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Zone 2 Rides

Old 12-08-23, 04:22 PM
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Zone 2 Rides

Hi,

In short, very pleased with at least my implementation of Zone 2 training. Wanted to share….

I found myself going partial or full gas anytime I was out riding, especially during the week if had a 2 hour slot between meetings. I’d go, and go hard, though recovery was getting more painful and longer as I got older, 62.

There are all sorts of articles and YouTube videos on Zone 2 training. Well, I decide to take the Zone 2 plunge in July since I signed up for the Oct Santa Barbara century (which was a blast). Basically, long slow distance (LSD).

My max heart rate is 177, so tried to stay no higher than 141, while keeping the watts/power to 140 - 145 average. Rides would be between 1.5 hours to 4 hours. Resting heart rate was 55. I don’t have FTP or other stats as a baseline, however…..

Today, resting heart is 52 and lost 10 pounds (178 to 167). Since the Santa Barbara 100 ride, realized roughly seven PRs measured by Garmin and Breakaway app. Examples include: 189 watts for 60 mins, 199 watts for 45 mins, 656 watts for 15 secs….very pleased with these numbers and PRs.

I certainly “feel” much stronger with a higher level of endurance. Recovery is so much easier, and thoroughly enjoy taking in the sites and sounds at Zone 2.

Live and love to ride!

Simply FYI,
Ron
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Old 12-08-23, 05:11 PM
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Congrats on the gains.

Did your weekly riding hours increase when you took the Zone 2 plunge?

I have a sneaking suspicion that piling on Zone 2 is all about increasing volume.
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Old 12-08-23, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
Congrats on the gains.

Did your weekly riding hours increase when you took the Zone 2 plunge?

I have a sneaking suspicion that piling on Zone 2 is all about increasing volume.
"The wider you build the base of a pyramid (Zone 2), the higher the peak will be". - Paraphrased from someone smarter than me.

My understanding is that Zone 2 also brings biological changes that improve the body's ability to clear lactic acid more efficiently. The common/old wisdom was that doing work that created lactic acid is how you improved lactic acid clearing efficiency, but with things I've read/herd recently, the wisdom seems to be changing.

All that said, I'm no expert on this stuff.
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Old 12-08-23, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse

I have a sneaking suspicion that piling on Zone 2 is all about increasing volume.
I don't think it's just about volume...Zone 2 is the foundation on which fitness and health is built upon and it's healthier more enjoyable and sustainable than destroying yourself with short HIIT sessions.... Volume isn't a bad thing, I find it enjoyable to spend 3 - 5 hours outdoors on a bike....
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Old 12-09-23, 09:50 AM
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I'm seriously trying to embrace the Zone 2 training theory. Even though I think I've got a pretty good handle on my Max HR number and use it to determine my zones... I always seem to end up riding in a very comfortable Zone 3 mode. Most of the time a Zone 2 ride can seem excruciatingly slow. I will admit that a 30 or 40 mile ride in a Zone 2/3/4 can be extremely pleasing and beneficial. But personally, most of my gains seem to be realized after HITT or climbing ride.
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Old 12-09-23, 10:13 AM
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I think it all depends on how much total time you have available to train (presuming this is all about maximising performance). IME focusing on z2 training is great when you have 10+ hours per week to spare and becomes a necessity at 15+ hours per week. But if you are only riding 5 or 6 hours per week then spending nearly all of it in z2 is not so effective if you want to develop your ability to ride harder.

If you are just riding for general health and fitness then z2 is great, but many experts advocate measured regular doses of high intensity exercise to maintain a relatively high VO2 max. That’s one of the reasons why HIIT is now so popular, but it often gets derided on BF.
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Old 12-09-23, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Eric F
My understanding is that Zone 2 also brings biological changes that improve the body's ability to clear lactic acid more efficiently.
I've heard that claim made often, but I haven't seen the science that backs it up.

Andy Coggan says there are three levers to increase muscular respiration capacity: frequency, duration, and intensity. If you set the intensity lever to "zone 2", you have to push harder on the duration lever to get the same adaptations. Assuming you have the time to do it.

"Actually, going 'happy hard' is a good way of inducing adaptation...Sweet spot...is what we exercise physiologists do, we know that it's effective."
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Old 12-09-23, 12:13 PM
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I've read that Zone 2 helps with fat burning efficiency. I notice that I'm not quite as hungry after a Zone 2 session.

I found it very difficult to stay in Zone 2 outdoors, with rolling hills. Some definitions of a Zone 2 workout are at a higher effort level than the 7 heartrate zones definition of Zone 2, though.
One simple test is to recite the whole alphabet out loud on one breath -- that's a good indicator for me, matching with my powermeter watts range for Zone 2.
Zone 2 starts out "way too easy", but at the end of a 90 minute trainer session, I feel it in my legs.

A Zwift workout is fantastic for Zone 2 riding. It sets a watt target, and keeps the trainer within 5 watts of that as long as I keep pedaling fairly steadily. I can ride in the Zwift terrain, even on steep climbs -- my simulated speed just drops way down. Nice!
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Old 12-09-23, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by rm -rf
I've read that Zone 2 helps with fat burning efficiency. I notice that I'm not quite as hungry after a Zone 2 session.
You may burn more fat during a zone 2 session, but zone 2 won't efficiently train muscles to burn fat. To efficiently train for fat burning, you need more muscle mitochondria, and higher intensity builds mitochondria more quickly. Reportedly, zone 4 is twice as efficient than zone 2 at developing mitochondria.
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Old 12-09-23, 02:06 PM
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When ZWIFTING I will usually keep it around Z2-Z3, but when there is a short sprint segment, I lose all self control and go all out, which is a measly 500-600. I figure that I can fat burn but also get some good aerobic bumps. Feel like a bit of an @$$ when people are pacing me or vice versa and there is a sprint and off I go. But that’s ZWIFT for ya.

One purely speculative observation, is that after doing more Z2-3 I don’t feel like I have the sustained power I once had. Yeah, I can do plenty of miles 60-70-80 but would prefer to have both. Maybe it’s a trade off.
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Old 12-09-23, 02:21 PM
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Neal Henderson (elite level coach) said that z2 training is only more effective than a balanced training plan above 15 hours weekly duration. And by that he meant 15 hours of z2 ie a minimum of 3x 5 hour sessions, with additional shorter, high intensity sessions on top. So basically at dedicated pro level or those with unlimited free time only. For everyone else it is more effective to mix it up more across the zones.
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Old 12-09-23, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
You may burn more fat during a zone 2 session, but zone 2 won't efficiently train muscles to burn fat. To efficiently train for fat burning, you need more muscle mitochondria, and higher intensity builds mitochondria more quickly. Reportedly, zone 4 is twice as efficient than zone 2 at developing mitochondria.
Zone 2 is the best and most effective way to develop and maintain healthy mitochondria. This has already been studied and proven....Higher efforts above Zone 2 are less beneficial for mitochondria and too much HIIT can actually do more harm than good.
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Old 12-09-23, 02:46 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild
Zone 2 is the best and most effective way to develop and maintain healthy mitochondria. This has already been studied and proven.
If it has been studied and “proven”, as claimed, please point to a published paper showing superior mitochondria development from zone 2 vs. other exercise intensities.

I doubt that even one such paper exists. Here are some key findings from a review paper (my underlines):
Training volume appears to be an important determinant of training-induced increases in mitochondrial content (an effect that may be driven by training duration) whereas exercise intensity appears to be a key factor of training-induced increases in mitochondrial respiration.

High-intensity interval training at a relative exercise intensity ≥ 90% of the maximal power output provides the greatest absolute increase in mass-specific mitochondrial respiration, whereas all-out sprint interval training appears to be the most efficient type of exercise to improve mitochondrial respiratory function in terms of total training volume and/or time.

[I]t is plausible that to maximize improvements in mass-specific mitochondrial respiration an individual needs to exercise at the highest relative exercise intensity that allows a large volume of training to be performed (e.g., ~90 to 95% of Ẇ ). This is consistent with previous recommendations regarding the type of training required to maximize improvements in VO2max and endurance performance.

Cesare Granata et al. Sports Med. 2018 Aug.
Notes:
  1. There is no suggestion that zone 2 training is special or more effective than higher intensity training. In fact, the paper suggests that a performance plateau is attained when doing zone 2, requiring harder training to produce further gains.
  2. Mitochondria content is the amount of mitochondria found in muscle.
  3. Mitochondria respiration is the amount of oxygen the mitochondria can process. This is the important thing for performance.
  4. To see the biggest gains, exercise as hard as you can while still completing a given volume.

Last edited by terrymorse; 12-11-23 at 12:27 PM.
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Old 12-09-23, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
Congrats on the gains.

Did your weekly riding hours increase when you took the Zone 2 plunge?

I have a sneaking suspicion that piling on Zone 2 is all about increasing volume.
Thanks! yes, usually spend 2 - 2.5 hours on weekday rides and 4 hours on either Saturday or Sunday. I’m also using the indoor trainer for recovery and sometimes Zone 2 pulse rate rides…no power meter on the indoor bike. Recovery is just so much easier after doing full gas rides and/ or long weekend rides. I also stopped working which certainly helps with ride time, but gotta balance with wife demands.
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Old 12-10-23, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse

Andy Coggan says there are three levers to increase muscular respiration capacity: frequency, duration, and intensity. If you set the intensity lever to "zone 2", you have to push harder on the duration lever to get the same adaptations. Assuming you have the time to do it.


"Actually, going 'happy hard' is a good way of inducing adaptation...Sweet spot...is what we exercise physiologists do, we know that it's effective."
I agree those are the three levers, but in addition I think there's "recovery," both in the within workout sense and between workouts sense, which is a modifier rather than a specific lever. "Within workouts" I think of as the interval of "active" recovery in interval training -- and once again, you have to think about the frequency, duration, and recovery intensity. I believe there's been some (inconclusive) research on the relative length and level of "off" intervals between "on" intervals, and that seems to depend on how intense the "on" period is. "Between workouts" I think of as being expressed in macro cycles of training, over the scale of days or weeks. In that sense, I think of two-a-days as very short end (and Andy's TSS mostly ignores two-a-days).


I didn't think much about recovery when I was younger but as I'm aging, I'm thinking about it more -- both in the within workout sense and the between workouts sense.
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Old 12-11-23, 05:18 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
If it has been studied and “proven”, as claimed, please point to a published paper showing superior mitochondria development from zone 2 vs. other exercise intensities.

I doubt that even one such paper exists. Here are some key findings from a review paper:


Cesare Granata et al. Sports Med. 2018 Aug.
I'm no scientist - so I won't offer an opinion.

Watch some of the videos from Dr San Milan on this. Plenty of content from him on youtube (and he isn't selling any products or plans). He is a research Doc that focuses in on energy use at the cellular level. Much of his research is geared towards health and disease - but he also uses it in his cycling coaching career. He coaches team UAE and Tadej - and they employ mass amounts of Z2 work for these guys.

According to him, Z2 is the best method for repairing and improving mitochondrial function, energy use, fat burning/fat as fuel - which is key for endurance. And it has benefits for anerobic work as well, better lactate clearing capabilities, better energy transfer between muscle fiber types... he explains it much better than I can.

I found him and others touting Z2 in my quest to crush my T2 diabetes - and so far, its worked fairly well.

His interviews are worth watching IMHO.

For health reasons, the majority of my riding is in Z2+/-. 7-8 hours per week, all year round. My volume is consistent even in what I call the "offseason". Offseason work is constant effort Z2 on the indoor trainer. Most of the time on the road I am in Z2 but will do a more spirited ride from time to time - the Z2 work is not as "clean". In the late winter/early spring I do dedicated blocks of interval training to sharpen the pencil.

My results from interval training are mixed. My high end goes up, but my endurance & FTP power ever so slowly creeps up.

My results from Z2 training are not mixed. My endurance and FTP power keep going up, and my VO2 max power is increasing as well.

I saw about a 8 point gain in FTP after (3) 3 week blocks of threshold and VO2 max intervals. I followed the plan, 2x per week intensity, recovery day, Z2 days... very limited results.
I saw a 35-40 point gain in FTP after a spring/summer of Z2 and free riding. And I can maintain a higher % of my FTP power for longer. But my top end sprint power - which I never really use for any real purpose - has declined.

Longevity and sustainability - interval training for me creates immense fatigue, slow recovery, makes getting on the bike a chore after the 2nd week... not something I look forward to. Z2, free riding with some efforts every so often - no or limited fatigue, I want to ride the bike, I can add volume at will - and I can go out and crush a Z3/Z4 ride whenever I want.
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Old 12-11-23, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Jughed
I'm no scientist - so I won't offer an opinion.

Watch some of the videos from Dr San Milan on this. Plenty of content from him on youtube (and he isn't selling any products or plans). He is a research Doc that focuses in on energy use at the cellular level. Much of his research is geared towards health and disease - but he also uses it in his cycling coaching career. He coaches team UAE and Tadej - and they employ mass amounts of Z2 work for these guys.

According to him, Z2 is the best method for repairing and improving mitochondrial function, energy use, fat burning/fat as fuel - which is key for endurance. And it has benefits for anerobic work as well, better lactate clearing capabilities, better energy transfer between muscle fiber types... he explains it much better than I can.

I found him and others touting Z2 in my quest to crush my T2 diabetes - and so far, its worked fairly well.

His interviews are worth watching IMHO.

For health reasons, the majority of my riding is in Z2+/-. 7-8 hours per week, all year round. My volume is consistent even in what I call the "offseason". Offseason work is constant effort Z2 on the indoor trainer. Most of the time on the road I am in Z2 but will do a more spirited ride from time to time - the Z2 work is not as "clean". In the late winter/early spring I do dedicated blocks of interval training to sharpen the pencil.

My results from interval training are mixed. My high end goes up, but my endurance & FTP power ever so slowly creeps up.

My results from Z2 training are not mixed. My endurance and FTP power keep going up, and my VO2 max power is increasing as well.

I saw about a 8 point gain in FTP after (3) 3 week blocks of threshold and VO2 max intervals. I followed the plan, 2x per week intensity, recovery day, Z2 days... very limited results.
I saw a 35-40 point gain in FTP after a spring/summer of Z2 and free riding. And I can maintain a higher % of my FTP power for longer. But my top end sprint power - which I never really use for any real purpose - has declined.

Longevity and sustainability - interval training for me creates immense fatigue, slow recovery, makes getting on the bike a chore after the 2nd week... not something I look forward to. Z2, free riding with some efforts every so often - no or limited fatigue, I want to ride the bike, I can add volume at will - and I can go out and crush a Z3/Z4 ride whenever I want.
The trick is how to combine z2 with higher intensity work for the best overall result. It all comes down to juggling volume, intensity and recovery on an individual basis and personal goals.
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Old 12-11-23, 07:57 AM
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I was a runner...10k's, half/full marathons...back in the early '80's and there were no 'zones' but during the off season 'long slow distance or LSD' was the encouraged mode of training to build a base for higher intensity training as well as to prevent injuries from over training.
The same holds true for riding. We were encouraged to build our base with longer, slower rides. Today that is considered Zone 2 riding which builds the mitochondria as has been stated by others in this post.
It is the base of the pyramid and the stronger the base the better the higher intensity training.
While we understand the details of the base training today we've always used base training in a wide variety of athletic endeavors...now we know, on a scientific level, why we do it and the benefits accrued.

All the 'zones' play a role in how well we perform...Z1/active recovery, Z2/mitochondrial/base building, etc. and the use of them helps us enjoy the ride...
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Old 12-11-23, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Kai Winters
I was a runner...10k's, half/full marathons...back in the early '80's and there were no 'zones' but during the off season 'long slow distance or LSD' was the encouraged mode of training to build a base for higher intensity training as well as to prevent injuries from over training.
The same holds true for riding. We were encouraged to build our base with longer, slower rides. Today that is considered Zone 2 riding which builds the mitochondria as has been stated by others in this post.
It is the base of the pyramid and the stronger the base the better the higher intensity training.
While we understand the details of the base training today we've always used base training in a wide variety of athletic endeavors...now we know, on a scientific level, why we do it and the benefits accrued.

All the 'zones' play a role in how well we perform...Z1/active recovery, Z2/mitochondrial/base building, etc. and the use of them helps us enjoy the ride...
I seem to remember that "long slow distance" was a fashionable concept in bike racing circles as early as the early or middle '70's. A bit later, the mantra was corrected to "long steady distance," though.

My guess is that coaches found that the term "long slow distance" resulted in some would-be racers moseying along at a truly minimal level, a.k.a. riding "junk miles."

Of course, before the concept of LSD riding came along, "junk miles" was the dismissive term used to describe any training ride that didn't end in utter exhaustion.

"Long steady distance" likely encouraged a higher effort level throughout rides. Translating to modern terms, the former would correspond to Zone 1 and the latter to Zone 2.

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Old 12-11-23, 09:47 AM
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Congrats on the PRs and Santa Barbara 100.

What I do is match my event goal duration / distance to my endurance training (zone 2). Generally, my events are short with the most being 40 km ITT or TTT. So if I am going to race a 40 km time trial, I need endurance in the time trial position for around an hour. Riding longer rides at least once or twice per week is beneficial. To have speed at 40KM I need fast shorter efforts.

In general, my training is two to three interval workouts per week with endurance on the weekends. Some of my racing friends, similar age are doing two interval sessions per DAY. One in the morning and another at the velodrome in the evening.
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Old 12-11-23, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Kai Winters
We were encouraged to build our base with longer, slower rides. Today that is considered Zone 2 riding which builds the mitochondria as has been stated by others in this post.
Yes, Zone 2 has been touted by many as this powerful mitochondria builder, but the science doesn't seem to confirm it. Training volume is reported to be the main influencer of mitochondria growth, with faster growth occurring up to about 90% of VO2max.

Increasing the amount of mitochondria is a good thing, but more important is how much oxygen the mitochondria can process. Studies suggest that higher intensity training develops mitochondria respiration (oxygen consumption) much more quickly than zone 2.
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Old 12-11-23, 12:50 PM
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Some thoughts about structure for folks with minimal training time...

More thoughts...
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Last edited by Eric F; 12-11-23 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 12-11-23, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
Yes, Zone 2 has been touted by many as this powerful mitochondria builder, but the science doesn't seem to confirm it. Training volume is reported to be the main influencer of mitochondria growth, with faster growth occurring up to about 90% of VO2max.

Increasing the amount of mitochondria is a good thing, but more important is how much oxygen the mitochondria can process. Studies suggest that higher intensity training develops mitochondria respiration (oxygen consumption) much more quickly than zone 2.
I agree with you regarding zone 2/mitochondria building. I've thought about this in regards to my own training...as a 68 year old amateur racer...and have wondered if there is a limit to the amount of mitochondria the body builds and uses.
I spent much of last year's off season training on zone 2 riding with some HIIT stuff like wtrl/ttt and the zrl. When I began my real world road season my high end abilities were at a lower level than the previous year and I had a hard time and a lot of effort getting back to that level...I'm talking about either chasing down an attack, staying with a break away attempt, launching an attack, etc. I didn't have the usual high end push I expected. I was able to ride at a higher level of steady pace with a bit less effort but it did not compare to those brief...hopefully lol...periods of near/full gas efforts without blowing up.

So this season's off season training is different than I've done before and I'm already seeing and feeling the results. I've started my training near two months ago and I'm now doing two sessions, one hour each, of yoga per week in addition to two near one hour sessions of weight/strength training per week following a program designed by my daughter specifically for me...she owns a fitness studio in Boston and has been a personal trainer, etc. for over a decade. I now do more zone 3 sessions per week and spend 45 minutes on average in zone 3 for maybe 3 days per week. I also still participate in zwift's zrl and wtrl ttt's on a weekly basis which also incorporates some of the zone 3 time.

So far I've noticed it is far easier to ride at a higher w/kg level without noticeable impact and I've increased my ability to ride at higher w/kg's during hiit's efforts with a bit more power and ease. I've also increased my thigh circumference by 2cm's which I have noticed when pushing hard for brief periods.
I keep a journal and track my data so it will be interesting to see how it all works out during the winter training season and next year's IRL racing.
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Old 12-11-23, 03:07 PM
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I hear the phrase "junk miles" too often IMO. Depending on usage I don't believe there is any such thing as "junk" miles. If "junk miles" are considered to be low intensity efforts or "just riding along" then IMO they have a very valuable place in the riding/training world, at least as far as I'm concerned.
I use them as 'recovery' or 'active recovery' miles/rides between hard effort days. From what I've read, rides at this low level of intensity are important as they promote strong blood flow through the muscles, provide gentle stretching and movement and in my case also focus on 'suppless' or smooth, effortless pedaling cadence.

I guess if that's all I did and then complained about not being able to go fast, long, etc. they could be considered as 'junk miles' because they are being used in place of targeted training but as I use them they are very important to me and my training program.
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Old 12-11-23, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric F
Some thoughts about structure for folks with minimal training time...
Thanks for those. I’m actually working through a training plan for 10K running races and running training plans seem also to emphasize about 80% “easy” plus two sessions per week that start with a chunk of easy and add some intensity work. Also one long, easy run per week to get the benefits of that long workout.

Interesting to see the conclusion that whether you do more peak or sweet spot with the other 20% doesn’t seem to make a significant difference in general, though the specifics of an event may suggest one over the other.

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