HR Zones And Winter Triathlon Training

by John
(Warwickshire, UK)

I am currently training for IM Lanzarote in May and have just completed a max HR test on a wattbike to establish training zones for the winter.

I did see my max HR creep up by 2bpm to 186 (I am 40) and over the year my resting HR has decreased at it's best to 43bpm now averaging about 50bpm.

My bike training zones are as follows: -

Z1 0-144
Z2 145-150
Z3 151-156
Z4 157-163
Z5 164-170
Z6 171-180

What would be my main HR training objectives through the winter to improve my performance at Lanzarote Ironman?

What % of time should I spend in each zone through the winter?


Intelligent Triathlon training Replies:

I'm unsure of which method of determining HR zones you have used because the figures you have are not consistent with 6 zone systems and the information you have provided.

So I have used the information provided and put it into a more conventional HR calculation. Basically the way you had your zones calculated lumped everything below Lactate Threshold 1 into one zone, then broke LT1 - LT2 down into four zones. ( You can find more information about lactate thresholds here.)

This is much too precise and unnecessary, while at the same time under emphasising the time below LT1. So your zones should look something like this, based on a max heart rate of 186b/min:

Zone Lower Higher Purpose
Recovery 0 112 Regeneration and Recovery
Z-1 113 121 Establish base endurance
Z-2 122 140 Improve efficiency
Z-3 141 153 Improve sustainable power
Z-4 154 166 Push threshold up

Again from the data provided this puts LT1 at ~140b/min (Z-2) and LT2 at ~167b/min (top Z-4).

An Ironman race is highly aerobic, no matter what level you are at, even a sub 9 hour race is almost exclusively reliant on your aerobic power.

Well trained athletes will be able to average around LT1 for the majority of the race, so for you this would be around a heart rate of 140b/min. Your heart rate at threshold won’t change much with training, although if you were completely untrained and undertook an extensive training programme you may see a 5 - 8b/min increase, but no more. What changes is the speed or power you are able to sustain at that heart rate. This is one of the advantages of training with heart rate over training with power alone.

Therefore you are aiming to become as efficient and as aerobically strong as you can at this area of your profile. The majority of bike miles should be in the Z1 - Z2 range if you have time to ride 10 – 15 hours per week. If you are on a limited volume programme (less than 8 to 10 hours), do more in the Z2-3 range with greater emphasis on aerobic intervals to develop LT1.

The priority for your training needs to be continuity, trying to back up multi-weeks of:

Recovery: 15 - 20 %
Z-1: 30 - 35%
Z-2: 30 - 40%
Z-3: 5 -10%
> Z-4: You will inevitably get time in here but keep it down to <5%

This is working on using mainly outdoor riding on roads, with the odd turbo or session included.

If you are relying on a turbo and need to optimise your time then you will need to include more in Z-2/3 and less in Z-1. This might include a 60-90 minute session of alternating between Z2-3.

So for example:

• Warm up
• 10 minutes keeping heart rate in Z2 at ~ 130b/min
• 10 minutes keeping heart rate up in Z-3 at the top end ~ 153b/min
• 5 minutes back to ~ 130-135b/min
• 10 minutes back at ~153b/min
and keep rotating through this until you have had enough.

This will really help to develop a strong aerobic base of endurance and will drive your LT1 power up. As you get stronger you can increase the rep length but keep the lower intensity down to 5 minutes. This will increase your time in Z-3, and help to build endurance at just over LT1.

If you are doing multiple turbo sessions per week then you will probably want to get some shorter faster sessions in but we don’t recommend the really hard sessions for those aiming for Ironman. Sure you might get fitter in the session, but top end LT2 power doesn’t really help in the race, so have some fun occasionally but concentrate in the Z1-3 range.

Another example would be a build type session:

• Warm up
• 5-min 125b/min
• 4-min 135b/min
• 3-min 145b/min
• 2-min 160b/min
• 1-min 170b/min
then straight back to getting your heart rate down to 130b/min and repeat as many times as you feel necessary (well trained 4 - 5 times, less well trained 2 - 3).

It is difficult to know what effort to put in to get those heart rates so it might take a few sessions to figure it out. If you use speed or power then you will figure out what they are for each stage and work to that as it’s more immediate.

Over time (as long as the resistance is the same) then you should see your speed or power increase for the same heart rate, or alternatively you will find your heart rate doesn’t rise to the desired level by the end of the rep, showing that you are getting fitter. If this is the case up the speed/power in the future.

You should also see that your heart rate drops quicker after you have done the 1 minute effort because your powers of recovery are improving.

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Ask The Triathlon Coach.

 Be Coached By Intelligent Triathlon Training!

 Achilles injury? Our e-book will get you back running pain-free

Sign Up Below
To get free triathlon training tips,
news and ITT site updates, and a
FREE Training Planner!
Find out more

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Intelligent Triathlon Talk.

Bikes & Reviews

Wetsuits & Reviews

Beginner Triathlete