When you reach week 4 of the team program you’ll get the green light to forget about your “ballpark zones” and get down to the business of setting your serious bike zones. For the most part, our method of setting bike & run heart rate zones is straight out of Joe Friel’s Training Bible. Our method of setting our power zones is slightly different but if you find my explanations confusing, please refer to Joe’s article here.
Step 1. Do A 30 Minute Race Effort.
You’ll warm up well and do a 30 minute time trial (race effort) on your own on a reasonably flat course without stop signs or downhills where you’ll be unable to push hard. (More detailed directions are in your training plans). Reset your heart rate monitor before the effort and HIT THE LAP BUTTON 10 MINUTES INTO YOUR TIME TRIAL. This is an all out race effort, but pace yourself well enough so that you don’t hit the wall before you finish (if in doubt, start just a hair too easy). Stop your watch at the finish line. Note your average HR for the last 20 minutes and your average power over the entire 30 minute effort if you have power meter. Athletes with power will also need to do a 3 minute time trial on a different day.
Step 2. Calculate Your Heart Rate Zones.
If you haven’t already, save your own copy of the Swim, Bike and Run Zones Spreadsheet. Click on the “Bike HR & Power Zones” tab at the bottom of the page (whe you open it, it will be on the “swim zones” tab. Enter your average HR for the last 20 minutes of your TT in the light blue cell (see video below). I also encourage you to input your HR zones into Trainingpeaks so that you can accurately record how much time you’re spending in each zone (see video below).
Step 3. Calculate Power Zones.
We calculate our FTP (60 min power) by doing plugging the results of our 30 min test and a 3 min. test into the same spreadsheet (see the video below). To get the most value out of trainingpeaks I highly suggest you enter your values into TP, which is also show in the video below.
One final word of caution… these bike zones are just estimates. If you are a rock star at 30 minute time trials your zones might be a bit too high. That’s why it’s always good to use both power and perceived exertion for your workouts. If your calculated steady zone routinely feels “a little hard” after 20-30 minutes, then you’re in your tempo zone, no matter what the calculator says!
Finally, we’ve calculated your zones… now go out and use them!