Training zones are widely used. They are used to determine and guide training intensities in order to illicit training adaptions in the body. In this piece I am going to run through the following:
3 common training zone models
Show how they overlap
Present a new training zone model for future training
If you have been around training zones for a while you will notice that there are a lot of different zonal systems used. Some use a 3 Zone model, some use a 5 zone model some use 7 or even 8 zones.
All models have the same purpose to identify aerobic endurance intensities, tempo or moderate work intensities and intensities at threshold and above. I want to give a little overview of a couple of commonly used zonal systems and then present the one
I now choose to use to determine training and why.
A 3-zone model has come from the work of Stephen Sellier, within this model zones are as follows:
Zone 1: is below the Aerobic Threshold (AT) or Lactate Threshold 1 (LT1)
Zone 2: is the intensity between LT1 and the Anaerobic threshold or Lactate Threshold 2 (LT2)
Zone 3: above LT2
A 5-zone model breaks down the zones a little further:
Zone 1: Recovery
Zone 2: Basic endurance
Zone 3: Tempo efforts
Zone 4: Anaerobic Threshold
Zone 5: V02max and at the upper end Anaerobic capacity and maximal effort
Finally, a very common one used in Training Peaks developed by Joe Friel is a 7-zone model:
Zone 1: Recovery
Zone 2: Aerobic endurance
Zone 3: Tempo
Zone 4: SubThreshold
Zone 5A: SuperTHreshold
Zone 5B: Aerobic Capacity (V02max)
Zone 5C: Anaerobic Capacity
Three methods that phrase things a little differently, But if we look at the table below you will see how they overlap even though some of the terminology is a little different. When we take a closer look you will see that they have a common thread.
In all 3 models endurance work is done in zones 1 and 2. The 5 and 7 zone model make the distinction between easier intensities. In the 3 zone model tempo or moderate work is done in zone 2 and all intensity work done in zone 3 is seen as above threshold.
In the 5 zone model, zone 3 is tempo work and zones 4 and 5 break efforts into threshold and V02max efforts.
For Joe Friel’s model tempo work is split in two, zone 3 and zone 4. Then high intensity training is defined in 3 zones, 5A Threshold and above, 5B V02max efforts (Aerobic capacity) and 5C Anaerobic capacity sprint work.
A lot of ways to skin a cat. But for long distance triathlon and endurance cycling which model do we pick. Most athletes are used to a 5 zone model so let’s stick with that one. However, we want to be specific to our event whether it’s a full or half Ironman or endurance cycle.
At the moment I like a version of the 5 zone model with a little modification. Splitting zone 3 into a lower and upper category. This allows us to define race pacing a little better. The table below shows the breakdown and associated effort ;
You will start to see these transition more into training plans over the next couple of weeks.
In this piece I have put the cart before the horse and jumped into training zones. In some follow up posts I will go into a little more detail on the following:
the training impact that each zone has on the body
testing protocols we can use to determine the zones
training intensity distributions used to prepare us for goal races