Dan – Training Zones?

Whilst out for a rare ride with company on Sunday, out and around the Chiltern Hills with friend of Chain Therapy, Julian Thrasher one of the topics of discussion was training zones.  This is something that there is a huge amount of literature about.  Some of it factual, some of it completely subjective.

The fact is that the body recruits different energy production systems depending on how hard we ask it to work.  It is also fact that these different systems require different fuelling, and are each useful in different applications and cycling is a rare example of a sport what needs a well rounded balanced approach to the development of fitness through these systems.

What remains a source of debate is how best to train and get the best out of your body, and that is because ultimately there are too many variants, and external factors for one training method to be the same for every athlete.

What is broadly the same for all athletes are the points at which the human body recruits its different energy systems, known as thresholds.  The traditional way of working these zones out is by using your maximum Heart Rate, either theoretically or through testing.  I’ve never been convinced by this, instead I’ve worked mine out by using Joe Friel’s principle of Lactate Threshold Heart Rate which is the point at which an individual goes anaerobic.  Using his time trial test my LTHR was measured at 188bpm (very high).  My zones then, are as follows

Zone 1 – 123-156 (Recovery)

This is known as the recovery zone this is the zone you enter when you’re doing just enough activity to get your heart rate increasing from rest, a brisk walk or similar, but nothing too taxing

Zone 2 – 157-168 (Aerobic)

Training within this zone develops basic endurance and aerobic capacity. All easy recovery running should be completed at a maximum of 70%.  It’s also the zone where your body is burning fat, so is the first stage for those trying to lose weight whilst allowing your muscles to re-energise with glycogen, which has been expended during those faster paced workouts.

Zone 3 – 169-175 (Tempo)

Known as the Cardio amongst other things, working in this zone will develop the body’s ability to transport oxygen to, and carbon dioxide away from, the working muscles can be developed and improved. Used by those building fitness as a development from zone 2, it brings the benefits of some fat burning and improved aerobic capacity.

Zone 4 – 176-187 (Subthreshold)

Friel considers this zone slightly differently to many, he refers to it as being subthresthold, where the body is working comfortably in the aerobic zone closer towards the LTHR than the tempo zone

Zone 5 – 188-205

This zone is split in to three –

5A is superthreshold (188-191), at this point you are operating up to the point at which your body reaches it’s Lactate Threshold.

5B is Aerobic Capacity (192-198), at this point you have reached the absolute limit of your body’s aerobic system, it can no longer produce energy in this was and moves over to…

5C is Anaerobic Capacity (199-205), at this point you are working entirely anaerobically, producing lactate all the time and potentially entering your red zone.  Training in this zone will only be possible for short periods. It effectively trains your fast twitch muscle fibres and helps to develop speed. This zone is reserved for interval training and sprinting and only the very fit are able to train effectively within this zone.

Winter base training will traditionally be carried out mostly in zones 2 and 3.  However your ability to work in zones 4 and especially 5 can rapidly drop off if ignored. This is part of the reason for my comments in previous posts around not carrying out “traditional” base training.

Instead I feel it is more important to focus instead on volume and specificity of training.  I will soon be incorporating gym work to my routine to add to that focus.

What should my next post be?  Post suggestions on the Facebook page if there’s anything specific you think I should write about.