Welcome back, are you ready for Part 2, now that you know a little about training zones, and what energy system are used in each, you are probably wondering how your training zones can derived. Before I proceed to explain this portion, let me ask you to consider some thought provoking questions. Did you get a training plan detailing zones for training? What zones are you using? How did you get your heart rate zones? I always ask my new athletes this question and I surprised at how many have never really done a test to establish their zones.
There are actually a few test methods used to help you determine your zones, but I am going to venture to guess that the method that will be of most value to you is the one you can do yourself with just the use of a watch, and heart rate monitor (and if you don’t have one, then you can certainly take your own heart rate).
Allow me to introduce the time trial method. The time trial method can be used to determine your lactate threshold. Oh gosh another term “lactate threshold”. Briefly (and minus the scientific jargon) is one of the best measures of fitness, and is the speed and associated heart rate, at which lactate (an intermediate product of aerobic metabolism in the muscles) begins to accumulate rapidly in the bloodstream. If your training program is working, two things are sure to happen. One is that you will run faster at the point where your blood lactate level spikes, and secondly your heart rate at this threshold will increase (i.e., your lactate threshold heart rate will move closer to your maximum heart rate). In addition to being useful as a measure of running, biking and swimming fitness, lactate threshold is used to establish individual intensity zones for training. That in summary is the importance, believe me I tried to keep it short and basic.
With that basic understanding of LT, lets return to introducing the time trail method to determine your LTHR, so that I can then give an example of how to derive your running zones (1 thru 5). The time trial method is very simple to execute and can be done on a treadmill (set at a 1 percent grade), on a running track, or on any other flat, smooth surface that’s conducive to fast running. It requires some means of measuring time elapsed, distance covered, and heart rate. Please note that LTHR testing should be conducted when you are not fatigued, and certainly not the day after a very hard training session.
Start with a short warmup and stretch session of easy jogging for several minutes (you know seven to 10 minutes). When you are ready, start tracking time, distance, and pace while running at the fastest pace you can sustain for 30 minutes. Be careful to avoid the common mistake of starting too fast and then slowing down toward the end of the time trial due to fatigue (this can produce a bad result). When you get to the first 10 minutes, note your heart rate (with the correct watch and a heart rate monitor this is sometimes easy and just requires you to hit the lap button). Repeat this again at the next 10 minutes (after total time of 20 minutes has elapsed). At 30 minutes, stop and note your heart rate again. That is the test, and although it sounds easy, just know it isn’t always my athlete’s favorite training session, you are pushing yourself the entire time.
With the information you collected (the three heart rate readings) calculate the sum of the three heart rate readings and divide that sum by three to get your average heart rate for the 30 minutes. That result of that calculation is your LTHR for running. It will the number used to derive your running training zones.
Stay with me here, we are almost done. You are probably wondering what to do with the derived LTHR number. Well, now we can use that to derive your training zones. Get out your calculator because some calculations are necessary, or where you have your Ironman Certified Coach do the math for you. For example the calculations for your run zones would be something like this:
Zone 1 =<( LTHR x 85%/100)
Zone 2 = (LTHR x 85%/100 to LTHR x 89%/100)
Zone 3 = (LTHR x 90%/100 to LTHR x 94%/100)
Zone 4 = (LTHR x 95%/100 to LTHR x 99%/100)
Zone 5 =>( LTHR)
Please keep in mind that the zone calculations above are only for running calculations. As I mentioned you can also do the same (and you should) to derive training zones for cycling and swimming.
You should have also been recording your overall distance covered for the 30 minutes, and can derive your average pace (distance in miles divided by 30 minutes), and this number is your LT Pace (assuming your pace was steady, you didn’t drastically slow down towards the end). What do you do with that number. Just like you did calculations for your training heart rate zones, you can also use the LT Pace to determine pace ranges for each of the training zones. I like doing this for swim training. Of course for cycling as you know the buzz is power meters, and yes, the concepts are also translated to power zones to help you achieve maximal benefits of having a power meter on your bike. Yes, there is a lot to it when thinking about doing this for each of the three disciplines (running, biking, swimming) and as well for pace, heart rate, and power (bike only). That is a lot of calculations. If you have a coach, ask them to help you with it.
As your conditioning improves, your LTHR will also change, and so will all these calculations, so it is a good idea to do a LTHR test every four weeks or so! Take a look at your training plan, if you see raining zones listed take some time to customize your training zones using the method above. Of course I am sure your coach would also be more than happy to help you derive them. Don’t just zone out! Know your zones! Give the test a try.
Ironman Certified Coach