Heart rate/breathing says Zone 1. Body says Zone 2. | Uphill Athlete

Heart rate/breathing says Zone 1. Body says Zone 2.

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  • #5540

    I like reading other people’s questions and I suspect most of us have similar issues so here’s something I noticed.

    I’m in my 2nd to final transition week doing about 15 hours per week total. I’m following the alpine training regime. For my Z2 workouts I rely mostly on a 200 vertical foot gully climb in downtown Montreal’s Mt. Royal park. The gully is a bit too steep for a Z2 workout and the footing is not easy – loose gravel and dead leaves but it’s what I got. It takes me about 5m30s per ascent and 3m30s to go back down. Right now I’m I’m doing 7 of these repeats 2x a week. I fill out my Z2 minutes “requirements” at a gym on a device called Jacob’s Ladder. It’s made up of belt-driven ladder rungs and is set at about 45 degrees. It’s a very sadistic machine.

    My Z2 threshold, depending on the terrain and the activity, is currently about 130 bpm (still able to nose breath but with flared nostrils and pulling hard).

    Now for the important info: On hiking trails if I don’t watch it my HR goes well beyond Z2 without me really feeling it. But, on the steep gully or Jacob’s Ladder my legs are at their limit of what they can handle while my HR remains at around 125 or even lower and nose breathing is easy. I assume this is because the biochemical machinery in my legs has yet to adapt to the O2 demands when I’m on terrain that is steep. Hence, the muscles are not “calling” for enough oxygen to increase my HR and breathing beyond Z1 levels. I have no problems getting high HRs on regular hiking trails though.

    My hypothesis is that on steeper terrain I am probably demanding more energy output from less muscle mass as compared to on gentler terrain. (a unit might be calories per minute per gram of muscle) I figure that in spite of my breathing and HR that the metabolic processes going on deep inside my muscle cells are in fact Z2 or maybe even above.

    If that’s true it would suggest that you can’t rely on any one metric and that you have to use your perceived level of exertion to get an idea of what’s going on metabolically.

    Because I’ll be using the gully extensively over the next 6 months it will be interesting to watch the evolution of the various parameters. Something I also wonder about for all workouts that involve going up and then down: should I only count the upward portions of any training session? Thanks for reading if you got this far!

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    Anonymous on #5551


    This gully is steep enough to elicit a Muscular Endurance training effect. The fact that your legs are the limiter (even with a HR=125) is the key observation. You are operating right at the endurance limit of those legs right now. The steepness is requiring you brain to recruit some faster twitch fibers that do not have the Aerobic capacity of their slow twitch neighbors who alone are not strong enough to supply the needed contractile force to lift your butt up the gully. So while HR is in what would normally be considered Z2 the effect is if you were in Z3-4. What you are doing qualifies as a ME workout as described in articles and a video on this site which no doubt you have watched ;-).

    Your trail Z2 hikes are not having the same training effect because you don’t need to recruit so many FT fibers to hike at 130 on moderate grades allowing you to hike faster causing a higher HR.

    Since these gully hikes are actually ME workouts I’d suggest not doing them at this intensity more than 1x/10-14 days and being sure to maintain plenty of less steep aerobic work between.

    HR is an imperfect metric for intensity and training effect so you can not rely upon it blindly.

    I hope this helps,

    Neil on #5556

    Thanks so much Scott! It helps a lot and I hadn’t thought about it at all with respect to fast twitch fibers. I’m going to read (again!) that section in TFNA.

    It sounds like I need to find another hill until I’m further into base training. In the past I combined 20-25 hours of Dacks hiking and bushwhacking per week with 3 sessions of 10 repeats (12-15 pound pack) week in, week out. The hill is so convenient being 20 minutes from my office. I got so I could float up it.

    The alternative is a much gentler hill right next to the gully of 400 feet of ascent. I can get into Z2 by jogging up.

    Neil on #5557

    Just read the section on ST and FT fibers. It sounds like the aerobic capacity of my maxed-out ST fibers was insufficient for processing the metabolites of glycolysis produced by the FT fibers. Lactate shuttle?
    Later on in the training regimen, training of the FTa fibers to “go aerobic”, combined with max strength sessions, will give me a deep well of aerobic endurance.

    Neil on #5928

    I decided to re-test myself briefly in the gully after 5-6 weeks of approx. 20 hours per week of training and hiking, including a 2-week hiking vacation with my wife, where we day-hiked almost every day and also did a 3-day backpack with plenty of ups and downs. The pace was always slow.

    Instead of being stuck at 125 bpm my HR easily went over 140 on these 200-foot vertical ascents at a pace between 35 and 40 vertical feet per minute and by the 4th and final repeat was hitting 145. My times for each repeat were the same as when I did the gully 6 weeks prior. I was surprised at the difference in HR’s and the non-difference in times. I was not expecting such a large jump in the HR. My top end HR of Z1 as tested twice on a treadmill according to the protocol detailed here on Uphill Athlete is 130. The two tests were done about 3 weeks apart with no change between them. Last test was done a week ago.

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