Which terrain to build AeT? And some other questions.

  • Creator
  • #20606
    Sofia Wahaj

    Newbie here. Bought the 16 week mountaineering plan and read the book. Just figured out my AeT HR is 130 last week. So, started training in the transition phase at AeT this week and have some questions.


    FLAT: I live in Maple Valley, WA and am fortunate enough to have some choices of training terrains. I can access flat trails right outside my front door and that’s also easy for maintaining AeT bc I can keep my pace constant. But doesn’t seem it would be the best choice if my ultimate goal is mountaineering. If I do flat, I need to slow down the 2nd half of my run and keep my HR at 130, correct?

    MTB: These are pretty close to my house as well. Mountain Bike Trails are relatively flat but some loops do a lot of up and down, but all have lots of rocks and roots and curves and my pace is much slower than flat running. Also, with the ups and downs it is much more difficult to maintain my HR constant. But perhaps learning this is good?

    MOUNTAINS: A bit more of a drive for me (and so not ideal for more than once a week), but there are many mountains that are about 1000’/mile in steepness and range in mileage. If I were to try to do a 2 hour training session on a mountain, should I do HR 130 up the mountain and then also 130 HR DOWN the mountain as well for a total of 2 hours? Or should I do 130 HR up for 2 hours and then disregard my HR coming down bc I would have to run so fast downhill and that’s not easy on my joints?

    2) Today, my average HR was 131 for 4.71 miles at a pace of 19:24. That seems RIDICULOUSLY slow, but I’m doing it right? Really? Just need some reassurance bc it feels WRONG.

    3) When do I need to worry about figuring out my Anaerobic threshold? Don’t worry about it now?


  • Participant
    Rachel on #20609

    I’ve spent way too much time reading the forums here so I’ll chime in with what I’ve learned so far:

    Keep under zone 2 (under 130) even later in the workout.

    Steep terrain is good because it mirrors your event. I would probably do a mix of flat and rolling and then make weekend trips to climb in the mountains if I were living where you do. But maybe you might have to add in some inclined treadmill or stairwell workouts to get more vertical in if those MTB trails are really gentle. I admit I tend to gloss over those flatlander posts because I live in the mountains.

    Don’t bomb downhill, just go Z1 and count the entire time towards the workout. (if it calls for 2 hour Z2 uphill workout, count the entire time up and down towards the 2 hours). Although sometimes I like to jog downhill because otherwise my HR goes too high, still. (I think living at elevation is part of the issue too, our AeT is just lower here).

    When I started following TftNA’s plan in the fall I was ridiculously slow too. I was cross country skiing and hiking uphill in what felt like slow motion. I’ve definitely sped up.

    I did an AnT test at the beginning and it is helpful to know if you are aerobically deficient (so if you can add in the occasional Z3 workout or not) and I use Training Peaks so they use that number to calculate your training stress as well. I’m guessing based on your previous post about AeT that you probably are aerobically deficient though (the fact you could work out at an hour at a much higher HR in your initial test.) But you won’t know when you’ve fixed your ADS unless you know your AnT.

    One more note that I wish maybe I had read when I started — I personally have found the most satisfying part is going from carb burner to fat burner. I was the kind of person who always had a Gu or Clif Blok handy just in case (and of course plenty of high carb snacks), or who would bonk on a long day, or just get really irritable when hungry. Now I can go for hours fasted with zero carbs and I don’t get hangry anymore. I started with fasted training then a few weeks ago went high fat low carb to help my training, and see if it would fix my allergies. It is helping with both although the first week or two was tough on training.

    Sofia Wahaj on #20610

    Wow @rachelp! Thanks for all that info. Really appreciate you taking the time to help me. I want to get this right. I probably am ADS bc I have been doing CrossFit for the last 10 years and CrossFit and running together the last 4. I have never measured my HR for my workouts before so this is all new to me and I am trying to get a grasp on it all. I have a couple more questions:

    1) Anaerobic Threshold test: What’s the best way to do it? I am looking at this article: https://uphillathlete.com/diy-anaerobic-test/ and I see that I can do this test on a treadmill or hills or running. When I tried to determine my AeT, it took me 3 times and so I am asking for any tips or advice before I mess it up and have to redo it again. Is there a certain HR I should target? How do I know the pace I should strive for so I don’t “blow up within 5mins”?

    2) What is a recording HR monitor? What brand do you recommend? I bought the Wahoo TICKR, and my workouts show my HR in TP – does that mean it is recording it?

    3) On TP the program this week has two different workouts, but they seem the same to me. What is the difference between:

    Run/hike on hilly terrain. Use a steep treadmill (at least 15% grade) or StairMaster if you don’t have mountains or hills around. HR at or < AeT or MAF HR


    Aerobic Threshold Run/Hike. Run/jog/walk at a pace you can maintain while breathing through your nose (assuming your nose is clear).Flat run/hike. If you get to hills, you probably will need to walk them to keep your heart rate from getting too high. Aerobic Threshold Pace at all times.

    4) Please tell me more about changing into a fat burner and how you went about it? I have briefly heard some things about that, but can’t seem to wrap my head around working out without carbs. I have tried intermittent fasting as well, but it was so hard to do CrossFit without the energy. But perhaps this new way of training, it would work better? Can you tell me more or point me in the right direction with some articles to read?

    Thanks again! Sofi

    madanyang on #20612


    To have a better understanding how to become a fat burner look at the following article Tips for fasted training

    There are lots of articles and to find them is not so easy on the website. My suggestion is to start with the topic Training Practice and sometimes it is worth to reread the articles again as one’s understanding of the principles gets better, one finds other tips that are embedded in the same article. I guess when one is ready, one starts learning.

    In regards to terrain, I also live in flatland and I had previously posted a question and Scott Johnston’s answer is probably what you might be looking for. It was in my case.

    If you have been doing Crossfit for a long time, I suspect you might have ADS and the only way I have found to cure, is lot’s of volume at AeT, regardless how slow it is. At some point one becomes faster compared to himself or herself at the same AeT. It may take 8-12 weeks before there is a change so you may want to increase the transition period. I don’t know how long the transition period in the 16 week program is, but I extended my transition from 8 to 12 weeks in the 24 week plan.

    Hope this helps

    todd.struble on #20622

    I just wanted to contribute to reassure you that you aren’t going too slow. It also took me three times to get a good AeT test because the first two times, I went too fast. I was in that range (maybe a bit faster at blazing ~12 minute miles!) when I started. You will see gains though and it won’t be that slow! I think it took me about 6 weeks to drop a minute or two off my mile time at the same HR. After a 4 month block of consistent aerobic base training, I tested at 10 beats faster, and dropped more than 3 minutes off my original aet mile pace. Edit: I also forgot to mention – while you will see gains, 6 months in I find my training is still slow for the easy days – my last 1 hour AeT workout was still at a 14:00 mile pace including going slowly uphill and a bit faster downhill.

    My thoughts on your other questions:

    1) I have the same question about testing AnT. I’ve gone my entire base period without testing and coming from the same background of doing a lot of higher intensity weekend-warrior exercise. Besides the AnT tests mentioned here, for what it’s worth, Training Peaks defines “Threshold” aka “AnT” as your heartrate for a 10k effort running. If you have any 10k races, you might be able to use your HR from that effort (assuming a consistent effort, i.e. not going really slow and then sprinting the last mile or vice versa)

    2) If it’s showing up on your Training Peaks workouts and looks like it’s recording correctly (no flat lines, tracking your heartrate up and down with your level of exertion) I think you’re all set. I have the same TICKR HR monitor and my Garmin watch records the data from it (and uploads it to TP).

    3) There’s another thread where Scott answers that question. For your convenience, here’s what he wrote:

    1) Each week has 3 main aerobic workouts called “Run/Hike”, “Aerobic Threshold Run/Hike” and “Hike on hilly terrain” – Should I be aiming for any difference in intensity between these workouts? Is it ok to push into Z2 in one of them?
    These are all meant to be in the basic aerobic metabolic realm, so Z1-2 range. The intensity can be in the Z1 range for he longer workouts and get up into Z2 on the shorter ones or on the uphills on hillier workouts. If you have a high basic aerobic capacity (AeT) then you will need to do most of this base training in Z1 (Z2 will be too hard for a high % of the base training). If your AeT is low then pushing into Z2 more will be helpful and speed the aerobic development.

    Sofia Wahaj on #20656

    Thank you everyone for all that great info! It was extremely helpful and gives me confidence to keep at it. I quit my CrossFit gym this month and am dedicating all my workouts to TftNA, so I love all the feed back and help to do it right. Thanks!

    Rachel on #20670

    I found the AnT isn’t as hard to get right the first try as AeT.

    Just go all out for a half an hour after a long easy warmup (follow their instructions on the DIY page).

    If you are a runner, run. I’m not much of a runner these days so I went up my local ski hill (hiked in the snow in November, then skinned up in March). I highly recommend doing a Strava segment for your AnT test because that helped spur me to keep going even when it felt like torture during the first 10 minutes (it got better somehow).

    My AeT has increased by about 8-10 bpm in almost six months. This has felt very slow progress but recently my recovery has improved dramatically and I’ve been able to handle a lot more load. (It’s either the high fat diet, or the fact I’ve been diligently getting Vitamin D for two months, or both).

    Anonymous on #20671

    Sofia et al:

    Thanks so much for the helpful responses to Sophia’s initial posts. This exactly what Steve and hoped for when we set up the forums. It is rewarding to see the dissemination of knowledge. Clearly the other posters “get it” and have great comments……Rachel: Are you ready to quit your day job 🙂

    I really do not have much (if anything) of real value to add here because the main points are so well covered. But I can’t help myself so……..

    You can get good benefits running mainly on the flats outside your door. One of the professional climbers I coach, David Goettler decided he wanted to run a road marathon under 3 hours last fall so I trained him like a marathon runner and all summer he did ALL his aerobic training running on the flats. We were interested (maybe even a little worried) to see how this would transfer over to his normal mountain training after the marathon. We have 4 years of training data so we could compare to previous years. The exciting news is that his marathon training seems to have really boosted his aerobic work capacity to an entirely new level. He is fitter than he has ever been. That’s a good thing because he is headed to Everest to attempt an ascent without support or the use of supplemental oxygen.

    So, run on the flats mostly and try to vet some vertical in on the weekends in the foothills nearby.

    As Rachel says, don’t worry about HR dropping when you come back downhill. The downhills on foot provide a unique strength training effect.

    I love biking but you need to understand that biking of any kind will not transfer well to your goal of climbing mountains. Depending on your attachment to it and the seriousness of your focus on the climbing goals I would limit the mtn biking.

    What is a recording HR monitor? They’re expensive but a HR monitor/PGS watch will be a great tool for monitoring your training via TP. Be sure to use a chest strap to capture the HR data. NONE of the wrist based monitors work well enough for you purposes. I coach athletes sponsored by the big manufacturers like Garmin and Suunto who get the latest and greatest new watches. None of the wrist based HR functions are worth using even on these top end watches.

    Determining Anaerobic Threshold is a wise thing to do for the reasons previously stated. You can do this test https://uphillathlete.com/diy-anaerobic-test/. I recommend doing this test as sport specifically as possible. If you are a marathoner then this should be done on the flats. Mountaineers should do this hiking/running steeply uphill.

    I hope I have filled in any gaps.

    Thanks again to the UA crew for chiming on here.

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