Training zones, as mentioned are often defined by heart rate, power or pace. Typically there are enough zones to cover most of the energy systems used by your body. Keep in mind that you can never isolate an energy system, but you can focus on its development. For me and my clients I use the 7 zone method.
- Anaerobic Capacity
- Neuromuscular Power
The question to ask is what exactly are you training? For cyclist do you go exclusively on power numbers? Runners, do you go exclusively on heart rate numbers? The reason I ask is because those are two different measurements that though they are related could mean very different things. Have you ever wondered what your limiting factors are? Legs or lungs? That statement really asks the question where is your weakness?
Legs or Lungs?
During a given workout, do you want to train your leg strength/endurance or are you looking to improve on your heart and lungs ability to work within the zone prescribed. If you are going on exclusively power numbers, then you really are more concerned with muscular strength and endurance. Let me pose another training scenario. You want to train Zone 5 but are looking to do intervals that last only 30 seconds with a rest interval of 30 seconds. Since it takes about 2 minutes to reach Zone 5 (which is the absolute top of your aerobic capacity), the first few to several intervals are not training this system properly. However, once you reach that zone, the short rest interval will not allow your body to recover. Eventually you will spend the entire 30 seconds of an interval in Zone 5. If using power exclusively, the first several intervals might be in or above zone 5 power, but you are not training zone 5 at this point. Near the end of the series you may not be able to maintain zone 5 power, but your body is still working in that training zone, your legs just don't have enough endurance to keep up. I have come up with a method to better define the goals of your workouts. I call these training levels. Combine them with the training zones to better focus the outcome.
I have defined training levels into 4 different areas:
- Steady state
I define steady state as any training done in any zone that is just a constant effort. Impulse training usually has a foundation zone and you would perform short bursts out of that zone and then return to that zone after the burst. Think about it as covering an attack. You are at tempo, burst to Zone 6 then have to settle back into tempo. Intervals usually will have a rest period no more than the work period. These typically will work Zone 5 regardless of the length of the interval. Repetitions are defined by having the rest period equal to or greater than the work period.
By combining Zones and Levels together, you can get much more out of your workout and better attack your weakness and strengthen your strengths.