A structured training plan for cycling is based on training zones. This allows you to target specific areas of your performance, from endurance to sprints.
Training zones apply to the intensity of your exercise or the physiological processes that take place inside your body at a certain intensity. Of course, training zones are personal and depend on your fitness level.
If you want to execute a structured training plan, you must first determine your training zones. In this blog, you'll learn how to do it.
How to test your training zones
The test is designed in such a way that you can perform it without special equipment. All you need is a heart rate monitor and a power meter, or both if available.
The day before the test you must rest, but it can be active rest. This means you can do a 60-minute easy ride with a few short sprints.
We recommend you also rest the day after the test before you start following your structured training plan.
Keep in mind that you can perform this test whenever you want to verify your progress and current fitness level.
How to determine your training zones
After the test, you will use the acquired data of your heart rate and power to determine your training zones. These are determined based on the percentage of the average value of the acquired data.
Let's look at an example on how to determine your 'Sweetspot' zone:
- Based on the measured average values, take the average value of the last 20 minutes of the 30 minutes test.
- Multiply the average heart rate value with 0.89 to determine the lower limit of the zone. Then multiply the average value with 0.95 to determine the upper limit of the zone.
- If you want to determine your zone based on power, repeat the same procedure with your average power value.
Description of the training zones
You made the test, determined the zones, and now it's time to train.
Although we recommend that during training you rely mostly on the objective data from your heart rate monitor or power meter, it is not always convenient to keep checking the numbers on your device during exercise.
It is recommended to get familiar with the sensation of each zone. This will allow you to monitor your training even when you forget to or are not able to check your device.
- Active recovery (1) is the easiest type of ride that you can perform endlessly. This ride represents no effort and is dedicated to rest after exhausting training sessions.
- Endurance (2) is a long easy ride, in which even after a long period you don't feel any pain in your legs. It is the effort you normally use to ride for several hours or the whole day.
- Tempo (3) is a slightly more demanding and faster ride, usually performed when riding in groups. It's pace is constantly changing.
- Sweetspot (4) is a ride in which after a long time you still don't feel a burning sensation in your legs, but you would with a slight increase of intensity. It is the ride directly beneath the lactate threshold.
- FTP threshold (5) is a ride with the maximum power you can endure without completely exhausting yourself. You can keep it up without significant changes of pace from 10 to 30 minutes. Deep breathing prevents you from talking.
- VO2 max (6) is a ride dedicated to improve your breathing capacity. A ride in this zone requires an effort you can keep up from 3 to 8 minutes. At the end of the interval, your breathing is quick and shallow.
- Anaerobic phase (7) is the most intense ride you can endure from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. During this interval, you experience a burning sensation in your legs, your breathing is very quick and shallow, and you may taste blood in your mouth.
This chart makes it clear why VO2 max is so important for cyclists. If you want to improve VO2 max specifically, we have a training plan for you dedicated to increase your VO2 max.
If you want to train efficiently, you must determine your training zones.
Training zones allow you to target specific aspects of your cycling performance.
The zones depend on your fitness level. You must determine them with a test.
Once you know your training zones, you are ready for a structured cycling training plan.
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