A Paradigm Shift in Training

From Zones to Strain and Focus

Zones have been a long-standing method of prescribing training.  Whether they are based on heart-rate or power, they are the staple of any training program.  When used for training with power, they are often defined relative to your Functional Threshold PowerAlso used as an acronym TP in Xert and sometimes described using the more colloquial term FTP, Threshold Power is... (FTPAlso referred to as Functional Threshold Power, it is regarded by most athletes as the power that can be sustained...) and, depending on the methodology used, may be from 3 to 9 zones or more.  For example, here is a 7-level set of training zones defined relative to FTPAlso referred to as Functional Threshold Power, it is regarded by most athletes as the power that can be sustained...:

 

Zone / Level Name %FTPAlso referred to as Functional Threshold Power, it is regarded by most athletes as the power that can be sustained...
1 Active Recovery <55%
2 Endurance 56-75%
3 Tempo 76-90%
4 Threshold 91-105%
5 VOMax 106-120%
6 Anaerobic Capacity >121%
7 Neuromuscular
Power
N/A

 

Zones are a convenient way to designate relative intensity and targets using an athlete’s FTPAlso referred to as Functional Threshold Power, it is regarded by most athletes as the power that can be sustained....  By counting the amount of time one spends in each zone, one can infer how much training they’ve been doing to improve that particular aspect of their fitness.  By defining zones and calculating the cumulative time, we can look to measure the influence the training will have on outcomes.  The more time in a particular zone, the greater the improvement we would expect to have relative to other zones.

But what happens when we account for Maximal Power Available (MPA), Fitness Signatures and Work Allocation Ratios?  Let’s consider an example to illustrate how Xert sheds light on some of the implications of using simple Time-in-Zone using %FTPAlso referred to as Functional Threshold Power, it is regarded by most athletes as the power that can be sustained... in calculations.

Our Example Athletes

Andre is new to training with power.  Physically, Andre is blessed with good power but sees his endurance as a weakness.  His Xert Fitness SignatureIt is represented by three values: Threshold Power (TP),  High Intensity Energy (HIE) and Peak Power (PP). The three fitness values are used... is 1100W, 25kJ and 250W for Peak PowerAs one of the three parameters that define an athlete's Fitness Signature, this is an athlete's highest possible power.  Sometimes..., High Intensity EnergyAlso used as the acronym HIE, this is the amount of energy or work capacity an athlete has above Threshold... and Threshold PowerAlso used as an acronym TP in Xert and sometimes described using the more colloquial term FTP, Threshold Power is... respectively.  He would like to focusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... his training on improving his Threshold PowerAlso used as an acronym TP in Xert and sometimes described using the more colloquial term FTP, Threshold Power is... but would like to also compete as a road-racer in the future.

Clara is a very competitive triathlete.  She’s competed in Sprint and Olympic triathlons.  Her Xert Fitness SignatureIt is represented by three values: Threshold Power (TP),  High Intensity Energy (HIE) and Peak Power (PP). The three fitness values are used... is 800W, 15kJ and 300W for Peak PowerAs one of the three parameters that define an athlete's Fitness Signature, this is an athlete's highest possible power.  Sometimes..., High Intensity EnergyAlso used as the acronym HIE, this is the amount of energy or work capacity an athlete has above Threshold... and Threshold PowerAlso used as an acronym TP in Xert and sometimes described using the more colloquial term FTP, Threshold Power is... respectively.  Her coach often prescribes Zone 4 workouts but will schedule some Zone 5 workouts when she’s preparing for a Sprint triathlon.  This helps her focusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... her training on her Threshold PowerAlso used as an acronym TP in Xert and sometimes described using the more colloquial term FTP, Threshold Power is... mostly but also prepare for the added intensity needed above Threshold Power during shorter triathlons.

A Typical Zone 4 and 5 Interval Workout

The workout structure is a simply one, based on % of Threshold PowerAlso used as an acronym TP in Xert and sometimes described using the more colloquial term FTP, Threshold Power is... (TPSee Threshold Power....):

Zone 4 and 5 Workout

The overall workout is 58:00 in duration:

  • 16 minutes is in Zone 1
  • 30 minutes is in Zone 4
  • 12 minutes is in Zone 5

Andre’s corresponding Workout MPAMPA stands for Maximum Power Available. It is a measure of the maximum power an athlete can generate at a given moment... More Chart is:

250 - Zone 4/5

The chart above is from Xert’s Workout Designer.  It shows the power intervals in red and shows Maximal Power Available (MPAMPA stands for Maximum Power Available. It is a measure of the maximum power an athlete can generate at a given moment... More) in blue.  MPAMPA stands for Maximum Power Available. It is a measure of the maximum power an athlete can generate at a given moment... More provides a measure of how much power Andre has at any given moment.  When MPAMPA stands for Maximum Power Available. It is a measure of the maximum power an athlete can generate at a given moment... More gets close to the red power line, it means that the workout becomes more difficult to complete.

For this workout, despite not seeing a significant drop in MPAMPA stands for Maximum Power Available. It is a measure of the maximum power an athlete can generate at a given moment... More during the workout, the Total StressSynonymous with work, this metric is measured in joules and is the total work performed over a given period or... (691kJ) and Total StrainMeasured in joules, this quantifies how much work is performed close to MPA. As MPA drops with fatigue, strain increases... (178kJ) for the 58 minutes are quite high for Andre.  The FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is..., which is based on the work allocation ratios, is Sprint Time-Triallist which translates to having a FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... of 20:00 minute power.  His Normalized Average Power for the workout is 239W (not shown).

A Small Variation

If we now instead reverse the Zone 4 and Zone 5 intervals:

Zone 5/4 Workout

Time-in-zones is identical to the previous workout.  Andre’s new MPAMPA stands for Maximum Power Available. It is a measure of the maximum power an athlete can generate at a given moment... More chart is now:

250 - Zone 5/4

The Total StressSynonymous with work, this metric is measured in joules and is the total work performed over a given period or... for the workout remains the same at 691kJ.  The Normalized Average Power is also essentially unchanged rising only 0.2W.  However, the Total StrainMeasured in joules, this quantifies how much work is performed close to MPA. As MPA drops with fatigue, strain increases... increases by 37% to 244kJ.  This is because the Zone 5 interval first lowers MPAMPA stands for Maximum Power Available. It is a measure of the maximum power an athlete can generate at a given moment... More and then Andre must do the next 10 minutes at just below Threshold PowerAlso used as an acronym TP in Xert and sometimes described using the more colloquial term FTP, Threshold Power is....  This is a much more difficult workout to complete and the Total StrainMeasured in joules, this quantifies how much work is performed close to MPA. As MPA drops with fatigue, strain increases... reflects this added difficulty.  In this case, FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... also remains unchanged from the previous workout.

When MPAMPA stands for Maximum Power Available. It is a measure of the maximum power an athlete can generate at a given moment... More is accounted for in a workout, the order in which the work performed in zones matters.  Looking at the workout only through the lens of time-in-zones, Normalized Average Power and Total Work miss this important information.

Clara’s Workouts

Using the identically defined workouts, let’s see how Clara would fare in her execution.  The first workout’s MPAMPA stands for Maximum Power Available. It is a measure of the maximum power an athlete can generate at a given moment... More Chart is here:

300 - Zone 4/5

The %FTPAlso referred to as Functional Threshold Power, it is regarded by most athletes as the power that can be sustained... targets and interval durations are identical to Andre’s.  Time-in-zones is exactly the same too.  The Total Work of 810kJ is higher due to her higher Threshold PowerAlso used as an acronym TP in Xert and sometimes described using the more colloquial term FTP, Threshold Power is....  But Clara is going to have a very difficult time completing this workout.  Total StrainMeasured in joules, this quantifies how much work is performed close to MPA. As MPA drops with fatigue, strain increases... is a whopping 369kJ in just 58 minutes – 107% higher than Andre’s.  Clara’s FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... is also changed as a result of her different Fitness SignatureIt is represented by three values: Threshold Power (TP),  High Intensity Energy (HIE) and Peak Power (PP). The three fitness values are used....  This workout is classified as a GC Specialist (8:00 minute power) vs. Andre’s that was classified at Sprint Time-Trialist (20:00 minute power).

This shows that even though time-in-zones and %FTPAlso referred to as Functional Threshold Power, it is regarded by most athletes as the power that can be sustained... numbers are identical, radically different results can occur depending on the athlete’s specific fitness values, even with relatively minor differences.

For further comparison, what if Clara’s coach decided to reverse the Zone 5 and 4 intervals?

300 - Zone 5/4

This workout would be virtually impossible to complete!  With 540kJ of Total StrainMeasured in joules, this quantifies how much work is performed close to MPA. As MPA drops with fatigue, strain increases... in less than an hour, this would be one of the most difficult workouts Clara would have ever attempted.

Yet Normalized Average Power, Total StressSynonymous with work, this metric is measured in joules and is the total work performed over a given period or... are the same as the previous workout.  Notably, StressSynonymous with work, this metric is measured in joules and is the total work performed over a given period or... Scores calculated based on the Normalized Average Power and the total time-in-zones are exactly the same for all four workouts for both athletes.

With Xert, we now have an entirely new way to look at our workouts.  By examining MPAMPA stands for Maximum Power Available. It is a measure of the maximum power an athlete can generate at a given moment... More and calculating the Total StrainMeasured in joules, this quantifies how much work is performed close to MPA. As MPA drops with fatigue, strain increases..., we can know in advance the potential implications our unique fitness abilities have on our ability to execute the workout.  We can also anticipate the dramatic effects of making changes will have, perhaps subtle ones, even if our traditional markers we have used are unchanged.  This helps you train better, more efficiently, avoids attempting workouts that are too difficult and helps you prevent potential over-training.

Training Smarter with Xert Workouts

Using Xert, workouts are designed to account for the differences between individuals.  Workouts that are too hard or too easy can be identified in advance.  This ability to tune a workout for a given athlete has normally been reserved for experienced coaches that spend a great deal of time getting to know their athletes so that they can customize workouts based on the athlete’s ability.  With Xert, much of the guesswork is eliminated and athletes can perform workouts that are not only achievable, but are highly-tuned to them.

In the near future, we’ll be introducing a new concept in interval training: Smart Intervals:

xert-smart-interval-workout

Smart Intervals enable the athlete to achieve very precise workout goals, increasing the training dose and specificity whilst still enabling the workouts to be achieved without ever reaching a point-of-failure.  The unique workouts are more natural as the power targets follow the same course of fatigueFatigue represents a reduction in an athlete's ability to produce power.  It either manifests as a reduction in Maximal Power....  The workouts “feel” better and they provide the ability to generate more strainMeasured in joules, this quantifies how much work is performed close to MPA. As MPA drops with fatigue, strain increases... yet avoid bringing you to the point where you wish to give up.

Smart Interval workouts and Workout Designer features are expected to be available in early 2017.

Keeping Things Simple with Focus Durations

One of the main benefits of using a coach is that they can adjust the ranges that define your zones.  Rather than using pre-defined zones, levels are used which become descriptive rather than prescriptive.  They can therefore be adjusted to accommodate the differences between individuals.

Adjusting the level boundaries adds a layer of complication as the demarcation points between levels needs to be constantly updated to account for the differences with each individual.

Using FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... Duration eliminates this additional layer of translation needed as these never need to change.  They end up being prescriptive rather than descriptive enabling the removal of a layer of complexity.

In addition, since FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... Durations are determined by work allocation ratios associated with each of the three fitness systems – Low, High and Peak Intensities – FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... Duration can be applied against each individual joule of work performed and aggregated to provide a total view of the work performed against each system over any length of time.  In other words, using a FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... Duration eliminates the need to track the amount of time spent in each level and instead boils it down to one number – a duration – that represents the total aggregate calculated FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... of the work performed by the athlete based on work allocation ratios.  This can be viewed at the individual per second wattage all the way to entire seasons.  The FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... Duration provides a most convenient way to represent where the training and racing you do is focused.

Summary

Using FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... and StrainMeasured in joules, this quantifies how much work is performed close to MPA. As MPA drops with fatigue, strain increases... is a paradigm shift in training.  It will take those that have become comfortable and familiar with using zones some time to adapt.  In fact, this is perhaps a bit harder still because familiarity is very important, especially for coaches.  Their knowledge and experience in using zones steers them away from the pitfalls we have shown.  In many ways, the knowledge of the challenges with using simple zone and time-in-zones measurements is the experience athletes look for in a coach to help them conduct proper training.

With Xert’s Smart Intervals and FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... and StrainMeasured in joules, this quantifies how much work is performed close to MPA. As MPA drops with fatigue, strain increases..., the veil has been lifted and athletes and coaches can move to new levels where the amount of StrainMeasured in joules, this quantifies how much work is performed close to MPA. As MPA drops with fatigue, strain increases... and the FocusThis is a generalized concept that is quantified as duration value and categorized as an Athlete Type. The value is... of the training become the new measures they use in optimizing training programs.

2018-01-28T11:47:21+00:00 Blog Post, fitness, training|