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Triathlon Training Q & A Series with Elite Triathlete and Coach, Morgan Chaffin: Question #7

Our Q &A series concludes with Question 7. If you missed out on questions 1-6 please view our previous blog posts for additional questions related to triathlon training.

Q: What percentage of time running and biking are you in Z2, Z3, Z4?


A: This question can be addressed several different ways. Many factors come into play, such as: medical history, the athlete’s current conditioning, race schedule and goals, as well as previous experience (training and racing). All of these factors must be taken into account when designing and implementing a training program.


Medical History: It’s extremely important to know medical history. Before any type of structured zone training is established a coach or trainer should address previous and current medical history along with any contraindications to exercise. Starting here will allow the athlete to grow safely and effectively.


Athlete’s current conditioning: Viewing an athlete’s pervious two to three months of training can paint an overall picture of their current fitness level. This can be determined by looking at metrics and training scores. Have they been training primarily Z2 (aerobic endurance and foundation work) or Z3 and Z4 (threshold or suprathreshold work)? After determining their current conditioning and performing baseline testing, a program can be structured to target an athlete’s race schedule and goals.


Race Schedule and Goals: An athlete’s training program should be centered on their race schedule and goals. Periodization or training in specific zones at certain time periods is important. During the off season athletes should focus on core fundamentals. These include building strength, enhancing their aerobic system, and developing form and stability. Much of this is accomplished by extensive Z2 conditioning. As race season approaches more steady state/tempo (Z3), high end aerobic and anaerobic (Z4) sets are incorporated. It is a balance between quality and quantity. Learning about the athlete is important in determining what type of workouts they should be performing and when. Some athletes can take a tremendous amount of load and intensity while some do exceptionally well with a high percentage of aerobic conditioning. Be a scientist, experiment, and find out what is best.


Previous Experience: An athlete new to any sport will need to work on fundamentals. However an individual new to triathlon training should spend a fair amount of their time on skills and developing aerobically. Depending on the time of the season, experienced athletes can spend more time in zones 3 and 4. This is due to the fact that they have developed structurally as well as metabolically to sustain higher efforts without developing a lot of fatigue, muscle soreness, and training stress. Additionally, they have enhanced muscle memory from previous training loads and often times their ability to recover from intense training is quicker.


As you can see there is no definitive answer to this question, but the four topics touched on in this blog can help when establishing a training program to target all of the training zones. If you have more questions on this topic please submit your question(s) in the comments section on our facebook page. Click here ---> SPT Facebook - Blog Post


Thank you for reading. We hope you have learned some useful knowledge about triathlon tips.

Happy Training!