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January 13th, 2010


Training Intensity Zones

Updated for 2009
18 Nov 2006

Zone1 Recovery Aet or less.

RPE – 2-3

Use this zone for warm-up, cool down, recovery, technique work and beginning of base foundation training. You will be thinking, I am going too slow.
Zone2 Endurance Aet + 5 – 10

Wattage 56 -75% of LT power

Novice Athletes: use upper range for sport specific strength work and lower range for aerobic training.

Experienced Athletes: use upper range for aerobic training.

RPE – 5 to 6.

Used to develop aerobic capacity and tolerance for steady state training. You should be able to maintain this pace for a long time, but it will require focus on your part. At first when beginning to train you will feel like this is too slow. It is KEY that you stick with it! After a while you will be able to maintain a faster pace at a lower heart rate.
Zone3 Tempo. AeT+10-20 Experienced athletes use this for sport specific strength work and Muscular endurance work.

Intervals last between 20′ and 1 hr +

RPE – 6.5 to 7.

This zone is marked by labored, rhythmic breathing, conversation is difficult. At this pace you will be just below or at your lactate threshold. Experienced athletes will recognize this pace as their 10k to 1/2 marathon race pace, Olympic distance race pace and 1500m tt swim pace. You will be thinking, I can maintain this pace for the duration of the workout/race, but it is going to require a strong effort and real focus!
Zone4 LT / Threshold

Heart rate will be less useful. This pace will be used for intervals.

Intervals last between 5′ and 30′

RPE – 8 to 9.

In this zone you are at or just above lactate threshold. You will

feel the “burn” in your legs. Experienced athletes will recognize this pace as their 5k race pace, 10 mile bike t.t. pace and 500tt swim pace. You will be thinking, this is hard and I will be happy when it is over. You should be teetering on weather you will be able to maintain this pace for the duration or the workout/race. This is not an all out effort. A heart rate monitor and power meter are the best tools to monitor these intervals.

Zone5 Vo2 max

Intervals last between 1′ and 2′

RPE – 9+

Near maximum effort. Very short, very high effort. Example: 100 – 200m run efforts, 25 – 50m swim efforts and 30 – 60 sec bike efforts. Notice the efforts are plural. You will be thinking, why do I this. Heart rate is really not a good indicator as the interval will likely be over before your h.r. enters zone 5. Using a power meter on the bike is your best option.

AeT is defined as where you take your first deep breath during your gradual warm-up. Notice this point every time you train. If you notice that on a particular day in (your deep breath) occurs at a lower h.r. this may be an indication you need to give your body a rest. It will take awhile for you to become accustomed to knowing this point. It will be different for the bike and run. Keep track of it in your logbook.

Ratings of Perceived Exertion. 1 -10. (RPE)

1 –       Very Easy

2 –       Easy

3 – 4   Moderate

5 – 6   Strong

7 – 8   Hard

9 +     Max

This is an approach I think will work better and allows you to develop a good understanding of how hard you really are working. Trying to force yourself into a heart rate range can lead to over training and a suppressed immune system. For example an athlete may be very fit which usually corresponds with a lower heart rate. If they were to rely solely on heart rate they may push themselves into a tempo workout when the workout was supposed to be done at an aerobic effort. Their RPE will be very high, but they had to get to the heart rate range no matter what. Sound familiar? Use heart rate, RPE and wattage as tools not as the know all end all!  Testing your lactate threshold every 6 – 8 weeks is the best way to determine training zones.

Richard Nixon



Categories: Training Tips


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