If you are pushing yourself on the long bike rides or long runs (Over an hour and a half) you may feel you have done a great session but all the evidence points to a much better alternative – Zone 2 with a polorised training plan. In other words chatting with your mates on the long rides or runs has many more benefits.
If you want to see improvements in your racing times you will have to polorise your training (20%-80%). The big challenge to accomplishing this, is ensuring that 80% of your training is in Zone 2 and not allowing yourself to drift down into zone 1 or up into zone 3. Also, you will have to ensure that the 20% is of a high intensity in both running and cycling (zone 3, 4 or 5). Those new to this type of training are often unable to do the long sessions slow enough or the short sessions hard enough.
It’s important to remember that this has been the way that professional have been training for years.
However, just doing lots of long rides in zone 2 won’t make you a faster rider but rather a long endurance athlete. However, once you add one or two watt bike threshold sessions you will see your average speed increase over the months. The same applies to running – one long zone 2 chatting pace run a week with a threshold session such as hill reps with short recoveries or 600 m all out with short recoveries.
If you don’t have any gadgets to measure your zones and want to know if you are in the correct zone go by perceived effort – Zone 2 = You can have a fluent easy conversation with your mates without having to catch your breath. Zone 3 + you are pausing between words or unable to talk.
Finally, the big danger of cycling in zone 3 for long periods is that you may loose your concentration after three hours and end up having a collision.
The following articles should help convince any doubter.