• 07 JAN 15
    • 0


    SMI training programmes monitors and prescribes training intensity using a Zone system to help you monitor training intensity. We use various markers or tests to set these zones and try to use a combination of variables to ensure accurate training load (eg Heart Rate(HR) coupled with Power on the bike or HR coupled with Pace on the run). We consider the Gold Standard of Zone setting to be incremental lactate testing combined with an all-out anaerobic test while also monitoring HR, Power or Pace. Lactate markers allow us to monitor the body’s fuel usage and predict key Zone markers more accurately.


    There are two Key markers or thresholds we will look to improve in training to boost your Aerobic Capacity and Power:

    Aerobic Threshold (AeT):

    At this training intensity the body can still burn fat as fuel but is starting to increase the amount of Carbohydrate use, it will feel like a steady easy effort with ability to continue conversation for a couple of sentences before the urge to breathe takes over.  This usually corresponds to the first initial rise in lactate(BLa) levels  from  baseline during a lactate test (2.0 mMOl BLa). The higher the pace or power for this to occur the better and if your event is a sportif or Ironman then getting your AeT as high as possible is critical. For a more detailed article on AeT check out the Aerobic Capacity article in the library.


    Lactate Threshold (LT):

    This level of intensity is also often called the anaerobic Threshold. It corresponds to a level of exercise intensity where the body burns predominately Carbohydrate and as a result Lactate sees a rapid rise just above this Pace/Power level. Typically a well-trained athlete can sustain this pace or power for one hour or so.  It is frequently overused as nothing really special occurs at this point unless your event happens to take 60 min. Excessive training at LT or above it requires adequate recovery as it heavily depletes the body’s carbohydrate stores and these are limited, excessive frequency of this type of training will likely hinder performance. For more information on LT please check here.



    We will use:

    a)      Your questionnaire data given.

    b)      Lactate testing data

    c)      Power based data given

    d)      Race performances (+/- Power/GPS files)

    e)      Field tests


    To predict and set your appropriate training Zones.  A description of the Zones and their roles in improving your performance is given below. Training in each Zone allows you to train Energy Systems appropriate to the Phase of your training and your Goal event. A 10k runner will prioritise improving high end Aerobic Power coupled with raising LT to improve performance while a marathon runner will need to boost AeT as high as possible coupled with judicious training at LT to improve economy and muscle endurance. Both however will spend time in all the training zones but the blend and timing of this will be quite different.

    6 workout intensities are describes below and are similar to the Zones described by Friel.


    Zone 1 (Recovery):

    Totally aerobic with fat used as main fuel during training. Intensity is low and allows prolonged conversation without difficulty. Training at this level promotes recovery from more intensive work or helps with warm up/cool down periods.


    Zone 2 (Extensive Endurance):

    Aerobic work zone still at conversational effort but more effort than Zone 1. Lactate levels are low with AeT typically noted at the top end of this Zone. Work in this region promotes development of basic endurance and will improve recovery and work capacity  from all workloads over time. The ability to burn fat as fuel and spare precious muscle glycogen will be enhanced by work at this intensity. There is a lot of benefit from developing this Zone with relatively little risk. However typically the athlete will plateau and there will be limited speed development without a blend of other Zone(s) training.


    Zone 3 (Intensive Endurance):

    Lactate and thus carbohydrate burning for fuel starts to increase dramatically in this Zone. The body starts to recruit fast twitch fibres in the working muscles and these then to favour carbohydarate as fuels. Appropriate work at this intensity at the right time can improve fast twitch oxidative fibres endurance capacity and help the working muscles and muscles nearby use lactate as fuel. Over time this helps improve exercise economy and boosts the amount of stored glycogen fuel in the muscles.


    Zone 4 Lactate Threshold (LT):

    At this intensity the body’s Aerobic machinery is working maximally, a further increase in exercise intensity will lead to a large increase in the rate of carbohydrate usage and increased demand on Anaerobic metabolism. Training at LT when appropriate boosts performance where duration of the event or a key portion of the event lasts > 40 min and < 1 hr 20 min. Training at LT requires starting with adequate glycogen in the tank and recovery is enhanced by appropriate recovery nutrition pre/during and post training.


    Zone 5 VO2:

    Zone 5 typically will use pace or power as guides for training. Here typical training will involve interval type training and the purpose of the session will depend on the length of the work and rest intervals respectively. It is possible to train many different qualities in this zone intensity by manipulating these variables(eg Aerobic Power for 3 to 5k run race pace efforts, Anaerobic Capacity and Power for 1 to 2 min all out attacks on the bike).


    Zone 6:

    Typically the realm of pure speed appropriate to road cyclist sprinters or short track events.  The energy system development here is purely Anaerobic. However research has shown improvement in aerobic markers with work in this Zone so don’t be disturbed if it crops up on your programme.



    At Endurance State our programmes focus on developing the athlete’s  Aerobic capacity(AeC)  from the early stages of the training plan right through to the Build up period of your Goal event. In this Build up phase we then focus on Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP) so you can fully harness the benefits of your training and perform at your best on the day. This article explains AeC and MAP in a practical way so you’ll approach your workouts with more purpose and knowledge.


    Aerobic Capacity (AeC) is simply the size of your Aerobic Engine and generally the bigger the better. The bigger the engine the more Oxygen you can consume (VO2Max)and the more ‘aerobic’ fuel you can burn and with proper training better usage of fat as fuel during longer events. Genetics will play a role here and unfortunately some people get a V8 engine via their parents and will have a bigger AeC. Regardless of genetics though AeC is trainable and consistant work to raise AeT/LT and judicious high intensity training will raise AeC.

    Many people who go for lab testing focus on VO2 max and think that a good number here will translate to a good performance. VO2 max simply means you have the potential to have a big AeC but it doen’t mean squat without the hard work to build speed at VO2 max. The best indicators of performance from a lab test are the SPEEDS associated with VO2 max / Aerobic Threshold and Lactate threshold as these are much better indicators of how fast you’ll race. Logical if you think about it and the good news is that no matter what your VO2 Max is you can improve the Speed at VO2 Max (vVO2 Max) with proper training. Use this analogy: You’ve got a V8 Ford Mustang in the garage that has crappy fuel consumption/needs repair and filter job ……. , this car will have  a great VO2 max potential but poor vVO2 max in its current state. However give it a tune up (training) and vVO2 will improve greatly alongside its performance on the road with no need for improvement in the basic engine size (VO2 Max).

    Workouts to improve your AeC:

    Lots of workout types will help improve Aerobic Capacity, commonly we’ll use a variety of aerobic workouts to boost AeC on your way to peak fitness.

    • Active recovery: Yes easy stuff will still improve AeC at the cell level just by ticking it over.
    • AeT work : Work at or just below aerobic Threshold will steadily improve AeC and also boost speeds at AeT (vAet) , this is critical to performance in marathon running/long distance triathlon.
    • Tempo/Long Hill reps: Boost fuel economy and train the Fast Twitch Oxidative fibres to improve their production of aerobic fuel.
    • High Intensity VO2 Max efforts with longer type recoveries can be used to steadily boost both VO2 max and vVO2 max. This is powerful medicine though and too much will ruin performance.



    We’ll also paradoxically use anaerobic type workouts to push your aerobic system up a notch. After anaerobic type efforts your aerobic system has to work overtime to shuttle the lactate produced to be used as fuel in the muscles/heart and liver.

    Here’s some of the workouts we’ll use:

    • Strides and hill sprints
    • Anaerobic Capacity workouts to boost your maximum one off power production capability.
    • Anaerobic Power workouts to boost your ability to repetitively access your anaerobic battery and recover between efforts.
    • Strength sessions in the gym will boost aerobic/anaerobic economy and boost movement efficiency . At SportsMedireland we individualise your strength and conditioning sessions and aim to correct biomechanical deficits while also making you stronger for your sport.

    Once we’ve developed AeC as high as we can on the road to your peak event we’ll turn our attention to making sure your aerobic Power is as high as possible.


    Aerobic Power is simply taking AeC and getting the fastest bang for your buck out of it, bringing vVO2 max to its highest point and improving fuel economy and efficiency on the way. Different goal events will see different importance of this quality in your training. MAP is very important to Olympic distance Triathlon and 10 running events. But generally all athlete’s will have MAP training as an ingredient in their build and peak phase training. Good application of MAP training will boost performance hugely in the last 6-8 weeks prior to the Goal event. Athlete’s who get this right in their training suddenly pass out training mates who’ve been working as hard or harder throughout the year but fail to understand the science of it. You can’t train slow all year and then expect a fast performance on race day. Your sessions leading to your goal event must show the evidence that your velocity at MAP /AeT/LT  corresponds to your goals. Depending on your event MAP/AeT or LT may be the most critical marker.  For example if you want to run 37 min for 10k and your speed for a workout of 6 by 1 mile on 1 min rest is not in the ballpark of 6min/mile then hitting your goal is gonna be tough. Rest and taper can lead to 3-6% performance improvement but not 20%.


    Here are a few of the workout types we’ll use to push up MAP:

    • Short and long rep vVO2 max workouts at goals race paces for 5-10k run efforts,10 mile TT pace on the bike.
    • Training races with emphasis on hitting target Power /run paceto elicit MAP improvement. Racing is a great way to do this.
    • Gym metabolic conditioning sessions  AKA “bring me a bucket sessions” at SportsMedIreland

    Too many athletes fail to understand that the “sexy” workouts that lead to fast changes in MAP above are inherently limited by the preceding work to raise AeC.  Without a high AeC  your Aerobic Power will always be limited.

    Leave a reply →