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Cycling The First 4 Most Common Zones And What They Do For You
There are 7 common training ranges used in cycling. This article will review the top 4 training categories and what they do for you. I’ll compare the normal categories to what I use and explain the difference so you can make a decision about which training guidelines you’ll implement. Make sure you have read what an FTP test is and how to perform an FTP test.
The first 4 most common training categories are as follows; zone one is called Active Recovery, zone two is called Basic Endurance, zone 3 is called Tempo, and zone 4 is called Lactate Threshold. I will also review the ranges I have in the same categories, as I am dividing these 4 zones into 6 zones.
Zone 1 is, as its name suggests, Active Recovery. In this category, you can train at low intensity to allow your body to recover from more intense workouts and loads on and off the bike. When a rider says they are going to do an easy ride or light pedal, it usually implies that they will be in that range. There is certainly no heavy breathing, no physiological adaptations in this area, you could hold a conversation for days, non-stop with yourself. That’s how easy this scale should be, no pauses to catch your breath, the pace isn’t hard or fast. Remember that this pace is less than 55% of your average FTP test power. Active recovery is very important after intense workouts because it can speed up recovery, reduce soreness and help rebuild muscle by improving blood circulation in the body. Keep in mind that there are other means of active recovery, such as yoga and hiking.
Zone 2 is stamina or base stamina. The intensity is obviously higher than what you do in zone 1. This category still allows for constant conversations, unless you are heading towards the higher end of the range or climbing a hill. This category is called the zone in which you can ride all day. Back when I ran cross country and track during my racing days, my trainer called it LSD, or slow long distance. This training category has a range of 55-75% of your average FTP test power. Most of your training time should be in this training zone. Zone 2 should allow recovery even after several days in a row of training in this zone, unless the duration of training in this zone is really long. In this case, you may need more than 24 hours to recover. Improving your physical condition in zone 2 improves your aerobic base, which is what you can do with oxygen. Spending time in this zone builds your stamina to ride longer at below-threshold paces. Threshold is your body’s ability to deal with acid buildup. Once you go over the limit, the acid starts to build up and your legs start to feel that burning sensation. Eventually, you have to slow down because it’s a limiting factor for everyone. The goal is to build that endurance in Zone 2 to help you last longer at sub-threshold efforts.
Base Endurance, Zone 2 has its advantages and they are; adaptations with muscle glycogen, adaptations with mitochondrial enzymes, and changing fast-twitch muscle fibers from type 2b to type 2a.
Common zone 3 is the TEMPO zone, and is above the strictly aerobic zone and also below your threshold level. Towards the upper end of this area, I consider this to be an ideal location and will come back to this in a minute. Like the Endurance zone, you can train in this zone for days in a row if you recover properly with diet, rest, and massage. This area has more labored breathing and interrupts constant conversation. Runners typically take tempo rides toward the end of the offseason when exiting the base building. Like zone 2, adaptations with muscle glycogen, mitochondrial enzymes, and changing fast twitch muscle fibers from type 2b to type 2a are some of the benefits of Tempo. You can also raise your lactate threshold in this area. Tempo is 76-90% of your average FTP test power.
On the most common zone 4, and that’s the lactate threshold where the intensity is obviously higher than what you’re doing in zone 3. This zone is what some call just below a counter effort. -the-watch, something you can endure for a fair amount of time. The breathing is higher and the conversation is definitely interrupted because of the breathing. This area is usually where more training intervals are prescribed and during these intervals you might feel discomfort in your legs. The more time you spend in this zone in a single activity, the stronger your mental game needs to be. In this zone, you switch to using carbs as your primary fuel source, and if you maintain this pace without replenishing, you will deplete your carb stores and as a result, you will be forced to slow down or lose steam. This training zone has a range of 90-105% of your average FTP test power.
The Lactate Threshold zone begins to push the limit to continuous days in a row in this zone. It is possible to do several consecutive days in this zone, but it is better with recovery in between. In addition to some of the improvements we see in previous zones, this zone also increases plasma volume, increases your heart efficiency, increases your VO2, and increases your aerobic power, which is power with oxygen.
My Zone 1 is exactly the same as Common Active Recovery Zone 1, including the name.
My Zone 2, Base Endurance, is a bit different than normal Endurance Zone 2. I usually only prescribe this specific zone when an HRV athlete signals they need to ride at a lower level for recovery, or after tough workouts for athletes who better handle training loads. For the athlete who may need a lower intensity run, but no active recovery or magic zone, I will prescribe my Zone 2, Basic Endurance, as it is a mix of the upper end of the active recovery zone as well as the fuller zone. common endurance zone 2. For the athlete who can handle a higher training load, they will get this zone instead of an active recovery day in some cases.
My zone 3, the magic zone, is basically the same thing as common zone 2. I call it magic because that’s where you should spend most of your time training, laying the foundation for your form physique in order to build a stronger, faster you. Magic happens here baby, so when your coach tells you to stay in this zone, you should stay in this zone!
My zone 4, the Tempo zone (common zone 3), is slightly different from what everyone else seems to use when it comes to zone 3. My Tempo zone is a smaller zone that ranges from 76-85% power average of your FTP test. This leaves a small window for what I call the steady state zone, which is my zone 5.
The My Steady State zone, zone 5, uses the top of the normal Tempo zone (common zone 3) as well as part of the Lactate Threshold zone (common zone 4). I truly believe this is the sweet spot for getting even better results by increasing plasma volume, increasing your heart’s efficiency, increasing your VO2, and increasing your aerobic power.
My zone 6 is the same as common zone 4, the only difference is that I call them Limit Intervals instead of Lactate Threshold.
Look for the next article as I finish the rest of the training zones, I hope you take something from these articles to help you become a faster cyclist!
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