

L6 - 266 and up
L5 - 233 to 265
L4 - 200 to 232
L3 - 167 to 199
L2 - 123 to 166
L1 - Below 122



Workout goal: 3-5 VO2max intervals, 5 minutes apiece, 5 minutes rest inbetween.

Theory on completing these workouts: Ride with the highest average power I can sustain for 5 minutes (which I believe may be part of the problem; more on that later).

The problem description: The first interval only lasted four minutes before exhaustion [four minute average power was 327 watts], and my 5-minute average power here was 298 watts, which is significantly above the range for 'VO2max power'. I was able to complete the full five minutes for my second interval, with an average of 281 watts for the duration, which is also above my VO2max power range as calculated by the chart.

However, here is the description of what I was feeling during these intervals:

1. breathing was so ragged that it caused me to cough after the workout [the next day my throat is still recovering - it's like I have a very minor sore throat. ugg, anyone have a good remedy for this?]
2. the slight taste of blood in the back of my throat after finishing [no blood though, of course :p]
3. minor light-headedness/darkened vision near the end of an interval
4. definite leg fatigue
5. took approximately 10 minutes to recover before I could do the second interval, and I spent approximately 8 minutes recovering before attempting a third interval, but I could not sustain a power output near my previous efforts and thus decided to stop. however, I am uncertain if I could have sustained an effort in the middle of/near the bottom of my VO2max wattage range as defined by the Coggan power levels [and, if that were the case, I probably should have continued].

These symptoms lead me to believe that these intervals were in fact more anaerobic, and if I were using a 1-10 scale of perceived exertion, I'd have to say my RPE was around 9.5 or greater, and I would conjecture that I was not accomplishing the goal of increasing VO2max/aerobic capacity.

My proposed solution: ride at the power levels defined by the VO2max range [232-272 watts], but don't limit the time of the interval to 5 minutes; rather, ride at this level until exhaustion occurs (perhaps somewhere in the 6-8 minute range].

Any guesses inparticular about at my power profile [i.e. sprinter, TT'er, etc.] ;) that may help me understand/change how I do these intervals?

Thanks!
 

Pureshot78

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Oct 7, 2004
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Bullseye_blam said:
The goal of this post is to better separate [hone] the training effect of my L5 intervals from my L6 intervals. The anecdote I will relay is under the supposition that I wanted to accomplish L5 intervals, but my workouts seemed more akin to L6 intervals, and thus may not have the desired training effect.

Here are some details before I begin:

Me: I'm 25.3 years of age, 5'11", 76.5 kilograms.

FTP approximately 220 [tested two weeks ago as my highest average power in an hour's riding]. For reference, one week ago I had my highest 20-minute average power which was 228. It is possible my FTP is very slightly underestimated, but I do not believe it is higher than 225.

Power Training Zones

L6 - 266 and up
L5 - 233 to 265
L4 - 200 to 232
L3 - 167 to 199
L2 - 123 to 166
L1 - Below 122



Workout goal: 3-5 VO2max intervals, 5 minutes apiece, 5 minutes rest inbetween.

Theory on completing these workouts: Ride with the highest average power I can sustain for 5 minutes (which I believe may be part of the problem; more on that later).

The problem description: The first interval only lasted four minutes before exhaustion [four minute average power was 327 watts], and my 5-minute average power here was 298 watts, which is significantly above the range for 'VO2max power'. I was able to complete the full five minutes for my second interval, with an average of 281 watts for the duration, which is also above my VO2max power range as calculated by the chart.

However, here is the description of what I was feeling during these intervals:

1. breathing was so ragged that it caused me to cough after the workout [the next day my throat is still recovering - it's like I have a very minor sore throat. ugg, anyone have a good remedy for this?]
2. the slight taste of blood in the back of my throat after finishing [no blood though, of course :p]
3. minor light-headedness/darkened vision near the end of an interval
4. definite leg fatigue
5. took approximately 10 minutes to recover before I could do the second interval, and I spent approximately 8 minutes recovering before attempting a third interval, but I could not sustain a power output near my previous efforts and thus decided to stop. however, I am uncertain if I could have sustained an effort in the middle of/near the bottom of my VO2max wattage range as defined by the Coggan power levels [and, if that were the case, I probably should have continued].

These symptoms lead me to believe that these intervals were in fact more anaerobic, and if I were using a 1-10 scale of perceived exertion, I'd have to say my RPE was around 9.5 or greater, and I would conjecture that I was not accomplishing the goal of increasing VO2max/aerobic capacity.

My proposed solution: ride at the power levels defined by the VO2max range [232-272 watts], but don't limit the time of the interval to 5 minutes; rather, ride at this level until exhaustion occurs (perhaps somewhere in the 6-8 minute range].

Any guesses inparticular about at my power profile [i.e. sprinter, TT'er, etc.] ;) that may help me understand/change how I do these intervals?

Thanks!
Try riding your intervals at 91% of your Max Power for that duration.
You wouldn't try doing 3 to 5 sets of your 1 Rep Max in bench press.. why try it with this?
 

Alex Simmons

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Mar 12, 2006
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Good question. I'm doing L5 myself at the moment.

1. How solid were your 1 hour and 20 min tests for validating FTP?

2. You started your first effort too hard if you couldn't make the set duration. Also the effort level should enable you to complete the minimum set number of intervals at the power level required and with the prescribed rest interval duration. Completion of the set is important in maximising pVO2 Max improvements.

3. Use this as feedback to adjust future intervals. What did the power line look like? Starts high and fades probably? Better to start a little lower and lift as you get into it. Coach suggested same for me as I was struggling a bit with L5 but am coming good now.

4. Sounds like "pursuiter's cough" to me. For me it's a sign of 3-5 min maximal effrot when I'm not that aerobically fit. No great ideas other than rest. Cough lollies with Vit C perhaps.

5. You may have high Anaerobic capacity relative to aerobic fitness at present, enabling one really good hit out but not such good repeatability with short recovery (hence needing long breaks).

6. Well, if you have a PM, then why not do the power profiling test and see what it is telling you.;)
 

Bullseye_blam

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Sep 18, 2005
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Alex Simmons said:
Good question. I'm doing L5 myself at the moment.

1. How solid were your 1 hour and 20 min tests for validating FTP?

2. You started your first effort too hard if you couldn't make the set duration. Also the effort level should enable you to complete the minimum set number of intervals at the power level required and with the prescribed rest interval duration. Completion of the set is important in maximising pVO2 Max improvements.

3. Use this as feedback to adjust future intervals. What did the power line look like? Starts high and fades probably? Better to start a little lower and lift as you get into it. Coach suggested same for me as I was struggling a bit with L5 but am coming good now.

4. Sounds like "pursuiter's cough" to me. For me it's a sign of 3-5 min maximal effrot when I'm not that aerobically fit. No great ideas other than rest. Cough lollies with Vit C perhaps.

5. You may have high Anaerobic capacity relative to aerobic fitness at present, enabling one really good hit out but not such good repeatability with short recovery (hence needing long breaks).

6. Well, if you have a PM, then why not do the power profiling test and see what it is telling you.;)

A good reply! I'll take them in order.

1. Very solid. I haven't been riding very long in general [only about 15 months], but I consider my FTP to be pretty lousy. I really did give my best effort for the testing as compared to the intervals...

2. Yes, I agree I started the first interval too hard, but even so, for the second interval, I did 5 minutes above my VO2max range [assuming my ranges are correct from my FTP].

3. I agree, and this probably relates to #2

4. Well, it's also about 72 degrees F in the room, which might actually be a little cool, and thus make breathing more difficult... and yeah, I would say I'm probably not aerobically fit yet, either.

5. That is possible, though my 1-minute power per weight seems to be my worst at the moment [with limited testing; I've only had the power meter for about 5 weeks].

6. Yeah, I was mostly joking. ;)

However, I am simply thinking that 5 minutes is not a long enough time period for me to complete a true L5/VO2max interval. Does that mean I have a high anaerobic capacity? A high VO2max? I'm not exactly sure. I'm looking forward to doing another set similar to this [but decreasing the average power over a longer period of time] 2-3 weeks from now.

P.S. Alex, I read your blog. good stuff!

-Eric
 

NM87710

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May 11, 2006
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Maybe this has already been discussed before...but what the heck

For discusion purposes how about assuming the OP has a classic bell shaped "pursuit" power profile (low/med 5sec, high 1min & 5min, low FT w/kg). To me it looks like the Coggan FTP based power levels are based on a linear "all rounder" power profile and may not offer the best ranges for folks with high 1min & 5min AP. In other words how do you choose L5/L6 ranges for a pursuiter power profile or classic spinter power profile for that matter?
 

frenchyge

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Apr 3, 2005
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Bullseye_blam said:
My proposed solution: ride at the power levels defined by the VO2max range [232-272 watts], but don't limit the time of the interval to 5 minutes; rather, ride at this level until exhaustion occurs (perhaps somewhere in the 6-8 minute range].
The power level is right, but there's no reason to try to ride the first interval to exhaustion when the plan is to do 3-5 reps. Try it straight first (ie, mid-to-top of L5, steady-paced, 5min on / 5 min off) and see if you can actually accomplish all 5 intervals. I can almost guarantee that you'll be dying by the last one, which is where you really should be dying (as opposed to the first one, and needing 10 min recovery in between). :)
 

frenchyge

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NM87710 said:
For discusion purposes how about assuming the OP has a classic bell shaped "pursuit" power profile (low/med 5sec, high 1min & 5min, low FT w/kg). To me it looks like the Coggan FTP based power levels are based on a linear "all rounder" power profile and may not offer the best ranges for folks with high 1min & 5min AP. In other words how do you choose L5/L6 ranges for a pursuiter power profile or classic spinter power profile for that matter?
The power profiles are all based on single, max efforts from a rested state, as opposed to what can be accomplished during a 30-60 min high-intensity workout. For that (longer) duration, the interval power levels that can be repeated are going to more closely correlate with the FTP column than the 5-min column. IOW, if one has the pursuiter profile due to a strong AWC, that's not going to help them by intervals 3, 4, and 5 anyway.
 

otb4evr

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Apr 22, 2005
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Bullseye_blam said:
A good reply! I'll take them in order.

4. Well, it's also about 72 degrees F in the room, which might actually be a little cool, and thus make breathing more difficult... and yeah, I would say I'm probably not aerobically fit yet, either.

-Eric
Eric,

If you are saying in #4 that you are not as aerobically fit as you need to be, why are you doing VO2Max intervals?

Here is a great thread on Google. http://groups.google.com/group/wattage/msg/5f11a5069c69e898?dmode=source&hl=en

Here is an interesting comment:

Andrew Coggan said:
"3) As a corollary to the previous statement, having a high metabolic
fitness/muscle fatigue resistance is likely important to getting the
most out of a period of focussed VO2max training, as without it you may
be unable to train as hard as necessary to achieve maximum results. Or,
to put this in more concrete terms: I'm in favor of the classic Lydiard
approach, where VO2max training occurs after training of lactate
threshold, vs. the Carmichael/Morris/Golich approach, where VO2max
training occurs before training of lactate threshold (apologies to
anyone if I'm overstating their position)."
Jim
 

Roadie_scum

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Bullseye_blam

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frenchyge said:
The power level is right, but there's no reason to try to ride the first interval to exhaustion when the plan is to do 3-5 reps. Try it straight first (ie, mid-to-top of L5, steady-paced, 5min on / 5 min off) and see if you can actually accomplish all 5 intervals. I can almost guarantee that you'll be dying by the last one, which is where you really should be dying (as opposed to the first one, and needing 10 min recovery in between). :)
You're probably right about this! I think I was under the impression that even the first couple should be a struggle, but I'll give this a try.

otb4evr said:
Eric,

If you are saying in #4 that you are not as aerobically fit as you need to be, why are you doing VO2Max intervals?

Here is a great thread on Google. http://groups.google.com/group/wattage/msg/5f11a5069c69e898?dmode=source&hl=en

Here is an interesting comment:

Jim
Well, mainly:

I don't want to say I'm "unfit", and I am certainly not focusing on VO2max intervals right now, but am instead doing a set of them every three weeks or so [with the idea of keeping that area at 'maintenance' while the majority of my training is in L4]. I realize my thinking may not have been correct...

Roadie_scum said:
Apart from the minor quibble that VO2max should count as aerobic fitness, yes. If you can only recover enough for 3 intervals, try increasing your FTP first.
In addition to Jim's point, I think if I had indeed started the intervals at the proper intensity [instead of thinking I should do them at a higher intensity because I could complete 1-2 at a higher average power], then completing 5 such intervals would be within my reach.

Thanks for all of the replies so far;they've been quite helpful.

-Eric
 

acoggan

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NM87710 said:
For discusion purposes how about assuming the OP has a classic bell shaped "pursuit" power profile (low/med 5sec, high 1min & 5min, low FT w/kg). To me it looks like the Coggan FTP based power levels are based on a linear "all rounder" power profile and may not offer the best ranges for folks with high 1min & 5min AP. In other words how do you choose L5/L6 ranges for a pursuiter power profile or classic spinter power profile for that matter?

No, the power levels are broad enough to be "generic" (which was my intent). Care-in-point: the woman whose data are shown to illustrate the inverted-V power profile typical of a pursuiter still found it very, very hard to do 6 x 5 min intervals in the stated range (esp. on the ergometer, which is merciless).
 

acoggan

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Bullseye_blam said:
You're probably right about this!

"Probably"? ;)

Bullseye_blam said:
I think I was under the impression that even the first couple should be a struggle

Let me guess: prior to using a powermeter, you trained a fair bit using a heart rate monitor.
 

rmur17

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Bullseye_blam said:
The goal of this post is to better separate [hone] the training effect of my L5 intervals from my L6 intervals. The anecdote I will relay is under the supposition that I wanted to accomplish L5 intervals, but my workouts seemed more akin to L6 intervals, and thus may not have the desired training effect.

Here are some details before I begin:

Me: I'm 25.3 years of age, 5'11", 76.5 kilograms.

FTP approximately 220 [tested two weeks ago as my highest average power in an hour's riding]. For reference, one week ago I had my highest 20-minute average power which was 228. It is possible my FTP is very slightly underestimated, but I do not believe it is higher than 225.

Power Training Zones

L6 - 266 and up
L5 - 233 to 265
L4 - 200 to 232
L3 - 167 to 199
L2 - 123 to 166
L1 - Below 122



Workout goal: 3-5 VO2max intervals, 5 minutes apiece, 5 minutes rest inbetween.

Theory on completing these workouts: Ride with the highest average power I can sustain for 5 minutes (which I believe may be part of the problem; more on that later).

The problem description: The first interval only lasted four minutes before exhaustion [four minute average power was 327 watts], and my 5-minute average power here was 298 watts, which is significantly above the range for 'VO2max power'. I was able to complete the full five minutes for my second interval, with an average of 281 watts for the duration, which is also above my VO2max power range as calculated by the chart.

However, here is the description of what I was feeling during these intervals:

1. breathing was so ragged that it caused me to cough after the workout [the next day my throat is still recovering - it's like I have a very minor sore throat. ugg, anyone have a good remedy for this?]
2. the slight taste of blood in the back of my throat after finishing [no blood though, of course :p]
3. minor light-headedness/darkened vision near the end of an interval
4. definite leg fatigue
5. took approximately 10 minutes to recover before I could do the second interval, and I spent approximately 8 minutes recovering before attempting a third interval, but I could not sustain a power output near my previous efforts and thus decided to stop. however, I am uncertain if I could have sustained an effort in the middle of/near the bottom of my VO2max wattage range as defined by the Coggan power levels [and, if that were the case, I probably should have continued].

These symptoms lead me to believe that these intervals were in fact more anaerobic, and if I were using a 1-10 scale of perceived exertion, I'd have to say my RPE was around 9.5 or greater, and I would conjecture that I was not accomplishing the goal of increasing VO2max/aerobic capacity.

My proposed solution: ride at the power levels defined by the VO2max range [232-272 watts], but don't limit the time of the interval to 5 minutes; rather, ride at this level until exhaustion occurs (perhaps somewhere in the 6-8 minute range].

Any guesses inparticular about at my power profile [i.e. sprinter, TT'er, etc.] ;) that may help me understand/change how I do these intervals?

Thanks!
Nicely organized post. From your PE description, I think the problem is that you went WAY too hard on the 1st interval and that you just need to find the power range that will allow you to complete the interval set. The last couple should hurt like hell and be a real struggle but not the 1st couple.

I'd probably try 250W and see how that goes. If the last interval is still not 'hard enough', up the power for your next workout.
 

Bullseye_blam

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acoggan said:
"Probably"?
wink.gif
That is, I'll need to attempt his suggestion and report back my thoughts.
wink.gif


acoggan said:
Let me guess: prior to using a powermeter, you trained a fair bit using a heart rate monitor.
Ding ding ding!

I know you've said it before, but using a heart-rate monitor sure does perpetuate a few myths, doesn't it?

rmur17 said:
Nicely organized post. From your PE description, I think the problem is that you went WAY too hard on the 1st interval and that you just need to find the power range that will allow you to complete the interval set. The last couple should hurt like hell and be a real struggle but not the 1st couple.

I'd probably try 250W and see how that goes. If the last interval is still not 'hard enough', up the power for your next workout.
Yep, I've come to agree with this. I'm a bit excited to try it out.

-Eric
 

acoggan

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Hmmm.

327 W (4.27 W/kg) for 5 min

228 W (2.98 W/kg) for 20 min

220 W (2.87 W/kg) for 60 min

Work (J) = 211 * time (s) + 28429

i.e., your anaerobic work capacity is 28429 J, or 372 J/kg. So, either your anaerobic capacity is rather high, or you're underestimating your functional threshold power. Given the minimal difference between your 20 min and 60 min powers and the fact that your 1 min power appears to be a weakness, I think it's the latter.
 

ccrnnr9

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acoggan said:
Hmmm.

327 W (4.27 W/kg) for 5 min

228 W (2.98 W/kg) for 20 min

220 W (2.87 W/kg) for 60 min

Work (J) = 211 * time (s) + 28429

i.e., your anaerobic work capacity is 28429 J, or 372 J/kg. So, either your anaerobic capacity is rather high, or you're underestimating your functional threshold power. Given the minimal difference between your 20 min and 60 min powers and the fact that your 1 min power appears to be a weakness, I think it's the latter.
I am not questioning your knowledge but looking for an explanation. Why would you assume his FTP is underestimated? Wouldn't it be more a case of his 20min power being underestimated? I know there is something I must be missing here but it seems like that is an awfully small gap between 20min P and FTP. Is it just me or does that not sound right.
~Nick
 

acoggan

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ccrnnr9 said:
I am not questioning your knowledge but looking for an explanation. Why would you assume his FTP is underestimated? Wouldn't it be more a case of his 20min power being underestimated? I know there is something I must be missing here but it seems like that is an awfully small gap between 20min P and FTP. Is it just me or does that not sound right.
~Nick

Indeed, if his 20 min power were an underestimate of his true ability, then that would widen the gap between it and his 60 min power, and keep it more in concert with his 5 min power. That's why I presented it as an either/or: either his anaerobic work capacity truly is very high, or he's underestimating his functional threshold power. However, given that his 1 min power appears to be a weakness (instead of a strength) and the fact that he appears to simply be using his highest 1 h power as high functional threshold power (vs. really "nailing it" in a specific test), I tend to lean towards the latter explanation.
 

ccrnnr9

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acoggan said:
Indeed, if his 20 min power were an underestimate of his true ability, then that would widen the gap between it and his 60 min power, and keep it more in concert with his 5 min power. That's why I presented it as an either/or: either his anaerobic work capacity truly is very high, or he's underestimating his functional threshold power. However, given that his 1 min power appears to be a weakness (instead of a strength) and the fact that he appears to simply be using his highest 1 h power as high functional threshold power (vs. really "nailing it" in a specific test), I tend to lean towards the latter explanation.
So basically this would be a case where, as you explain in an article on cyclingpeaks, this is truly an estimate of FTP and not the real deal. Therefore in his case, the 1hr power test either a) wasn't performed correctly or b) he is vastly underestimating his 20min P. Correct? Also, where did he mention his 1min power results?
~Nick
 

Alex Simmons

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Mar 12, 2006
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Bullseye_blam said:
Ding ding ding!

I know you've said it before, but using a heart-rate monitor sure does perpetuate a few myths, doesn't it?
I think it's people that perpetuate the myths, not the HRM...

The point here is that pacing with the aid of an HRM is not recommended for intervals of such short duration. But old habits die hard.

HR response is slow enough that there is a typical tendency for HR watchers to go too hard at the start of these intervals, then fade (in power terms) below the targeted power range since they are incapable of sustaining the effort. Repeat that cycle and by #2 or #3 you're toast and have not actually done an effective Level 5 workout at all. Basically that was my original point #3.

In a controlled L5 effort, the first couple of minutes may seem relatively easy (unless you're heavily fatigued of course). But it'll bite eventually.

During such a controlled L5 effort, your HR takes a couple of minutes simply to reach what some HR users would consider to be "HR at threshold", let alone a level beyond that. As you get into the latter L5 intervals, the HR rise typically happens more quickly and will begin to push towards max HR (whatever that happens to be on the day).
 

acoggan

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ccrnnr9 said:
So basically this would be a case where, as you explain in an article on cyclingpeaks, this is truly an estimate of FTP and not the real deal. Therefore in his case, the 1hr power test either a) wasn't performed correctly or b) he is vastly underestimating his 20min P. Correct? Also, where did he mention his 1min power results?
~Nick

Correct, with the caveat that Bullseye_blam may in fact have laid down a really good 1 h effort - it just isn't 100% clear to me from the way he described things.

As for his 1 min power, he didn't provide a value, but in one of his responses indicates that if anything this appears to be a weakness.