Episode 53 of the Performance Advantage Podcast talks about training zones; Dr. Will, and Dr. Matt, teach you how to calculate your training zones as well as breaking down the science of each of the five fundamental zones.
In addition to the five fundamental training zones, there are zones six & seven which are neuromuscular a are more for post-workout analysis rather than workout prescription:
Zone 1: Active Recovery
Zone 2: Maximal Aerobic Function
Zone 3: The Grey Zone
Zone 4: Lactate Threshold
Zone 5: VO2 Max
Zone 6: Anaerobic Capacity
Zone 7: Neuromuscular Power
For a weekend warrior, one who mostly exercises one or two times a week, the specific data on this chart would not be something that you would want to focus on.
As what Dr. Matt said in the podcast:
"It's really easy to see that it gets murky really, really quickly. So zones are a really good way to prescribe exercise because you know what to do, and over time you learn how it feels. And it's super simple for an athlete and a coach to communicate, and to analyze information when we know these discrete zones. But I don't think we need to think about them so specifically and put so much importance on these super, super specific numbers. They are a zone and this is, as we talked about, this is how energy systems work. They're on a kind of this continuum, and they don't start and stop at 56%, your lactate threshold. So this is for any sport."
The important thing to remember with training zones is how your body's energy system function for each level of the zone. You should also take into consideration the purpose of your exercise, or exercise training when you use the training zones as a reference point.
In zone one (1), we were relying on our oxidative metabolism which means that we used fat as a source of fuel in this stage. If we compare it to zone five (5), where glucose is our main source of fuel, we can see the two complete opposite ends of a continuous spectrum.
However, if you wanted to still use fat as a fuel source, and expend more energy while doing it, then zone two (2) would be your standard training zone because zone two enabled you to generate higher output of energy. It also represents "the highest rate of work where we're relying predominantly on oxidative metabolism."
In short, zone 1 = fat as fuel & less or small effort, and zone 2 = fat as fuel & more effort than zone 1.
As Dr. Will described, zone three (3) is called "the grey zone" because it is not zone two so it is slightly above your aerobic capacity but it also does not reach zone four where your lactate threshold is situated.
This is the zone where it's not fully aerobic, but then there's not a point where lactate accumulates. Zone four (4) is called "the lactate threshold", which is where your energy system cannot accommodate the buildup of the hydrogen ions produced with the lactate generated by your energy system. They discussed that lactate in itself is not bad, and it can be used by your body as an additional fuel source.
The real burglar would be the hydrogen ions that was produced by the body when generating lactate that was causing the person's body to reach their limit because your muscles, and its' cells cannot exist or function properly in that acidic state.
Lastly, zone five (5) was identified as your "VO2 Max". Dr. Will pointed out that this zone was what people would thought of as interval training. And I think Dr. Matt summarized what zone five and above actually is:
"It's like pretty much anything above lactate threshold. And this zone, for me, what I do in training peaks, I pretty much just delete any zone after zone five, and then make them all zone five. Because if I'm prescribing something at a maximal level, which is the only other zone that I'm going to prescribe above zone five, I'm just writing maximal and those are so short, it doesn't hardly factor in to a zone and you're just going all out. And we do them pretty infrequently."
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Here is the transcript of Performance Advantage Podcast Episode 53.
Will O'Connor 0:11
All right, Matthew, welcome to Episode 53 of the Performance Advantage Podcast. With myself Dr. Will O'Connor and Dr. Matt Miller, Sports Scientists on the performance advantage podcast we bring SPORT SCIENCE to the people. And this week we're talking training zones one through 50. Now we're not going up to 50. But we have one tired doing so you're gonna hear your ratings reading what that like what a training zones, what do they mean? How do they work, we're going to the science behind them. First up, mimic have a bit of a catch up what we're up to during lockdown. And, as always, shout out to our sponsors, endurancetraininghub.com and smartMTBtraining.com, online self coaching software to help you become a better athlete. And currently during lockdown, endurancetraining.com has webinars with myself and some special guests live Friday nights with replays uploaded within the platform. So check that out. All right, let's get on with the show.
Matt, I've been zwifting
Matt Miller 1:30
What? How is it?
Will O'Connor 1:33
I love it. I actually like I've done it before. I did it a while back when when I first got the Kickers, the wahoo kickers for my research and I was like aw, yeah, this is alright. But there wasn't the like, user level of it on the users, they just went there. So you get on, there'd be a couple other people around like I was this is when it sort of first came out and smart trainers were just starting to become popular or into the market. I was like, oh, yeah, this is alright, but it's kind of, I'm just this dude, biking around some virtual world by myself, man. I'll just go out on the road. You know, there's nothing much to do about it. And obviously, Iran's lockdown. Iran's riding Swift. I was getting FOMO. And then my wife started getting more into it. She started racing. And I was like she started getting likes and followers. I was like, man, it sounds like a bit of me. So I got on. I did a couple races. I did B grade. I got my ass kicked. I am nowhere near the level I used to be when I was doing a lot of riding. And yeah, then I went C grade. And I came second. So it's pretty proud of myself for that. Definitely, probably poaching in C grade, though. But having a bunch of fun. And now I like I just did a ride this morning. I'm trying to get leveled up. Because you get like new kit when you get level. Matt, I'm sold. I'm sold. Love it.
Matt Miller 3:10
That's pretty cool. I'm actually I would like to try it. But I'm a bit worried. What I do is I just start going hard all the time.
Will O'Connor 3:22
I did it like my biggest week of training, probably excluding the hundred -- the Tarawera hundred k this year. And then on Monday, I had an easy ride and emos, like don't just ride around to work like into a race. And I was like, oh, okay, cool. reamed myself on an easy ride. And then I had an aerobic ride on Sunday. And, again, I did the C grade race, which I was like this will be way easier. I got super competitive attacked on the hill was blowing hard, heart rate: 190.
Matt Miller 3:57
I didn't even know your heart rate got to 190 this is exactly the thing that, you know that's not sustainable. Look, that's the problem. That's the problem.
Will O'Connor 4:07
And notice that the problem like also with with cycling is for the most part, that ride was really easy. And I was below 150 beat as around like 130 something, but then it was just that sort of five minute all out like all out effort that I did to try and win the race. They it takes a lot like I'm not trained in cycling. I haven't trained on my bike for such a long time. If I ride, I live in Rotorua. I go mountain biking, and I cruise. Just bon bon the trails. And so that's definitely not helping towards my running but then the other thing that's kind of the addictive nature of the gamification of it is now I'm like I should do the weather's looking good this week, my next ride, which I just uses, which we can talk about metal zone one - act of recovery, & zone two. I want to get out on the trails. I want to experience nature, enjoy doing some jumps, doing some trails. And now Mike is here, but if I'm gonna ride, I could contribute those K's to my next level up. So I can unlock some new worlds.
Matt Miller 5:26
Will O'Connor 5:28
You don't get any points for riding outside man.
Matt Miller 5:30
This is, as you know, I have a highly addictive personality. And when I get into something, I'm everywhere and I'm doing it. So my history with video games, I would worry for myself -- my future self. So my current self is like future self. Maybe just hold back a little bit and stick to the trails. Safer.
Will O'Connor 5:53
Yeah. And I mean, you're only really just introducing yourself to the Strava world. And I mean, that's an external pressure enough for a newbie like yourself. And then to take that to the next level with zwift for Matt, we are we might not get any podcasts and you'd be riding.
Matt Miller 6:16
Because yesterday, I was actually thinking about this. I did like 60 k ride and it's one of my standard ones. And I was like, well, I'm just gonna make the, I always ride easy, right? And I wanted to, I just wanted to average 30 Ks . And then I was thinking, I don't have to average 30 Ks for any reason other than I just want to, and endurance is low zone. It's zone one to zone two. It doesn't have to be at the upper end of zone two. And so I'll try and limit those things that force your psychology.
Will O'Connor 6:59
No one's forcing strategy forcing you to.
Matt Miller 7:01
This is all me. This is all I need to keep these things away from myself for sure but I'm jealous. I like I want to try it, and I know that I probably shouldn't.
Will O'Connor 7:15
Yeah, that's definitely what what got me into it. So that's something that I've improved a lot like since I first got into it. They really hook you in these levels and unlocking in all of that, and that other huge positive, which is external to zwift is that the humming of my smart trainer. Just James my son who's now 19 weeks loves it puts them to sleep. He's like, super chill, he'll just stare at it for like, hours.
Matt Miller 7:47
Does that cause the kicker has that little swirly thing so it kind of look?
Will O'Connor 7:52
That would be it like he woke up, must've been like 3:30am and then, what are you gonna do? I'm not gonna do anything at that time. And if I'm not on the bike, he needs entertaining. And then I'm too tired for that. So I just get on the kicker and just go for a ride. And then that puts them to sleep and then I've done my training so it's kind of two birds one stone. So just between mean and Emma we just need to keep combo-ing just like riding or not, keeping him sleep.
Matt Miller 8:26
Funny actually because you can zwift race all the time, but to get better at zwift racing training helps, right? So following set workouts to improve your weaknesses so don't overlook those. And if you need any of those workouts to upload to your zwift, I can send them to you because I make them all the time.
Will O'Connor 8:48
I'm actually a member of smart MTB training so I would just download some of them from there.
Matt Miller 8:54
You know one of the things that you could probably work on is your sprinting so we could.
Will O'Connor 8:58
Oh my God, running has annihilated my top in power. Holy, I've got nothing it's just that muscle neurological pathway and also just the fatigue and my legs from running you know, almost hundred miles a week or so cooked.
Dr Matt Miller 9:18
Yeah, well, we can get you on some sprint ones. Let's talk about this offline.
Will O'Connor 9:23
So anyway, that's me I'll be keen to get those those sprint workouts. What about you Matt? Like I hear you've been riding? You've been staying indoors like two of your favorite things?
Matt Miller 9:37
Those are like my only things especially. So have you seen the teaser post that I've been putting up?. So I've been working with a designer and I think it looks really really cool. I'm super excited, and what the break a software does, is it shows you your breaking which has never been done before. It looks really cool with all kinds of awesome graphs, and then we start to narrow it down and we show you the breaking of events that you can improve the most. It's done, it actually is there and it works, and we're gonna be launching it super soon. But other than that working with my athletes and we're getting excited because a lot of my athletes we're coming into their best kind of season. We're like we don't want to waste, hopefully races aren't too far off.
Will O'Connor 10:29
Yeah, athletes like we've done the same. I just met good this alright, so shout out Anna. She's a longtime listener. She did a time trial, half marathon -- personal best, like the best she'd ever gone for a half marathon solo in locked down. Her Garmin failed like it just wouldn't upload. She couldn't find the file nothing, like it didn't happen. She took a photo of your watches on her watch cause she can't get it off? Yeah, so just imagine that it does suck. It sucks.
Dr Matt Miller 11:10
Like you want to have a record of that similar a garment issue. I was like, Look, you need to get used to this because and you need to be able to work the problem, because these problems are always going to happen. And they're always going to happen at the worst time. Right? Because there's never a good time for something with your tech that you spent a lot of money on. There's never a good time for that problem. So anytime it happens, it's gonna feel like the worst time.
Will O'Connor 11:29
Well the opposite kind of happened with my wife, Emma, where her Garmin went flat on the start line of, I think it was her first full on half marathon race, and she ran a massive personal base. Like way faster than she was expecting to or she would have paced yourself too. She's just gotten a group is like, she like ran it on average faster than like a fastest five k split. It's not so outrageous, but then at least is an actual result for that. Yeah, like a legitimate one. Whereas the other personal base, but so stoked, stoked for your break a software. I can't wait to put it on, put on a giant trance and rip it if I end up riding outside again.
Okay, man, let's let's get into our topic of the week -- training zones -- because it's murky waters out there. You know, we, as sport scientists and coaches, we often just throw training zones there. And if you sign up to any kind of like data, congregating collating, soft Strava training Pete sports tracks, track today's plan, like any of those Garmin, Suunto, they all have them. They just give you zones, right based off of power speed, heart rate, pace, but are they correct? What do they mean? What do you mean? What do I mean? So we want to break it down and kind of introduce training zones.
Dr Matt Miller 13:19
I've been thinking about, we actually think about them a little bit differently. I know you use, I think fewers zones, we'll get into that. So what we do is we end up going out and we do let me pull it up, because I actually I don't know them by heart. I just know what the zones are. And this is, this is how we'll get into what we think's important. But that gives the impression that if you are 1%, that obviously leads you to believe that 56% of your threshold power is not active recovery. And the way energy systems work. It's just not that black and white. Because energy systems are kind of on a continuum where we're using most of them at any given time, but we'll be relying on one more than the other.
Will O'Connor 14:09
First off, like we'll introduce training zones. And really, I think that the fundamental basics of of the zones are our five zone system. Right and you have one, I'm not going to count to five.
Matt Miller 14:27
Will O'Connor 14:28
Yes, those are the zones at the base level. One thing, active recovery, two being aerobic, maximal aerobic function, and then zone three: gray zone move. That's very murky waters tempo.
Matt Miller 14:48
Well, this is one of the issues where they have different names.
Will O'Connor 14:52
Right then but I'll keep going. Okay, otherwise you'll sidetrack me zone four: threshold. Another very ambiguous term, and zone five VO2 max
Dr Matt Miller 15:07
But then there's also... I know some coaches will use zone 5A, zone 5B's zone 6, & 7
Will O'Connor 15:16
Matt Miller 15:16
Neuromuscular. Oh boy. I just don't think it's important to get that specific, and we'll talk about why.
Will O'Connor 15:38
So let's go, Zone One. Okay, Matt. So we're going to the start, we've got our zones. For this, we're doing one to five. What? What do you have to add before we break it all down.
Dr Matt Miller 15:49
I think it's really important to firstly talk about how we get these zones, because this is one of the first things that we do when we start working with an athlete. So, way, way, way back in the day when heart rate monitors were invented, and they needed to be really easy to use. Someone said, well take 220 minus your age, find your max heart rate, and then put it into this calculator, and you'll find your zones. So as we started to learn more about heart rate and things like the lactate threshold and power meters, and things like that, what we started to do is we started to integrate models that based on zones off of the lactate threshold, and there are different ways to test that.
Will O'Connor 16:33
Yeah. So you kind of have that one hour limit. You're like, okay, if I'm training above this limit this line, then I can go for longer than an hour, like in the real basic terms. But through testing blood lactate, scientists figured that out, and they're like, okay, let's work back from here. How long could you do 90% of that output? How long could you do 50%? And then you go, okay cool. And then you just, they started to generate the zones? Right? critical powers, what they've called it for running? Yeah. Okay.
Matt Miller 17:06
So actually, we we use critical power in cycling as well. So I think the way it actually is in practice is there, they all kind of represent this same kind of thing. So, in cycling, what we do is we go out, and first off, even though the lactate threshold is representative of what we can do, maximally for one hour, we're not going to go out and do a one hour time trial very often. Because that is that they suck, right?
Will O'Connor 17:37
I've only done one once -- not in a race, I guess I could afford k time trials, that's approximately an hour. But that was there was a big, like a mountain climb. Right? Like it's like a one hour hill climb, otherwise. Then a half marathon takes me just a bit over an hour, but I'm not out there doing that by myself, not in the race. I just did a 10 k time trial in the weekend, and that was excruciating enough for 30 minutes. You know, like that was the limit of my intrinsic motivation to push myself maximally.
Dr Matt Miller 18:19
Yeah, so what we do is we do a test that takes about 20 minutes. So eight to 20 minutes. And even that, like going maximally for pretty long time, that's still a lot to ask from an athlete if you're doing it regularly. But what we can do is if we do something like 20 minutes, we can multiply our power output or our heart rate times a factor that makes it representative of what we probably would have done for an hour. So usually, what we do is if we go for 20 minutes, and we get say a power of 350, we've multiplied by 0.95, get 95% of that, and that is what we probably could have done for an hour, and that probably represents our lactate threshold. That is probably a good thing to use to base these very, very discreet limits on for our training zones.
Will O'Connor 18:59
Any statistician or mathematicians like what was? Well, it was the era.
Dr Matt Miller 19:21
It's really easy to see that it gets murky really, really quickly. So zones are a really good way to prescribe exercise because you know what to do, and over time you learn how it feels. And it's super simple for an athlete and a coach to communicate, and to analyze information when we know these discrete zones. But I don't think we need to think about them so specifically and put so much importance on these super, super specific numbers. They are a zone and this is, as we talked about, this is how energy systems work. They're on a kind of this continuum, and they don't start and stop at 56%, your lactate threshold. So this is for any sport.
Will O'Connor 20:08
So that's how they come about, you determine sort of a physiological maximum over different durations, and you work backwards from there. Okay, if you can run a marathon or you can hold 300 watts for an hour run a marathon and four hours, then you can, most probably, scientifically, mathematically tested within a margin of error, run a slightly slower than that for six hour, and same with the bike. So then they get broken down pretty much into five zones. As we'll talk about, there are some above five, but the real meat and potatoes of a training plan are going to be zones one through four, in my opinion, for the endurance athletes it that we, in our audience and we work with. We'll get the probably I was gonna say the most misuse, but I think a lot of really misused zone one man. Like, what's gone on there?
Dr Matt Miller 21:19
Yeah, zone one. I think zones, zone one is great, because so at the lower level, that's zero, you're not doing anything, but the upper level of zone one, you're moving. Like, typically, what we would prescribe zone one training for, is for active recovery, because you're not doing any damage to the muscles and actually, if you're running or you're pedaling, it almost feels like no effort. You'll feel like you're not doing anything, almost like you're wasting time. Obviously, for a lot of athletes, they think they're wasting their time, right, because it feels like you're wasting your time. But I think it's pretty useful because you don't need to be going hard all the time. And what we can say with a lot of certainty is when we're exercising in zone one, we're relying on oxidative metabolism, we're burning fat as fuel because we're not going hard. We're not recruit recruiting those type two muscle fibers, like we do when we're in zone five, where it's predominantly zone type 2 muscle fibers that are burning glucose as fuel, and creating a lot of lactate. And so those are the opposite ends of the continuum.
Will O'Connor 22:36
It's definitely burning fat because it's so easy. It feels too easy. That's how you can kind of identify zone one. And we're zone one gets misuses, like, people think it's training, like trying to induce a training stimulus. But in my mind, my explanation of it is, it's a recovery based zone. Zone in which you are using an activity or exercise muscular contractions to stimulate the activity of that muscle to help it recover and adapt to the stress you put on it. For what like within your training plan. So for runners, I recommend going out for a bike ride, and for pure runners, they, they grasp the concept super easy because they don't ride bikes, on Germany they got a pretty crappy bike. So they will just go for a ride, spin it out. And they find that activity of non-weight bearing activity really nice. And it helps them still feel like they're training as well, when I'm down week, and we can increase the duration of it a bit. But the easier you can take those, the more benefit you're going to get in your overall plan. Because it's not the individual zone 1 recovery session. That's trying to make you you know, the better athlete on that day. It's trying to make you the better athlete within the plan.
Matt Miller 24:15
I got to say, I don't really prescribe zone one rides super often. Obviously we do a lot of recovery and appropriate recovery, but not a ton of just zone one rides. Maybe one a week. And sometimes not in a week, sometimes a couple, but they don't like trying to limit someone within zone one. Sometimes maybe we do just have a day off or it or take a walk, but it'll largely depend.
Will O'Connor 24:48
Yeah, I'm thinking like elites here pretty much. I think zone ones a waste of time for the majority of your weekend warriors. There's just not enough time, and you might as well... You're not training enough to be able to include zone one, as additional training, you might as well do nothing, and really focus on the sessions you do have time and energy for.
Matt Miller 25:12
Yes especially if you have time. Like if you do have limited time to be training, out there, or exercising, you want to be having fun and zone one -- maybe isn't super fun. I think that transitions nicely to zone two, because oftentimes when I'm prescribing exercise, I'll combine zone one and two, and I think that's super useful. So zone two is our endurance training zone, and we do that a lot. Even for our endurance athletes and our downhillers, we're spending a lot of time in zone two, because as athletes, we need to be really, really good at using fat as fuel, and transporting oxygen to our muscles. And zone two, it really represents the highest rate of work where we're relying predominantly on oxidative metabolism. So we're still using predominantly fat as fuel, and that's one of the things that we want to get really good at using.
Will O'Connor 26:17
Yeah, oxygen, and fat. They're just so available, then on our body, and then sphere, oxygen and fat -- it's limitless. And so the more efficient, we can utilize those two fuel sources, the better outputs like; we can go faster, we can go further, we can generate more power at sustainable rate. So I guess when you talk about zone two, you have to talk about zone three, because you think, well, why don't you just go a little bit harder on it? Matt wants me to be in zone two. Alright, he says that this is going to allow me to generate higher outputs, be faster, go for longer? Well, I might as well just try a little bit harder.
Dr Matt Miller 27:17
This is the trap like this is the biggest trap.
Will O'Connor 27:20
But this is also where zones becomes super valuable -- in my mind. So we have zone two and zone two, we've talked about it more. So like in deeply in the training with heart rate podcast, which is all really centered around where heart rate has its most effective application, that's for zone two. So that's that aerobic capacity, and in some have Matt stuff, we've talked about training for mountain biking, the more oxygen you can use, and the faster you can utilize it, the faster you can recover from really hard bouts of exercise, or attacks or uphills, whatever it is, we really have to go quite hard, you can recover quicker, because you can start to regenerate the energy that you lost. I guess for lack of a better term with oxygen and fat, like renewable resources. So that's zone two. That is the meat and potatoes of any insurance plan.
Matt Miller 28:38
Well, this is why I think we need to talk about the zone: zone one, zone two, a little bit more and a kind of the trap of exercising at the limits of our zone. Because what I usually do is, I combine zone one and two as the prescription for an endurance rider. And the reason I do this is because if you just prescribe one zone, if you have a highly motivated athlete, they're going to be at the upper limit of that zone.
Will O'Connor 29:08
Matt, if you prescribe me zone one and two, I'm not even looking at zone one.
Matt Miller 29:13
I know that happens. That is pretty much what everyone does. They will turn they're like I can see it on their zwift rides, I can see it on their outside rods, they're turning the dial up to the highest limit of zone two. And they're kind of sitting there for the entire ride. And I don't think that's necessary.
Will O'Connor 29:34
It's not necessary. No, it's not. Sometimes you just gonna, you'll just find yourself near that near the upper end. And then other times, you think I'm tired, I'm not motivated. I know I need get out there had a big weekend of training. I'm just going to take it along and go shoot straight to the top. You know, and that's if you have a hard interval section session. The next day, and you're pushing yourself into more fatigue, you're not getting the best aerobic stimulus and training adaptation out of their workout. That's where like, as coaches, we can only do so much. Because maybe you aren't a flyer, and you feel amazing, super light on the pedals, light on your feet. And you just like, you just cruise in. It barely touches the sides, and so we have to set those limits, right? We just so eager to improve that we're like, boom, let's hit the top.
Matt Miller 30:38
Yep, and that's totally not necessary. So if you're even at the transition of zone one to zone two, you're still getting a training stimulus. I think one of the issues is that we always think of training stimulus as being a muscular adaptation, and if we can feel the the use of our muscles, that we're getting more training stimulus. Actually training, especially when we're talking about training at a sustainable level, it's actually as much about bringing in and using oxygen, because that is actually what we're trying to do. So even in zone one we're bringing in and using oxygen. That's one of the main limiter of exercise capacity is bringing in and using oxygen efficiently. So anytime we're out there moving, whether we're at the higher level of zone two or lower-ish level of zone one, we're still doing the same thing. So it's okay to be like at a lower end or deep down into zone one, sometimes even on your long, long rides like it's totally okay. And we can see this even in people who go out and do hiking, they can still develop just walking, like walking is really low impact. Usually pretty easy, but you get tired if you do it for about eight or 10 hours. You can still develop a higher aerobic capacity just by walking. And that's probably zone one.
Will O'Connor 32:13
Zone one, I have to rename it and training peaks because (we) one of my athletes was doing the hundred mile race --100 mile run. Obviously, we're going to do some pretty big sessions. And then she flicked me a screenshot. She's like, what's this? Because, it said four hours in active recovery, but there was a power at running power output based zone. And because you're walking up a hill, and it's hard you've hydration. You can post your gear on your back and stuff, and active recovery is not the right term for like, for four hours within a six hour run. You know, just because you're walking up the hill. So maybe active recovery, I think easy or super easy. Should be a better term for zone one.
Matt Miller 33:18
Yeah, it's super easy is still training,
Will O'Connor 33:22
isn't it? It is, it totally is. So those are zone one and two.
Matt Miller 33:29
So what we're talking about up to this point is zone one to two is anything below 75% of your threshold power, and 69-83% of your threshold heart rate. So I feel bad for the poor postdoc that was out there, looking at all this data and analyzing all these exercise tests, trying to understand what energy system was being utilized where, and had to come up with these really discreet limits that we still use today.
Will O'Connor 33:59
That would have been a tedious, tedious test, I can tell you.
Matt Miller 34:04
I wonder if we should go back and like use. I'm not sure if machine learning existed back when we were using when these zones were invented. So maybe we need to go back and someone needs to do another postdoc kind of redeveloping them.
Will O'Connor 34:20
Yeah, could probably ask Garmin or Strava like they have all their data. They have the same user name or number how ever they identify someone. They have all the capacities. You know, like they have all of my data. They know how fast I've done a 10 k half marathon, marathon, ultra marathon. They know where my training is. They know all my heart rates, like machine learning.
Matt Miller 34:45
They do but they don't know what your effort was there and they don't know what your oxygen uptake was. So you wouldn't want the machine to think that you are..
Will O'Connor 34:53
Man, that reminds me I've been looking up the science behind the you've got a Garmin. And you know how it says training, stress or training impact, and training and you're peaking or you're recovering, or VO2 max. That is the worst science principles that first beat analytics have used to implement those systems. If you have a Garmin, and you're looking at the physiological outputs like that, they give you that. You had this much anaerobic stimulus within your session, you're currently at this fitness level, and your VO2 max equals this. It is kind of just on a very broad use of estimates -eastern estimating?
Matt Miller 35:46
Yeah, well, you got to start somewhere. I don't think they're there yet, you know, but we, we can't rely on those because sometimes you'll turn your Garmin off, or you'll finish your ride. And I'll say you need three days recovery. So what are you going to do? Throw your training plan out the window? It doesn't know what your actual goals are, what you're training for, and what your limiters are? They're not quite there yet. It's a good start. And I can see the value in those in the future. But we'll see where they go.
Will O'Connor 36:16
Now, though, they'll get there. All right, well, we probably should get into zone three now. We keep talking around it so often it's referred to as the gray zone. And it's called the gray zone because it's not zone two, it is slightly above your aerobic capacity. So the rate at which you can utilize carbohydrate, fat, and oxygen to oxidatively produce energy, or muscular contractions. So when we start to go beyond that, we start to generate lactate, and blood lactate. The association with lactate is acidity. So this then induces like an extra stress on the muscle cells. And often when we do this without a specific goal, or we've just entered into zone three outside of zone two, because we feel like we need to be going harder or having a 30 k an hour, our average like Matt's driver upload. We now are just inducing like this nonspecific, relatively toxic, like it is acidic stress to our system. And if we do that day after day, we're now beginning to damage our aerobic capacity. And that's why it's called the gray zone.
Matt Miller 37:48
I think you know, I think it's called the gray zone is because no one knows what the heck's going on. coaches are like, Oh, yeah, you know that that zone is like, kind of? Yeah, what's what's happening there? I don't know, just, well, it's not zone two. It's not zone four. So it's the gray zone. We'll just call it zone three tempo. What else? What other names does have?
Will O'Connor 38:11
Ah, I don't know.
Matt Miller 38:13
Mostly just tempo and zone marathon pace. Funny, you mentioned that because that's this is pretty much any mountain like, like any cross country mountain bike race. Everyone's average power is zone three. Yeah this is how I kind of explained why it's pretty important to do exercises in zone three. It's like, well look at your race you were going all out. But most of the time, you were actually in zone three. And on average, it was zone three, there were lots of times above zone three, zone four, everything like that. But we do spend actually, a lot of time in zone three and where it really, really gets gray is that you're kind of average rider average weekend warrior will go out. And this is what they're spending most of their time -- exercising in zone three, it doesn't hurt too bad, and it's not super easy. But if they maintain it for a long time, it feels pretty hard and like they got a really good workout in and this is this is what we see most of the time is that people spending all their time training in zone three.
Will O'Connor 39:26
Yeah, yeah. And for runners, it's quite easy of you to get to end up in zone three, because of the weight bearing, load bearing nature of running. Just to get moving at like what would I say? Matt a pace that looks good, you know, like a pace we you feel like you're actually running. You're moving well, especially if you're entering into running out having not competed or trained before. Like your capacity to exercise to run for a very long time is minimal. So what happens is you go, alright, I want to run a marathon, I want to run a marathon in four hours, which is like, I think it's like five minutes at 40 k, and you go into it. And you're like, well, this is what I need to do. So I just need to get better at doing this. Feels hard, but not too hard. And boom, I'm getting a good workout in.
Matt Miller 40:31
And you are right, for the record, like, that's a pretty good workout. It does.
Will O'Connor 40:35
Yeah, like it is.
Matt Miller 40:38
it is but to continuously improve that's not where we want to be spending all our time.
Will O'Connor 40:44
Yeah. And so where it becomes great is that you're not training, like, really, specifically, either energy system are not necessarily energy system, because it's like your specific adaptation or stimulus., It's not fully aerobic, but then there's not a point where lactic acid or lactate sorry, is accumulating. Right? So you're not improving your lactate threshold significantly, I guess. I guess we could probably argue, maybe that you are. And then you're not really improving your aerobic capacity either.
Matt Miller 41:27
Yeah, but in a way they need you're doing both?
Will O'Connor 41:30
Yeah, I know. Like, if you're training around the zone three is formulated so that it slots in very nicely with a specific goal. Yeah. Like it would for a marathon paced effort, or a half Ironman power output based bike ride. But not every day.
Matt Miller 41:58
Because what's happening is there's actually still damage going on. And there still is an acidic environment in a way when we're exercising in zone three so lactate's not accumulating. And I think we need to do a whole podcast on just lactate, because there's this idea that lactate itself is the burning. I know a lot of coaches get annoyed, because when they hear people say, I got lactic and I felt that night. No, I don't I think...
Will O'Connor 42:28
You were growling at me before just because I use the term.
Matt Miller 42:31
Well, we were we were debating actually we were debating the difference between lactic acid and lactate. And we've kind of had to remind ourselves what it was.
Will O'Connor 42:42
But we spent about an hour before the podcast researching it, and also the bicarbonate pool, and we went like Mom's going way too deep.
Matt Miller 42:50
Yeah, it was a bit of a rabbit hole. It's actually nice to remind ourselves of the really, really specifics that no one really needs to know. But I forget where I was going with.
Will O'Connor 43:06
But lactate acid. Yeah, I'm also seeing it referred to as blaming TVs when you get robbed. So someone steals a TV from your house, like, ah, bloody TV. If I didn't have that I wouldn't have got robbed, right? That's lactic acid, or lactate is that you go all lactate is there in the blood. So associated with this decline in performance or fatigue above a certain level. And so you go, Well, I must be lactates fault. But there's actually a burglar who came in and stole your TV. And that is hydrogen ions, or acidity. So it's actually associated hydrogen ion or acidity that goes alongside the lactate. And so lactate and lactic acid that does the same molecule, just in the physiological pH that we exist. So the level of acidity that's within our body, and that goes to the basic form, which is... I'm getting too sciency, but it forms lactate and a hydrogen ion, which just associates from from the lactic acid molecule.
Matt Miller 44:32
And that's when we get a buildup of that and we're not able to clear the hydrogen ions, we have an acidic environment, and that's where it's really dangerous for the muscles and the cells because