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Cycle training zones

Don’t know what where to start with training zones? check this simple guide

What are they?

In simple terms, it refers to the intensity that you are riding at which ranges from an easy ride to an all-out max effort sprint with other zones in between.

How many zones?

There are different models with regards to the number of training zones and can range up to 7  but the basis of all training zones is what’s referred to as threshold. There are actually two different thresholds: aerobic and anaerobic threshold.
Aerobic threshold is the maximum intensity at which you can ride without blood lactate levels increasing.

Anaerobic threshold is what people commonly refer to as their ‘threshold’. This is your functional threshold power (FTP) for those of you using a power meter, or the maximum heart rate you can sustain for one hour.

Using these two thresholds would give you a  basic structure of three zones,  below the aerobic threshold, between the aerobic and anaerobic threshold and above the anaerobic threshold but having more zones allows you to more precisely target a certain aspect of fitness.

The great advantage of training zones will allow you to maximise the time you have to train and will cut down on the amount of junk training that you do. You will also be able to recover more efficiently and plan your sessions over a given period.

How do I calculate my zones?

To calculate your individual training zones you need to know one of the following things: your functional threshold power, your heart rate at anaerobic threshold or your maximum heart rate. Although this test is very simple it’s not always easy mentally doing it yourself so some people will find it more beneficially to go and be tested rather than doing it on your own at home. You want to make sure you get the figures correct for the zones to get the most from your training.

This test works best on a turbo trainer as will be more contest although can be done on the road or use the data from a 10mile TT.

To start you need a good warm-up of at least 20mins, start at a steady pace then increase the intensity including a few quick intervals of 100rpm

The first part of the test takes 5mins so pick a resistance that replicates a slight gradient and every minute accelerate and ride a little bit harder until you are right at your limit, then try and sprint for as long as your legs will allow. Record your maximum heart rate.

To calculate your functional threshold power or your heart rate at anaerobic threshold you need to ride for a little longer. Again, a good warm-up is important and then you need a section of road two minutes long. Set off at a pace you feel you can just sustain for 20 minutes (this is probably slightly easier than you think) and aim to hold this intensity for 17 or 18 minutes, at which point give it everything until the end. You need to record your average power and average heart rate for the 20 minutes. To calculate your FTP take the power and multiply it by 0.95. Do the same for your average heart rate to calculate your threshold heart rate.

Once you have completed the test click here to download your training zone template

James Walsgrove

My cycling career started in 2005 when I purchased my first road bike and I was immediately hooked. Since then I have completed numerous cycling challenges including Ironman, Lands’ End to John O Groats, Mt Ventoux (all 3 ascents), London to Paris, the BBAR challenge which included a 12hour TimeTrial, Ride London and the Mallorca 312 6 times now.