For the hard charging athlete, pushing to the top of the heart rate range may seem like you are doing a good thing and outperforming. When given a performance target to “hit” we find most of our athletes meet or exceed the plan. There is however the nature of physiology and it doesn’t “care” whether or not you want to perform at higher heart rate, pace or power; more problematic is that may not necessarily be what makes you faster.
Aerobic threshold (AeT). This is a relatively low level of intensity marked by light breathing and the feeling that you could maintain the effort for a few hours. It occurs at about 60% of your aerobic capacity or at about 70% of max heart rate or around 80% of lactate threshold. A ballpark way of determining your aerobic threshold is to subtract 30 beats per minute from your lactate threshold heart rate (Bottom of heart rate zone 5a) or In a sport science lab aerobic threshold is usually defined as the intensity at which lactate just begins to accumulate above the resting level.
What does this mean and why should you care?
If the goal is to train and improve your aerobic capacity (Improved speed/power at lower and even higher heart rates) then it does not matter if you are at the top end of the zone target or bottom!
Example; Your aerobic zone stretches from 120-145bpm (Zone 2 lets say) Do you get any more benefit training at 145 lets say vs 120? Actually, no.
The goal if it is to train the physiology is to be within the zone for certain and recognize that the lower output will still get the job done, be much easier to accomplish and will allow for greater recovery for those more key sessions that are really needed to move the threshold dial..!
You are actually doing yourself a disservice in your training and plan if you decide to go just over the target heart rate as this not only does not accomplish aerobic improvements as readily , it is also more stressful and requires a more extended recovery time. And while it may feel great to go faster (Low zone three) and build stamina, the key takeaway is you a working a completely different energy system and neglecting another most important one.
Most hungry athletes will find it tempting to push to top of any target we give them. The intelligence of our Tristar coaching team is to show you the different energy systems and their total value to your goals and plan. Sometimes the “ego” gets in the way of your training and this is why “self coaching” can be hard to do as an individual does not have the self objection to know the “red line”.
Train hard… and SMART!
★★★ Tristar Athletes Coaching staff