TRAINING ZONES AND TRAINING SAMPLES

By Nenad Rodic
posted 04/05

It is important to know that training zones or energy systems as some people call them do not differ from sport to sport. They are the function of two things: work intensity and availability of oxygen. Based on these two factors we can divide exercise into aerobic (that that requires oxygen) and anaerobic (that does not require oxygen).
Triathlon is an aerobic sport. Basically every race that is longer than one minute requires development of aerobic capacities. This does not mean that anaerobic training is irrelevant; just not as important. Pure anaerobic training yields little or no benefit to a regular triathlete. People who can benefit form it are ITU world cup racers since the tactics of a draft legal race sometimes demand an all out anaerobic effort. Back to top

Knowing this workload zones or energy systems are:

1) LSD (long slow distance), low intensity. This exercise can last indefinitely or as long as your muscles can handle it. Heart rate is between 65 % and 87 % of maximum. Below 65 % you have no fitness benefits. Energy used is from glycogen and fatty acids. If you are trying to loose fat I recommend doing this type of work first thing in the morning on an empty stomach which will quickly deplete your glycogen depots and start utilization of fatty acids. No recovery period necessary. Back to top

2) Light intensity (intense aerobic), maximum aerobic function (180-age heart rate, approximately). This exercise is similar to long hard runs, 1/2 marathon or more. Heart rate is at 80 %- 90 % of maximum. It is exclusively aerobic state. Your body will use glycogen first and fatty acids later. No recovery period necessary. Back to top

3) Average intensity, AT (anaerobic or lactate threshold). It is a border line between aerobic and anaerobic state, but it is purely aerobic exercise. It is said that a world-class swimmer can sustain this effort for at least 30 min, runner for about one hour and a cyclist little longer. A world class runner should be capable of running a full 1/2 marathon at anaerobic threshold pace. Depending on sport sets can last up to one hour with work to rest ratio at under 1:1/2. This is a highly energy demanding work so you will use glycogen exclusively. Heart rate is 90-95 %. No recovery period necessary. Your goal should be to get your AT heart rate as close to maximal heart rate as possible. Back to top

4) High intensity (long interval), VO2max. Heart rate is at max to max-10bpm. Your aerobic capacities are employed to their maximum but your anaerobic systems are working as well. VO2max is measured by increasing the intensity of each repeat until the athlete reaches the plateau after which the oxygen up-take and consumption start to drop. Speed can still increase due to employment of anaerobic system and quick energy derived from Pyruvate=lactate + energy (refer to physiology of exercise page). The result is the accumulation of lactic acid which limits this type of exercise to 10-15 min of sustained effort or a set up to 40 min long with work to rest ratio of 1:1. Period of up to 48 hours is required to fully recover from a good VO2max workout. Dietary supplements, massage, stretching can reduce this period to one day. It is important to know due to high impact nature of running, sets designed to work VO2max energy system will last not as long as in swimming. However, the pace (speed) of repeats should be the same (85-90%) of maximal speed for a particular distance.  Back to top

5) Sub maximum effort (short interval), anaerobic efforts, lactate tolerance. These are purely anaerobic efforts. Heart rate is irrelevant. Work to rest ratio is 1:(2-4). Benefits to triathletes are marginal. If you are racing a highly competitive race, like world championships for example, it is advisable to train in this energy system for a variety of reasons. One of them being the possible 400-800 meter fast finish, and the other being the specific tactics that would require venturing into highly anaerobic states. Time of full recovery is up to 72 hours. Power output is very high. Back to top

6) Maximum effort (sprints), alactate speed, SP3. Even though this type of exercise is not aerobic (does not require oxygen), it should not be categorized as anaerobic since it doesn't’t cause accumulation of lactic acid. Creatine phosphate stored in muscles is used for immediate delivery of energy (refer to physiology of exercise page). Obviously aerobic benefits are marginal. However, neuromuscular benefits of this type of exercise are immense and often underrated. Heart rate is irrelevant. Work to rest ratio is 1:6 or more. Length of repeats is up to 15 seconds. Power output is maximal. Often neglected, this energy system training yields tremendous neuromuscular benefits, meaning that improves technique and the feel for running more than any other type of work. It is important to know that all great runners posses great speed even at very short distances. A world class miler (sub 3 min 50 sec) would run a 100 meters in 10.6 to 10.8 range. Considering how thin and underpowered most of these runners are, that is a very impressive speed. Back to top

SAMPLE OF RUNNING WORKOUT FOR EACH ZONE

NOVICE ATHLETE

ZONE WARM UP MAIN SET WARM DOWN
LSD Not needed Long steady 90+ minutes Not needed
MAXIMUM
AEROBIC
FUNCTION
20 minutes 30 min to 1 hour at 80-90% of max. HR ironman race pace speed 10-20 minutes
ANAEROBIC TRESHOLD 15 to 30 minutes fartlek (speedplay) progressive warm up 4*(3-5 min.) @90-100 % of max HR rest 5 minutes between efforts Up to 30 minutes
MAXVO2 As much as needed. Not less than 30 minutes

4*(2-3 minutes at maximum sustainable speed + 3 minutes easy walk

Up to 30 minutes
SPRINTS 30+ minutes Four or more 10-15 second sprints with adequate rest (full recovery) 10 minutes

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ADVANCED ATHLETE

ZONE WARM UP MAIN SET WARM DOWN
LSD Not needed Long steady 2+ hours Not needed
MAXIMUM
AEROBIC
FUNCTION
20 minutes 1-2 hours at 80-90% of max. HR ironman race pace speed 10-20 minutes
ANAEROBIC TRESHOLD 15 to 30 minutes fartlek (speedplay) progressive warm up 3*(8-12 min. or 3 km/2 miles) @90-100 % of max HR rest 5 minutes between efforts 20 minutes
MAXVO2 As much as needed. Not less than 30 minutes

4*(5 minutes or 1 mile at maximum sustainable speed + 5 minutes easy

Up to 30 minutes
SPRINTS 30+ minutes Four or more 10-15 second sprints with adequate rest (full recovery) 10 minutes

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ELITE AGE GROUPER OR PRO ATHLETE

ZONE WARM UP MAIN SET WARM DOWN
LSD Not needed Long steady 2+ hours Not needed
MAXIMUM
AEROBIC
FUNCTION
20 minutes 1to 2 hours 30 minutes at 80-90% of max. HR ironman race pace speed 10-20 minutes
ANAEROBIC TRESHOLD Up to 30 minutes fartlek (speed play) progressive warm up 3*(15-20 min. or 4-5 km/3 Mlles) @90-100 % of max HR rest 5 minutes between efforts 30 minutes
MAXVO2 As much as needed. Not less than 30 minutes

4*(5 minutes or 1 mile at maximum sustainable speed+ 5 minutes easy

Up to 30 minutes
SPRINTS 30+ minutes Four or more 10-15 second sprints with adequate rest (full recovery) 10 minutes

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By Nenad Rodic, founder of Triathlonplace.com