VO2 Max: Intervals vs Sustained

Hi. I’m newish to SYSTM. Rated as a Rouleur with a VO2 Max weakness. So, I started a MAP block to try to improve VO2 Max. It seems to prescribe a lot of MAP micro-interval work. I feel like I can do those repeated spikes ok but holding anything close to MAP for more than 2 or 3 minutes is hell.

For example, I didn’t think the pain shakes at the end of Blender were too bad, and I found the MAP Progression 3 no-vid almost easy. A Very Dark Place on the other hand … that was dark. One of the hardest workouts I have done in my life.

So, will these micro-intervals actually help what I need help with? Or do I need to put myself through the AVDP-type pain cave more by doing more sustained MAP work?


Good question. I’d be interested to hear from a coach on this as well.

I’m 47 and I’ve found that sustained FTP intervals aren’t that bad for me, but sustained MAP intervals are quite difficult. I can do the 1 minute intervals in Revolver, but AVDP is something awful. I often wonder if difficulty with sustained MAP intervals increases with age.

I think AC does decline with age, too. But that would be interesting to hear about as well. Possibly related.

They hit in a different way to sustained intervals for sure, as much mentally as I know I’m going to get a break every so often rather than 2+ minutes of pain. How does you HR go during the intervals, some good advice from @Coach.Neal.H here


I did AVDP a month ago. The strange thing was, that for all the horror of doing it, I did not feel that bad afterwards.

Although you can slow down the process, everything declines with age. Of course, if you are below your age-adjusted potential you can still improve. It does get harder. I speak from experience.


I try to follow the training plans very closely and have seen really good results. MAP (or what I associate with short climbs outside) is something I’ve always really struggled with but recently doing the Mountain Fondo training plan which has a mix of the micro-intervals and longer efforts, I can see incredible changes in my outdoor riding at that power level. Like zipping past my husband on hills instead of the opposite, where I would have to take a break, then go, then break, then go, as he steadily climbed.

I’m sure the coaches will have more details, but I think the accumulated time at MAP (like in Tasmania: Cygnet Coast) is perhaps just as valuable in terms of building in that area as extended efforts, and less likely to break you and leave you demotivated. That’s my theory.

I’d say trust the plan, with its mix of micro and longer intervals. As the building block plans are short, maybe test again sooner, and repeat the block.


Like with so many things (everything?) in training I think it often comes down to: it depends…

There’s a long discussion on the TR Forums below, which also includes links to some research findings and related episodes from the Empirical Cycling and That Triathlon Show podcasts:

1 Like

How does you HR go during the intervals

It gets to Z4 as early as the 3rd rep in set 1 and starts crossing into Z5 by the end of set 2. So … yeah, I think I’m getting some work from the short intervals :smiley:

And @Namaku - Thanks for the link. That’s an interesting thread.


Hello there!

The short answer is you need both long and short MAP and AC focused intervals in order to increase your MAP which will also increase your FTP. It’s all about spending the accumulated time at MAP and AC. Some workouts will be harder than others and everyone is different. If you have only performed a Half Monty, I do suggest that you go ahead and perform a Full Frontal (4DP Test) so that your zones are as accurate as possible.

In your case, after completing these shorter, higher power efforts with an AC focus such as No Vid- AC Progressions 5: 3 sets 8 x 20/40 along with MAP and AC focused workouts like The Model, then progressing to Downward Spiral, and onto A Very Dark Place will be much more manageable. Continue to work in FTP based workouts

Happy Training