Zone 1 frustration with hills

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  • #47949
    mdschuster
    Participant

    I completed a HR drift AeT test in August on a track, analyzed with TrainingPeaks. This put my AeT at 150. I’ve spent a lot of time since then running in Zone 1 (below 135 bpm). The base period was extremely frustrating, but once I began to add intensity training a few weeks ago in the form of 8′ Z3 intervals it became bearable again. My question is, how will I ever train for real mountain running with 85% of my training load in Zone 1? It seems like now on a good day I can maintain Z1 on a moderate slope. Anything steep or rocky forces me into an immediate walk. Is this normal? My experience really makes me wonder how fit you need to be in order to keep up vertical at a Z1 pace. Any experiences with improvements in Z1 pace over time in the mountains would be much appreciated.

Posted In: Mountain Running

  • Participant
    Dada on #47951

    Following

    Participant
    Izzy on #47959

    It’s common to need to slow to a hike on uphills to keep efforts under AeT. The one piece of feedback I would offer is to feel free to spend time in Z2. The guidance to avoid Z2 is when working in that zone places too high a strain on the musculoskeletal system.

    I was in a similar boat to you two years ago. My AeT was in the mid 150s and it felt slow to stay there. However, things have changed enormously since then. My AeT now sits in the low-to-mid 160s and I now train primarily (around 85% of my time) in Z1 (mid to high 140s) because Z2 is tough on my body and can lead to overuse injuries.

    You’re doing things right. I would encourage you to stick with it! Use your AeT as a cap for your training but don’t worry too much about the Z1 vs Z2 differentiation. As you get more fit, you’ll realize Z2 requires too much effort and your training load will shift to Z1. Then you will be able to put in longer and longer Z3 and Z4 sessions and your progress will be rapid.

    Keymaster
    Scott Johnston on #47962

    I don’t understand why you were training exclusively in Z1. If you are trying to boost AeT you should be training in Z2 and close to the top of that zone. All our instructions for the HR drift test tell you to set the top if Z2 at your AeT. The only reason to do the bulk of your base training in Z1 is if your AeT to AnT spread is less than 10%.

    Scott

    Participant
    mdschuster on #47966

    Thanks for the reply Scott. I think I glossed over the AnT test and just assumed that I was not suffering from aerobic deficiency since the bulk of my training before doing the AeT test was at a Zone 3 effort for me. I need to do both tests again and see where I’m at. You’re probably right, my spread is surely more than 10% between the two.
    I am in week 15 of the 28 week 100k plan in Uphill Athlete. Would it be appropriate to introduce more Z2 and continue the plan?

    Participant
    mdschuster on #47982

    Thanks Izzy, seems like I have just assumed I’m at the point where I can spend much of my time in Z1 when realistically Z2 is where I should be.

    Moderator
    Scott Semple on #48055

    …just assumed that I was not suffering from aerobic deficiency since the bulk of my training before doing the AeT test was at a Zone 3 effort for me.

    This is precisely why you probably have ADS. Unsupported Z3 training is how people destroy their aerobic systems.

    Participant
    Danny on #55809

    Can you expand on the “z3 training is how people destroy their aerobic systems” please? Also, what does it mean to destroy your aerobic system? thanks

    Moderator
    Scott Semple on #55811

    @dahlindan: By “unsupported,” I meant in too high a proportion in relation to the more important aerobic training of Z1 and Z2.

    Think of Z3 and above as salt. The right amount makes a meal taste great. Too much will ruin it.

    Or as debt when investing. The right amount will juice your returns with an acceptable amount of risk. Too much debt and you can lose your original investment.

    The problem is that most people gauge the “right” amount of high intensity by how they feel. “I’m working hard so I must be getting fitter!” That’s almost never the case. Anything that feels like “such a good workout” is probably using up aerobic capacity rather than building it up.

    As a real-life example of proper training, when Moses Mosop ran his first marathon in 2h03m, only 3% of his training leading up to that marathon was above Z2. (The average intensity of a ~2h event is typically just above aerobic threshold, the top of zone 2.)

    Granted, Mosop’s Z2 is really @#$%ing fast, but at a metabolic level, most of his training was quite “easy” and way below the upper limit of Z2. Even more so, 78% was below Z1.

    In contrast, newcomers combine a mistaken gratification bias (fatigue means fitness!), underdeveloped aerobic systems, and friends with the same problems. So almost everyone goes too hard too soon together. With social pressure and unrealistic expectations, most people have a really hard time going slow enough to build up their aerobic systems. They overdo Z3 and quickly hit a hard plateau. Then they double down and go harder! Cue downward spiral…

    Moderator
    Scott Semple on #55812

    Also, “destroy your aerobic system” means that the upper limit of Zone 2 will get slower. Taken to extremes, the upper limit heart rate of Zone 2 will get lower.

    We see the results of that all the time with new clients. Two years ago, I started working with someone who had an AnT HR (top of Z3) of 180. His AeT HR (top of Z2) was only 130. 180 / 130 = 1.38. A 38% gap is… not good.

    In contrast, my fittest athletes have gaps of less than ~5%: 190 / 180.

    Moderator
    Participant
    matthewbgrayson on #56397

    Is the goal of aerobic training to become faster at the same AeT HR, to raise the AeT HR, or both?

    I see some elite runners doing mountain runs with HR between 130-140.

    After four months of shifting my training to ~3/4 Z2 workouts, I have seen my AeT rise from 145 to 151. My speed at 145 is the same, which surprised me. I have noticed other improvements like being able to do hilly neighborhood runs at Z2 (previously I’d spike to Z3) and my Z3 and Z4 mountain efforts are quicker.

    Moderator
    Scott Semple on #56409

    Is the goal of aerobic training to become faster at the same AeT HR, to raise the AeT HR, or both?

    Both. Initially, both will improve, but HR will eventually stop. The narrowest AnT HR / AeT HR gap that I’ve seen (in more than one person, but after years of training) is just under 5%.

    I see some elite runners doing mountain runs with HR between 130-140.

    That’s meaningless on its own. HRs are like fingerprints; they’re unique to their owner. You’d need to know their threshold HRs for that information to be relevant. That said, if the runs are long, then they are likely at a low percentage of AnT HR.

    After four months of shifting my training to ~3/4 Z2 workouts, I have seen my AeT rise from 145 to 151. My speed at 145 is the same, which surprised me. I have noticed other improvements like being able to do hilly neighborhood runs at Z2 (previously I’d spike to Z3) and my Z3 and Z4 mountain efforts are quicker.

    That makes sense. Improving your base will also improve your speed at higher intensities.

    Participant
    matthewbgrayson on #56417

    Thank you for clarifying, Scott!

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