Welcome to Qwik Kiwi: Measuring Intensity

For those that are using either power for cycling, pace for running, or heart rate. Your training zones can be found within Training Peaks. If you click on your name in the top right and select ‘Account Settings’ a new window will open. On the left of this window select ’Zones’ within this section you will be able to see your respective power zones, HR zones for each sport and your pace zones.

Load these zones into your Garmin or HR monitor, so that you can set your workouts and have alarms to advise you when you are going too fast or too slow (if your model has these features).

Determining Training Zones

Above a certain point or intensity of exercise your body will not be able to remove lactate acid fast enough. Depending on the literature you read this point or a similar point with a subtle difference in the scientific definition is known as the Lactate Threshold, Onset of Blood Lactate or a raft of other names that for all intense and purposes for a lay person is effectively the same thing. What you need to know is that this is the pace/effort that you can maintain for about an hour and your training HRs are based off this.

Your coach will periodically set you Time Trials (TTs) to complete as an assessment of your current level of fitness. This ensures that your training zones are based on what you are currently (or recently) capable of achieving, rather than relying on what you did last year, as your fitness may have regressed or advanced since your training zones were last set.

Once the data from your respective TTs is uploaded, your coach can then review the information (it helps if you text or message them advising that the data has been uploaded). Reviewing the data will enable your coach to see if your ability has changed and if this is significant enough to alter your training zones. If it is only a small change it is often not worth changing the training zones, especially if we are only talking a bpm or a couple of Watts or a few seconds per kilometre.

These TTs are an important part of the coach reviewing your training and optimising the future training they load up. It is important that you put your best effort forward each and every time you complete a TT. You can’t control all factors relating to a TT but try and replicate as many aspects of the TT as possible.

  • Use the same course.
  • Try and go at the same time of day.
  • Use the same equipment (TT bike with aero wheels or racing flats for running).
  • Be fueled and hydrated equally well as last time.

If you constantly change things from one TT to the next, the question the coach needs to then work out is: is the different result due to change in fitness and performance or as a result of different equipment or a different course.

Power for Cycling

The best way to measure intensity whilst cycling is to measure power. This can be done utilising any number of measurement devices: SRM, PowerTap wheels, cranks or pedals, Garmin pedals, Polar pedals and a few other options available. Most of these options will talk to your Garmin or smart phone to then up load the data to Training Peaks.

Renowned cycling and triathlon coach, Joe Friel describes the Power Meter as a powerful training tool that can potentially make you fitter and faster than any other piece of equipment. Qwik Kiwi athletes and coaches that are using power meters have made some big jumps in how they train and the results they get.

Power is measuring your effort rather than a physiological response to that effort. It is measured in Watts, the same as a light bulb is.

Utilising power for your training allows you to be very precise and use this precision to get results quicker than utilizing HR alone.

If you are training with power, your coach will set some training intensities for you to train to. There will be six zones, aiming to achieve a range of different physiological benefits. These benefits are summerised in the following table:

 

Zone Physiological Aim
Recovery Power Zone Recovery and unloading of muscles
Endurance Power Zone Increase muscle mitochondria density, improve the efficiency of heart and lungs
Tempo Power Zone Increase muscle glycogen storage and further enhance the efficiency of the heart and lungs
Threshold Power Zone Increase Lactate Threshold
VO2 Max Power Zone Increase maximal oxygen uptake, increase the size of the heart and maximal cardiac output
Anaerobic Capacity/Neuromusclar Power Zone Increase lactate tolerance, increase neuromuscular power

Figure 5: Summary of Physiological Benefits of Training in Various Power Zones

Pace for Running

Pace is the equivalent for running that power is for cycling. Data is recorded on a GPS training tool such as a Garmin. You can see on your wrist exactly the pace you are currently running at.

Just like power, pace is a measure of your output, not your response to an output like HR is. However to get the most out of your GPS training tool, it needs to be combined with HR data.

 

Advantages of using a GPS training tool include:

  • Maintain target pace in workouts and races,
  • Develop a sense of pace,
  • Design and execute pace-based training plans,
  • Get encouragement to train harder,
  • Track training workload,
  • Track changes in performance, and
  • Analyse and assess workout and race performances.

There are a couple of limitations of a GPS training tool. The resolution of the GPS tracking (which is compounded if running on an athletic track as you are always going round in circles) is not perfect. It is typically within ±5m, if you stand still it may pick you up 5m ahead of where you are and a moment later pick you up 5m behind where you are and determine that you have moved 10m backwards when in fact you haven’t moved. It’s not too much of an issue when moving as it will sense the direction and speed moved and predict where to try and find you. The other limitation is when running on hills and it isn’t so much of a limitation of the device per se, but more of the training methodology.

Garmin is the world leader with GPS based training technology and it interacts very well with Training Peaks. Other options include Nike, Polar, Suunto and Timex.

Pace is measured in your time per distance (usually a kilometre or a mile) and is expressed as min/km eg. 5:00 min/km.

Heart Rate

HR is how much your body is working to achieve the output it is working at (whether cycling, running or otherwise). It is measured in Beats Per Minute (BPM).

If your heart is beating at 60 Bpm, there is one second between beats. At 120 Bpm there is only half a second between beats. Because of this decreased time there is less opportunity for blood to move into the chamber of the heart. At higher intensities this is more pronounced. This means, less blood will get pumped around the body. Less blood transporting less oxygen therefore the body isn’t getting what it needs to maintain that intensity.

HR can be affected by a range of things from how hot or cold the day is to how well hydrated you are or if you have consumed caffeine. This can have an influence on how your heart responds, meaning there is a massive limitation when relying solely on HR data to plan and conduct training session. HR data works best in conjunction with power or pace data. 

Borg Scale

The Borg Scale is a subjective self-assessment of how hard you are working. It is very unreliable and isn’t always the same level as it is influenced by your mood. It can’t be stored and then uploaded onto Training Peaks, but if there is no other method of describing the intensity of training then this is the best option left.

Borg Scale Description Conversation Test
0 Nothing at all Asleep in bed
½ Very very weak Sitting around
1 Very weak Low intensity
2 Weak Able to maintain a conversation
3 Moderate
4 Somewhat strong Able to converse by catching your breath between short sentences
5 Strong
6 Two to three word sentences and needing to catch your breath between them
7 Very strong
8 Sucking in oxygen and only able to grunt or groan
9
10 Very very strong

Figure 6: Word picture for varying intensities utilising the Borg Scale of Perceived Exersion

Comparison

Power Pace HR Borg
Recovery Power Zone PZ2 Recovery HR Zone Borg 1-2
Endurance Power Zone PZ3 Endurance HR Zone Borg 2-3
Tempo Power Zone PZ4 Tempo HR Zone Borg 4-5
Threshold Power Zone PZ6 Threshold HR Zone Borg 6-7
VO2 Max Power Zone PZ8 VO2 Max HR Zone Borg 8-10
Anaerobic Capacity/Neuromusclar Power Zone PZ10 N/A N/A

Figure 7: Comparison between Key Training Zones for Differnt Training Modalities

T-Time for Swimming

Your T-Time is a method for determining how much rest you get for a repetition of swimming. It is based on your general fitness and ability to swim a repeated 100m effort. It is not based on your maximum swimming pace or fastest swim speed.

It is easiest to explain T-Time by giving an example e.g. your coach advises you that your T-Time is two minutes flat (2:00) and your set involves swimming 15x 100m on T+15sec. Your T-Time is 2:00 plus the 15 seconds equals 2:15 and that is how often you start each repetition. If you finish your first rep in 1:55 that leaves 20 seconds rest as you wait for the clock to get back around to the 2:15, your next rep might be 2:00 which means you now only have 15 seconds rest and so on.

Rep Number Start Time Time to swim 100m Rest prior to starting next rep Start Time for next rep
1 0:00 1:55 0:20 2:15
2 2:15 2:00 0:15 4:30
3 4:30 2:02 0:13 6:45
4 6:45 1:59 0:16 9:00
5 9:00 2:03 0:12 11:15
6 11:15 2:02 0:13 13:30
7 13:30 2:05 0:10 15:45
8 15:45 2:04 0:11 18:00
9 18:00 2:06 0:09 20:15
10 20:15 2:08 0:07 22:30
11 22:30 2:10 0:05 24:45
12 24:45 2:09 0:06 27:00
13 27:00 2:08 0:07 29:15
14 29:15 2:11 0:04 31:30
15 31:30 2:07 N/A N/A

Figure 9: Hypotetical Example of a Swimmer with a T-Time of 2:00 conducting a session of 15x 100m on T+15

If the distance of the repetitions was based on 50m reps the time used might be ½T+10. For this swimmer half T is half of 2:00 equals 1:00 plus the 10sec equals 1:10. There fore they start each rep every 70 seconds.

If the distance of the rep was say 200m a session might be something like 8x 200m on 2T+20sec. In this case we are doubling the T-Time and adding 20sec, therefore 4:20.

 

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