Training HR zone comparison

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  • #3281

    Great site and great book. I have been training using the heart rate zones identified in ‘Training for the new alpinism’ and have recently started getting to grips with the Training Peaks site as well.

    Do you have any advice on how to setup my Training Peaks profile with zones which correspond to those in TFTNA (Recovery – Zone 5) as there are many different permutations on TP.

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    Anonymous on #3284

    Thanks for the post and question. A few words on HR zones first: Understand that the zones used in our book, or any “zones” using % of max HR or any other formulaic approach are a crude approximation meant as basic guidelines. We debated including the zone concept in the book but did so since so many people are familiar with it at least in concept and form. All the various formulas (and we chose one of the simplest because we have used it for years) come from population averages and not necessarily applicable to any one individual. Statistics is a useful tool when looking at averages but who’s to say if you are average. That is why we also describe the ventilation markers that can be very useful for finding the aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. These are two metabolic markers that are unique to you. Finding them will be very helpful in managing the intensity of your training. The very best way to find these or any training zones will be with a test of your metabolic response to exercise. And if you are serious enough to be using Training Peaks to log your training you should consider a metabolic test in a lab. These are common in many labs and often sold with the intention of helping you find your maxVO2. Be sure tell the lab tech that you are interesting finding your aerobic threshold.
    If you decide to pass on the lab test we suggest an easy way to ball park your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds in a self administered field test by noting the afore mentioned ventilation markers. This is described in the book. When you do this test you will have 2 nice data points to use. Firstly, the aerobic threshold is at the top of what is called Zone 2. And the anaerobic threshold is the top of Zone 3.
    Caveat: We have used this ventilation marker test with many dozens of moderate to well trained endurance athletes for 20 years with good success. Since the book was published however we have noticed that people who utilize high intensity interval training almost exclusively for their aerobic endurance training can not utilize the ventilation test as we describe it. For them even a blood lactate test will fail because of their overdeveloped glycolytic system and underdeveloped aerobic system.

    As for your second question about how to adjust the zones in Training Peaks to reflect your personal metabolic response to training: You can manually change the heart rates in any of the zone systems available in Training Peaks. There is a tutorial for this on their website I believe. Don’t loose sleep over a few beats here and there when it cones to defining zones. The body is not digital and besides your response to training is not the same form day to day.


    JonLander on #3287

    Thanks for the reply Scott.

    Am making a dedicated effort to make my training more professional as we move into ice season. Whist I am very much in the amateur leagues I want to take the next 8 weeks and really give it all I can whilst still juggling family and work. After all, the years are moving ever onwards and it’s now or never. I used the methods in the book to work out my zones but am going to go to a lab to get it done ‘right’.

    Goals are set and am now executing on the plan whilst using the science as much as possible to get the most out of this season. Who knows what permanent changes it will make.

    Thanks for the input and the book. Let’s see where taking it seriously takes me.

    Anonymous on #3312


    Be sure when you speak to the lab techs who are going to be doing the testing that they are very clear that you want to establish where your aerobic threshold is during this test. Secondarily you’d like see where your anaerobic threshold is and that you really do not care what you maxVO2 is. Maybe you are curious about your maxVO2 but many of these testing facilities have maxVO2 on the brain and they couldn’t give a damn about the AeT. If you get a blank stare when you mention aerobic threshold just say thanks and walk away.

    Good luck.

    alexgauthier on #3338

    Hi Scott!

    Can you suggest a lab for this testing in Colorado? I was looking at this one:

    Pricing & Services

    Specifically, the “Sports Performance” item seems to be the appropriate item on their list of services.

    I’ll be at the workshop in Boulder too so we’ll finally meet up again in person.


    Anonymous on #3341

    Hi Alex;
    Yes we will finally meet next week. Our paths have crossed many times in the past. Now we are on a collision course. Great that you want to get tested. I’m sure that you could get a good test at the Denver CU med center. But we have been sending clients to the CU Sports Med ctr in Boulder. It is in the Folsum field building next to the football stadium.
    Check it out.

    They can do the full aerobic threshold test along with anaerobic threshold and will show you how much of your energy is coming from fats and carbs at various intensities. They do a great job.


    chrishannaby on #3881

    Hi Scott

    Are you able to expand on your caveat about the ventilation markers above?

    I’ve just started implementing your recommendations from TFTNA and in my initial workouts I’ve found that if I stick to a comfortable nose breathing pace my average heart rate is around 160 bpm. I’ve not done a max HR test but 220 – age would give a MHR of 195 for me. That puts these workouts at about 80%+ of MHR which doesn’t fit with the information on zones you provide in the book. I’m new to endurance training but don’t have a background of doing lots of HIIT workouts either. Is it likely that the ventilation markers you recommend won’t work well for me either? What would you recommend for cases where nose breathing is not an appropriate indicator of AeT? Fallback to traditional HR zones?

    I’ve really enjoyed your writing on training. Thanks for sharing!


    Anonymous on #3887

    It is unlikely that any HR zone system based simply on a % of max HR (even if you actually know your max HR) is going to be very accurate. Using one based on a formula like 220-age is even more suspect. As we explained in our book these formulaic approaches are developed from looking at large populations and finding a average. If you know anything about statistics you know that averages are useful but not for establishing any individual behavior. In other words there is no way of knowing if this formula applies to you or not. Ventilatory markers hold reasonably well and do give a window into your actual metabolism in real time. I have used it extensively for years with endurance athletes and found it correlates well with a lactate blood test to determine the aerobic threshold. However I have not seen good correlation with individuals not well endurance trained so have had to back off on what used to be my universal recommendation to use this simple self test. Now I try to encourage folks to pay for a real lab test if there is any doubt and if they are at all serious about training. Many Universities can perform these tests to determine your aerobic and anaerobic threshold. This will be a surefire method for controlling the intensity of your training.
    In your case 160 may be a fine aerobic HR but I have no way of assessing that for afar. An easy test is that if you are training in your aerobic zone you should be fully recovered and able to repeat the same workout the next day (for many days in a row) with no fatigue accumulation (provided that the workout is under about 2 hours in length. If you can recovery over night and feel fresh and ready to do it again then you exceeded your aerobic capacity in that workout.


    chrishannaby on #3892

    Hi Scott,

    Appreciate the detailed response. From your comments on recovery it sounds like I’m on the right track. Will definitely look into lab testing near me.

    Thanks again,

    Topper on #3919

    Hi Scott, I’m a little confused – could you clarify which HR Zone the aerobic threshold relates to please?

    In your answer above you said:
    “Firstly, the aerobic threshold is at the top of what is called Zone 2. And the anaerobic threshold is the top of Zone 3.”

    However in the book the aerobic threshold is described as being at the upper end of Zone 1 (p57). So is the aerobic threshold at the upper end of Zone 1 or 2?

    I ask because the book’s recommended training for a mountaineering objective recommends the vast majority be in Zone 1 and specifically says Zone 2 should be kept to a minimum.

    On the 24 week training plan the vast majority of training is recommended at or slightly below the aerobic threshold, but if that actually corresponds to upper Zone 2 instead of upper Zone 1 then wouldn’t that mean most of training is in Zone 2, which is the opposite of what the book recommends?

    Is it just the case that Training Peaks and your book have different definitions of the zones?

    Xpedition on #7601

    Seconding this question. I’ve been under the impression that it was top of Z1 and training like it was so. I hope this is the case!

    kimmuriel on #27026

    I’m also confused by the HR zones, just like Topper and Jeff. Could you clarify this question, please?

    TerryLui on #27085

    Topper, Jeff, Kimmuriel:
    I had the same query and hopefully Scott’s answer in the below link will address yours –

    Confusion – Zone 1 + 2: TftNA vs TrainingPeaks

    I believe the summary response to your question may be:
    -If you are newer to endurance training, then focus your training close to your AeT (top of Z2)
    -If you already have a developed endurance base/engine (defined as AeT and AnT are within 6-7% of one another, ~10bpm), then focus your training in Z1

    derekosborne22 on #27566

    Hi Guys,

    Perhaps I can jump in on this topic.

    I’m new to this forum, but have been training “traditionally” using HR Zones for many years, albeit not entirely comfortably as I’ve always believed them to be compromised – just look at how many ways you can find to calculate them. However, until I read Training for the Uphill Athlete, I had seen little else that was better. So, I’ll give you my take on it and how I have based my new training regime which starts September.

    AeT and LT are the two markers and all my cardio training is based off them.

    Having used a HR monitor regularly for years I had good evidence as to where my LT was – somewhere around the 150 mark. I know I can work continuously at around that HR for about an hour and not much longer before I have to really slow down.

    AeT was new to me. I’ve have nose problems from rugby days in my youth so the “breathing through the nose method” wasn’t an option. However, having access to a gym with treadmills, I used to “60 minute constant load walk test” and that came up with and Set around 110 – a little lower than expected but will use for Sept and re-test. By the way, I’m in my 60’s hence the low numbers – not as young as I once was.

    Key to both of the above is I noted the HR not based on any formula, but on MY metabolic response to exercise. That is new to me, and I guess many on this forum. My AeT and LT markers.

    I then manually set up my HR Zones as follows:

    Zone 1: 88 – 99 (80%-90% of 110)
    Zone 2: 99 – 110 (90% – Aet)
    Zone 3: 110 – 150 (AeT – LT)
    Zone 4: 150 – 164 (LT – 95% of max HR)
    Zone 5: >164

    Not sure Zones 4 & 5 need differentiated the way I have but as they are least important to me then I’m not too bothered.

    I’ve a 10 day tough ski mountaineering tour in 9 months time and have created a plan based around AeT and LT for the next 9 months, with a monthly re-test/reset of AeT over the first 5 months. For anyone who’s interested I’m happy to share progress, end results, and comparison with my fitness on previous tours using more traditional training methods. I’m also totally open to any thoughts, comments or tips.

    Cheers Guys.

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