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  1. #1
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    Heart rate zone training: is zone 3 a waste of time

    I have been riding with a heart rate monitor for a coupe of years now to help pace myself. For a lot of my lot of my rides rides I appear to be primarily in Zone 3 (aerobic tempo) with a little time in zone 2 and a little more time in zone 4. Recently I have been actively trying to reduce my time in zone 3 and increase time spent on zones 2 and 4, and I feel like it has been paying off. My last ride was really strong, I set 9 PRs and one of them was was on climb I ride all the time and last PRd 4 years ago.

    Doing some reading last night I found an article or blog by an Australian cycling coach that described time riding in zone 3 as “dead mans land”. Not hard enough to
    Improve your motors top end and too hard to improve your endurance. Is there any truth to this? Is riding for extended periods in zone 3 considered junk miles?

  2. #2
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    there is some truth to this, especially if you have a limited amount of time to train (less than 8 hours/wk), and you wish to go faster on the sort of ride that is around 2-3 hours max with changing tempo. Then you need to hit the zone 4 (for adaptation) and then recover in zone 2 so you can get ready for the next hit at zone 4.

    But if your goal is to burn fat lose weight and just to get some exercise (and not necessarily to get fast), then zone 3 is very good, especially for the older guys. No need to get all obsessed with the science and think that you must go intense or else you're wasting time.

  3. #3
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    I'm in a similar boat. On any given day I don't have more than a couple hours to get a ride in, and overall I can't ride more than 2-3 times a week. So it's hard for me to figure out a way to do hours of Z2... so most of my rides end up being Z3 or Z4. All the research says the a ton of Z2 along with Z4 combo is what you need if you're training for real, but I know what I'm doing is helping me keep in shape and I'm not the slowest guy on the road.

    I also wonder when and where all these folks get their Z2 in because I'm not often passing dudes taking it easy that look like top notch riders. I understand that pros in Z2 will fly by the average joe but seriously, if a ton of people are spending a lot of time in Z2 I figure I would see them in the area where I ride (there are a ton of serious folks on some of the main roads I do).

    I guess it comes down to what your goal is.

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    This probably means absolutely zero to anyone else but, depending on the time of year I do a ton of zone 3 and SST (for me). It works well to do higher intensity work say the first hour and then tempo Z3 for a couple more. Very tough and tricky to recover from as I age but, very effective stress.

    Here is some info from Frank Overton up in Boulder. This is more SST oriented but, there is great info peppered around. He coaches Phil Gaimon fwiw...

    https://fascatcoaching.com/tips/swee...g-plan-design/

  5. #5
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    The sweet spot training (SST) sounds like something that would suite me very well. But it seems like you need a power meter for that program and I do not yet have one. It’s on my list but not likely to happen until the last fall.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Mailloux View Post
    The sweet spot training (SST) sounds like something that would suite me very well. But it seems like you need a power meter for that program and I do not yet have one. It’s on my list but not likely to happen until the last fall.
    No you definitely don't need a PM. For HR SST=88% to 95% of your LTHR (lactate threshold heart rate). The %HR is from Dr. Andrew Coggan/Training Peaks...

  7. #7
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    My zone 4 ceiling is 166 bpm so my sweet spot range is 146 thru 158 bpm.

    166 x .88 = 146
    166 x .95 = 158

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by aclinjury View Post

    But if your goal is to burn fat lose weight and just to get some exercise (and not necessarily to get fast), then zone 3 is very good, especially for the older guys. No need to get all obsessed with the science and think that you must go intense or else you're wasting time.
    ^^^^This.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Mailloux View Post
    My zone 4 ceiling is 166 bpm so my sweet spot range is 146 thru 158 bpm.

    166 x .88 = 146
    166 x .95 = 158
    Awesome! Do some research on SST and how it might be used best for you. Meaning, it works really well for me during a specific time in my training cycle; how much I can handle etc...is dependent on my genetics and past experience. I've been doing this for a while so my XXX minutes/week sst for example might be too much or too little for you.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Mailloux View Post
    Doing some reading last night I found an article or blog by an Australian cycling coach that described time riding in zone 3 as “dead mans land”. Not hard enough to
    Improve your motors top end and too hard to improve your endurance. Is there any truth to this? Is riding for extended periods in zone 3 considered junk miles?
    It's nonsense. Training adaptations are on a continuum with intensity.

    What mix of training intensity is right for any individual will be variable. Variable depending on their goals, their phenotype, their fitness, stage of training and so on.

    HR is also a particular kind of filter for assessment of training intensity that can be quite misleading.

    Just because you saw improvement from a change in training stimulus may have simply been because you changed the training stimulus when the body had plateaued, not necessarily because the the specific nature of the change.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex_Simmons/RST View Post
    It's nonsense. Training adaptations are on a continuum with intensity.

    What mix of training intensity is right for any individual will be variable. Variable depending on their goals, their phenotype, their fitness, stage of training and so on.

    HR is also a particular kind of filter for assessment of training intensity that can be quite misleading.

    Just because you saw improvement from a change in training stimulus may have simply been because you changed the training stimulus when the body had plateaued, not necessarily because the the specific nature of the change.
    this sounds a little abstract here coach. But how would go about assessing and finding out wheter it's the "changing the stimulus" or the "specific nature of the change" that cause you to improve then? Seems to me this would be hard for a common guy to figure out, and he would need to do a lot of experimentation over time to figure out.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by aclinjury View Post
    this sounds a little abstract here coach. But how would go about assessing and finding out wheter it's the "changing the stimulus" or the "specific nature of the change" that cause you to improve then? Seems to me this would be hard for a common guy to figure out, and he would need to do a lot of experimentation over time to figure out.
    For sure, it is difficult when looking at an uncontrolled n=1 to make valid assessments which determine cause and effect. Correlation is easier to establish, but attaining certainty around why something works/does not work is not so easy.

    We can easily be falsely led into confirmation bias on such things.

    My point is, it's equally likely someone may stagnate on a Level 2 + 5 diet, and a change up to something else might help break them out of it. IOW it might be a change in training stimulus that's more important than precisely what the change is.

    So one needs to look a bit deeper into all the various factors that can influence training progression: rest, recovery, sleep, diet, other stresses (physical and mental), injury, illness, seasonal, environmental, psychological, overall training loads and rate of load progression and so on and on. What role may any/all have played in combination with the training mix.

    Now it may be the nature of the change was the key factor but knowing that's really the case and assuming it's always the right thing to do is a stretch.

    It's a combination of applying sound well established evidence-based principles in training (there are not that many), observing your own responses over time while being cognisant of the fact it is an uncontrolled experiment.

    Coaches do have the benefit of seeking how many different people respond to many different scenarios and combinations of factors but we are also prone to various biases. Being aware of such biases helps to remain grounded when making decisions about training.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex_Simmons/RST View Post
    For sure, it is difficult when looking at an uncontrolled n=1 to make valid assessments which determine cause and effect. Correlation is easier to establish, but attaining certainty around why something works/does not work is not so easy.

    We can easily be falsely led into confirmation bias on such things.

    My point is, it's equally likely someone may stagnate on a Level 2 + 5 diet, and a change up to something else might help break them out of it. IOW it might be a change in training stimulus that's more important than precisely what the change is.

    So one needs to look a bit deeper into all the various factors that can influence training progression: rest, recovery, sleep, diet, other stresses (physical and mental), injury, illness, seasonal, environmental, psychological, overall training loads and rate of load progression and so on and on. What role may any/all have played in combination with the training mix.

    Now it may be the nature of the change was the key factor but knowing that's really the case and assuming it's always the right thing to do is a stretch.

    It's a combination of applying sound well established evidence-based principles in training (there are not that many), observing your own responses over time while being cognisant of the fact it is an uncontrolled experiment.

    Coaches do have the benefit of seeking how many different people respond to many different scenarios and combinations of factors but we are also prone to various biases. Being aware of such biases helps to remain grounded when making decisions about training.
    good info as always coach. Always enjoy reading your stuff

  14. #14
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  15. #15
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    Hunter is really talking about the amount of time spent at given levels during specific training (e.g. intervals) in order to attain maximal benefit sought when targeting particular outcomes, not that one should not spend any time at such an intensity.

    In general riding however one will always have short forays even into Hunter's no-go areas. e.g. if you have some rolling terrain or shorter hills and are not seeking to go au bloc up each one, then you'll ride them in such no-go areas. That does not mean such rides are not useful for development of fitness or that riding that way is bad for you.

  16. #16
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    When I ride by myself I am normally in Zone 3 and 4. When I ride with my wife (slower pace) I am in Zone 2.
    You can't fix stupid.

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeDaddio

    I kind of wish it were legal to staple people in the face.

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