Critical for any cyclist, or in general any endurance athlete is determining the training zones. The most common way of measuring and identifying training zones is by power output and heart rate.
Power output is very specific to cycling and requires a bicycle equipped with a power meter. Heart rate is simpler and more generic, as it applies to cyclist as well as any other type of endurance athlete, so it’s ideal for tri-athletes, as it can be used both on the bike as well as on the run (even in the swim, but that is logistically a bit harder.
The threshold numbers you are looking for are the FTP (Functional Threshold Power) for power zones and AT (Anaerobic Threshold) for heart rate zones.
FTP, or Functional Threshold Power, is the power you would average with your highest possible effort during a 60-minute race. After determining your FTP, you can simply use the table below to find your FTP-based training zones range as a percentage of your FTP:
|1||<= 55%||Active recovery|
|2||56 – 75||Endurance|
|3||76 – 90||Tempo|
|4||91 – 105||Lactate Threshold|
|5||106 – 120||VO2 max|
|6||121 – 150||Anaerobic Capacity|
|7||>= 150||Neuromuscular power|
AT, or Anaerobic Threshold (also called the lactate threshold) is the level of exertion where your body must switch from aerobic metabolism to anaerobic metabolism.
Aerobic metabolism burns oxygen and produces carbon dioxide as a by-product. Your lungs provide the oxygen and get rid of the CO2. This is the metabolic pathway that provides most of the energy we use in our daily activities. The primary source of fuel your body uses while exercising using aerobic metabolism are fat storages. Your body can sustain workouts in the mode for long periods of time.
Anaerobic metabolism kicks in when the preferable aerobic system can no longer keep up with the demand for energy—when we cross the AT. At this point, the lactate cycle starts to provide the needed additional energy, burning stored sugars for fuel, and producing lactic acid as a by-product. When lactic acid builds up in our bodies, it causes discomfort like cramping and general distress. The primary source of fuel your body uses while exercising using anaerobic metabolism are glycogen storage in your muscles. Your body can only sustain workouts in the range during short periods of time.
Once you determine where your AT is, you can use the table below to determine your training zones, as a percentage of your AT:
|1||<= 80 %||Active recovery|
|2||81 – 89||Endurance|
|3||90 – 93||Tempo|
|4||94 – 99||Anaerobic Threshold|
|5||100 – 102||Threshold Endurance|
|6||103 – 106||Anaerobic Endurance|
|7||>= 107||Anaerobic Capacity|
There are several ways to determine your threshold. One of them is to perform the test during a planned interval session, following a specific protocol that is described below:
1. 1-hour Warm-up.
During this interval, which should last about 1 hour, the objective is to bring your body to ideal operating range. This should include short high intensity, and high cadence intervals (for example, 3 x 1 minute high cadence, and 3 x 1 minute all-out effort) and a medium duration hard interval (5 minutes of hard effort). At the end of this 1 hour period you should feel ready for a prolonged hard effort, but not tired.
2. 20 minute all-out-effort
During this interval, go all out, as hard as you can for the whole duration of the interval. Nothing should be held back, at the end of the interval you will need to rest, no holding back, no resting, all-out-effort for 20 minutes.
3. 30 minute Recovery
During this interval, you should rest, recover fully from the exertion in the previous interval. Do not stop, continue running/riding, but very easy pace. You need to recover fully and be ready for the next interval at the end of the 30 minute period.
3. 20 minute all-out-effort
Same as before, During this interval, go all out, as hard as you can for the whole duration of the interval. Nothing should be held back, at the end of the interval you will need to rest, no holding back, no resting, all-out-effort for 20 minutes. The objective is to see if you can improve on the previous mark.
4. 30 minute Cool-down
During this interval, you should rest, recover fully from the exertion in the previous interval. Do not stop, continue running/riding, but very easy pace. This is the cool down period. Let your body recover and rest from the high intensity effort you just went through. You’re done after this interval !!
At the end of the session, you’ll have determined your FTP and AT… That will be 95% of your best power average and heart rate average from the two all-out-effort. Simple, right?
There it is… Just use the tables above with your newly found FTP and AT, and you’re ready for zone training.
Have FUN !!!!