Training Zones for Dummies
By Bike Messenger
Thanks to spokespost.com for the training article. Join us for the
Training chat with Ryan Barrett USA Certified Coach on Wednesdays in the Daily
Peloton Chat...details at the end of the article.
You've decided going out everyday and riding your bike hard isn't enough.
You've decided that you need to take a more "scientific approach" to cycling.
You're idea of "scientific" includes growing mold on old bread sitting on your
countertop. So what is the absolute most basic piece of knowledge that you must
possess in order to do this? Arguably, this would be - knowing what your
training intensity zones are.
"Training intensity zone?", you might ask, "That's a term I've never heard.
Is this some sort of new approach to training or something??"
Nope. It's just a couple words that describe how hard you need to train for
any given ride. Mind you, there are various methods for measuring training
intensity, the most obvious being the traditional Beats Per Minute of your Heart
Rate. Others might include wattage, when training with a power meter, or perhaps
just "perceived effort".
Since perceived effort never seems very objective to me, and wattage zones
are difficult to determine without specialized equipment (such as a CompuTrainer
or SRM), and the title of this article is Training Zones For Dummies I'll tell
you how to determine these zones and why it's important information to have.
The easiest way to determine your zones is through our tool that can
calculate your ESTIMATED HR zones
(pops-up). Be aware however, that your ACTUAL zones could vary quite a bit from
this somewhat simple method of determination. The best way to determine your
lactate threshold and other zones is to work with an experienced coach who can
test your fitness and provide more accurate numbers.
Go to this link, put in your age,
resting HR, and maximum heartrate (what's the highest you've EVER seen on the
bike? Add a couple beats and likely that's your maximum HR. Once you've filled
in these three fields and have selected whether you are male or female, click
So here is our sample rider - I based it mainly on numbers I'm somewhat
familiar with, my own.
32 Yr. Old Male Cyclist
RESTING HR: 44
MAXIMUM HR: 190
I ran these numbers through the SpokePost.com Heart rate Zone Calculator and
here is the most important piece of information that it told me: This rider's AT
(or Anaerobic Threshold) falls between 168-175 beats per minute.
The Anaerobic Threshold range (also referred to as Lactate Threshold) is
probably the single most useful heart rate information that you could possess.
In fact, entire training programs are typically based around the anaerobic
threshold or lactate threshold numbers. So what is the difference between
anaerobic threshold and lactate threshold? For the purpose of this article -
In real life? Well, let's just say there have been arguments regarding the
definitions of both of these terms from various parties and as far as I know, no
one seems to really know. Now I'm sure one of you exercise physiologists out
there could totally make me look like a fool for saying that...but in all
reality I don't think it matters that much whether you call it anaerobic
threshold or lactate threshold. If I wanted to confuse you even more, I would
include functional threshold as well in the conversation, but that just confuses
me. This is really all you have to remember:
"Your threshold (whatever "nickname" you want to give it - LT, AT, CIA, FBI) is
the point where your body is producing lactic acid at a faster rate than it can
be utilized and cleared from your muscles...and we all know what lactic acid
does to muscles."
So What Do I Do With This?
You determine your training zones, that's what you do. For the
"dummy" in you, I'm going to keep things really simple and only present you with
four zones based on the lactate threshold mentioned above of 168-175 beats per
minute. These zones are:
1. REST/RECOVERY/ENDURANCE ZONE (EASY!! under 160bpm)
2. SUB-LT ZONE (just under TT pace 155-175)
3. VO2 MAX ZONE (over TT pace 175-185)
4. MAX EFFORT (all-out sprint - no HR needed, ALL OUT)
I designated these zones based on what I think are the minimum zones that
require training to be competitive. Sure, these could definitely be broken down
into much more precise chunks - but really, doesn't that just confuse things?
So let's look at a very basic workout plan utilizing some of these zones on a
weekly basis. Of course you increase intensity as the season progresses and you
are approaching a race that you'd like to peak for. Aside from rest/recovery and
perhaps endurance workouts, you should be 100% recovered before starting one of
the intensity workouts in zones 2-4. The closer you are to zone 4, the more
rested you should be. If you are not rested going into one of these workouts,
you won't gain maximum benefit from it.
Remember, this workout plan is simply an example -- if you really want to
excel I would recommend hiring a good coach who can continually analyze your
data and feedback, and provide adjustments to your program so you can maximize
your fitness. This would be an example of an early season schedule (perhaps
Feb-Mar. in the Northern Hemisphere).
Monday: No ride or EASY recovery ride. When I say easy recovery ride,
I mean small ring, very little power output. The goal is simply to stimulate
blood movement to help repair the muscles.
Tuesday: ZONE 2 - SUB-LT
intervals. You might start with three 8 minute intervals at somewhere between
155 and 175 (3 minutes rest between each interval - you may not recover 100%
between intervals, this is intentional). In the first interval, your heart rate
may only reach 160 or something if done correctly, by the last one, you should
be near the upper end of your LT range determined above - in this case it's 175.
This is basically AT OR BELOW your LT. You should not exceed your LT during
these workout for two reasons:
1. it will reduce the total time you can peform intervals
during a given workout due to lactic acid buildup in your muscles and
2. you won't recover as quickly if you exceed your LT because
of increased muscle soreness/lactic acid buildup. The idea is to stay below your
LT and minimize the buildup of lactic acid.
The amount of physiological benefit derived from performing lactate threshold
intervals above your LT does not outweigh the increased recovery time. The
purpose of these intervals is to bring your lactate threshold closer to your
maximum effort and train your body to be able to handle extended periods at or
near your lactate threshold.
Wednesday: ZONE 1 - REST/RECOVERY
45 minutes to 1.5 hours.
Thursday: ZONE 3 - V02 MAX
intervals. You might start doing five 3-minute intervals at a HR above your
lactate threshold range (with 3 minutes rest in between each one - rest to work
should be a 1 to 1 ratio, meaning if you're doing 4 minute intervals, you'll
rest for 4 minutes). With the example rider, this means your HR will be ABOVE
175 at the end of each of these intervals. Ideally, it will be somewhere in the
165-185 range for the entire interval. These are short enough where your
heartrate may not catch up to your output level until almost the end of the
interval. You can guage how hard you are going by comparing your effort to what
you did on Tuesday's SUB-LT intervals. These efforts are basically the maximum
you can sustain for all five intervals.
Friday: ZONE 1 - REST/RECOVERY
45 minutes to 1.5 hours.
Saturday and Sunday: One day race, training race or fast group ride.
The other day endurance pace ride.
In this example, the above program would be for the first week in a 4 week cycle
(3 weeks increasing workload, followed by 1 week recovery). Each week you would
try to increase the TIME not the INTENSITY. So keeping the intensity the same
your 8 minute LT intervals would now be 9 minutes, or perhaps you would keep
them at 8 minutes and add a 4th interval. Either way, it's the total time at the
particular intensity that is important.
This is where having an experienced coach analyzing your data come in handy.
He can look at your previous weeks workouts and determine how quickly (or NOT
QUICKLY) to increase your load. There is always a fine line between "reaching"
and "over-reaching" or "over-training". "Reaching" is a natural part of
increasing your fitness, but "over-reaching" can lead to "over-training" which
can lead to a big bummer, if you know what I'm saying.
After three weeks of slightly increased training load, the rider following a
4 week periodization schedule will take a week of easy riding. This means
keeping your efforts BELOW THRESHOLD. It's not as easy to do as you might think.
Especially after the 2nd and 3rd days of easy riding. But it's important to make
sure you are fresh coming into the next cycle so you can increase the intensity
and perform the intervals to garner maximum benefit.
GOOD LUCK! B.M. (more)
Contributed by www.Spokepost.com
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