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Thread: What zone ?

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    What zone ?

    I have been riding around three times a week 18 mile training rides . I started about a year ago and I am 59,I average 16/17 mph on fairly hilly terrain .
    A couple of weeks ago I read up on zones and bought a heart rate monitor to see were about in the zones I was riding,it's mostly zone 4.The info I read on zones seems to point to keeping it down to zone 2 and 3 for endurance and to build a sound base.
    Today I rode the 20 miles home from work keeping to zone 3 for the most part,I found 2 just too easy and tedious.
    Here's the questions, Will there really be a benefit from riding in zone 2,or will zone 3 be ok ? Has my last year pushing on,been counter productive ? I am new to road riding,more used to MTB,which usually involves very hard climbs to the summit of forests, here in Scotland,before the fun bits got started and I was breathing very hard all the way ,but usually for up to an hour.
    I have seen improvements in the ease with which I climb hills over the last year, but breathing is my biggest problem,some of the hills have me feeling like I'm suffocating and I have to breath hard and control the panic untill I'm over the worst of the hill.Legs are fine,just my lungs not up to it, will that improve by not pushing into zone 4 ?

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    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    How are you calculating the zones? If you are using a formula to calculate your max heart rate, I can pretty much guarantee that it's wrong. For most people, 220-age results in a lower number than they can really do.

    If you're riding only 18 miles 3x a week, do whatever you want. Going at an endurance pace will only help if you do a lot of riding at that pace.

    If you're struggling to breathe on climbs, make sure your upper body is relaxed. Many people tense up and that requires energy that you need extra oxygen for. Then make sure you are taking deep breaths. If you are panting you won't get fresh air to the bottom of your lungs. If you are relaxed and breathing deep and you are still feeling like you are suffocating, slow down. You need to pace yourself on climbs.

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    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    A thing I notice is that new road riders will run higher heart rates than experienced riders. This is simply due to the metabolic and physical changes that happen over time to people participating in an intense aerobic endurance sport. It will frequently seem impossible for new riders to understand how anyone can ride a century in zone 2, since they're in zone 3 just riding around the block. I think the easiest way to deal with this is not to worry about it too much for the first couple of years while you build basic aerobic ability. Just be careful not to overdo it. That's the commonest mistake people make. You can tell if you are overdoing it. You'll get slower from week to week instead of faster. If you see that happening, take a few days off. As Eric says, though, that's unlikely at the volume you are presently riding.

    So no, it hasn't been counterproductive. As you can tell, quite the opposite. When you get stronger, you'll be able to ride fast enough in zone 2 for it to be fun. When that happens, think about a more structured approach to training, because the most important thing is that it be fun.

    You'll notice that putting in more time on the road bike will make your MTB riding much better, too.

    Expanding on what Eric said, fill your lungs by first expanding your belly, then the middle of your lungs, then the top. Most people only breathe with the top. Calm down and breathe deeply.

    If you feel like you are suffocating, it's possible you have exercise-induced asthma (EID). This is common. A test is to exhale forcefully when you are feeling tight in your chest. If you hear a wheezing noise, that could be the problem. There are medications for that, very good ones, so in that case, see a doctor.

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    Thanks for the input chaps, very encouraging.
    The breathing thing isn't a tightness, I can only describe it as the overwhelming urge to breath that you get if you hold your breath ,only I am breathing. Now I vaguely remember that the urge to breath is something to do with co2 levels in the blood ,or is it lactic acid, anyway I know it can be switched off by hyperventilation(as in free diving,but very dangerous due to passing out under water when o2 levels get too low in the blood ) A rambling explanation,I know,maybe I just have reduced lung capacity ,I have spent 40 years in mech engineering,often welding and grinding stainless steel,in the early days with no extraction or mask.
    Thanks again for the input.

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    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    I have exercise induced asthma. It only happens when I go very hard. I wheeze and it feels difficult to get my breath. But the latter is normal if you go really hard- you're limited by the amount of oxygen you can get in, so you are breathing as much and as fast as you can. (Breathing when going all out is pretty natural, its when you are at something less than that pace where technique matters).

    When I got back into riding at age 41 I also noticed that my HR went up pretty easily on hills. And I felt bad when it happened. As I got back into shape I could do the same hills faster and it was easier. Now I am used to what it feels like when I go really hard so it doesn't concern me.

    So basically, if you ride more you'll get fitter and those hills that had you gasping will seem easy. So you'll just find harder hills. -)

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    Senior Member kv501's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drumnagorrach View Post
    Thanks for the input chaps, very encouraging.
    The breathing thing isn't a tightness, I can only describe it as the overwhelming urge to breath that you get if you hold your breath ,only I am breathing. Now I vaguely remember that the urge to breath is something to do with co2 levels in the blood ,or is it lactic acid, anyway I know it can be switched off by hyperventilation(as in free diving,but very dangerous due to passing out under water when o2 levels get too low in the blood ) A rambling explanation,I know,maybe I just have reduced lung capacity ,I have spent 40 years in mech engineering,often welding and grinding stainless steel,in the early days with no extraction or mask.
    Thanks again for the input.
    I have had that before when hammering uphill (what hills I can find here). If I completely push myself until I feel like I'm about to blow I get it. Not very often; I'm talking completely going redline and then pushing further. The only other time I have felt that was hiking the Barr Trail up Pikes Peak when I decided to run a portion of it. It's about a 7,200' climb over 13 miles or so, and at that altitude, my fitness level, and amount of exertion I couldn't get enough oxygen in me period. Strange, it's scary and exhilarating at the same time.

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    What are your goals? Heart rate is one of them tricky subjects, like so many here on the forum. For instance, I am very active at work and in my spare time so it is very easy for me to (insert activity) at a high bpm however, my wife who is just recently becoming active just about falls down at a relatively low bpm. If your goal is simply cardiovas health I say crank it up. If weight loss is your goal there is something to be said for slow and steady and long. If you are just generally trying to be healthy I believe heart rate is in with cadence as overrated(please see signature line)
    I do not claim to be a doctor, scientist, genie, bike magician, good looking, or qualified in any way. The contents of my post are opinions and should be taken as such.

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    My Goals. Well I would like to be able to ride the 70 miles a day ,for 10 days ,that I will need to ride from Lands end to John O groats,maybe in a year or two. At the moment,I can ride 50 miles in around three and a half hours,depending on wind speed and direction ( Scotland is the windiest country in Europe ). Thursday I rode 35 miles but the strong westerly wind for most of the ride left me very tired at the end.
    So I suppose endurance is my aim,certainly not weight loss,but keeping my heart healthy ,I'd be crazy not to.
    I think I understand a lot better ,after the answers I got on here,as I understand it,my heart rate will be in zone 4 on most of the hills untill I get fitter. I believe that I will gain most by using my heart rate monitor to pace myself on long rides and monitor improvements in fitness levels and structured training on my spinning bike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kv501 View Post
    I have had that before when hammering uphill (what hills I can find here). If I completely push myself until I feel like I'm about to blow I get it. Not very often; I'm talking completely going redline and then pushing further. The only other time I have felt that was hiking the Barr Trail up Pikes Peak when I decided to run a portion of it. It's about a 7,200' climb over 13 miles or so, and at that altitude, my fitness level, and amount of exertion I couldn't get enough oxygen in me period. Strange, it's scary and exhilarating at the same time.
    Last autumn I rode almost to the summit of Mulhacen ( Spains highest mountain 11000 ft) on a borrowed mtb,each stroke of a pedal took a lung full of air,I had to concentrate so hard on breathing,that if a rock on the mule track diverted my concentration away from breathing ,and I missed a"pant"I got the panicky feeling i was suffocating. I have to agree about the scary and exhilerating,well certainly satisfying, when the summit is achieved.

  10. #10
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drumnagorrach View Post
    My Goals. Well I would like to be able to ride the 70 miles a day ,for 10 days ,that I will need to ride from Lands end to John O groats,maybe in a year or two. At the moment,I can ride 50 miles in around three and a half hours,depending on wind speed and direction ( Scotland is the windiest country in Europe ). Thursday I rode 35 miles but the strong westerly wind for most of the ride left me very tired at the end.
    So I suppose endurance is my aim,certainly not weight loss,but keeping my heart healthy ,I'd be crazy not to.
    I think I understand a lot better ,after the answers I got on here,as I understand it,my heart rate will be in zone 4 on most of the hills untill I get fitter. I believe that I will gain most by using my heart rate monitor to pace myself on long rides and monitor improvements in fitness levels and structured training on my spinning bike.
    Yup, that's it. The other thing you'll be battling is recovery between rides. So about a year before you think you'll do it, start riding 6 days/week. You also need to train your body to recover more quickly, and more frequent training inputs is the way to do it. You'll have to start with lower mileage and gradually work up to it. You'll be touring, so you'll have all day to make your mileage, but it will still wear on you. While you're thinking about that, you might think about getting your touring package as aero as you can, and also experiment with after-ride recovery foods.

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