Great, so you have completed your testing and know your zones!  Now, what do I do with them?

Working with your coach, you will have workouts either based on Power, HR or RPE (rate of perceived exertion 10 scale.)  This is how your coach prescribes your workouts so that you can systematically train your physiological systems to your best advantage, making you the best endurance athlete you can be.

Based on your particular training history, past performances as well as your strengths, weaknesses and upcoming season goals, your coach will build your week accordingly.

Keep in mind that training with HR and RPE are not as accurate as using a power meter. Translating power levels to HR and RPE zones is difficult due to the variability of HR and the ways it is measured as well as individual differences in the power: HR relationship.  Keep in mind the HR and RPE guidelines are approximate and can change with temperature, hydration, stress, and lack of sleep.

Read on to get a good handle on the various zones you will encounter during your training weeks.  Keep in mind, it might take a while to get your zones dialed and they will need to be updated throughout the season.












light effort

easy spin, light pedal pressure, requiring no concentration to maintain with continuous conversation possible






weak to mod-erate

all-day pace, low level effort but may rise with headwind or climbing slightly. Breathing more regular but continuous conversation still possible. Concentration required for upper range effort.






mod-erate to some-what strong

Brisk ride, increased sensation of leg effort. Requires concentration to maintain. Breathing is deeper with minor difficulty conversing at times. Mentally taxing effort, usually training is chopped into 10-30 min blocks.






Some-what strong to strong

Just below time trial effort with moderate leg effort so that 30-40 min in this zone is difficult. Increased frequency and depth of breath makes conversation difficult. HR can be slow to respond.






Typical intensity of 3-8 min intervals with strong to severe sensations of leg effort. Conversation not possible due to more intense breathing. HR slow to respond and difficult to use as a gage.






Very Strong

Shorter 30 second to 3 min interval efforts. HR is not a useful guide. Severe sensation of leg effort/fatigue and conversation impossible.






Very short and very very high intensity efforts used for building explosive power. HR and powermeters not useful for short efforts like these. <30 sec

*(table adapted from Coggin’s power zones)

Each Zone explained:

Zone 1- recovery, active spin to decrease stiffness after hard workouts, used to warm up and cool down, minimal training adaptations for physiological systems. This zone should deliver oxygenated blood to tired muscles and carry away by-products of exercise metabolism like lactate.

Zone 2- endurance, used for building aerobic endurance systems or base.  This zone will make up the largest part of most endurance athletes training.  This zone trains your ability to primarily fat and preserves glycogen stores. Training in this zone also increases plasma volume, mitochondrial enzymes, increasing lactate threshold, muscle glycogen storage, increased muscle capillarization, hypertrophy of slow-twitch muscle fibers.

Zone 3- tempo means time in Italian. Riding in tempo means to ride steady like a metronome with a fairly sustainable effort.  Training in this zone is meant to increase muscle glycogen store, increase muscle mitochondrial enzymes (cells powerhouse), increasing plasma volume, increase lactate threshold, increasing concentration during longer efforts, hypertrophy of slow-twitch muscle fibers.

Zone 4- lactate threshold is the Zone that breathing becomes more labored and you approach your “ventilatory threshold” where oxygen debt starts to accumulate and waste products become hard to clear.  Increased discomfort begins.  Training in this zone is key to push your threshold HR closer to your max HR and become “fitter.” It also improves the body’s efficiency to clear waste products at higher efforts, increases plasma volume, increases muscle mitochondrial enzymes, increases muscle glycogen storage, hypertrophies slow-twitch muscle fibers, increases stroke volume/max cardiac output and increases VO2MAX.

Zone 5- VO2MAX used to train your body to efficiently consume oxygen and increase success in endurance events. This is the “red-line” zone made for people who love to suffer.  Intervals are generally 3-8 min long with at least that time to rest between efforts. This is a short-lived zone where you are quickly burning up your body’s glycogen stores and approaching your Max HR. Physiologically this zone increases plasma volume the most and increases the heart’s stroke volume and max cardiac output while increasing your VO2max.  It also benefits mitochondrial enzymes, builds slow and fast-twitch muscle fibers and increases lactate tolerance.

Zone 6- Anaerobic Capacity- area, where the body cannot meet its requirements for oxygen, usually, intervals in this zone are 30 sec- 3 min long with longer recovery intervals.  They are HARD HARD efforts and require such intensity that high physical and mental perseverance are required. This zone rapidly burns glycogen. This zone is not approached often for endurance athletes unless a quick acceleration or hard effort on a short difficult climb is required. This type of training is very hard on the body and takes time to recover from, too much here can lead to overtraining and injury. HR does not respond quickly enough to be a valid way to monitor zone.

Zone 7- Neuromuscular Power, basically the hardest you can go for <30 sec efforts. We don’t spend time here as endurance athletes. Very short standing starts, short sprints that place more stress on the musculoskeletal system that the metabolic systems. Everything is max’d out in this zone!