Cycling performance improvement involves navigating through various training zones, and nestled right in the middle of this spectrum is the often misunderstood tempo power zone training. It's often referred to as a "dead zone" because it sits between two vital zones - endurance and threshold. However, don't let its positioning fool you. Tempo training is incredibly valuable when used correctly. Let's explore the world of tempo power zone training and uncover its benefits for cyclists.
The Value of Tempo Power Zone
While endurance and threshold training receive a lot of attention, tempo power zone training shouldn't be overlooked. Each training zone has its purpose, and the key is to find the right balance based on your strengths, weaknesses, goals, and event-specific requirements. Tempo training, despite being in the middle, serves a crucial role in this balance.
What is the Tempo Power Zone?
The tempo power zone sits just above endurance (zone 2) and just below lactate threshold (zone 4 or FTP). It's often referred to as "no man's land" because it's above the most aerobically efficient endurance riding and below the intensities that raise your lactate threshold or VO2Max. However, this doesn't mean tempo training is without benefits; it simply requires proper utilization.
The Importance of Moderation
The danger with tempo power zone training arises when cyclists spend too much time in this zone. Some riders are drawn to the fast-paced, moderately intense nature of tempo riding, leading them to make it their default training zone. However, overusing the tempo zone can impact overall training effectiveness. It's important to use tempo training strategically, rather than exclusively.
Differentiating Tempo and Other Zones
It's essential to understand how tempo power zone training compares to other zones, such as sweet spot and endurance cycling:
While it can be effective, sweet spot training should be used sparingly. It falls in a zone that's too hard for lactate clearance but not hard enough to change your threshold. Don't confuse tempo training with sweet spot training, and be cautious not to let tempo turn into sweet spot.
Endurance rides focus on utilizing fats as fuel and serve to build foundational aerobic capacity. A little bit of tempo is acceptable on endurance rides, but don't overdo it
Steady State: Steady-state cycling can refer to different zones, and it's crucial to use the terminology correctly. Don't mistake steady state for threshold riding.
Benefits of Tempo Power Zone Training
Tempo training offers several benefits when used appropriately:
Consistent Pedaling: It helps improve the ability to pedal continuously for extended periods, enhancing muscle endurance and strength.
Muscle Fiber Utilization: Tempo training recruits muscle fibers not typically engaged during endurance riding, leading to improved cycling capabilities.
Muscular Endurance: Preserving functioning muscle fibers for better performance in later stages of a race, making you more competitive in the final stretch.
Aerobic Efficiency: Enhancing the aerobically efficiency of muscle fibers, leading to more energy conservation during power production.
Muscle Fiber Strength: When combined with climbing or high torque, it strengthens muscle fibers, making them more resistant to fatigue and capable of producing greater force.
Incorporating Tempo Power Zone Training
Strategically incorporate tempo power zone training into your routine:
Balance: Use tempo training to break up long endurance rides or add variety to your training, but avoid making it the default zone.
Duration: Aim for intervals of 10 to 20 minutes, or shorter bursts in rolling terrain. Avoid overly prolonged tempo intervals unless specific event demands necessitate it.
Fueling: Properly fuel your tempo workouts, as they burn significant calories.
Variety: Don't rely solely on tempo training. Use a varied training diet that aligns with your unique physiology and goals.
Tempo power zone training is a valuable tool in the cyclist's arsenal, but like any tool, it should be used wisely and in moderation. It's not a replacement for endurance miles, and it's essential to balance your training zones effectively. When used correctly, tempo training can strengthen your cycling abilities, improve muscle endurance, and keep your mind and legs sharp, especially during indoor training. Keep these insights in mind, and you'll find tempo training to be a valuable asset on your journey to cycling excellence.