Understanding why we have training zones and what they mean is essential to building a foundation and a training plan that will allow you to achieve your peak performance.
Zone 1 – This zone is often thought of as being ‘easy’, however this in reality used for warming up and recovery, which makes it very important. This zone puts very little stress on your cardiovascular system, but builds on your muscle memory and pedalling efficiency.
Zone 2 – The ‘aerobic’ zone, during this zone you are using your cardio vascular system, improving the efficiency of your lungs, heart and circulatory system. This should be the foundation of your training, without a strong foundation, you will never reach your peak. Whilst training in zone 2, your blood lactate levels should not noticeably spike.
Zone 3 – The ‘tempo’ zone, this zone is is still using your cardio vascular system, but you are increasing your blood lactate levels beyond their base levels. However, your body is able to recycle it effectively back as a fuel source. This zone is often used as part of a build following base training.
Zone 4 – The ‘threshold’ zone, many people refer to zone 4 as FTP, however this is not correct. Zone 4 is a large zone, FTP, or functional threshold power can only be observed at the top of this zone. In zone 4 your blood lactate levels are raised to a point where your body is only just able to keep up recycling lactate. Any more and levels of hydrogen ions (the cause of acidosis in your muscles) would begin to have a negative effect on your performance. The burning sensation often felt in athletes legs is attributed to this process.
Zone 5, 6, 7 – These are known as the ‘anaerobic’ zones. Training in these zone is not sustainable for long periods of time. Your muscles are producing lactate at a faster rate than you are able to clear it. Hydrogen ions will begin to cause acidosis, causing a drop in performance.