Transition – Zone 4/5 Impacts w/ Zone 1

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  • #16779

    Hi Thanks for writing this book. It has given me hope after years of suffering! I never knew what was wrong with me, but now I can clearly say I am one of those that you state in your book with “zero aerobic base”. I grew up excelling at short sprints with my HS sports being (basketball, tennis, track 200m, long jump). I fell in love with the mountains after college and moved out west 6 years ago. I have an extremely hard time with endurance with climbing for mountain biking, backcountry skiing, running, etc. where I am in Zone 4/5 almost 100% of the activity. This leaves me wiped afterwards. But after years of heavy regular activity, I must say my Zone 4/5 is pretty resilient haha. Unfortunately, I am always the slowest amongst friends with needing to stop due to my HR always maxing out when all my friends are “fine”. I feel I am either in Zone 1 if I am walking flat, then anything more my HR jumps straight up to Zone 4/5. I am motivated to change this! I am excited to start my Transition Period with plans to be around 7 hours/week aerobic.

    My biggest questions is whether or not I can continue doing my regular activities that right now live in entirely Zone 4/5. Regular activities would be: ski bootpack, 1800ft over 1h15m straight up steep. Or mountain biking, 1000-2500 ft climbing, 2h. I usually do these 2-3x a week, in addition to snowboarding in-bounds, snowmobiling, etc. Would continuing to do these activities offset my aerobic training? Make it worse? Or be ok?

    I am 31yo and live in the Teton Range, WY. Thank you in advance! -Michelle

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    Anonymous on #16781

    You need to back off on the intensity or it will negate the benefit of your base work.

    Think of it like a bank account. Zones 1 and 2 make deposits; Zones 3-5 make withdrawals. The bad news is that, minute for minute, the withdrawals are 20x more powerful than the deposits…

    As a rule of thumb for long events, you want to keep your minutes of training above Zone 2 at 5% or less of your total training time. For example, although my main event is intense (skimo racing), in a 15-hour training week, I try to keep my training time above Zone 2 to 45′ or less.

    Judging by your description, a long focus on base building is what you need. But if you’re patient, it will be worth it.

    Although not as severe, I was in a similar situation when I started properly training six years ago. I had a long history of alpine climbing, but I still couldn’t jog at much less than 80% of maximum. And I usually lagged behind my friends. Now that I’ve built a good base, I can comfortably jog at 55-60% of maximum, and days out with friends are never over Zone 2 unless I intentionally pick up the pace.

    Be patient! You’ll get there.

    Anonymous on #16805

    Listen to Scott Semple. When I started working with him he was an aerobic train wreck. Now he’s an aerobic beast after 4-5 years of proper training. He won’t tell you this but at the ripe old age of 45 he has just qualified for the Canadian team going to the Skimo World Championships in Switzerland in a month.

    There is hope for virtually everyone using these techniques. Humans are predisposed genetically to aerobic endurance. Some more so than others for sure. Some will respond faster than others. But I have yet to see someone not respond positively to this type of training if the actually stick with it. Try to keep up with your pals before you have this base and you will sabotage the whole project and wonder why it is not working for you. Instances like this are the only times we see people fail in their attempt to improve their aerobic base.

    Read some of Scott Semple’s (use the search feature on the site) articles on the is site and you will learn a lot. He has been a true student of the sport and gained a huge amount of insight.
    Scott also contributed to Training for the New Alpinism p422-423.

    Good luck but heed his words carefully.

    umicheng on #16829

    Dang…I was worried that’d be your answer. Guess only Type 1 fun then, outside of the training, which I won’t complain about to be honest đŸ™‚ . Thanks for the quick responses, super helpful. You have no idea how helpful the level of detail, support, and anecdotes you guys provide are! They will be my motivators. I still can’t believe after years of in the mountains and meeting so many adventurers, no one has ever mentioned having an Aerobic Base was a thing, and that my issue was that I didn’t have that thing! (I bought your book from a store going out of business on a whim!) Congrats SS on the Skimo WC, best of luck, that is badass.

    Yes, I’d say I have one of the worst aerobic capabilities (both physical and mental). I can’t jog a 1/4mi without needing/wanting to stop. Though if I walk and I am able to keep my HR under 170 I can do very long 15+ mi hikes (Whitney, Half Dome, 14ers in CO, etc). Adding a bike or ski tour gear is what destroys my HR.

    Only Type 1 fun (resort, snowmobiling) now. For training, I planed a weekly load: 7 hours aerobic, 2 hours strength (my HIIT gym), and climbing -> which I’m turning into a “fun” training-focused activity (no climbing gym here). How would you translate the Climbing session activity into a Ski Tour or Biking equivalent? Do you ideally want it focused in Zone 1, 2, or just all over? Is it possible to do the Climbing session too long — do you want the time limited based off aerobic volume?

    Long road…but you guys give me hope I can get there! Thanks again.

    Anonymous on #16835

    A few comments to your last post;

    If you are now doing HIIT you would be best served by stopping that. Your history of short high intensity training is THE reason you have no Aerobic base. There are multiple articles on this site and an entire chapter devoted to this subject in Training for the New Alpinism. Here are some links to start with:

    What Enables Endurance?

    Aerobic Deficiency Syndrome

    When and How to Add High-Intensity Training: The 10 Percent Test

    Next, the reason you can walk for hours but not run is that your aerobic threshold is so low that you can not produce enough energy with your aerobic system to run. To understand the ultimate power of the aerobic system to produce energy consider the marathon. This event is competed at an individual’s aerobic threshold or just a tiny amount above that. So, minimal involvement of the anaerobic system. This is true for someone running a 2:05 race or a 4:05 race. That 2:05 marathoner can sustain a pace of 4:45/mile for 26 miles relying 95% on his aerobic system for energy. You can’t run 400m at this guy’s 26 mile pace because your aerobic system is a train wreck right now. There is only one way to fix this. Do a high volume of aerobic work for many months and stop doing any high intensity training as this is undermining your attempt to develop an effective aerobic system. Again there is chapter in our book on this.

    By “climbing focused” do you mean technical rock climbing? In that case general pulling and grip strength (hangboard) if no climbing gym. If you mean mountaineering climbing then hiking on a stair machine or steep treadmill under your aerobic threshold.


    umicheng on #16837

    Thanks Scott – I appreciate the links. Everything is starting to make a ton of sense now. It’s not exactly a HIIT gym, though there are HIIT-type circuits sometimes. It’s a mountain training focused gym with a lot of the sessions being lifting and exercises similar to what is outlined in book for Core Workout. I was planning to continue the gym there for the strength sessions (bad at getting myself to do those) and sitting out of anything with the intense circuits that’d negatively affect the base training.

    As for the climbing, I am specifically asking about the weekly Climbing session marked in the Transition Period workout. If I wanted to actually do a ski tour or bike instead…Do you ideally want it focused in Zone 1, 2, or just all over? Should I limit the session by time — if not by limited by (min 5-6) pitches, etc?

    Thanks again,

    Colin Simon on #16864

    I completely share the desire to do strength training in a group environment – instructor-led classes are a great way to break up the monotony, motivate yourself to go…etc. Some gyms have instructors who are really great at helping you develop your form, and some are really not.

    I’ve found that some gyms have great instructors, great facilities, and the only thing that needs to be changed is they should remove the “for time” component. If you did that, you would still get the strength training without the “I-feel-like-vomiting” intensity that Scott and Scott keep steering you away from.

    You can ask the instructor to do it at your own pace, but this isn’t usually a “fun” path; even if they do say yes, you may feel weird doing something completely differently from the rest of the class. It can take some real discipline to consistently NOT do what everyone else is doing, and to slow yourself down. If you do find that A+ instructor who is great at teaching you form and also understands your path, they are a keeper.

    As for your question:

    If I wanted to actually do a ski tour or bike instead…Do you ideally want it focused in Zone 1, 2, or just all over? Should I limit the session by time

    Spend as much time as you can as close to the top of Z2 as you can, while keeping it “repeatable” meaning you’d have to be able to do it a couple of days later. If some ski tour is so long that you couldn’t repeat it a couple of days later, then you are probably “using” fitness instead of accumulating it.

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