Category Archives: aerobic capacity

Use training zones to achieve your best workout

Training Zones

Training zones are used to quantify and track intensity. Remember that workload is the product of volume (duration and frequency) and intensity. The volume component of your workload is easily tracked; all you need is a watch and a calendar. Intensity, however, is a whole different ball game. This is the toughest part of your training to get right.

As mentioned previously, every time you train you should have a goal for the workout. To reach that goal, you’ll need to be aware of how hard you’re riding (i.e., your intensity).

The purpose of a good training program is to work different aspects of your physiology. You’ll be training your aerobic and anaerobic systems, your strength, and your mental fortitude. Some workouts may be for base training, building up the vascular machinery that will allow you to go hard later on. Other workouts may focus on training your maximal speed, allowing you to blow past a friend as you race for a city limit sign.

Each training zone represents a different level of effort, ranging from easy to hard. An overwhelming amount of information is available on training zones. Different coaches and books use different nomenclature, and this can make it confusing. This book is designed to give you a solid foundation in the world of training; the goal is to simplify things so that you’ll have a good understanding that’s adaptable to whatever terminology you encounter along the way. Continue reading

Improve your endurance by knowing what affects your heart rate

This excerpt is from the author of Heart Rate Training. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

One of the most valuable long-term pieces of information you can gather is resting heart rate. When you wake up each morning, take a minute to get an accurate resting heart rate and keep a log. You’ll find this an invaluable tool, providing feedback on injury, illness, overtraining, stress, incomplete recovery, and so on. It is also a very simple gauge of improvements in fitness. We know athletes who have gathered resting heart rate data for years and in a day or two can identify a 1 or 2 bpm elevation that precedes an illness or a bonk session. Some newer heart rate monitors have the capacity for 24-hour monitoring.

Several factors affect heart rate at rest and during exercise. In general, the main factors affecting heart rate at rest are fitness and state of recovery. Gender also is suggested to play a role, albeit inconsistently (more about this later). In general, fitter people tend to have lower resting heart rates. Some great athletes of the past have recorded remarkably low resting heart rates. For example, Miguel Indurain, five-time winner of the Tour de France, reported a resting heart rate of only 28 bpm. The reason for this is that, with appropriate training, the heart muscle increases in both size and strength. The stronger heart moves more blood with each beat (this is called stroke volume) and therefore can do the same amount of work with fewer beats. As you get fitter, your resting heart rate should get lower.

The second main factor affecting resting heart rate is state of recovery. After exercise, particularly after a long run or bike ride, several things happen in the body. Fuel sources are depleted, temperature increases, and muscles are damaged. All of these factors must be addressed and corrected. The body has to work harder, and this increased work results in a higher heart rate. Even though you might feel okay at rest, your body is working harder to repair itself, and you’ll notice an elevated heart rate. Monitoring your resting heart rate and your exercise heart rate will allow you to make appropriate adjustments such as eating more or taking a day off when your rate is elevated.

These same factors of recovery and injury also affect heart rate during exercise. The factors that elevate resting heart rate also elevate exercise heart rate. If you’re not fully recovered from a previous workout, you might notice, for example, at your usual steady-state pace, an exercise heart rate that is 5 to 10 bpm higher than normal. This is usually accompanied by a rapidly increasing heart rate throughout the exercise session.

An extremely important factor affecting exercise heart rate is temperature. Warmer temperatures cause the heart to beat faster and place considerable strain on the body. Simply put, when it is hot, the body must move more blood to the skin to cool it while also maintaining blood flow to the muscles. The only way to do both of these things is to increase overall blood flow, which means that the heart must beat faster. Depending on how fit you are and how hot it is, this might mean a heart rate that is 20 to 40 bpm higher than normal. Fluid intake is very important under these conditions. Sweating changes blood volume, which eventually can cause cardiac problems. The simplest and most effective intervention to address high temperature and heart rate is regular fluid intake. This helps to preserve the blood volume and prevent the heart from beating faster and faster.

Another important factor affecting exercise heart rate is age. In general, MHR will decline by about 1 beat per year starting at around 20 years old. Interestingly, resting heart rate is not affected. This is why the basic prediction equation of 220 – age has an age correction factor. As a side note, this decrease in MHR often is used to explain decreases in .VO2max and endurance performance with increasing age, because the number of times the heart beats in a minute affects how much blood is moved and available to the muscles. We have coached and tested thousands of athletes, and the general trend is that athletes of the same age who produce higher heart rates often have higher fitness scores. However, your MHR is what it is, and you cannot change it. Don’t obsess over it.

A final factor is gender. Recent studies have suggested a variation in MHR between males and females. However, the data are inconclusive with the calculations resulting in lower MHRs for males versus females of the same age, while anecdotal reports suggest that the MHRs are actually higher in males. In general, females have smaller hearts and smaller muscles overall than males. Both of these factors would support the conclusion of a higher MHR in females, certainly at the same workload. We have to conclude that the jury is still out on the gender effect.

Zone Adjustments for triathlon

If you’re planning a triathlon this year in the summer, or in a different location than you are used to, please read this excerpt to plan for the adjustment your body will make. It’s an excellent excerpt from John Mora‘s Triathlon Workout Planner. This excerpt is reprinted with permission.

“Once you know your target zones, you must still do a little tweaking of the range numbers in order to further individualize your training for improved accuracy and efficiency. All training has to be individualized, and these adjustments take into account the different characteristics of each sport, outside conditions, and any illness or overtraining symptoms that may be happening within your body.

Some adjustments are sport-specific. It’s become obvious to me through the years that my heart rate while running is at least 10 beats higher than a similar perceived effort while riding my bike. That’s not uncommon, since running puts a pretty good wallop on the legs and causes a greater degree of stress on major muscle groups from the impact. Cycling is less stressful on joints, often resulting in a lower heart rate, and swimming is even less taxing.

To adjust for the unique demands of all three sports, you may want to adjust your training zones for cycling to be 10 fewer beats than what you would use for running. For example, if you’ve field-tested the target zone numbers you derived with the given formulas on a few runs at various intensities, then subtract 10 beats from your lower and upper limits in each zone to determine your cycling zones. For swimming, adjust your target zones down 5 beats from your adjusted cycling target zones.

You would also be wise to make a number of other adjustments to your heart rate training, depending on altitude, weather, and illness.

Altitude adjustments. If you are training or traveling to a race above an altitude of 6,000 feet (1,830 meters) for the first time, or if you do so infrequently, your heart rate will naturally be higher, even at rest. Above 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), you may find your heart rate is a full 50 percent higher. This increase is due to the lower concentration of oxygen in the air at higher altitudes. Of course, the more time you spend at higher altitudes, the greater your body’s ability to adapt, and you’ll probably see a return to your normal heart rate levels after 14 to 21 days. In fact, you can track your acclimatization with your heart rate monitor, noting how your rate decreases and finally gets back to normal within a few weeks. During this time of acclimatization, don’t push beyond your ability, and stay in your target zones. This means that you may have to slow down or lower the intensity of your training in the interim. Be patient—your body will adjust.

Hot-weather adjustments. Exercising in hot weather causes your body to work harder to keep itself cool. Increased blood flow to the skin and sweating cause an elevated heart rate response. The good news is that consistent training in heat brings about acclimatization in much the same way altitude training does. The body becomes much more efficient in dealing with the heat, resulting in a normal blood flow, decreased salt content in sweat, and a return to your normal heart rate. This adjustment usually takes about 10 days of consistent training or about half a dozen workouts in hot conditions. Always remember to hydrate properly (in hot or cold weather, but it’s usually more critical in heat). Dehydration can decrease your total blood volume, making the heart work harder and elevating your heart rate.

Illness. If you find that your resting heart rate has spiked unusually or that it is more difficult than normal to reach your target zones, it may well be that you are courting an illness such as a cold or flu. If you experience either or both of these conditions, back off and take a rest day or a few easy recovery workouts.”