In the Zone

When you have a big challenge ahead, it’s a good idea to test your fitness and set goals before you start training so you can keep track of your progress. Our friends at Wattbike have spent years helping British Cycling do just that and now they want to help you hit your cycling goals this summer.

Wattbike has already explained why training using power is so effective for cyclist of all abilities, but where do you start? What is the first step of putting these words into action?

It seems obvious but many cyclists skip the most important part of structuring a training plan and that’s determining what your specific goal is. If you don’t know where you want to get to or where you are starting from then it doesn’t matter what you do – you won’t know whether you are making the necessary improvements throughout your training journey.

Establishing a set of baseline figures on which to base your training is a key element of any training plan. These numbers ensure that you are training at the right intensity for the correct duration to allow you to make the most of your physiology and investment in training time; Wattbike call it efficient and effective training.

Naturally, Wattbike are big advocates of training using a combination of power, heart rate and cadence, but first you’ll need to establish your power and heart rate training zones. While you can always go to a sport science laboratory for testing this is not always possible – or affordable – and in many instances is unnecessary.

The casual use of the word ‘accuracy’ is a real issue when it comes to training with power, but it is profoundly important to ensure you are training at the correct intensity. If you are training on a Wattbike then you can be very confident in the scientifically accurate data recorded during your test. This accuracy becomes very important when using training zones as you are making very specific demands on the body based on your current physiology.

The first step towards finding the right training zones for you is to find a Wattbike and perform this three-minute test to determine your maximum heart rate and maximum minute power. The key to getting a good result is to select a resistance and cadence that allows you to pedal evenly throughout the three minutes, so the advice is not to go off at too high of an intensity.

Once you have your maximum heart rate and maximum minute power figures you simply use an online training zones calculator to determine your individual zones, which will form the basis of your training programme. Wattbike has worked closely with British Cycling and recommends that you train using their power and heart rate training zone system – outlined in the table below. 

That initial three-minute test to set your personalised training zones is just the beginning; you must ensure that you are undertaking checks by repeating the three-minute test at regular intervals to both track progress and re-base your training zones to avoid a plateau in performance gains.

Many cyclists also use a percentage of functional threshold power (FTP) to calculate training zones so there is an FTP column in the table below. FTP is generally agreed as the normalized maximal power output you can sustain for the duration of one hour.

FTP can be established in a couple of ways; do the three-minute test outlined above on a Wattbike (FTP is 75 percent of your average power) or a 20-minute test of sustained power output (FTP is 95 percent of your average power) and the Wattbike Performance Computer will calculate the results for you. Always precede a test with the Wattbike-recommended 20-minute warm-up and cool-down.

Accurately establishing your personal training zones is the important first step to making those big performance gains you'll need ahead of your next big ride – bookmark this page for future reference as we approach the launch of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 Training Plan by Wattbike.

The British Cycling heart rate and power training zones

Training Zone Purpose %MHR %MMP %FTP
Recovery Regeneration and recovery Less than 60 Less than 35 Less than 45
1. Basic Establish base endurance 60 – 65 35 - 45 45 - 60
2. Basic Improve efficiency 65 75 45- 55 60 - 75
3. Intensive Improve sustainable power 75 – 85 55 – 65 75 - 85
4. Intensive Push threshold up 85 – 89 65 - 75 85 - 100
5. Maximal Sustain a high % of maximal aerobic power 89 - 94 75 -80 100 - 105
6. Maximal Increase maximum power output Greater than 94 80 -100 105 - 130
Supra-maximal Increase sprint power output Not applicable Greater than 100 Greater than 130

Wattbike is the Official Indoor Bike of Prudential RideLondon