Picking the right workout

Has anyone ever considered that an athlete’s physiological characteristics might have an impact on what workouts they should choose, as well as the power targets?

I’m thinking in particular about MAP. If you take something like Revolver, a person with a high anaerobic capacity relative to their aerobic capacity could be basically nose-breathing through 3/4s of that workout because their anaerobic capacity carries them. Even the personalized power targets don’t solve this because at MAP power (i.e., 5 min power) they’re just not working that hard if the work interval’s only a minute long. And i’m not sure that artificially bumping up the intensity changes that result, necessarily. Eventually you just turn it into an anaerobic capacity workout. You’d spend time at Vo2max but not really much time “working” there (you’d be there as your fast twitch fibers recover, like a sprinter sucking wind after a 200m).

So through 4DP, Sufferfest has holistic-fitness focus and a level of individualization that is unmatched. But some advice (blog post etc.) on how to choose the best workouts to get the desired effect could really kick this up to 11.

This may be of interest to you.


Hi, so this is helpful–and much appreciated!–but i don’t think it entirely answers the question. Like, as the coach in the thread explains, the workouts are selected based on, for example, your weaknesses, but that is at least one level of abstraction “up” from what i am talking about.

I’ll put it this way. If i have a MAP weakness, the thread / FAQ lets me be confident that yes, my training plan will be customized in the sense that it will give me additional MAP workouts to train this weakness.

But although it tells me it will add MAP workouts, it doesn’t tell me how it will choose AMONG the available MAP workouts. And the effect of the various MAP workouts will likely be different based on your physiology.

I don’t know if that’s entirely accurate though.
There are ways to train map, but they’re all essentially training the same thing. The different aspects of the work are the other systems they might stress and also how the variation affects the fun factor for you and the workout.

so this is hte part we need to nail down then because i don’t think that’s true. My understanding is that the duration of rest intervals is just as important as the duration of work intervals and can have a big impact on what you’re actually training. And so as a result, training at the same power (e.g. "MAP power’) can have a much different impact depending on what are those rest and work intervals. I guess it’s theoretically possible that all these MAP workouts, for a given individual, would have the identical effect, but i think that’s much more likely to be not true than true. Because, how often does one size ever fit all?

the person’s ratio of anaerobic capacity to aerobic power is the main example that comes to mind, but i’m sure there could be other factors that make the impact vary as well

Because a workout has MAP (or any other) targets, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily targeting MAP. For example The Shovel only has short intervals, very few based on FTP, but as the recoveries are short, there is still a positive effect on FTP. If you look at the 4DP focus at the start of the description for a workout, this will give you a better idea of what is being targeted. For example Revolver and A Very Dark Place have a lot of (total) time spent at MAP but are obviously very different workouts, and the 4DP focus of each reflects this.

I think Alistair said what I was trying to say far more eloquently.

Okay, i see what you mean, but i think we are getting at two different points. I understand that they are different workouts with different holistic effects, but what i’m saying is, even two workouts that both have a “5” for MAP could have a very different effect on MAP. Even if all you’re concerning yourself with is MAP, i don’t think that these two workouts are created equal.

Maybe let’s take a step back. So first, MAP. As far as proxies for vo2max go, it’s as good as any other. And we need to use a proxy because most of us don’t have access to a lab. But because it’s based on power, it doesn’t tell us that much about what’s going on under the hood and two riders with the same power result could be generating this power in very different ways.

For example, what if you had two riders that have the same MAP but one of them has a vo2max of 59 and the other has a vo2max of 64. Leave aside the rest of the 4DP and assume that they both want to increase 5 minute power. Doesn’t it stand to reason that they’d go about training their 5 minute power in different ways?

For the first rider with the lower vo2max, they’d be looking to drive central cardiovascular adaptations to raise that number. I would think that this rider should be slamming AVDP at every chance they can get. Priority number one, at least at first, should be raise that o2 value.

For the other rider, for sure raising vo2max is also helpful, but this person is starting wit ha vo2max that’s already higher so they can afford to dedicate some time to trying to raise the power they create for a given O2 value as opposed to spending their whole training budget on raising O2. So like, microburst intervals, to train those doohickies that shuttle lactate from the fast twitch to the slowtwitch muscles, workouts like butter and defender to extend their endurance.

I get that 4DP and customizing to your weaknesses let’s say gets us 90% of the way there, i’m talking about that extra 10%. Not because it’s the most important, but because it’s the most fun to noodle over :slight_smile:

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Why would a higher VO2 max require different training for MAP more so than the adjustments?

Wouldn’t it just mean that you’re more likely to test at a higher MAP power because you’re a bigger engine? So you’re going to be more likely to have a higher target to begin with.

In either event, doing the 4DP test also generates a rider profile the values for the 4 domains as well as the profile are taken into account for the workouts afaik. Which is why different workouts have different changes made to the target values for different riders based on the test. Even if you’re doing the ‘same’ workout, the similarity may just be in name alone.

Lets say that I improve over my current 3 month plan and do another 4DP test, then sign on for the same plan all over again and get the same workouts in the same order. Because the results of the test are going to be different, the only things the workouts will have in common is the video. So even for the same rider the relative values of the 4DP domains changing can effect the targets.

If you’re going for the marginal gains argument, then I think you’re going to need a human to look over things for that last 2-3%. From what I’ve been reading, the same plan can spit out different workouts based on how you test, so at a certain level the algorithm is already doing what you’re suggesting re tailoring workouts to different profiles. The algorithm doesn’t know who has the VO2 max objectively, the numbers in the test are a decent surrogate.

Apologies if I’m misunderstanding your point.

If you want to jump off the deep end, there’s a guy on the TR forums who’s coming up with a homebrew lactate testing threshold. Have fun pricking yourself lol :wink:


I think you’re kind of chasing your tail here with your argument and @ridethecliche has a good explanation.

You have to think about which comes first, the Full Frontal results or the VO2max measurement?

Every rider has different physiological characteristics and they all are put together and used when a rider performs the Full Frontal fitness test. The results are the rider profile, their strengths and weaknesses, and their 4DP numbers. So, how well a rider performs on the full frontal fitness test is determined by their physiological make-up.

Again, when the riders perform the Full Frontal fitness text, each rider will use their individual VO2max and other physical characteristics to perform the test. Maybe the rider with the higher VO2max will be more likely to have a higher MAP score. But, if they both end up with the same MAP score, then it doesn’t matter if their VO2max is lower or higher. That is the max effort that they are capable of sustaining for 5 minutes. Neither should be more or less capable of reaching that score because it is supposed to be a max effort. It should be the same difficulty level for both riders.

So, yes, all an athlete’s physiological characteristics are involved in taking the Full Frontal test which are then applied to the workouts and power targets. If your MAP is 302, then that was your max 5 minute effort and you were unable to get it any higher. If another rider also has a MAP of 302, then that was also their max 5 minute effort and they were unable to get it higher. If one rider has a higher VO2max then their VO2max is what helped them achieve that score. If it had been lower, and the cause and effect is as you say, then they would likely have had a lower MAP score.

If, as you say, two riders are completely identical in all physiological characteristics except for one having a higher V02max, and as you say the VO2max determines their MAP score, then the rider with a higher V02max will have a higher MAP score after performing Full Frontal and there should be no way that the two riders get the same MAP score. And then that higher MAP score will then be reflected in all their workouts with higher MAP power targets. So, they should not have it any easier than the other rider who has a lower V02max score.

As long as the Full Frontal test is being performed correctly then you can’t say that the rider with the higher V02max should have an easier time performing their MAP workouts because their higher V02max has already helped determine their workout targets to make it just as hard as the other rider who has a lower V02max and thusly has lower MAP power targets.

So their VO2max is already reflected in their 4DP profile, numbers, etc, which are the reflected in their workouts and power targets. It doesn’t then need to be taken into account a second time.

Is this perfect for 100% of the population? No. But it is likely good enough for more than 98% of all amateur riders where most riders will never be riding flat out or trying to ride to 100% of their absolute full potential. When you get into the professional ranks to the top 1% of the top 1% where the difference between being first and second is splitting hairs will this every actually matter. But in that case the riders will be using more than just an app algorithm to determine their workouts for them.

And also, if you think the plan workouts aren’t quite right for you, you can do a customized plan where a SUF coach can develop a plan that is even more personalized for you.


@ridethecliche and @emacdoug, I do appreciate your input, I like this discussion. I think we are after different things here and that is 100% okay.

First, I agree with you that the 4DP profile does wonders for individualizations. Whatever nits one wants to pick with it, it’s the best around. No disagreement there. Second, agree people can improve by following the plans, provided they adhere. No disagreement there either.

Here’s where I do disagree though:

  1. MAP is not your Vo2max. It might be as good an approximation as any other, but it’s still a proxy. Therefore you absolutely could have two people with different Vo2max but same MAP (as measured here) bc the determinants of performance and fatigue etc are complex.

  2. Given that 5 min power is performance and the physiology that lets you generate that performance has multiple aspects, not every workout with the same MAP rating will affect your Vo2max (And other components of physiology for that matter) the same. It just can’t. I mean this is why there’s all these studies about microburst vs longish interval bs short interval, comparing which is better. The very fact that there’s questions about this shows that it can’t be so simple.

I like thinking about this stuff bc it is fun. Yeah maybe it’s the last 1 or 2%—the icing on the cake—but this is the part that’s the most fun to plan, design and debate with others. Also it’s relevant to me because I spend most of the year self-programming, then hit a SUF plan about two months before a race to really jack the power up. I get super fit quickly, I’ve found, but there’s a time limit.

I’m trying to decide, which is the best MAP workout in terms of interval design for raising Vo2max, in the event that is your limiter. As I said above, to use during self programming periods, and bc I find the intellectual exercise fun :).

I suspect it is AVDP but keeping the cadence higher and jacking up the intensity such that it’s barely completable, but I’m still always curious if others have a view.