Everfit Training Intensity Guide -updated May 2018
Training, May 16, 2018
Everfit Coaching guide to training intensities used. A must read for every EVERFIT coached athlete + anyone who has purchased an EVERFIT programme.
One of the most asked questions I receive as a coach is "how do I know if I'm at the right intensity". I will try and answer this as simply as possible with the guide below. In the BOLD are the terms that I use with my EVERFIT athletes. The following terms in brackets are other names used for that term. The writing in italics is the breathing and perception using running as the example.
Every prescribed session in a week will have a specific training focus that will compliment the other sessions in the week to give the athlete the fitness progression to help achieve the desired goal (a specific event while also developing better daily habits towards a WELLNESS orientated lifestyle)
I use EASY (zone 1), STEADY (zone 2- Aerobic), MODHARD (zone 3- Tempo), HARD (zone 4), and VERY HARD (zone 5) to describe the training intensities. Every coach will use a different set of terms to describe basically the same thing. I can match heart rate (HR) zones with these intensities based on your Anaerobic Threshold (AT = this is roughly your average HR over your best effort for a 1hr run (or ave HR over a half marathon or a 30min run trying to cover as much distance as possible (getting your average HR for the final 10min) or an exercise scientific way of putting it is “the exercise intensity beyond which any further contributions to total energy supply come from oxygen independent sources”*), resting HR (HR taken first thing in morning before rising out of bed), and collected HR data over different sessions/ races. It is very important to understand that HR is only one measure for intensity and you should never rely solely on it. Your body is pretty smart and self-pacing works well for shorter distances (races less that 2hrs and training less than 1hr). HR is a better tool I feel for longer efforts (eg 4-20min MODHARD reps or Long Slow Distance (LSD) work on the run/bike) to keep you from going too hard. For the shorter faster efforts working on power or speed (30sec – 2min) then pace or perceived exertion is a better tool for intensity as the HR can take too long to drift up to real time intensity. In short “use your inner force” and don’t be a slave to data! HR is a great tool BUT my coaching philosophy is about finding joy from the workout and continually looking at your watch can diminish your experience especially if you’re outdoors on a beautiful day. This is not an airy fairy concept (my girls would love that I’ve managed to work “fairy” into this article). Most of the greatest athletes in the world ENJOY what they do and embrace or welcome the discomfort that can come from training at harder controlled intensities.
Every session should have an element of VERY EASY-EASY at the start of the session as a warm up (wu) and EASY-VERY EASY and the end of the session as a warm down (wd). This helps prepare the body and mind for activity, increases the circulation and temperature of specific muscles, helps prevent injuries, and then allows the muscles to flush at the end of the session aiding recovery. At least 3-5min of wu and wd should be included in every session.
EASY (Aerobic threshold endurance, Zone 1, Max HR – more than 40 beats): The intensity is as purely AEROBIC (“with oxygen” exercising at a level using oxygen where lactate is not accumulating quickly. The 3 systems within the Aerobic system is Glycolysis, Kreb’s cycle, and the Electron Transport Chain) as possible. This intensity will be used as part of the w.u and w.d (as discussed previously) and also for specific LSD (long slow distance) sessions on the bike and run (sometimes ceiling HR maximums will be given to keep you slow), and especially trail runs where the focus is time on feet. It may seem counter-intuitive to train SLOW but it has been proven that this intensity is very important for developing capillary development, muscle tendon insertion efficiency, and more importantly efficient aerobic pathways to provide the base for speed and power workouts. It has also been shown that this pure AEROBIC intensity is best for enhancing lactate clearing. Breathing is rhythmic and gentle at VERY EASY – when increased to EASY the rate increases, conversation is possible. VERY EASY the running speed is a trot, for EASY this pace slightly increases.
STEADY (Tempo, Intensive endurance, Zone 2, Max HR – 30 to 50 beats): This intensity is the equivalent of IRONMAN pace or MARATHON pace. It feels under control at the beginning but if kept up for long periods (over 1.5hrs run or 3hrs on the bike) it will become taxing as the body fatigues. It is mostly AEROBIC but ANAEROBIC (“without oxygen” this energy system is used when oxygen supplied is insufficient using the ATP-PC and Lactic Acid system) pathways are engaged and as time passes the HR will drift up and the metabolic pathways will become messy. At aerobic levels this intensity has a training effect of improving your aerobic efficiency with making aerobic enzymes, and building more capillaries. You are aware of breathing a little harder; the pace is moderate, more difficult to hold a conversation.
80% of your weeks training will typically be between EASY-STEADY, mainly AEROBIC, well below the AT (see the 80/20 Train slower to run faster book review)
MODHARD-MODHARD+ (Uptempo,Subthreshold-Superthreshold, AT Endurance, Zone 3-4, Max HR – 20-40 beats): The intensity is moving up the levels of your aerobic energy system towards your AT. This intensity is used for race specific training (heading towards but not going over AT) efforts usually in the form of longer cycle and run reps (eg 2-4 x 10min on the bike or 2-6 x 1-2km on the run with relatively short rest periods) and race specific sessions, or controlled time trials (eg BENCHMARKS = 2 x up reid rd bike, 1 x up Mt. Steps run, 5km FLAT run TT). This intensity helps the transition between the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Starting to breath hard, pace is fast and beginning to get uncomfortable, approaching all out 1hr run pace. Mental focus required, conversation is undesirable as the intensity moves towards HARD.
HARD (Anaerobic Endurance, Speed, Zone 4+ to 5, Max HR – 10 to 30 beats): Now the intensity is challenging but sustainable for no more than 15-30min. It is used more for shorter repetitions to work on speed (eg 2-4min on the bike or 400-800m / 30sec-2min on the run, short hill reps) they usually have a good amount of rest in-between (1:1 ratio or more to allow recovery so form is not compromised). This intensity helps develop mainly the anaerobic energy system and your ability to handle discomfort. Discomfort is high but manageable, heavy, laboured breathing. Sprint race pace.
VERY HARD (Anaerobic capacity, Power, Zone 5+, Max HR – less than 10 beats): This will only be used for a select few athletes that have to work on top end effort due to the need to sprint at the end of a race, bridge a gap in a cycle road race, or try and make a break. This intensity can also be used for POWER but I will usually just write POWER efforts rather than VERY HARD (eg 6 x 30sec POWER on the MTB, with 30sec EASY in-between). These efforts are always short and close to max pace,but CONTROL of form always MUST be maintained. This training intensity helps your body to tolerate lactate saturation (more than 4-5mmol/L). Maximal exertion in breathing, pace is sprinting effort, high discomfort that is unsustainable for over 60sec.
For the HARD and VERY HARD intensity heart rate isn't really used for a measure due to "cardiac lag" - it can take up to 45sec for the heart rate to settle into it's new rhythm. To avoid getting tripped up by cardiac lag in the harder sessions we will use perceived exertion or pace as you main intensity measures.
The bottom line is every session during your week will have a specific focus, and intensity plays a major part in getting the outcome we want. Most athletes in my experience train too often in the high STEADY – MODHARD zone (zone 3-4) where more long term benefit is gained by completing most of your training in EASY-STEADY (zone 1-2). This will allow better recovery, more AEROBIC adaptation (which is the major energy system stressed in endurance sport), and more energy to complete the specific harder sessions with more quality.
Now get out there and dominate with precision and purpose. Quality and form are always key. MOST of your training will be in the Zone 1-2 for the week. Please get in touch with any questions regarding intensity.
*Triathlon Science, Friel. J & Vance. J, 2012.
The Triathlon Coach, Hellemans, Dr. J. 2006.