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Cycling training zones: what are they and how to calculate them

Cycling training zones: what are they and how to calculate them

Are you thinking in entering the world of cycling training based on numbers? If this is your case, surely you have heard of the so -called training areas. In short, training areas allow you specific physiological adaptations and, at the same time, reach more effective results on the bicycle. It sounds good, but understanding and using them effectively can be confusing. There are many models of training areas. Almost all introduce concepts such as heart rate, power, FTP, sweet point (Sweet Spot), VO2 max (cardiorespiratory capacity), anaerobic threshold, etc. What a mess! But do not fear. The matter is simpler than it seems. In fact, using areas helps you structure and simplify your training. It helps you to improve specific physical aspects so that your performance as a cyclist is maximum, be an aspiring to pro or a simple Globero. Today, the use of training areas is more accessible than ever, thanks to technology. Heart rate monitors and power meters are common use devices. Besides, the democratization of smart rollers and cycling applications Indoor It has contributed to this movement. Today, more than ever, training areas are part of the conversations of any grupeta, regardless of the cycling modality.

What are training areas

Let's see if we explain it well. Training areas are intensity regions that correspond to physiological processes that occur within our body. With training areas, cyclists can make specific adaptations or refine specific aspects of our performance: from improving resistance to working our ability to launch a max at maximum power. The areas allow to establish certain intensities and durations for your bicycle training. And how to determine these intensities? There are several methods. You can set them based on your heart rate, power or perceived effort rate (what are the sensations lifelong). On the other hand, beyond determining the level of effort, using training areas helps you not force recovery routes, or to rest between intervals. A training, for example, could force you to complete intervals in Zone 3. Keep in mind that your specific training areas are personal for you and are based on your physical form. Continuing with the example, the Zone 3 It can yield different values ​​depending on the capacities of each cyclist. Later we will see how to configure your training areas.

What are the training areas and how to take advantage of them

A certain controversy usually emerges here. There are different models, which pose more or less training areas. To summarize, the most common models propose 3 or 6 zones. In the first case, a traffic light (green, yellow and red zones), which is intuitive and corresponds to the internal physiology of the body:
  • Zone 1 (Green): Simple effort, where you can talk and breathe without difficulty.
  • Zone 2 (yellow): Average effort in a sustainable threshold, where you can pronounce some words.
  • Zone 3 (red): demanding effort, in which you are speechless.
This model is based on the perceived effort rate (RPE, Rating of perceive exertion). This is what we know as training by sensations. It is not the most exact of the methods, but there are still many professional cyclists who trust it. Especially, in critical moments of a career. Let's say that the two physiological thresholds of the body are combined here: the aerobic threshold (between zone 1 and zone 2) and the anaerobic threshold (between zone 2 and zone 3).
The most common models pose 3 or 6 training areas. In the first, sensations predominate; In the second, the numbers.
For clarifying concepts. He Aerobic threshold It implies an intensity to which, theoretically, you could pedal for hours. To this intensity, you use more fat than glycogen as a source of fuel. He Anaerobic threshold, also known as FTP, is the point that marks the border between sustainable effort and an effort, say, stressful for the body. At higher intensities, we throw more of our limited glycogen reserves. That said, we propose to use the six power zones model, inspired by Andy Coggan's work. It is the same model that you can find, for example, on virtual platforms such as Zwift. It is the most widespread, since it allows more specific adaptations and a maximum use of training time. [IRP Posts = "8631" Name = "Basic aspects of watt training in cycling"] If you have not yet passed to watt training, you should stay in five zones. The sixth supposes a total effort and your heart rate cannot re -act this stimulus suffering it quickly. Basically, it's about tightening everything I stayed engine. These areas are defined by the percentage related to the power or heart rate that marks your threshold. This threshold, for simplifying, marks the point where leg effort and pain begin to seize your body.
Zones NAME Heart rate (% with respect to the threshold) Power (% with respect to the threshold) Typical duration
1 Active recovery Less than 68% Less than 55% No data
2 Endurance 69-83% 56-75% More than 3 hours
3 Tempo/Sweetspot (Sweet Point) 84-94% 76-90% 20 minutes at 1 hour
4 Threshold 95-105% 91-105% 10 to 30 minutes
5 VO2 Max More than 106% 106-120% 3 to 8 minutes
6 Anaerobic capacity No data More than 121% 30 seconds to 3 minutes
  Next, we will define each of the areas, so that you know them better. In zone 1, you must feel very comfortable and exert little pressure on the pedals. Your breathing will be calm and easy conversation. It is a usual phase after a hard training session, or after a race, since it contributes to recovery. In zone 2, conversation while pedaling must flow easily. However, your breathing will become more accelerated than in zone 1. In any case, if you are a well -trained cyclist, you will be able to roll in this area for three hours or more, provided you do not neglect your diet, obviously. In zone 3, breathing is accelerated and more concentration is required to maintain the effort. It is more difficult to speak and you will begin to feel discomfort. Training in this area several days in a row is feasible, but the food will be an aspect to which to pay special attention. The duration of the blocks in which divided zone 3 will depend on the intensity of the effort and your capacity. In zone 4, carrying a conversation is very difficult. Your breathing will be heavy, but not excessively forced. You will feel that the legs begin to burn, so a plus of concentration and mental strength will be necessary to remain in this area. For this reason, zone 4 is usually segmented in blocks or intervals of 10 to 30 minutes. Train in this area for consecutive days effectively is possible, although you must take into account recovery and, of course, food. In zone 5, it is painful to pedal beyond a few minutes. You settle in this area, you should feel suffering. Your breathing will be accelerated and the effort will be difficult to maintain. Completing sessions in this area effectively and consisting of consecutive days is very difficult. Here it is about listening to your body and keeping the concentration to the fullest. In zone 6, your efforts on the bike will be agonized, similar to what a sprint can mean to the maximum of your capacity. Maintaining this type of effort more than three minutes should be impossible. Otherwise, you are not giving everything. Obviously, training in zone 6 in consecutive days is very difficult. Here it is impossible to trust heart rate (of the pulsometer), since there is a delay between the power applied at the time and response of your heart. Hence the importance of moving to the watts, if you have not yet done so.

How to define your training areas?

There are several protocols that allow numerically determining your physical condition and establishing your training areas. Here different variables come into play, including issues such as the time you have available, the frequency with which you want to test your status or the level of detail you aspire to. Calculating your training areas will also depend on whether you use heart rate or power data. For more exact control, we recommend the second option. In this case, you have two options: install a power meter on your bicycle or use an intelligent roller connected to your favorite application. [IRP Posts = "7869" Name = "What types of potentiometers for cycling exist?"] The enormous rise of Smart Trainers It has allowed many amateur cyclists to enter the world of watts. However, there are few experts who warn that we should not buy the Indoor data with the results obtained on the road. As a general rule, our power data will be better rolling outdoors than on the roller. If you have a power meter on your bicycle, it will be easy to check.
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