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TrainingPeaks: Quick Guide to Setting Zones


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What are Training Zones?


To determine the appropriate level of training needed for a specific sport, you can divide your efforts into different zones, which range from very easy to extremely difficult. Many different zone systems exist, but they all have one thing in common: they choose a parameter (such as heart rate, power, or pace) to describe varying degrees of workout intensity as a percentage of a threshold.


The term "threshold" refers to the point at which your body switches from aerobic to anaerobic exercise. If you are below this threshold, you are working at an easy pace, whereas harder, shorter efforts will push you above the threshold. If you know your threshold and corresponding zones, you can target specific intensities and durations for maximum physiological benefit.


How do I Set my Training Zones?


To configure your training zones, the first step is to determine your threshold. It's crucial not to skip this step! As every athlete possesses a unique threshold, TrainingPeaks requires this information to calculate essential metrics such as Training Stress Score (TSS). TSS helps you understand how intense your workouts are. If you're unsure about how to determine and set your threshold, don't worry! This article will provide you with the necessary guidance.


Once you’ve determined your threshold, it’s time to set your zones in TrainingPeaks, which again are based on percentages of your threshold. You or your coach can run the calculations, or TrainingPeaks can do them for you. Here are some step-by-step instructions on how to set your zones.


Open the TrainingPeaks mobile app
Click settings
Click zones
Choose either heart rate, pace, or power
Enter your threshold value
Choose ‘Calculate New Zones’Click ‘more.’
Your new threshold and zones will be displayed

TrainingPeaks offers many zone systems based on various methodologies. Here are a few ways to pick the right one for you:


If you’ve purchased a training plan, use the zone system recommended in that plan.

If you have a coach, ask them which system they use.


If you’re coaching yourself, review this article to learn about the various zone system calculations, and select the one that sounds best to you!


Setting Heart Rate Zones (Running and Cycling)

To determine your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR), you need to do a 30-minute time trial on your own, without any training partners or participating in a race. The test should be done at a race-like intensity for the entire 30 minutes. At the 10-minute mark, you should click the lap button on your heart rate monitor. After you've completed the test, look at your average heart rate for the last 20 minutes, which will give you an approximation of your LTHR.


Many people wonder whether they should go hard in the first 10 minutes. The answer is yes, you should go hard for the entire 30 minutes. However, keep in mind that most people tend to start too hard and then gradually slow down for the rest of the test, which can result in inaccurate results. The more times you do this test, the more accurately you will learn to pace yourself at the start, which will lead to a more accurate LTHR measurement.


Setting Power Zones (Cycling)

To establish your Functional Threshold Power (FTP), you can use the same 30-minute time trial test as you did for determining your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR). However, this time you need to calculate the average power for the entire 30 minutes, which will give you an approximation of your FTP, as opposed to the last 20 minutes as with LTHR. You can do this test either on the road or on an indoor trainer. Although the road generally yields better results, it is important to ensure that the route you choose is relatively flat and free of stop signs and heavy traffic. Also, it is crucial to keep your head up while time trialling on the road, as it can be very dangerous to do otherwise. For instance, I know of someone who is now in a wheelchair because of this.





Just like with LTHR testing, the more times you perform the FTP test, the more accurate your results will be. This is because there is a learning curve associated with such an effort. Ideally, you should aim to do this test early in the Base period and then every 4 to 6 weeks thereafter in order to track your progress. By performing this test repeatedly, you will be able to get a clearer and more accurate picture of your FTP.


Setting Pace Zones (Running)

Determine your Functional Threshold Pace (FTP) using either a runner’s GPS device or an accelerometer. To do this, warm up and then run for 30 minutes just as described under “Setting Heart Rate Zones, Step 1” above. Your FTP is your average pace for the entire 30 minutes (not the last 20 minutes). This is best done early in the Base period and then every 4 to 6 weeks thereafter. The more times you do this test the more accurate your FTP will become.


Swimming Pace

To determine your T-time, there are several methods, but one of the most common is to swim a 1000-meter/yard time trial at your pool. It is advisable to have someone on the pool deck counting laps as it can be easy to lose count during the test. The objective is to identify your average 100 pace for the trial. You can achieve this by swimming 1000 meters/yards, then dividing your finish time by 10. This will give you your T-time. It is best to conduct this test early in the Base period and then repeat it every 4 to 6 weeks. The more times you perform the test, the more precisely you can determine your T-time, as there is a learning curve that has to do with pacing in the first few minutes of the test.

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