Are there any benefits to short Z2 workouts?

I’m skipping Pettit today as my legs still feel a little tired from yesterday’s workout. This got me thinking about 1 hour zone 2 workouts like Pettit. Are there any benefits to doing these rides? Surely they are too short and too easy? They just seem like extra TSS without any real benefit. “Junk miles” if I was riding outside. What are your thoughts? Is there any science that would suggest otherwise?

  • Yes (see reason below)
  • Z2 Endurance can be useful from 30 min to over 3 hours.
  • Different benefits are possible with a typical split around 2 hours.
  • Shorter ones are best for simply adding TSS to the week.
  • Longer ones lead to more specific adaptations to stress muscle fibers through long fatigue at lower power levels.
  • In most cases, these serve as “TSS Fillers” to get overall weekly stress to a desired level. This in and of itself can be useful to help increase overall stress up in hopes of driving further adaptations in the body.
  • This term typically applies with aimless riding (with no directed purpose or goal) or training at effort levels that have relatively high stress but not as much return from that stress.
  • These TR Z2 workouts are set for a time and effort to fit into the overall picture of the specific week and the overall plan. They are not some random ride just because.

There is far deeper science that others (smarter than I) can add, but these short answers may help show there is method behind the madness.

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Thanks Chad!

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If TSS was the be-all end-all to getting faster, sure they would be unnecessary.

Sometimes I wish we could undo this whole TSS thing (and I’m a numbers guy!) because it’s clear that it causes people to lose focus of the big picture and chase TSS and a nice PMC rather than chasing training adaptations.

With that said, totally agree with Chad, and I would add that even though 30+ minutes is good as a rule of thumb, even 15-20 minutes is better than 0 minutes.

And I want to highlight what chad said about Z2 riding NOT being junk miles - in fact, the more serious you are, the more Z2 training should be your bread and butter workouts (ask any World Tour rider).

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Thanks for your input Mikael.

The label “junk miles” was really aimed at the short duration of zone 2 work. I was under the impression that you only see adaptations from longer rides in that zone.

I think arguably the biggest benefit is teaching your body to prefer fat as fuel. I think there’s tremendous value in doing the 60min Z2 rides first thing in the morning and fasted.

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That’s a good idea. I might wait until the weather gets better and do this on a commute to work. I don’t think my neighbours would appreciate me jumping on the turbo trainer at 5:30 in the morning!

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Keep in mind though that WorldTour riders are logging WAY more hours per ride at Z2 than any mortal. It’s not even close to the same.

Velonews Fast Talk just had a great interview with Mike Woods’ coach and he said that the traditional polarized model (think 80% @ z2 20% high intensity) is a complete waste for most working cyclists. Figure those that have between 4 and 10 hrs/week to devote to training.

He mentioned that you have to log a ton of time in z2 to gain any real physiological benefit. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that 1 hour @ z2 is essentially worthless or of no real value performance, but there could be other options like taking the day off to focus on core work, stability, stretching or recovery.

Also, we aren’t just trying to hit TSS goals—not all TSS is equal. If that was the case you could go out and do 5 hours of z1 every day and accumulate far more weekly TSS than any TR plan.

I’m not sure 1 hr at z2 is long enough to trigger responses that deal with utilizing fat as the primary fuel source, if I recall you need to ride longer (like 2 hours). Can coach Chad weigh in here?

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When is this ever a goal of training? Can you elaborate on this? I’m sorry, but this sounds like aimless training to me.

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  • It’s a goal in nearly every Mid Volume TrainerRoad plan, when compared to the Low Volume version).
  • The Wednesday workout is almost always a 30-60 minute Z2 Endurance workout. This is added to the base of the Low Volume to make Mid Volume plans (along with adding the Sunday workout and sometimes increases in the existing Tue/Thur/Sat workouts).
  • As I alluded above, I may not be the best to go into greater detail on this issue. But a small expansion is the simple fact that you can add TSS to a weekly program that leads to more overall stress on the body.
  • This extra stress (compared to not doing that workout) can help increase the load on the body and drive it to adapt to that stress.
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I’m well aware of this. What I’m asking is that “adding TSS” doesn’t seem like a good goal. Given that A) all TSS isn’t created equal B) it assumes that adding TSS is a good thing

I agree that Pettit shouldn’t induce enough stress to make the next workout difficult, but I don’t agree that it’s an essential workout to any plan. I think for OP’s sake it depends on what the rest of the week looks like. If I know that I have a race or a hard group ride coming up the following weekend I might just skip it for some extra rest, hit Thursday hard, rest Friday and rip Saturday/Sunday.

Everything I have read from Friel/Seiler leads me to believe that you really need to exceed the 2 hour @ z2 mark in order to really see adaptation. I think it’s a good question to question the effectiveness of doing a mid-week z2 ride that is only 1 hr.

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Someone shared Michi Weiss’ training from last year.
92% of his base (Jan-Mar) was in zone 1 and 2 if I read it right. I know the OP had mentioned short rides but this might still be applicable.

  • I am not aware that anyone labeled a short Z2 workout as “essential”. I know that I didn’t.
  • It is as a common option that is applied in many TR plans.
  • Of course, and it’s a common statement I list when people ask about adjusting schedules.
  • That was not specifically mentioned here, so I stayed on the main point in question (is there benefit…?).
  • Agreed, and the reason I split my reply to include the “Short” and “Long” sections. I chose to keep them brief in description on purpose, and made the statement that others can go into deeper detail better than myself.
  • Again, agreed. And the reason I posted my thoughts on the topic stating that there ARE benefits to be had.
  • The pure fact that they got the “TrainerRoad Approved” stamp is a sign that I am on the right track. That is true even if I am unable to give the chapter and verse for the “why” behind them.

Again, I leave that to those who can explain further and deeper than I can.

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Thanks for getting in the weeds with me. I to have been curious about the effectiveness of short (less than 1 hr) z2 rides and whether or not I should be doing something else.

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For sure. Sorry I don’t have the full info.

I am hoping that someone else will be able to share the foundation behind them and their use in these plans beyond the simple that I know. :smiley:

Did some digging and Episode 55 of the podcast addresses Z2 duration.

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Recently I’ve started to split the 1h Z2 ride Into 30’s that I add to prolongue two other rides, typically the VO2max workout on tuesday and then any of the others. I get the feeling this gives me more adaptations from the Z2 work.

Think about it on a macro scale…

When I first started adding in the extra ride per week, it was dans… nice and easy 30 minutes. Eventually it was pettit as my mid week easy workout. Now it’s hardly Pettit unless I’m really crushed and am doing beech and others that start to approach .7 IF. All with the same general feeling afterwards. That was pretty easy and sets up the harder work in a day or two nicely.

Sometimes it takes increasing workload in small increments at a time and patience and before you know it you are doing more work and are fitter than before.

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Thanks @anthonylane !

They mention zone 2 workouts from 23:10. @chad says that rides like Pettit and Taku are more restorative. Not really looking for training adaptation just a little more TSS every week.

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I think the big benefit everyone is overlooking here is just the consistency of routine. Not every workout has to be hard and/or a breakthrough. There is value mentally into having some easy rides and also some value in hopping on the bike even when you’re not really feeling it.

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