The Training Zone – Part 2

As we discussed in the first part of this article, a heart rate monitor is essential for accurately determining exercise intensity. The key error athletes make is not making their hard days hard enough and not making their easy days easy enough.

For example, let’s take a typical cyclists hard days and easy days. On Sunday, he does a race at maximum intensity. Monday is an “easy” day to recover. Or rather he thinks it is an easy day because he is riding much slower than Sunday and by comparison it feels easy. However, his heart rate is at or above 80% of his maximum heart rate most of the ride. The pattern continues and pretty soon his progress halts. Since he does not monitor his heart rate, he never really has a truly easy day! Sooner or later, he does not have the energy to work hard on the hard days. To make matters worse he attempts to correct this problem by doing more “hard” days.

The solutions is to train with a monitor regularly to insure that you keep your intensity at the appropriate level. IF you are doing ABT (Aerobic Base Training) your heart rate should should be 60 – 70% most of the time and never over 80%. By doing this you will allow for recovery from AT (Anaerobic Training) and maintain your aerobic base. If you keep your heart rate at 70% throughout ABT you will find you have to work consistently harder and travel faster over the same course to keep your heart rate at 70%.

During AT session, keep your heart rate at or above 85% during intervals. Do not mix ABT and AT within a workout. You are either working hard or you are not – the middle path is the path to mediocrity. This means that if your heart rate goes over 70 – 80% you are working hard – period! So if you plan to do AT put everything you have into it – if not keep your heart rate at or below 70%. If this means skipping a group ride when you need ABT then skip it. Remember, you need to train at the intensity level that is appropriate for you which is based upon your heart rate response to exercise – not what somebody else or the group is doing.

Devote at least 12 consecutive weeks each year to nothing but ABT training keeping your heart rate at 70% and strive for longer and longer workouts at this level. After your base is set continue to do ABT training but replace on ABT workout each week with an AT session. Do 3 to 5 long intervals that are each anywhere from 5 – 15 minutes each at the best pace you can maintain for the entire interval keeping your heart rate at or above 85%. Recovery time between intervals should be 3 – 5 minutes until your heart rate is at or below 70%. Maintain this schedule for a month.

Now add a second AT session/race each week. This workout do 5 – 10 more intense intervals from 1 – 3 minutes each at the best pace you can maintain for entire interval with heart rate as high as possible and recover to 70% or less. Maintain this schedule for one month.

Now add a third AT session each week consisting of 3 – 5 speed intervals. You must be fully recovered for this session. These are maximum speed sprints with a running start then trying to hold maximum speed for the longest time possible. As soon as your speed drops at all relax and go into recovery until heart rate is 60% of Max or less. As soon as you sense a decrease in performance on successive intervals cool down and call it a day.

After a month of this schedule you should be at or near peak. It is very important to continue to do ABT work on days when you are not racing or doing intervals, or you will erode your base. In addition, it is difficult if not impossible to maintain peak or improve while doing three or more hard interval workouts per week for more than 1 – 2 months. After this time, you need to decrease your number of hard sessions and put in more time base training, or you will become chronically overtrained.