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Thread: Training Zones

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    SerottaLegend58 is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Training Zones

    I was able to sustain 201 watts for my 20 minute Computrainer test. I will pause until after you get up off the floor from laughing, before I ask my question.

    In doing VO2 max workouts I am supposed to stay within the 202-229 watt range and for aerobic threshold workouts target average is 191 watts. If I am able to do more than the watts specified, should I do that or should I stay within these guidelines because that is the most efficient training, i.e. balancing the amount of stress to my system and ability to recover between workouts versus exhausting myself to the point that I am not fully recovered for the next workout. We are in Week 3 and So far I have been able to stay within the ranges without overly stressing myself but it is challenging and I do seem to be recovered. Workload is going to be increased weekly and there are recovery weeks; next Tuesday will be a recovery session and then off for the Thanksgiving Holiday. We do VO2 max workouts on Tuesday and Threshold work on Thursdays and I try to get out for a long recreational ride on the weekend. Have been able to get out for 50 mile rides the last two weekends. It will be a 16 week total Winter program and I am not absolutely certain but I believe we will retest at the end of 8 weeks.

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    Tom Officer is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    It seems you're determining your thresholds from charts using certain percentages of CP20 to determine FTP, LT or even AeT. It's really not the best way to do it. Here's why...AeT (aerobic threshold) is only accurately determined using a blood draw during an LT test. Otherwise you're guessing, sometimes pretty accurately, sometimes not. With LT, it is by definition that point at which the body produces more lactic acid than it can reprocess, again only accurately determined using a lab test. Of course not everyone can get a lab test done, so folks use accumulated data from lots of athletes to determine what their own threshold should be, using things like CP20 or FTP as reference points. The major problem I find is that folks use an estimated FTP and think it is their LT, when FTP is almost always higher than one's LT. What then happens is that they train above their actual LT and it has a negative effect and actually lowers their LT over time (not a good thing!). In order to improve an AeT or an LT you have to train at or just below that level, when you train above either threshold you're recruiting a different energy system and not improving the energy system you want. It's not as complicated as it sounds, but if you can't get a lab test done the best thing is to err on the side of caution and keep your guesses at thresholds a little lower. It'll just take a little longer to improve the thresholds, but better then lowering them for sure.

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    SerottaLegend58 is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    Was aware of the testing. An LBS guy said that the local university students do this testing for nominal fees as part of their training but have never been able to get hooked up to it.

    So are you saying that for the 191 watt level workout I should err toward less but on the 202-229 watt workout it is okay to go for the maximum I can sustain for the entire workout? If this is correct, what would you recommend for the 191 watt level workout?

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    happycampyer is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    Quote Originally Posted by SerottaLegend58 View Post
    I was able to sustain 201 watts for my 20 minute Computrainer test. I will pause until after you get up off the floor from laughing, before I ask my question.

    In doing VO2 max workouts I am supposed to stay within the 202-229 watt range and for aerobic threshold workouts target average is 191 watts. If I am able to do more than the watts specified, should I do that or should I stay within these guidelines because that is the most efficient training, i.e. balancing the amount of stress to my system and ability to recover between workouts versus exhausting myself to the point that I am not fully recovered for the next workout. We are in Week 3 and So far I have been able to stay within the ranges without overly stressing myself but it is challenging and I do seem to be recovered. Workload is going to be increased weekly and there are recovery weeks; next Tuesday will be a recovery session and then off for the Thanksgiving Holiday. We do VO2 max workouts on Tuesday and Threshold work on Thursdays and I try to get out for a long recreational ride on the weekend. Have been able to get out for 50 mile rides the last two weekends. It will be a 16 week total Winter program and I am not absolutely certain but I believe we will retest at the end of 8 weeks.
    I think you have it reversed: for your aerobic threshold workouts, you were told to stay within 202-229 watts, and for Vo2 max, to target 191 watts. My experience is consistent with Tom's advice. If you did the 20 minute time trial properly, you should have actually been slightly over your aerobic threshold, say, 110% (the only way to know for sure is to do a lactate test; a test with a metabolic analyzer works too but isn't as accurate). If that's the case, then your AT would be closer to 180, and from what (little) I understand you would want to do extended threshold workouts in the 170-175 watt range (90 - 95% of AT). For workouts in the 202-229 watt range, the intervals should be shorter.

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    Default Re: Training Zones

    Quote Originally Posted by happycampyer View Post
    I think you have it reversed: for your aerobic threshold workouts, you were told to stay within 202-229 watts, and for Vo2 max, to target 191 watts.
    Coggan Power Zones - Power Training Levels by Andrew Coggan | TrainingPeaks

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    happycampyer is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    Gotcha. The question is still, what is his true lactate threshold—is it 201, or something different? For a 20 min. TT, it's common to be slightly above one's lactate threshold (as measured by a blood lactate test or a metabolic analyzer).

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    Tom Officer is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    What I've read so far, demonstrates why it is almost pointless to try and determine thresholds from field tests......I've seen folks use a CP20 and anywhere from 90 to 95% of that for FTP, I've seen anywhere from 85 to 105% of FTP as one's LT and anywhere from 60 to 75% of FTP as one's aerobic threshold. It's an absolute crapshoot.

    What needs to be remembered is that the aerobic and lactate thresholds are not just numbers, but actual physiological points in the exercise continuum where the body is changing it's energy source. At aerobic threshold, you are switching from burning primarily fats to carbs, at LT you are switching from burning carbs with oxygen to burning carbs without oxygen and BTW producing 10 times as much lactic acid. Utilizing these thresholds properly depends entirely on what your goals are....do you want to be a road racer, ride a century next year, get faster on the group ride, do well in the hillclimb series?

    If you want to make the best use of your training time, you need to have clearly defined goals, understand the energy requirements of those goals and then train intelligently by using proper thresholds.

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    Tom Officer is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    One minor clarification, because I know someone here will call me on it. The point where you switch from burning carbs with oxygen to carbs without oxygen is actually the anaerobic threshold (above LT). I actually try to steer folks away from using CP or FTP numbers at all and try to explain the importance of AeT (aerobic threshold) and LT. The anaerobic threshold as well, but to a much lesser degree.

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    Default Re: Training Zones

    I agree and disagree with everything Tom wrote.

    Training "zones" are conceits to begin with. All energy systems are active at every point on the duration curve, and one metabolism doesn't suddenly shut down once you enter a new "zone." Also, zones are always shifting as a result of stress, adaptation and rest -- and not just that your "zones" are changing along the X axis (how much power you generate) but also along the Y axis (how long you can sustain that power output). Blood lactate levels also shift, primarily along with Y axis (Dr. San Millan retests his riders regularly during the season to track lactate shifts).

    Zones also vary considerably by individual. My FTP is around 96% of my 20mp at the start of a 12-week threshold block, then it's 98% of 20mp at the end. Why? Because I'm very slow twitch, very efficient, and I don't get a lot of anaerobic contribution to a 20min effort until after I've done a VO2 block. On the other hand, a guy I help out is at the other end of the spectrum. Great sprinter, and has a huge dropoff from 20m to 60m. He can barely hit 4 w/kg in peak form -- but, he's a Cat 2 and a threat in any crit he enters. He can hit 115% of his 60min test power in the first week of VO2 work, if I give him 3min intervals -- because of his strong anaerobic component. It takes me 2 weeks to start clearing 110% on 3-4 min efforts -- my aerobic power is high when I start VO2, but my band above threshold is pretty narrow until I concentrate on that.

    The short of it is that energy systems are a moving target, and zones are informed guesses about how to measure them.

    One thing that has not been noted in this thread is that zones are descriptive, not prescriptive. They are attempts to quantify and define what happened during the training session. That's it. You can define them by hr or watts or lactate, but in the end all of those metrics yield some insights and obscure others.

    AeT vs. LT is a division that, in my mind, only makes sense if you can regularly gather the blood data, and you can't practically measure it during training.

    It's as much art as science -- you know it's working when the power numbers are going up (first along the x axis, then along the y; long durations first, short durations as you near peak), you're reasonably fresh, and you have the legs on the days when you want to have them. You get to that point after a few years of learning your own body, or a coach learning your body, and then tailoring the stress-rest dosage to reach that result.

    So what does this mean? I'd say think of durational pacing, not zones. This is how runners and swimmers (who don't try to wrap their heads around powermeters) have trained for decades. If the workout your coach gave you is for 4-minute intervals, then learn how to hold the highest repeatable steady power for each of them. If you do that, you're working VO2. If the coach says 20min intervals, learn how to pace them to hold the highest repeatable steady power for the set. Energy system contribution depends on duration more than anything else. 2 x 20 on 5 min rest is going to be threshold training for anybody. If you are repeating them within 5w of each other, and it's alls you can do (in cogganese), then it's going to be hitting the right metabolisms. But its all about feel and pacing -- the powermeter measures what you are doing, it doesn't tell you what to do.

    some of you dudes may think I geek the numbers. Nope. I ride by repeatable feel and then look at what the numbers say about the effort.

    I think the real issue is how much time are you getting in tempos that end up being zone 3-low zone 4 during the winter. that's where the aerobic adaptations happen, if you only have 8-10 hours a week to train.

    So, a long and disorganized post that didn't answer the OP question at all.

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    Tom Officer is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    It is an art, no doubt.....the OP probably is stretching it to train 8 hrs a week, given a 201 watt CP20. In terms of keeping it as simple as possible for folks, I try and use the energy systems as a way of getting them to understand the importance of training at different paces and understanding how that relates to their own goals and time to train.

    Doofus, I'm sure you've seen what happens when guys spend 3 to 4 rides a week doing the group rides at the tempo and LT pace, their endurance suffers. Sometimes I ask them the question, "You ever wonder why an athlete can't hold race fitness forever?" The answer is that if you do enough of the higher paces, such as LT and VO2 you damage the mitochondria, which will lower your aerobic fitness. It's always a fine balance and there are so many factors that go into training someone or yourself. The natural tendency is to keep pushing hard and then harder.....just like what it appears the OP is on his way to doing.

    Doofus, be fun to do a ride with you sometime!

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    Default Re: Training Zones

    Doofus, Tom,

    20min seems to be the time that everyone uses for the threshold intervals. What happens when you do 30min or 15min intervals Obviously the pace drops for 30 and rises for 15, all things being balanced but does 15min push to hard for threshold and 30min not enough? Would not getting really efficient at doing 2X20 with 5 rest mean you could go up to say 2x22 with 5 at the same pace?

    I don't use a power meter mainly because of cost, though that's changing, so have learnt to feel my way through training. Has taken many years, nearing on 25, but I do have a pretty good feel for what I'm doing. Though I still make mistakes. I have found the hardest thing to do is not end up in that zone 3-4 when you are just meant to be knocking out a zone 2.
    "Even my farts smell like steel!" - Diel

    Sean Doyle

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    Tom Officer is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    It's almost impossible to answer a question like this without much context. I would just mention this as a very general guideline. If you're training more than 10 or 12 hrs per week on average, then a good rule of thumb would be to spend 60-70% of your time at an endurance pace (at or below AeT), 20-30% of your time at or just below LT and the balance, around 10% above LT. That would include any races that you're doing, keep in mind that as Doofus mentioned when you have minimal hours, less than 6 or so, you have to do more intensity....just like Carmichael talks about. You just won't be able to hold fitness as long, before you need a break. To be honest there is so much that goes into what I might recommend for someone, such as age, experience, goals, work situation, family stuff, local riding scene, social factors....everyone is a little bit different. The coaches job is to find the best way to improve performance. Sometimes there are several ways to get there. But what you're saying about doing too much tempo and LT is a very common issue. It's tough to ride with others without getting caught in that trap.

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    DOOFUS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    Just to muddy the waters some more.

    As a moderately informed kook, my take is that it comes down to 1) years of training; 2) endocrine system; 3) muscle type. It's not about stressing, it's about adapting and recovering. The more years of training, the more deep base, the easier it is to recover -- until your hormone levels start to decline. The better your endocrine system, the more quickly you recover. A 50 year old with naturally (not aging-clinic modified bullshit) high-side-of-normal testosterone and growth hormone levels might recover more quickly than a 25 year old with low-side-of-normal levels. Slower twitch riders will handle a heavier workload of tempo and threshold than fast twitch riders, or riders in the middle of the bell curve.

    Those factors determine how much is too much.

    I've found that I can do a pretty stupid amount of low threshold work -- 90-95% of FTP -- and recover from it, and steadily get stronger, over 12 weeks. So, that's most of my winter. 8-10 hours a week, with 5-6 hours of it in that 90-95% band. My only conclusion is that I must have good hormone levels. On the other hand, I know that a couple of my friends can't handle more than 2-3 hours a week at that intensity.

    I don't like the idea of VO2 or FTP during the winter. Too much recovery cost, and aerobic ability is going to suffer because of the reduction in volume so you can recuperate. Also, that junk takes so much out of you mentally that, unless you take those recovery periods in between training blocks, you're head is going to be pretty fried by the summer. I would like to see if anyone has kept it up on a "Time Crunched" style program for two or three years, even with the recommended recovery blocks thrown in. There are only so many times you can go to the well, you know?

    However, that 90-95% of FTP band develops FTP and aerobic efficiency, and doesn't take near as much out of you. Most of us can do a fair chunk of that kind of work on a limited schedule. 2 x 30 at 92% is probably going to yield more benefit with less stress than 2 x 20 at 100%, for most of us. I'll do an 80min stretch at 91% over 60min flat out, any day.

    For what it's worth, I end up doing a lot of 90-95% over the winter, do some VO2 before the spring races, then after the time changes, I do the higher volume, lower intensity stuff for a couple of months before ramping back up in June. So, my "winter base" is actually in April and May. Lots of ways to skin the cat....

    Your legs, mood, and ability to concentrate tell you what you can handle. Listen to them.

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    devlin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Officer View Post
    It's almost impossible to answer a question like this without much context. I would just mention this as a very general guideline. If you're training more than 10 or 12 hrs per week on average, then a good rule of thumb would be to spend 60-70% of your time at an endurance pace (at or below AeT), 20-30% of your time at or just below LT and the balance, around 10% above LT. That would include any races that you're doing, keep in mind that as Doofus mentioned when you have minimal hours, less than 6 or so, you have to do more intensity....just like Carmichael talks about. You just won't be able to hold fitness as long, before you need a break. To be honest there is so much that goes into what I might recommend for someone, such as age, experience, goals, work situation, family stuff, local riding scene, social factors....everyone is a little bit different. The coaches job is to find the best way to improve performance. Sometimes there are several ways to get there. But what you're saying about doing too much tempo and LT is a very common issue. It's tough to ride with others without getting caught in that trap.
    I pretty much go by the time % you mentioned as a starting point. I try to work on a 3 week macrocycle and if a week gets buggered up from life intruding then I go with the flow. Depending on what races were coming I'd just write that week off and continue on. I do my low intensity rides by myself as it's nearly impossible to do it with others I find.

    Also, I must have reasonable levels as well. I turned 41 this year but have found that a long as I get plenty of sleep and eat well I'll improve quickly. So much so the other guys I do a semi regular hit out with have commented on my progress. At the moment I am trying to get in plenty of volume with a little hit out once a week just to spice it up a little. Probably doing 90% low intensity and 10% low threshold tempo ride with a couple fo the guys. I'm building slow as I want to have a good long season next year with two peak periods. My discipline has slipped a little in the last couple of weeks and have done a few too many harder rides as, well it felt good and was fun. I also find when I get a good run of quality volume I get a bit of a mini peak. Nice to have but not get too carried away with.

    One thing I have found over the years is my sprint has changed. In my junior years I didn't really have much of one. Early 20's learned a few things and got a bit stronger. Early 30's could sprint with most of the local big hitters. Now, my top end speed when I am on form is there with the others but I have to start further out ie. teh initial jump is not there but I can hold it for longer so usually come past them in teh end if I can trick them into jumping early.

    Cheers guys.
    "Even my farts smell like steel!" - Diel

    Sean Doyle

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    sonny's Avatar
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    dammit doof
    i want you to write a road race training manual. i'd buy that shit.
    you seemingly manage to distill fucking volumes of physiology and training method and condense it while not losing the big picture.
    maybe i'm dense and a little add, but i learn more from you than most of the stuff out there

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    Too Tall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    See what happens when you ask a question? ;)
    Let's step back and consider.
    1. Your test was done on a computrainer and is a sample one of one. Please re-calibrate the machine and retake the test, at least you'll have two samples. We tend to "learn" how to perform these efforts thru practice thus the tests become more accurate and consistent with repetition.
    2. Second, all the expert / scientific explanations you read about are noise. You are a coached athlete, your job is to do the work and listen to your coach not second guess them and get bogged down with the facts. If at some point this is interesting and helps you to become a better athlete than go for it, read everything in sight and ask hard questions. Until that day arrives, shaddap, pedal and listen to your coach.
    3. Do not fail to do these tests outside as well as on computrainer.
    Enjoy, TT

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    Tom Officer is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    Fun, fun, fun
    Till Daddy took the t-bird away


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    Default Re: Training Zones

    There is a lot of good advice above, so let me add one thing:
    You asked: "If I am able to do more than the watts specified, should I do that or should I stay within these guidelines because that is the most efficient training, i.e. balancing the amount of stress to my system and ability to recover between workouts versus exhausting myself..."

    Don't stress if it seems easy - take advantage of the easier work days; your next hard day will be here soon enough.
    Geoff used to race around on a Brodie Sovereign
    Geoff Morgan

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    SerottaLegend58 is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    Thanks for all the information and discussion. I am going to follow the prescribed regimen and see where it takes me.

    I have never heard of damaging mitochondria. Can anyone elaborate on that?

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    Tom Officer is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Training Zones

    You ever wonder why an athlete can't hold a peak forever? Consistent periods of high level competition and/or training damage the mitochondria and lower your aerobic fitness.

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