Can you mix levels? | 80/20 Endurance

Can you mix levels?

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    Hi all, love this 80/20 plan. I’m five weeks out from my first 70.3 and its been postponed. Its a blessing, actually, since my workouts have been hit/miss for three weeks since the pool was closed and busy working while I can. This gives me chance to build my bike skills which are super weak.

    I tentatively reset my race day for 25 weeks out, so I can adjust my calendar accordingly and restart the plan. However, I’ve run a lot races, HM and full 26.2 races and was a swimmer in my youth, so the run and swim workouts have been easy to too easy. I know I need to build miles and improve swim pace so I’m ready for race day, but I’m using Level 0 since its my first 70.3 and the brick days are extra hard on this 50 yr old body. How should I move forward? I know how to adjust for more runs and the swim will come back into form within a few weeks, so I want to build bike strength and endurance levels. Can I add Level 2 or 3 for the runs and swims, and stay at Level 0 for the bike, or jump fully up to Level 2 after a virtual bike/run race day on May 9 which keeps me on plan for now?

    David Warden


    Great question, but challenging to answer. We have had athletes mix levels before for this exact reason: focusing more or less on a particular sport. In some cases, it’s the opposite switch, where the athlete loads up on their weakness and keeps their strengths at lower volume. Both methods are acceptable, but in general the further away you are from your event the more you want to focus on your weaknesses.

    In your case, if the bike workouts are just killing you, then maybe now is not the time to invest in a cycling foundation focus, and dialing cycling back relative to swim and run is just fine (by the way, you’re in the lucky minority of athletes who have a strong run and run background! Cycling is the easiest of the three to pick up as an adult).

    But, implementing this mixed-level solution in TrainingPeaks is a bugger. You’d have to:
    – Load the Level 2 plan for a future date that does not overlap the Level 0 plan.
    – Remove the Level 0 swim and run workouts for a given week/month.
    – Paste the Level 2 swim and run workouts into the Level 0 plan.

    In additional to being inconvenient, this also does not guarantee that your 80/20 ratios will be maintained. We calculate the bike and run ratios together (and swim separately) so this might make your ratios 75/25 or 85/15 for a given week.

    Additionally, we also use a different weekly and recovery pattern for the Level 0 and Level 2 plans. The Level 0 plan is a 2:1 hard:easy week-to-week ratio and the Level 2 is a 3:1, so they won’t line up. The day-to-day workouts also wont’ line up. What may be a M-W-Sat run in the Level 0 plan could be a M-W-Th-Sun scheduled in the Level 2 plan.

    In summary, you can mix and match levels, but it has a lot of drawbacks.

    So, what should you do? Your alternate solution of just making the leap in May is not a bad solution, if you think you can gain some solid bike fitness in the next month. Otherwise, a custom plan is the ideal solution given the delta between your swim, bike and run fitness.



    Thanks, Coach, for the quick response. I like your answer and will stay on plan, do a virtual race instead of the GulfCoast 70.3 minus the swim and use the results to decide if I’m ready to jump a level. I got a bike fit a few weeks ago, and noticed the benefits today. It’s not as much the difficultly of the workouts, but the hour+plus rides on a trainer that will take some getting used to. I can testify that the easier, slower runs have vastly improved my VO2max and adding more hills and trails to the workout have added a boost to my runs. Thank you!

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