This past week you may have noticed something called ‘Training Zones’ appear on the whiteboard next to the Metcon. They were written as ‘Perform @ Z(1-5)’. You will notice these being incorporated DAILY moving forward. Let me first explain exactly what the ranges are and then I will explain why we are using them and what the advantages are.
What are “Training Zones”?
Zone 1 Active Recovery: <82% Anaerobic Threshold
- This zone is known as the ‘recovery zone’ as it is a great area to flush fluids through the system and aid in the recovery process.
Zone 2 Aerobic Threshold : 83-88% AT
- This zone is the ‘Extensive Endurance’ zone. Individuals are able to maintain activity at this level for an extended period of time and the majority of that activity is supported by aerobic energy production. This is the zone that most effectively encourages mitochondrial production which can aid in increasing one’s ability to tolerate and utilize lactic acid.
Zone 3 Tempo: 89-93% AT
- This zone is known as ‘Intensive Endurance’. While it is still primarily aerobic in nature the percentage of anaerobic energy production is higher. Individuals are able to still maintain a longer duration of activity in this zone, but it is not an ‘extended workout zone.
Zone 4/5a Sub lactate Threshold/Lactate Threshold: 94-101% AT
- This is the Lactic, or in this case, Anaerobic Threshold. It is at this level that energy begins to primarily come from anaerobic systems. This threshold is also where lactic acid begins accumulating within the system. Over time lactic acidosis will set in, the time this takes is dependent upon the level of intensity Individuals are only able to sustain this workload for a limited amount of time.
Zone 5b Aerobic Capacity: 102% – OBLA(106%)
- This is where aerobic energy process begins to fall off and nearly all of your energy production is the product of anaerobic energy processes. You can maintain this workload for approximately 90-120 seconds. Zone 5b is too intense to be done in sustained blocks, so instead it is incorporated into interval workouts featuring multiple short segments of fast movement separated by active recoveries.
Zone 5c Anaerobic Capacity: > OBLA(106%)
- This is the limitation of your body’s ability to create power. These are VERY short bouts of exercise. This zone should be 60s or less in effort depending on the exercise, but more often than not it is less than 30s. Think about a 400m sprint (~60s) vs. 5RM lift (~20 seconds) vs. max box jump overs in 30s. All three have a similar effect on the body in this sense. The accomplish different things but metabolically have a similar effect.
As you can see each zone is a range of heart rates that correspond to an intensity level as defined by your INDIVIDUAL Anaerobic Threshold. Using these zones we can define DIFFERENT zones to utilize for training depending on what YOUR goals are. So while one individual may be performing a workout in zone 2 to reach their goals another athlete may need to perform the same workout in zone 4 to achieve their goals.
Why should I use these zone thingys?
Now, on to WHY WE ARE USING them: sustainability. Over the past year we have evaluated class attendance records and investigated trend data. One of our MAIN goals at MGF is to improve your life by making you healthier and more fit during the one hour we have you. This means we want you in the gym EVERYDAY creating lifestyle habits that will benefit your overall health and wellbeing. To this end varying exercise intensity is the answer.
We have always programed our workouts with an intended stimulus and the structure of those workouts will usually lead you toward a certain intensity level. That being said, we have come to recognize that we have not done the best job of explaining the intended intensities in a way that is easily understandable, enter training zones.
Utilizing YOUR heart rate and capacity we can direct you to the appropriate intensity for the workout that will allow you to train more effectively and efficiently while also feeling able and ready to return for the next days workout. One of the greatest advantages of this system is the ability to understand compounding stressors on the body and OBJECTIVELY recognize their effect. What this means is soreness, fatigue, work stress, bad nights of sleep are ALL reflected by your heart rate at a given intensity. The same workout will yield a different physiologic result when the preceding events are different. This means doing 100 pull ups in 10 minutes after a rest day and a great night’s sleep is easier than doing the same thing (still within 10 minutes) after 3 grueling days of working out and traveling. You are probably thinking ‘well duh, that makes sense’, but that is an extreme example. The same thing happens with compounding small life stressors that you may not even realize. So, what may be a Z2 workout on one day is a Z5 workout on another day. We want to stop that variability and allow you to hit the correct intensities. In this sense we want to craft the workout around YOU, modify it PERSONALLY. This isn’t something we don’t already do as you all well know, but with this tool we can do it much more effectively.
In the above example we would quickly be able to realize a modification is needed and simply reduce the overall repetitions for the workout allowing you to slow down a little. Splitting the repetitions up more often with more rest between sets would help to bring y9ou to the desired intensity. Incorporating modifications like this one will allow for continued HEALTHY progress and an ability to workout at increased intensities more often.
Do you have to know your anaerobic threshold and your training zones in order to utilize and understand this system? No, just knowing what the zone means will allow you to have a rough idea of how hard you should be pushing. However, will you benefit from knowing your exact zones and limitations and then training within them? Without a doubt.
This system allows for EVERYONE to easily understand what it is we are looking for at a glance, but for those that know their zones (we can perform a metabolic fitness test and analysis to determine them. Follow the link at the bottom to find out more) they will be able to precisely hit the desired level of intensity not only providing them with the best training experience but also a very PERSONALIZED one.
Finally, it is important to know that INTENSITY is a measure of many different factors. Intensity can be measured by load, speed, range of motion, just to name a few. It is OUR job, as coaches and experts, to direct you to the best modification for the workout so that you still achieve the desired stimulus and intensity. Heavy cleans and assault biking for calories, while very different, can have the same effect on the heart rate and correlate to a ‘similar intensity’, but their effect on the neuro-muscular, skeletal and endocrine systems vary greatly. This is where the overall program comes into play and YOUR COACH plays a major role. By using a very objective method, heart rate, to evaluate the level of stress your body is experiencing we can better prescribe the appropriate modifications.
You are probably asking: is this really necessary? The straight answer is no, its not. I would be lying if I told you this is how training must be done. There are countless examples of athletes and training regimes working that do not monitor intensity in this way. That doesn’t mean they are the best way though, or that relying on feeling is the best way for OUR methodology and training program. I would encourage everyone to at least try utilizing the training zones for a week. See how you feel. For the next 2 weeks we will be letting you borrow the MyZone heart rate bands during CrossFit classes*. This will allow you to monitor your heart rate on the big screen. Keep in mind though, training zones are relative. So while you will be able to operate in a rough estimation of what your zone should be there is no substitute for knowing your exact capabilities.
If you are interested in obtaining your training zones and a multitude of other health data schedule a Metabolic Fitness Test HERE
If you already know your zones but need an effective way to track your workouts AND monitor your intensity in real time ask one of the coaches about obtaining a MyZone band, they are only $20/mo!
*There are only so many bands so it will be first come first serve. Please after use wipe the bands down with cleaner, DO NOT dunk them in the sink or under the faucet.