Z1/Z2 training on steep terrain – already ME?

  • Creator
  • #52658

    Hello everybody,

    I want to switch my focus from longer distances to shorter, but steeper races (1000-2000m vertical gain in 4-10km, so around 20-25% incline).
    Luckily, I live in the alps with immediate access to such tracks, so I want to switch all my training to such steep terrain, modeling my race goal terrain as much as possible. This would imply a pure focus on vertical gain, mainly regardless of distance. What do you think of that approach for my goals?

    I currently can do workouts that (measured in HR) are well inside Z1 while still jogging (very slowly of course, but is definitely jogging and not walking) at nearly 30%. However, I am a bit concerned that I am actually doing ME workouts here. My question now, what would be clear signs that I am doing ME rather than aerobic base?
    According to the book, signs would be noticeable muscle fatigue after the workouts, a burn in the muscles during workouts and stagnation of heart rate even though speeding up. Is that right? I do not notice any of these.

    Another point is that I recently acquired an Incline Trainer from NordicTrack, which I calibrated. For the workouts on it, I would like to switch to pace rather than HR for controlling my training. I already determined my thresholds for my desired incline grades (Heart rate drift test for AeT, and the common AnT test). However, do you have any input on how I can distinguish Z1 from Z2 purely by pace? Is there any basis for just taking the AeT threshold pace and multiply it by 0,9 (just like for HR) for the top of Z1?

    Thank you very much in advance!

    Greets from the austrian alps,


  • Participant
    Dada on #52680

    I would do the Z1s at around 10%. You can do the VO2max and Z3 Training at steeper terrain

    russes011 on #52682


    From a physiological point of view the difference between Z1 and Z2 is likely arbitrary. There isn’t a test, or any other reliable method, of demarcating Z1 from Z2 (as far as I am aware). This is why some heart rate zone models just combine the two of them and call it your aerobic zone. Therefore, just choosing what feels right to you may be the best answer, whether it’s a percentage of AeT, or even just MAF (180-age), etc. Determining Z1 pace, is even more difficult, unless the environment and terrain is mostly controlled; it’s probably easiest on your treadmill since you can control the incline and temperature–so for this I would just determine pace by heart rate, then reconfirm the proper pace every few weeks. Keep in mind a variety of other factors may bump these workouts into Z2 without you knowing it, including sleep, training load, stress, hydration, diet, the list goes on. Performing Z1 workouts on a treadmill just to tick of a training program box while living in the alps sounds like a bit of a travesty. Easy outdoor jogs or walks sound like the nicest thing in world if you live in the alps. Maybe just do that, easy jogs with walks up hill–instead of just jogging slow up hills. This would allow you to go by feel, or nose-breathing, and not have to worry about the HR stuff for a workout. (Or just wear the HR monitor so it uploads to TP, but don’t look at it during the workout).

    (This is obviously a much more nuanced topic, which includes the concepts, proven or otherwise, of recovery runs, are Z1 and Z2 different, how to determine AeT, can Z2 actually expand, and therefore can Z1 expand, etc.)

    Just my amateur opinion, best of luck,


    pezrosi on #52710

    Thanks! May I ask why? Why not perform also the basic aerobic work on steep inclines?

    russes011 on #52713

    Basic aerobic work Z1/Z2 can be performed on inclines, I didn’t mean to imply that you couldn’t. I only meant to say that if you need to intermittently walk on steep inclines to stay in Z1 that would be okay.

    Dada on #52715

    In my opinion, that ultra slow running on steep terrain is not really running, at least in my case. And that kind of running might cripple my running economy in lower grades. That’s why I said I would do Z1s on lower grades so it is actually more like normal running and you can do the more intense stuff on steeper hills.

    russes011 on #52721

    The run vs walk thing is very interesting.

    What defines running? Is it being momentarily off the ground for a moment, or is it one’s intermittent acceleration of center of gravity? Above a certain incline, in general, you stop leaving the ground while ‘running’, so classically it isn’t running, but from an acceleration point of view it still is. In essence, it’s probably something else, or a third type of gait, which can be practiced, made more efficient, and optimized.

    At what point is it more efficient to switch from running to walking and vice versa? It is probably incline specific and individual (eg, it may depend on percent fast vs slow twitch fibers and limb length). To further complicate things, your PTS (preferred transition speed) for a certain incline does not actually depend too much on what’s more efficient per se: since going uphill on steep slopes is so taxing, one tends to switch from walking to running based more on local muscle fatigue, because different muscles are used with walking vs running, than efficiency per se. In essence, you walk as long as you can because its more efficient above a certain incline (you walk until your muscle feel too fatigued), then you switch to a running gait to give yourself a break, which uses different muscles (its funny that you actually run to rest in this scenario). This is because despite running being less efficient on higher grades (ie, it’s more anaerobic than walking and uses more energy) it feels easier compared to the fatigued walking you just did. Then eventually the less efficient running tires you out, or perhaps you have just recovered enough from walking, you switch back to walking.

    In effect, above a certain incline both running and walking are important, both should probably be trained equally, and one isn’t strictly better or more efficient above a certain grade; they are complimentary. And, once again, PTS and percent walk vs run is individual. I don’t believe we know what percentage split means fasted times per se–and this probably doesn’t matter as much as your lactate threshold, for example.

    And this is all irrespective of zone because running and/or walking can be performed in almost any zone. For example, paradoxically, jogging slowly up steep inclines can actually slow your pace and HR compared to walking briskly up them. My two cents: training to walk is almost as important as training to run for races that have significant inclines.

    Anonymous on #55122

    I agree with Dada. I would do the recovery runs on lower grades. In steeper terrain, HR may be lower, but recruitment will be higher. On a low-angle rolling run, both will be lower.

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