Question: I calculate training zones by percent of max heart rate. I’ve started a new program, and I’m not sure how much longer I can endure the daily pain.
For instance, I’m doing 20-minute intervals at 90-93% of max heart rate. That’s higher than I time trial in competition. So I’m wondering if my training zones are calculated incorrectly. Help! — Tom M.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: There are several ways to calculate the intensity at which you should train. Different schemes produce different recommendations. This is true for heart rate training, and it’s true if you’re calculating intensity with a power meter.
All formulas for training zones are generic and may not fit your situation. The problem occurs, as you found out, when the zones are too difficult for your current state of fitness or talent. Then you risk pain, agony and overtraining.
If you’re barely surviving prescribed workouts, they’re certainly too hard, especially in the off-season. Physically, you may overload bodily systems with stress hormones and be fried by spring.
The psychological danger is even greater. If you’re pushing through pain in midwinter, you may not have any competitive fire left when you want to go fast during the season.
Remember: Training is always a matter of building fitness in a methodical way. If you have to psych up for each training session — and it takes all your will to finish the workout — you almost certainly won’t be able to continue for the months required to build fitness.
So, a better way of determining training intensity is to figure out what you can do, not what some generic formula says that you should do. Training is an exercise in the possible.
You should be able to get through workouts without undue mental strain. In most cases, you should recover overnight. You should definitely be eager for the next workout. And you should welcome competition in group rides and eagerly anticipate the upcoming season and specific planned events — whether races, big group rides, organized rides or tours.