Triathlon Training Zone Guide

Making use of training zones can provide triathletes with more power over their exercise intensity and make frequent training blunders, such as overtraining, less probable. Discovering the amount of effort that should be put into a workout assists in remaining within the desired intensity and effort necessary for the workout.

Even though it can be time-consuming, setting up precise triathlon workout sections entails compiling info such as speed, power, heart rate, and what it feels like.

It takes a while to become proficient in training in the identified zones; there is a gradual process to getting used to set training zones, particularly when the focus is on heart rate training.

Triathlon Training Zones

Training zones serve as an indicator of the intensity of your workouts.

Most coaches utilize varying numbers or classifications for zones, but Zone 1 typically is the least strenuous, no matter the criteria used, such as exertion, pulse rate, speed or energy output. Zones are divisions divided by at least one measurement that creates divisions.

One of the most widely utilized sectionings of zones is dividing them into five different exercise levels– even though there are also methods that involve just three, and those that consist of seven, with the highest one being the most difficult. Make sure you adhere to the same areas of interval training and interval levels as instructed by your coach or as outlined in the exercises.

We’ll go into further detail afterwards about how to create training areas, but most teachers and techniques rely on analyzing a performance which establishes a hard work limit (most often zone 4 in a five-level format) and then extrapolate accordingly.

However, lactate threshold, functional threshold power, and ventilatory threshold all have distinct interpretations. The heart rate zones for different sports activities will differ – the rate at which your heart is pumping when running will not be the same as when biking.

The Importance of Setting Multiple Training Zones

Triathletes should set up various training levels due to the potential for separate heart rates for each discipline. It is possible to monitor performance in different roles by utilizing tests that include heart rate, RPE, and if feasible, power or speed.

The greatest pulse rate is usually seen when running, as opposed to swimming, for the same level of exertion. Each discipline also comes with different variables.

Jones stated that monitoring a swim assessment or practice could be more straightforward, especially if all conditions such as pool, time of day, water temperature and distance remain consistent.

Kowal emphasizes that your heart rate will be different depending on what kind of workout you’re doing. Due to the colder temperature of the water, being horizontal, and not being pushed by gravity, the intensity of swimming is usually lower than other forms of exercise. When you compare running to cycling, you require the use of more muscles while running, causing your heart rate to increase.

Establishing Training Zones

It was mentioned earlier that there are a lot of interpretations for the number of training areas and for the threshold effort utilised to create those training areas.

The most frequent procedure is to employ five exercise zones (with the toughest or fifth zone sometimes further subdivided).

What is the threshold? The cutoff points vary, and each coach implements them differently. The rate of the heart at which lactic acid starts to build up in the bloodstream is known as the lactate threshold.

Functional threshold power on the bike is essentially the ability to sustain a maximal effort for about sixty minutes. These two things are not equivalent, yet for many athletes, both involve roughly the same effort level and normally would fall between intensity levels four and five.

You can then apply a formula to extrapolate from your peak (highest level of zone 4) to determine your other areas.

Run Zones

Zone 1: Heart rate less than 85% of lactate threshold Zone 2: Heart rate between 85-89% of lactate threshold Zone 3: Heart rate between 90-94% of lactate threshold Zone 4: Heart rate between 95-99% of lactate threshold Zone 5a: Heart rate 100-102% of lactate threshold Zone 5b: Heart rate 103-106% of lactate threshold Zone 5c: Heart rate more than 106% of lactate threshold.

Bike Zones

Area 1: under 81% of the maximum heart rate Zone 2: 81-89% of the maximum heart rate Zone 3: 90-93% of the maximum heart rate Zone 4: 94-99% of the maximum heart rate Zone 5a: 100-102% of the maximum heart rate Zone 5b: 103-106% of the maximum heart rate Zone 5c: over 106% of the maximum heart rate based off max heart rate. However, while these are the common zone calculations used for a five-zone system based on lactate threshold, there are other systems—such as a two-threshold seven-zone system.

Additionally, your specific zones should correspond with the prescribed workouts you’re doing.

No matter the plan you utilize, it is essential to acknowledge that Zone 1 is the least difficult, Zone 2 necessitates a consistent amount of effort, Zone 3 is a determined effort (like a 70.3 race effort), Zone 4 necessitates an all-out exertion for a prolonged stretch, and Zone 5 and above is incredibly tough.

To figure out what each of those areas means for you, you need to do a test to determine the amount you can endure presently.

Swim Test to Establish Training Zones

When it comes to water skills evaluation, there are some choices available. One idea to get a baseline fitness level is to complete a time trial of 1000 yards, recording your pace and average heart rate from this effort to identify your stamina threshold.

Jones also recommended a step test of five 200s. Time yourself and measure the pulse rate every 200 m to calculate an average heart rate.

Bike Test to Establish Training Zones

A regular exam to find out the levels of training on a bicycle is a Functional Threshold Power assessment. Before the exam, begin with some light activity, strain for 5 minutes, rest and then put in a full 20-minute intense effort.

Utilize your strength and pulse rate for the 20-minute effort to set up a limit. Jones suggests that it is also possible to calculate one’s maximum heart rate by testing during a climb in which you pedal up a hill until you are unable to continue and measure your rate at that point. This figure can be used to gauge how hard you are feeling.

If you are riding a bike on a trainer, according to Jones, the best way to test your power or watts output is to perform a maximal effort test in one-minute increments.

A ramp test, such as those available on Sufferfest and other similar online cycling software, takes care of the calculations and uses gradual increases, so you don’t have to focus on the details.

This can be accomplished in the confines of your home, and you can gauge the intensity levels of your workouts off the results of your ramp test. Jones claimed that when evaluating something in a challenging situation, strength triumphs.

Run Test to Establish Training Zones

You have some options for running, as well. You can complete a trial that is comparable to the FTP exam, and it consists of a full-out attempt for thirty minutes then you should calculate your heart rate across the final 20 minutes to figure out your threshold.

Do the 30 minutes as if it were a race, pushing yourself with full effort, but don’t forget to push the lap button after the first 10 minutes. This will help ensure your heart rate is raised for the remaining two-thirds of the test, as heart rate can take some time to catch up.

FTP Test

One of the most commonly known methods for determining your fitness levels is the Functional Threshold Power or FTP test. This test estimates your capacity to sustain the highest amount of power you can generate over one hour.

An FTP test is simply an all-out, 20-minute effort. Push yourself to your limit for 20 minutes and, after the interval has elapsed, calculate your average power during those 20 minutes and multiply that number by 0.95. That is your maximum heart rate and then your exercise zones can be determined from there.

Austin expresses that it would be great to get a road that is 20 minutes long. If you don’t have the opportunity to do it outdoors, you can still conduct a trial on your home trainer.

Austin insists that it is essential for comparable results from one experiment to the next to repeat the assessment in a set atmosphere, observe your advancement and modify your areas properly.

Many of the top-rated bicycle computers have programs that you can follow that are preset to find your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Also, the most recent fitness applications provide different exercises you can use to determine your FTP.

Threshold Heart Rate

You can use your threshold heart rate as a metric to understand your training zones similar to a Functional Threshold Power assessment.

For discovering your THR, or Lactate Threshold Heart Rate, attempt a single 30-minute time trial with maximum effort. Act as though you are competing in a race for the entire 30 minutes, so don’t be surprised if it is uncomfortable.

After 10 minutes of taking the test, push the lap button on your heart rate monitor or bike computer. Keep your attention on the task and put in a determined effort for the last 20 minutes.

After you are done, hit the lap key on your pulse monitor again and inspect to detect your normal heart rate throughout the past 20 minutes. This number is a close estimate of your Target Heart Rate and you can use it to compute the various heart rates for your exercise zones.

You need to push yourself for the full 30 minutes, however, most people taking this exam exhaust themselves during the early minutes and then ease up. This technique will give you inaccurate results.

In conclusion, it is essential to maintain an even speed no matter if you are assessing your peak strength or peak heart rate. If you take this test more frequently, your threshold value should be more precise as you will have improved your pacing.

Ramp Test

Threshold tests can be quite challenging and it takes some training to be able to sustain extreme exertion for 20 minutes.

You can also use a reduced ramp test to identify your Functional Threshold Power, which can be done via apps such as Zwift if you own a connected trainer. Here is an outline of the steps you need to take to do an FTP or ramp test on Zwift.

It can be challenging both mentally and physically to control the speed and intensity during a 20-minute Functional Threshold Power (FTP) effort, while a ramp test requires cycling intervals with increasing power levels until exhaustion.

The test is still extremely hard and you can expect the finale to be painful. However, the test structure is maintained with the assistance of a clever trainer, instead of you personally regulating your struggle.

Critical Power Test

Some coaches prefer doing a CP test to gain a more comprehensive investigation into a rider’s abilities and weaknesses.

The rider needs to engage in a comprehensive activity, which requires them to do multiple intensive stints; either two to four surges, which can range from three to 20 minutes.

This is a way frequently favoured by trainers and biologists since, through possessing exact information for lots of lengths, the findings can be employed to recognize precisely where you ought to concentrate your workout endeavours.

Ways to Use Your Training Zones

Once the power or heart rate test has been finished and the zones have been determined, they can be employed to assess and shape the training program.

It is important to remember that the optimal training plan for you takes into account your current lifestyle, responsibilities, and what you hope to achieve with your riding.

1. Create your own training plan

If you are constructing your own exercise regimen, as opposed to relying on one instructed by an application or coach, attempt not to analyze it too much. Keep it simple.

The 80/20 or polarization program has been incredibly successful for both experts and novices, being favoured by the majority of trainers when putting together a workout routine.

A majority of your workouts should be done at a relaxed pace, in the lower training zones (such as Z1 or Z2, when using a three-zone model). Aim to keep only 20 per cent of your training in the higher-intensity zones (above your anaerobic threshold, such as Z3).

2. Sign up for a training plan

It is simpler now than it ever has been to stay true to a workout routine, thanks to various training applications that provide pre-made indoor cycling schedules. Examples of different apps which help assist with workouts and training plans are Zwift (which has an accompanying guide to the most efficient plans and exercises), Wahoo RGT, Rouvy, TrainerRoad and Wahoo System.

Apps usually supply workout plans designed to meet a variety of objectives or help with physical fitness. They will also figure out your present fitness level (usually with an FTP trial or the like), decide your exercise levels and customize your workouts accordingly.

You need to finish your practice sessions on the turbo or imitate the trainer’s session out on the street, but sticking to an organized plan takes away plenty of the guesswork. You just need to stick to it.

3. Work on your weaknesses

Realizing the areas in which you need improvement allows you to create particular workouts to concentrate on your deficiencies. You can also make your training more relevant by focusing it on the specific needs of an upcoming race or event.

For instance, if you are getting ready to take part in an extended, mountainous competition like the Etape du Tour or Maratona the Dolomites, having the capability to bike for a long time while sustaining a continuously strong pace while ascending, is more critical than possessing the strength to deliver a 1,000-watt sprint in 20 seconds.

4. Pacing

Likewise, you can use the areas you have set for yourself to control the intensity of your performance on the day of the race. You don’t have to limit yourself to exercising with your zones; you can utilize them to create a timing approach or as a reference while you are trying hard.

It would not be useful to put forth all of your maximum energy for a 30-minute ascent when you would only use five minutes of concentrated power. It is advisable to take your time and finish strongly at the top.

5. Go easy

Realizing when to take things slowly is essential to any exercise routine. Ultimately, when you take a break and give your body a chance to heal, its ability to restore and become stronger increases.

Employ your practice ranges to manage your recuperation, as well as your exertion – whether that be leisure times between sessions or throughout recovery rides.

One could easily over-exert themselves when meant to be taking a break. If you keep going without taking a break, you run the risk of becoming totally exhausted.

6. Work with a coach

Still not sure? If you are dedicated to reaching peak performance, employing a specialist cycling tutor can help you fulfil all of the goals stated.


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