Focus training

I’ll keep asking questions on this topic until hopefully someone has some good answers. I did an 8 minute focus workout yesterday that ended up at 5 minutes due to some sprint efforts in the last hour:

Xert now giving me yellow status for the next 4 days, bummer since I’m racing Saturday but I’ll deal with it.

However, planner tells me Monday I’d be doing a 6:30 focus ride. Looking ahead in the planner, the focus duration continues to drop each day.

Makes sense as I get closer to a targeted peak. However, at best I’d only be able to do 2-3 focus workouts a week, right now I’m only doing one since I’ve got races planned every weekend for the Next month.

Either way, I’m forced to make big jumps in the focus duration workouts. Seems a smoother ramp would be better? How to deal with this?

I did learn one thing yesterday, bringing the focus down to 8 minutes by keeping the efforts at the interval target wattage makes the workout way harder than just doing an occasional sprint. I’m assuming this is the way it’s suppose to be done anyways.

Sure would be nice if anyone had any data or anecdotal comparisons to training by focus vs structures workouts. Doesn’t appear to exist anywhere in the net which is surprising.

Can’t really help other than to say that to your point re hitting the target interval wattage, I see specificity as more important. Probably a bit old school but would rather do my intervals at target wattage as part of a ride and let focus be what it is (i.e. longer than ‘target’), than manipulate overall focus via sprints.

I’m not aware of any data comparing results of riding to focus vs old school structure, so it’s not that I have strong view that focus doesn’t work… but there is a huge difference between being specific vs not (eg adding some sprints to bring focus down is clearly different to riding intervals at 5 min MMP), and I expect that to also apply to which energy systems are used and therefore targeted even if the math works

Yes I agree. I’m still fairly new to Xert so trying to dial things in. I did a couple prior focus workouts just playing with the focus time itself and how it was affected by going hard. On those rides I did shorter harder efforts way above the target wattage and easily kept the focus number down.

On yesterdays ride, I rode at the targeted interval wattage to drive the focus time down to the target number. I eventually ran out of gas after 2:30, felt I got a good workout. I had a couple more hours to ride easy endurance to get home so I tossed in some sprints near the end just for funnsies. I think I shouldn’t have done that however because now Xert is saying I won’t be recovered until Monday and I have a road race Saturday.

I decided to take today completely off rather than ride some easy endurance to hopefully be more recovered by Saturday.

Someone really needs to do a study on this focus training. I’m going to risk it and only train this way for the next 6-8 weeks and see what happens. I know I’ll be in much better shape doing either focus or structured intervals so the risk isn’t significant.

For comparisons, I did a structured workout using the IOS app outside last week. Target wattages were the same or higher but the recovery wattage was too easy so I rode at a higher endurance pace during recovery interval. The focus workout from yesterday was harder.

Yes, absolutely. That is an important component of the discipline required to free ride to focus.

For endurance rides (20:00 minutes to 3:00:00 focus), constant pedaling, shifting gears, to maintain low strain, never exceeding target watts and most time spent around or below LTP. The most you’ll likely hit is about 60:00 minutes Focus if you have sufficient flats to ride or purposely avoid any hills (out and backs required).

For the rest (10:00 minutes down to 2:00 minutes focus), stick with target watts or a bit above, no sprints which will change specificity and lower focus quickly, allow sufficient recoveries to go again, and repeat until you attain desired XSS for the day.
The lower the focus duration the harder the ride becomed. As you discovered as you keep repeating efforts on a long ride you may overshoot target focus duration when the ride is uploaded and analyzed. A 5:00 minute Focus ride may end up classified as Difficult or Tough Puncheur (4:00) indicating many of the intervals fell into that watt range. You can hover over the 5:00 and 4:00 points on your power curve to see what that watt difference is.

The rides will by classified by Difficulty, Specificity, and Focus.
Difficulty Rating: Easy, Moderate, Difficult, Tough, Hard
Specificity: Polar, Mixed, Pure
Focus Duration: 2 min (Road Sprinter), 3 min (Pursuiter), 4 min (Puncheur), 5 min (Breakaway Specialist), 6 min (Rouleur), 8 min (GC Specialist), 10 min (Climber), 20+ minutes (Endurance - Sprint TT thru Triathlete)

For endurance rides the best result is Easy Pure Endurance.
For others you’ll like end up with Mixed from Moderate to Tough in Difficulty depending on focus duration on how long the ride is.
I’ve never reached Hard but I don’t compete so I’m not going to try that hard. :smiley:

As for sprinting this isn’t to say you can’t do that on occasion but save it for after you’ve accomplished your goals and ignore the change in Focus due to the sprint(s).
Or save your sprint work for days you focus only on sprints. There are a number of Road Sprinter workouts that can easily be replicated outdoors without loading the workout. For example. Bullet with Butterfly Wings. Note how this type of activity is Polar specificity.

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Yup, I finally understand all this. Yesterday I threw in the sprints at the end more as testing myself and also playing with the focus number. I was pretty much toast as far as holding the target wattage for any meaningful amount of time at that point, so I threw in some sprints. That dropped the focus from the 8:12 target down to 5:10 by the end of the ride. The total ride time was 4:27. Had I just kept trying to hold the focus power down with the interval target wattage I wouldn’t have been able to do it, it would have slowly crept higher on me.

I was not going to be able to keep repeating the focus interval power until I hit the XSS either, I ran out of juice about 2/3 of the way through. What are your thoughts on that? My thought was I just do it until I can’t any more then get the rest of the XSS riding under LTP which is what I did except for the added test sprints.

The other question I had is how quickly the focus power drops every day into the future as I get closer to target date, yet nobody would be able to do a workout more than 2x a week based on Xerts training status needing to be blue better to do the next one. Do I just jump to whatever Xert is telling me to do on the next recovered day?

I don’t think anyone has a true concrete answer on the Focus training, nobody has offered up any real data. It theoretically makes sense though so I’m willing to be the test dummy.

That’s a very long time, assuming you were doing intervals the whole time. It could be that that is why you are yellow, rather than the sprint at the end… what was the maximum difficulty?

So one thing is whether you should target focus for the whole workout, or just target it for the first say, hour or 90 minutes, and ride the rest endurance (my suggestion)… another thing that is not always clear is whether your (weekly) focus in the progression chart should approach ‘target’…? My view is not given you are generally still doing a lot of endurance in between…

The whole concept of MPA (let alone multi-dimensional training loads) is quite revolutionary, and is a start contrast to the conventional methods!

What’s your selected athlete type? Xert does gradually progress the recommended focus duration closer and closer to your selected athlete type, which corresponds to increasing training specificity (e.g. wanting to replicate the types of efforts needed to succeed in your event).

If I remember correctly @wescaine had a good point mentioning that the addition of endurance rides on top of your weekly high-intensity sessions will still leave your overall training focus a little longer than your selected athlete type. I don’t think there’s a good way to address this at the moment, since the only way to counter that would be to allow your low training load to decay (e.g. lose fitness on your threshold).

That is how I did the workout, I did targeted wattage efforts until I felt I was too tired to do more, which was around the 2:30 mark. I didn’t start the efforts for 20+ minutes so it took some time and effort to drag the focus back down to the target number.

My plan was then to just do endurance. However, Xert said to do 8 minute focus and ~268 XSS total which I’m not sure I could do if I stayed at the target wattage. I was able to do 5 minute focus and 280 XSS by adding in the sprints and making total ride time 4:27. Max difficulty I remember seeing was around 68, that isn’t too hard right?

Did an easy pre race ride today and though I still felt a little tired from the workout, I felt stronger.

I have puncheur selected for rider type, I feel this closely described my abilities and also the typical efforts needed for road racing: Xert classified the Pro criterium I did this last weekend as Puncheur as well so maybe I guessed right. I’d describe myself as a small punchy rider, I climb well when I’m at race weight (~145) but also sprint well and can do equally well in criteriums.

I’m not worried about the weekly focus time, I know that will be dragged out due to riding endurance on most days. I’m only referring to the couple days I’m physically able to do focus rides. The focus time jumps down pretty quickly from week to week. I’m currently 5 star and I can’t see doing more than 2 of these workouts a week and being able to recover.

How can we test/verify this focus training? I’m willing to help.

Sprinting to lower focus might be “cheating”, but I suspect if the TSS and especially Difficulty are the same then two rides of the same Focus, but different Specificity, would feel pretty similar and have a similar effect.

If you were trying to get 5 minute Focus and 75 Difficulty, you could “cheat” with sprints, but you’ve gotta do a lot of sprints and not rest too much to hold the Difficulty, so I’m not sure it’s any easier on the on polar or mixed, just different. Maybe on a ride of 40 to 60 Difficulty, you could get more intensity stress with less mental fatigue, YMMV.

Now that you have practiced the concept, it may help to watch the YT video demo one more time.

  1. You aren’t trying to hold the focus number down at the target watts. You ride target watts in order to lower focus to the intended focus duration point. Once you reach it (or get close) it’s time for a recovery interval.
  2. RIBs are important. Focus will drift back up as you pedal at low intensity. When sufficiently recovered (MPA back up) you are ready for another interval.
  3. Note the duration of the work interval in comparison to recovery minutes for the 5:00 minute Focus in the YT example. With EBC (versus Garmin data fields) you are watching the rainbow gauge to similar effect. On the iOS app you don’t have TTR/TTE to monitor so you’ll need to rely on a combination of MPA, HR and RPE to manage your RIBs. If MPA doesn’t return close to PP you are short-changing recovery. Terrain, however, will affect your ability to ride easy between efforts.

On long rides you’ll want to sandwich the focus portion between warm-up and the-ride-back depending on how intense the workout portion will be. On shorter rides I keep going as long as the interval efforts remain effective. But as you say “too tired to do one more” will kick in if you try to do too much.

Here’s another way to look at it.
On a perfectly flat course on a calm day with no traffic, you could closely perform the following structured workout for 60, 90, or 120 minutes.

The intervals are simply 2 minutes on at 5 min MMP and 3 minutes off at 50% LTP spinning easy.
Notice the workout Focus indicates Rouleur even though 5 min MMP is Breakaway Specialist (5:00). That’s due to the RIBs and watts never exceeding 5 min MMP which of course WON’T happen when you attempt to free ride to these specs outdoors.
This workout by definition is also Pure specificity while outdoors Mixed is to be expected.
While you won’t be able to exactly mimic this workout outdoors, the irregularly structured free ride to 5:00 Focus is the strain equivalent of this workout.
Instead of counting off seconds trying to adhere to a strict schedule, you can glance at a few fields and ride. MPA is the controlling force.

Thanks for the reply. Your explanation is exactly the understanding I had come to and exactly how I’ve done my last 2 focus workouts. What I’ve been looking for is a direct comparison in results from a focus workout and a structured workout now. It seems difficulty may be the key difference. If I do a 4 hour ride at an 8 minute focus but I’m doing 8 minute power efforts sporadically throughout the middle 2-3 hour portion of the ride, I’m assuming the difficulty level would be lower than If I compacted a bunch of 8 minute power efforts into say a 30 minute portion of the ride? Now, the difficulty score would go up during that portion of the ride but at the end, assuming I end up with the exact same focus duration, the difficulty scores would be equal? If yes, then my question remains, is there any difference between a structured workout and a focus workout as far as results?

I’m happy with my fitness gains so far, participated in road race Saturday and I was not expecting to feel as fit as I already do. My ability to push high wattages and recover quickly and do this repeatedly throughout the entire race without feeling much accumulated fatigue was great. Looking forward to how I’ll feel in 1-2 months as I move towards peak fitness.

One issue I’m running into is my yellow status. After the road race saturday I was yellow all the way through wednesday. I thought I’d do a little bit of a focus workout yesterday (Sunday) even though I was yellow because I have a gravel race next saturday. I’ve done the last 2 races in yellow status and I felt a bit tired in both. Well, Now my status is yellow all the way through Friday. So I’m left to just ride endurance all week. Good news is I can’t seem to get my status to red anymore and I don’t ever have that wiped out feeling after a race or workout.

Little frustrating that Xert keeps dropping my numbers because I get “near breakthroughs” when racing because of course I’m not trying to blow myself up in the race. I’ve lost 20 watts off my TP yet I’m clearly more fit than I was when it was 20 watts higher. I’ll have to do a breakthrough workout as soon as I have a window and rested status.

Same conclusion I’ve come to, but I don’t know if we are right or not. I’ve listed to 3-4 more of the podcasts since last posting and it seems this line of thinking is theoretically correct. I’d love to see some studies on all of this. So far I’m happy with my fitness gains so I’m going to keep going with the focus workouts and see how it plays out.

If you get Fakethroughs when you know it was not a maximum effort you are supposed to flag the activity to tell Xert that it was not a Breakthrough attempt and it will keep your signature as is. The software can’t always tell if you gave your all or just close to it so it needs the feedback sometimes. The XSS of the ride is still counted normally, so the signature will change a bit because of the training load change, just the Fakethrough/Breakthrough signature change is ignored.

I did play with that, neither dropped my numbers a significant amount, about 3-5 watts each time but I know I easily had more in the tank when I made the efforts in the races. I’ll keep this in mind for the future. It’s been over a month since I had a breakthrough so I’m due to give it a go anyways, the lower number will make it easier and more accurate.