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Getting in the zone

In association with
2 Dec 2020

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‘By now you’ve got miles on the clock,’ says Tim Elverson, owner, coach and sports director of the Canyon dhb p/b Soreen UCI Continental pro team.

Last month, in the first phase of our three-part training plan, Elverson helped you build your base fitness. ‘This laid the foundations for everything that follows, both in terms of winter training and your performance next year, whether that’s racing, completing a sportive or simply getting fitter on the bike.’

Phase two of our training plan has two goals. ‘The first is to continue to rack up the miles because you want to carry on making those foundations stronger,’ says Elverson. ‘But this is also the stage where we start adding some intensity into your training.

‘The first thing I’d recommend is that you take a Functional Threshold Power [FTP] test,’ he adds. Your FTP is the maximum average power you can maintain for around one hour and, as well as increasing your fitness and your tolerance to the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles, is the barometer by which you will measure your effort.

‘You’ve concentrated on a block of miles in phase one so your FTP has probably gone down,’ Elverson says. ‘This means that if you ride at your previous effort levels, you’re training too hard too soon. Retaking the test will establish your training zones and allow you to calculate your maximal aerobic power output [MAP].’

To do the test, warm up for 15 minutes, then ride as hard as you can for 20 minutes. Note your average power for the 20 minutes, and your FTP is 95% of that figure. Your MAP is your average power output for the final 60 seconds of the 20-minute test.

‘Most of your rides at this stage will still be in zone 2, but we’ll now increase the volume and start adding a couple of rides per week with blocks of zone 3. Towards the end of the four weeks, we’ll also add a couple of minutes at zone 4, not to train in this zone but to remind you what it feels like. This keeps your muscles switched on, so zone 4 and above doesn’t come as a shock in phase three of the plan.’

Just remember your body needs time to rest and recover as well, because this is actually when you get fitter.

The plan: Phase two

Phase one ended with a 2-3 hour ride, so phase two starts with a rest day – but then you’re back on the bike for a FTP test.

In phase one, we used the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale to measure effort, but from now on we’re using training zones, which are more scientific.

‘We’re going to start by taking your zone 2 rides and adding two 15-minute blocks of riding at zone 3 twice a week,’ says Elverson. ‘Make sure you’ve warmed up for at least 15 minutes and do the first block whenever you’re ready, return to zone 2 for a time and then do the second 15 minutes,’ says Elverson.

‘This ensures you’re adding an hour of extra intensity every week. Then you can also add two or three minutes at zone 4 in preparation for the final phase.’

Know your zones

How to train using your heart rate as your guide

Recovery zone is an easy effort at 40-60bpm below your maximum heart rate (MHR)/up to 40% of your maximal aerobic power output (MAP). Use this for cool downs and easy spins on rest days

Zone 1   is an endurance session at 45-50bpm below your MHR/40-55% of MAP
Zone 2 is an endurance session at 40-45bpm below your MHR/50-65% of MAP
Zone 3 is an endurance session at 30-40bpm below your MHR/60-70% of MAP
Zone 4 is an intensive effort at 25-30bpm below your MHR/65-75% of MAP
Zone 5 is an intensive effort at 15-25bpm below your MHR/70-85% of MAP
Zone 6 is a maximal effort at 0-15bpm below your MHR/80-110% of MAP
Zone 7 is a maximal sprinting effort at or just below your MHR/110-150% of MAP

Next month: how to expand and adapt your training plan to hit the goals you’ve set yourself for 2021

Visit to see more of their winter training series

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