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Testing and Cycling Performance Simplified

By Greg C. Moriates, Guest Contributor, Athlete and Coach


The word intensity is nothing more than how hard you are going for a given duration of time. It is that simple. However, in order to quantify how hard you should be going for that duration of time, you need to know your power and or heart rates zones.

Power and Heart Rate Zones

The following Training Zones (TZ) are what are used to develop that cycling engine that you dream of:

  • Zone 1 - Aerobic/Recovery Endurance;
  • Zone 2 - Aerobic Endurance;
  • Zone 3 - Sub-Threshold;
  • Zone 4 - Threshold;
  • All Out - No designated zone. Just all out, hard, hard, hard sprinting.

You will likely be able to utilize your heart rate monitor to distinguish the TZ you are in. However, there will be times that the intervals are too intense and fast for your heart rate to catch up (heart rate lag). In that case, make sure you use heart rate in conjunction with perceived effort.

Perceived Effort

You had been training for a decent amount of time and you know how your body feels under specific intensities.

Perceived effort in nothing more than you knowing how your body reacts and feels at certain efforts. Instead of using a number scale, I want to simplify it, in to the following categories:

  • Aerobic/Recovery - You can hold a conversation and can keep the pace for hours. Light pedal pressure;
  • Sub-Threshold - Your legs are starting to burn and you need to take a breath or two between a series of words. Moderate pedal pressure;
  • Threshold - Your legs are screaming at you to stop and you have labored controlled breathing. You cannot hold a conversation, but you can suffer through the pain. Moderate to hard pedal pressure;
  • All Out - No explanation needed. Just shoot for the stars. Think max effort, sprinting to the crest of the mountain.

How to Determine Your Training Zones

You should conduct a threshold test (THT) prior to starting any program. The initial THT will be used as a baseline starting point and to determine your TZ's. A second THT will be conducted at the end of your last recovery week to document your improvement.

There are many ways to test your threshold. However, I recommend the Threshold Test described in the next section.

Threshold Test

Warm Up
5 minutes easy. Incorporating 3x1 minute hard efforts with 1 minute easy pedaling between sets, followed by 5 minutes Hard effort (You need to put out the highest watts/effort that you can sustain for the 5 minutes), followed by 10 minutes Easy.

The Test
30 minute Hard effort. After the first 10 minutes had passed, begin to record your data for the next 20 minutes. Focus on you cadence and form to distract you from the pain (music helps).

Cool Down
5-10 minutes Easy pedaling.

Test Results

The average heart rate or power output for your 20 minute all-out effort will be your functional lactate threshold (FTH) or the beginning of Zone 4. Obtaining your average power or heart rate during the test is easy. Set you measuring device to average and hit record when you are 10 minutes in to you 30 minute test. To determine your TZ's for this training system, use the following table.

Determine your TZ's for this training system

Before we move forward with actual training, I want to make it clear that these TZ's are dynamic. They will change from test to test and they will increase and decrease with training and de-training. If you are going a couple of watts over your calculated zone, but feel like you can hold that power, do so and reevaluate/adjust your training zone for the next training session.

Till next time, training at the right intensity at the right time will bring you to that next level.

About Greg

Greg C. Moriates has over 10 years training, racing and coaching in the multisport arena. He is the owner of GCM Endurance (www.GCMendurance.com) focusing on quality training, coaching, camps and nutritional analysis at affordable prices; owner of Triathlon Training Blueprint (www.TriathlonTrainingBluePrint.com) giving the athlete the tools, knowledge and motivation to build their own training programs for an Epic season; and owner of Xtreme Multisports (www.XtremeMultisports.com) bringing the fun back to multisports clubs and teams without all the rules. Find out more about Greg C. Moriates on his personal blog at (www.GregMoriates.com).