Zone 1 Endurance Training On Shoshone Route, Grand Canyon Natilonal Park

The primary goal for endurance athletes is to be able to exercise at low to moderate intensities for hours at a time. Endurance training requires that the majority of the training be done in the Endurance Zone (below the aerobic threshold (AeT). At this intensity, fat metabolism provides more than half of the energy needed for movement. The body metabolizes fat stores for an almost unlimited supply of energy and processes lactate faster than it is produced. The lower intensity training also reduces the stress to the musculoskeletal system so that you can train more often. Another important aspect of Endurance Zone training is that it raises the aerobic threshold over time. This allows training at higher intensities for longer times while still using fat as a primary energy source and processing lactate faster than it is produced.

Keeping Intensity In Check With A Heart Rate Monitor

I highly recommend beginning athletes train with a chest strap heart rate monitor to keep Endurance Zone workouts below the aerobic threshold (it is very easy to drift above the AeT into the Threshold Zone without a monitor!). The Wahoo Tickr with the Wahoo fitness app is the one I use. One of the best features is the ability to download your workout directly to Training Peaks with a single push of the button on the app. To get your target heart rates for Endurance Zone, the MAF 180-age formula is a good way to conservatively estimate the upper end of the Endurance Zone. More information on this: Estimating Aerobic Threshold MAF 180 Formula.

Stay In The Zone With The Talk Test

When training in the Endurance Zone, you should be able to speak comfortably. The ability to speak in full sentences, recite the alphabet, speak for 10 seconds is considered comfortable. This is often referred to as “conversational pace”. As long as you can speak comfortably, you are almost definitely below the aerobic threshold. As you approach the upper end of  the Endurance Zone and the aerobic threshold, talking in complete sentences becomes more challenging. 

Assessing Endurance Zone With Nose Breathing

A good way to quickly assess that you are training below your aerobic threshold in the backcountry is the ability to breathe through your nose. If you are below the aerobic threshold, you should be able to easily breathe through your nose. As intensity approaches the upper end of the Endurance Zone and the aerobic threshold, nose breathing becomes deep and steady.

Endurance Zone training should make up the majority of your training volume (80+% of training time) if your goal is any activity lasting multiple hours. Next weeks article will discuss the Aerobic Threshold in detail.  If you have any questions, please send me an email at james@adventureperformancetraining.com.