Your Easy Days Are Too Hard And Your Hard Days Are Too Easy

  • By Aaron Hersh
  • Published Jul 19, 2013
  • Updated Jul 22, 2013 at 11:47 AM UTC
Photo: Jamie Kripke

Training Zones

Zone 1: Active Recovery

Coach speak: Embarrassingly slow.

Threshold heart rate minus 41 beats per minute or more.

Zone 2: Base

Coach speak: Feels too easy. Conversation pace.

Threshold heart rate minus 40 to 20 beats per minute.

Zone 3: Tempo

Coach speak: Comfortably hard. Can still talk but through noticeable breathing.

Threshold heart rate minus 19 to 9 beats per minute.
Zone 4: Sub-threshold

Coach speak: Hard, but doesn’t leave you fried after 40 minutes of effort.

8 beats below threshold to threshold heart rate.
Zone 5: Super-threshold

Coach speak: Loud internal monologue, bargaining with yourself to maintain the effort.

Threshold heart rate to 8 beats above threshold.

Zone 6: VO2max

Coach speak: Extremely hard effort. Self-preservation instincts kick in.

Threshold heart rate plus 9 beats per minute or more.

Find your zones without a lab

It’s the simple talk test: At the sub-threshold level, your breathing is going to be accelerated but still controlled. If your breathing is on the cusp of control and you’re gasping a little bit, you’re probably above threshold. Another aspect you might find is that sub-threshold effort feels manageably hard. At the super-threshold level, you’re always bargaining and just trying to survive the interval.

Alactate Training

Research published in the Journal of Physiology has shown resistance training increases aerobic efficiency. Individuals with higher strength levels tend to have higher aerobic efficiency. And so in some cases we do some of our strength work not only in the gym but also in neuromuscular strength and power work.

The term “alactate” refers to very high-intensity, short-duration sprint intervals. Despite the name, lactate is still being produced during these repeats, but the intervals are too short to create that lactate feeling in the legs. You slow down simply because you’ve completed your five- or 10-second repeat, not because you couldn’t do it any longer. These intervals are going to be very short efforts, five-, 10-, 15-second efforts with complete recovery between. Those types of efforts are incorporated during a long ride or long run, so I may have athletes doing a three- or four-hour long ride, but they also have to do 10 10-second long maximal sprints, one every 10 to 20 minutes throughout that ride.

Life Stresses Training

Life stress decreases a person’s ability to adapt to a specific amount of training. Your body can only adapt to so much stress, whether it’s coming from training, family or social aspects. So wherever it’s coming from, you have to be aware that there is not a never-ending capacity to adapt and recover. The training volume an athlete requires for success varies based on the other things going on in life. Physical recovery from training is also, of course, very important. When an athlete doesn’t sleep well or eat well, the body’s ability to adapt to the training stress decreases.

RELATED: Is Low-Intensity or High-Intensity Exercise Better for Fat Loss?

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FILED UNDER: InsideTri / Training TAGS:

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh is the Senior Tech Editor of Triathlete magazine. To submit a question, write Aaron at

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