Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Are You Training For A Marathon And Still Gaining Weight?

One of the most powerful pieces of knowledge for any endurance athlete is knowing what heart rate zones will burn fat versus burn carbohydrates, allowing one to improve performance with an adjustment in training.  I highly endorse Jeff Kitchen at Endurance Rehab if you are interested in getting a Heart Rate test.   He can explain for days how to train and eat to become the the jet-pack athlete you are deep down inside.  
Below is his very concise explanation of Heart Rate Zones 1-5.  

Zone 1: Very low intensity.  This zone should be used on days following a hard effort if you have a solid endurance base built.  If not, you will be better off taking the day off completely until your aerobic base is improved.  The benefit from working at this intensity is to increase blood flow to areas that have been stressed out within the previous 24-48 hours.  No breakdown in muscle tissue will occur at this intensity.

Zone 2:  Aerobic Endurance.  This is the intensity where the majority of the endurance training should be done, upwards of 75% of the time, over the course of a year.  The intensity is easy and comfortable, one where you are able to carry on a conversation if exercising with company.  Cellular adaptations are also the greatest at this intensity, making the body more capable of utilizing the oxygen it inspires and also more efficient at burning fat as fuel.  This is of great benefit as our bodies have a virtually unlimited store of fat to use as energy as opposed to carbohydrate, which is limited and largely depends on our current dietary status.

Zone 3:  Intensive Aerobic Endurance.  This intensity should only be used sparingly, during base periods for endurance athletes.  It is a bit more stressful on the body, but provides virtually no added benefit to that of Zone 2.  It will take a bit longer to recover from workouts at this intensity. Zone 3 aids the body in getting prepared for the higher intensities of Zone 4 and 5, as more fast-twitch muscle fibers are recruited in Zone 3.  Carbs are needed to fuel exercise at this intensity, but physiological adaptation is minimal.

Zone 4: Threshold.  This zone is of great importance to the endurance athlete, but only after a solid base of Zone 2 training has been accumulated.  By doing work in this zone, the anaerobic threshold can be increased, which in turn would allow one to exercise at a greater intensity/pace for a longer period of time without experiencing the dreaded "bonk".  Zone 4 intensity will further enhance the oxygen handling capacity of slow-twitch muscle figures, and allows the body to become more efficient in metabolizing cellular waste products like lactic acid so its accumulation is reduced.

Zone 5a: Lactate Tolerance/Anaerobic Endurance.  This zone is used to further develop a tolerance to lactic acid production, and increase the body's ability to operate under anaerobic conditions.  Work done at this intensity is oftentimes followed by a day of recovery work done in Zone 1.  Shorter races, (5k, 10k, sprint triathlons) will typically be done with extended times in this zone, and are good alternatives to interval training to develop an individual's anaerobic endurance.

Zone 5b:  Power/VO2 Development.  This last zone is used to develop power and increase an individual's VO2 Max, provided their physiological and genetic VO2 ceiling is not already achieved.  Heart rate is not the best indicator of intensity at this zone, as these work sessions are short and very powerful.  Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is often a better indicator of intensity for this zone, and would correspond with a 9+ or 10 out of 10 on the RPE scale.

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