Louisville Wheelmen

Louisville Wheelmen Newsletter -- May-June 1996

The Zone To Go - 4

by Edd Johannemann, Coaching Director

You've been patiently plodding along in zone 2 for the past couple of months and now you find yourself wondering, "Is this all there is to cycling? What's next?" The answer to the first question is NO! The second answer depends on you're goals and what you want out of cycling.

Spring brings unlimited possibilities for the adventurous cyclist. Some individuals enjoy the leisurely pace and scenic vistas of extended tours, others like touring around the neighborhood or surrounding community. Some riders are motivated by setting and achieving performance goals, often measured in terms of speed, endurance or both. And still other cyclists will enjoy the season competing in races. All of these different styles of riding are wonderful ways to enjoy the sport of cycling. The type you choose will dictate the answer to question number two.

The time you have spent the past two months riding in zone 2 has prepared your body to begin the quest for a higher level of fitness. You should be ready to tackle interval training. Interval training involves working at an intensity that elevates your heart rate to a point at or above your lactate threshold, or to put it another way, going to the point where you are going to blow up...and holding it there for a given period of time or "interval."

Interval training can be broken down into two basic categories, Zone 4 and Zone 5, and can generate a number of significant physiological changes. Zone four training usually involves two or more intervals at a heart rate of 84% to 90% of one's maximum with complete recovery between efforts. Benefits of Zone 4 intervals include increased anaerobic threshold, Increased ability to clear lactic acid from the muscles, and improved energy pathways and oxygen transport systems. Zone 5 intervals are generally done in sets of three or more efforts, two to five minutes in duration, with only short periods of recovery between intervals. Decreases in reaction time and increases in speed and coordination are the rewards for Zone 5 intervals.

The type and volume of interval work you choose is directly related to the kind of cycling you wish to do. Casual tourists are not going to want or need tremendous amounts of Zone 5 training, but, the additional strength offered by Zone 4 intervals may make for more enjoyable excursions. Fast club riders may want a mix of Zones 4 and 5. Racers will certainly need to place emphasis on this aspect of training. A word of Caution: Interval training is powerful medicine. A more is better approach can lead to a drop in performance and serious burnout. The rule of thumb is two easy days for every hard day. Most importantly, listen to your body. If your target heart rate is out of reach during the intervals, take an easy Zone 2 ride and call it a day.

The benefits of interval work have been obvious to racers for years; but, not everyone's goals lie at the end of a race. The value of interval work has been a tougher sell to cyclists enjoying other types of riding. "What's the point if speed is not one of my goals?" is the logical question. The answer lies in the increased efficiency interval training creates. You will simply be able to ride faster, longer, and more efficiently. The capacity to do more work more easily is of value to all cyclists.

Return to the Newsletter Table of Contents
Return to the Louisville Wheelmen home page

Copyright 1996 Louisville Wheelmen

last updated: 30 April 1996
by Duc M. Do