Equipe Flamme Rouge  

Physiological Descriptors

hinault pain

Everyone's hurting...

Weekend Warrior Performance Plans
Below are the heart, power and perception levels we use to describe effort levels in our Weekend Warrior Performance Plans.

As the plans are around 30 pages, to keep things simple I've uploaded the descriptors here, with a link from the plan to these pages

What the Levels and Zones Mean...
This is where things get a little confusing! Mainly due to the fact that heart zones became mainstream before power levels. That aside, we all feel we need a reference point; and that's what these descriptors bring, reference points for us all.

Heart Zones
Developed by Peter Keen, when working with Chris Boardman, at British Cycling in around 1997. Heart Zones start at number "zero" because in recovery mode, you're not training.

Initially there were four levels, that subsequently expanded to six. As the training effect doesn't begin until you are above 60% of your heart rate capacity, zero seemed to be a good place to start; so the first "training zone" was allocated number "one".

If you don't know your resting, and maximum heart rate, you don't have accurate heart rate zones. If you don't know them don't guess, and don't even think of using the 220 minus your age. I'm 52 and my max heart rate is 234 bpm. Theoretically I should be 168, I can get that pumping my tyres up.

Power Levels
Developed by Dr Andrew Coggan and Hunter Allen, had to start somewhere and "zero" wasn't it. If the bike's moving it's being "powered", therefore it's only reasonable that this level of effort is given a "one".


For a more comprehensive description of how to use these zones take a look at the Physiological Continuum Page

The power levels below are taken from each individual rider's Functional Threshold Power (FTP) reference point. If you don't know your FTP you don't have accurate power levels to work from. Again, it ain't worth guessing, if you spent a couple of grand on a power meter, take a test and get an accurate answer.

To prevent confusion, these de facto power descriptions are taken from Coggan and Allen's Training Peaks (WKO+ software) references.

Williams' Whinges
For those without a power meter or heart monitor (you're in good company Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault never used them either) we need something to "describe" how the sessions we undertake should feel.

They range from "easy" to "extremely hard" and are nothing more than a collection of phrases to put a sensation to the level of suffering you should be enduring when undertaking your training sessions.

Although some people believe the Blitzer's to be seriously under-cast in their "comfortably hard" category.

These are just for your perusal, nothing more...

Power Zone 1 ~ Active Recovery~ Easy ~ HR Zone 0
Power @ <55% FTP ~ HR <60% max

Active Recovery doesn't have to be on the bike

"Easy spinning" or "light pedal pressure", i.e., very low level exercise, too low in and of itself to induce significant physiological adaptations.

Minimal sensation of leg effort/fatigue. Requires no concentration to maintain pace, and continuous conversation possible. Typically used for active recovery after strenuous training days (or races), between interval efforts, or for socializing.

Short recovery rides. Characterised by a low heart rate, low perception of effort, resting blood lactate levels. Daily activity at moderate intensity corresponds to the general physical activity during daily tasks.

For beginners and sedentary individuals daily activities improve readiness for the fitness-related exercise. For experienced exercisers this type of activity, or an hour on the beach with the dog, can be used for recovery purposes. Recovery of the mind as well as the body; heaven...

Power Zone 2 ~ Endurance ~ Comfortable ~ HR Zone 1
Power @ 56% - 75% FTP ~ HR 61% - 65% max

GP Morbihaniase ~ Zone 2 Final climb warm up

"All day" pace, or classic long slow distance (LSD) training. Sensation of leg effort/fatigue generally low, but may rise periodically to higher levels (e.g., when climbing).

Concentration generally required to maintain effort only at highest end of range and/or during longer training sessions. Breathing is more regular than at level 1, but continuous conversation still possible.

Frequent (daily) training sessions of moderate duration (e.g., 2 h) at Zone 2 possible (provided dietary carbohydrate intake is adequate), but complete recovery from very long workouts may take more than 24 hours.

Basic endurance training improves general training ability by strengthening heart as well as other cardio respiratory functions.

Development of economy and efficiency with very high volume, low stress work. Very long sessions improve the combustion and storage of fats. This type of exercise is suitable for the beginners especially for weight management purposes. For more experienced exercisers it is a good alternative training method. This area of training is used to increase endurance as you are predominantly burning fat as a fuel.

Power Zone 3 ~ Tempo ~ Hardly Comfortable ~ HR Zone 2
Power @ 76% - 90% FTP ~ HR 66% - 75% max

Dianne, hardly comfortable ~ Pierre Chany Sportive

Typical intensity of fartlek workout, 'spirited' group ride, or briskly moving pace line. More frequent and greater sensation of leg effort and fatigue than at level 2.

Requires concentration to maintain alone, especially at upper end of range, to prevent effort from falling back to level 2. Breathing deeper and more rhythmic than level 2, such that any conversation must be somewhat halting, but not as difficult as at level 4.

Recovery from level 3 training sessions more difficult than after level 2 workouts, but consecutive days of level 3 training still possible if duration is not excessive and dietary carbohydrate intake is adequate.

Aerobic training improves cardio respiratory functions as well as general aerobic capacity. This type of exercise is safe and it is also suitable for beginners.

Again this area of training is used to increase endurance, in this area of training you are still burning fat, but not at the same efficiency as Zone 1.

The bulk of your early training phases should be taking place in Zones 1 & 2. Development of economy and efficiency with high volume, moderate stress work. An important intensity for establishing a firm base for all riders.

Power Zone 4 ~ Lactate Threshold ~ Comfortably Hard ~ HR Zone 3
Power @ 91% - 105% FTP ~ HR 76% - 82% max

Making it comfortably hard ~ Ronde sur Sarthe Sportive

Just below to just above TT effort, taking into account duration, current fitness, environmental conditions, etc.

Essentially continuous sensation of moderate or even greater leg effort/fatigue. Continuous conversation difficult at best, due to depth/frequency of breathing.

Effort sufficiently high that sustained exercise at this level is mentally very taxing - therefore typically performed in training as multiple 'repeats', 'modules', or 'blocks' of 10-30 min duration.

Consecutive days of training at level 4 possible, but such workouts generally only performed when sufficiently rested/recovered from prior training so as to be able to maintain intensity.

Development of aerobic capacity and endurance with moderate volume work at a controlled intensity. Possible on a turbo trainer for up to one hour in bad weather.

Power Zone 5 ~ VO2max ~ Hard ~ HR Zone 4
Power @ 106% - 120% FTP ~ HR 83% - 89% max

Tranche D'Arenberg ~ Monumental Paris Roubaix

Typical intensity of longer (3-8 min) intervals intended to increase VO2max.

Strong to severe sensations of leg effort/fatigue, such that completion of more than 30-40 min total training time is difficult at best.

Conversation not possible due to often 'ragged' breathing. Should generally be attempted only when adequately recovered from prior training - consecutive days of level 5 work not necessarily desirable even if possible.

Training at this intensity improves ability to utilize lactate. This makes it possible to exercise at high performance level for longer duration without oxygen debt. Training at this intensity requires earlier exercise experience.

Training improves performance capacity needed in competitive situations. Once into this area it is essential that the body is ready, ie. warmed up & fit enough. Too much at this level will lead to staleness.

Power Zone 6 ~ Anaerobic Capacity ~ Very Hard ~ HR Zone 5
Power @ 121% - 150% FTP ~ HR 90% - 94% max

Last Climb Attack ~ Jean Cyril Robin Sportive

Short (30 s to 3 min), high intensity intervals designed to increase anaerobic capacity.

Heart rate generally not useful as guide to intensity due to non-steady-state nature of effort.

Severe sensation of leg effort/fatigue, and conversation impossible. Consecutive days of extended power level 6 training usually not attempted.

Exercise at near maximal intensities is anaerobic, which means that muscles need more oxygen than can be transferred. This type of training is suitable only for the experienced exercisers.

Training improves maximal performance capacity. It is impossible to hold this level for any length of time so for long endurance sports it is not necessary to do great amounts of exercise in this area. It will result in raising of anaerobic threshold, improvement of lactate clearance and adaptation to race speed.

Power Zone 7 ~ Neuromuscular ~ Extremely Hard ~ HR Zone 6
Power @ 151% FTP > Max Peak Power ~ HR 95% > HRmax

Coeur Bretagne Sprint ~ Stressing the neuromuscular system for real...

Very short, very high intensity efforts (e.g., jumps, standing starts, short sprints) that generally place greater stress on musculoskeletal rather than metabolic systems.

Power useful as guide, but only in reference to prior similar efforts, not as a level to attain. These efforts are 100% of your output. When the quality of the effort drops, stop doing them. You risk muscle damage and injury and are not getting a return on your training investment.

This type of training is suitable only for experienced exercisers. High intensity interval training to increase maximum power and improve lactate production or clearance. Should be done only when completely recovered from previous work. Intensity should be such that the effort can just be held to the end of the interval


Nothing like a win to start the season...

Potential Athlete Training Zones...

The Proviso...
Please don't think that you're heart rate and power files will correlate neatly in to the boxes provided. Everything we do is linear and forms a continuum; you don't go from being one watt (or heartbeat) under "threshold", to one over and move from one box to another.

229 watts isn't a fully Tempo session and 230 doesn't magically become a Lactate Threshold session. It's a very blurred line!

Also, your heart rate won't exactly follow your power lines on a daily, weekly or monthly basis; 280 watts might be 175 bpm one day and 170 the next or even 180. So you could be in different "boxes" for heart and power depending on your day, fitness, tiredness, environment etc.

Hopefully I've not made a confusing situation worse. If I've not explained myself clearly, or you'd like any clarification, please feel free to get in touch...

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