Cycling Training Zones for Varying Training Intensity
How to gauge cycling intensity by perceived exertion, heart rate and power.
Eddy Merckx famously said, Ride more! when asked how to improve. Don t have enough time to ride more? Ride smart! By varying the intensities.
by John Hughes
© John Hughes 2016, All Rights Reserved
John Hughes, the former director of the UltraMarathon Cycling Association and editor of UltraCycling, has been certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a personal trainer and by USA Cycling as a coach.
Top endurance riders spend about 75% of their training time riding at low intensity, 15 - 20% riding hard and not much time in between. They build a huge endurance base and so should you. If you only have time to do one kind of training then ride aerobically. This kind of riding:
- Enhances your ability to burn fat during long rides.
- Increases the capacity of your muscles and liver to store carbohydrates.
- Improves your respiratory system, bringing more oxygen to the circulatory system.
- Boosts the amount of blood your heart pumps per heartbeat to the working muscles.
- Brings about increased economy of pedaling, so your pedaling is more efficient.
- Increases the blood flow to the skin, which helps keep you cool.
- Improves the overall endurance of your cycling muscles.
You can gauge intensity using:
- Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) 10 point scale
- 0 = at rest
- 1 = barely moving
- 5 = very hard, time trial intensity
- 10 = maximum effort, full sprint sustainable for a few seconds
- Hughes Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
- Digestion pace like after a big meal, RPE 1 - 2
- Conversation pace talking easily, RPE 2 - 3
- Hill climbing or headwind pace, you can still talk but cant whistle, RPE 3 - 4
- Power pace (Sweet spot) You can talk in short phrases but not short sentences, RPE 4 - 5
- Sub-barf, you cant talk, RPE 5 - 6
- Barf, hammering for 5 - 10 minutes - any longer & youd barf, RPE 6 - 7
- Eyeballs bulging out, riding as hard as you can for only a few minutes, RPE 7 - 8
- Percent of Lactate Threshold (LT), approximated by average heart rate for a 60 minute time trial, 95% of average heart rate for 20 minute time trial.
- Percent of Functional Threshold Power (FTP), average power sustainable for one hour, 95% of average power for 20 minute time trial.
Heres how to use these different methods for different types of workouts:
| RPE Hughes
| RPE 1 - 10
as % of LT
% of FTP
| Aid Recovery
|1 - 2
|2 - 3
| Increase Cruising
|3 - 4
| Build Power
|| Sweet Spot
|4 - 5
| Improve Riding at Threshold
||5 - 6
| Increase Racing
||6 - 7
| Increase VO2 Max
|| VO2 Max
Download Training ZonesSpreadsheet of training zones by perceived exertion, heart rate and power. Download to calculate your zones.
Ive written two eArticles:
Intensity Training 2016: Using a Perceived Exertion, a Heart Rate Monitor and a Power Meter to Maximize Training Effectiveness. A 39 page eArticle packed with current information about intensity that discusses further:
The 39 page eArticle is available for just $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com.
- The benefits of varying the intensity.
- How to get the most out of limited training time by varying the intensity.
- How to gauge intensity using perceived exertion, a heart-rate monitor and a power meter and the pros and cons of each method
- How to vary the intensities in your workouts depending on:
- Your type of riding: health and fitness, club and endurance rider or performance cyclist.
- The time of year: preseason, base period, build period and main season.
- 10 different sets of workouts for 10 different training objectives
- 5 to 10 workouts within each set including both structured interval-type workouts and unstructured free-form workouts.
- The importance of balancing overload and recovery