How do you do it: Zone discipline?

So… I have been trying out polarized.(not too successfully so far) Not wanting to start another thread on that but I did want to pick up on a specific challenge that is not being addressed in all the other threads… or at least I couldn’t find it as the threads seem to be colossal and sooner or later drop into semantics. That said I do need to present a little context here. I am not getting into POL because I read the pros do it. I am getting into it 'cause I am 52 and struggling with fatigue if I go MV, and boredom if I go LV and 'cause I read Fast after 50 and followed up on some the references which make a very convincing argument that masters should train that way. Before TR my training consisted of riding ‘Happy hard’ all the time with various increments in duration, company and terrain.

Now I am doing LV with outside Z2 add-ons as a pseudo POL approach. Here’s the problem. I head out for a Z2 ride. I clock the power get in the zone then drift off (Which for me is sort of the point of riding the bike)… a while later I check the Garmin and lo and behold I am back to riding ‘Happy Hard’ again.

Ironically I find it easier when there are other cyclists on the route as the rabbit chase reflex fires and I can consciously address it. < Altogether now: :musical_score::notes:“Let it go… let it gooo :notes:”> It is when I am off on my own that I find it hardest to keep the zone discipline…

So what are your tips and tricks for zone discipline?


Have a page on your garmin with the first field “%FTP-3sec” second “lap avg. power” or “lap norm. power” and the third can be time, HR, lap avg HR or cadence, whatever you like to look at. Having less fields will make it easier to see your numbers. Learn your zones as a % of FTP and hold the numbers. This is how I do all my outdoor endurance and recovery rides but on recovery rides I only set a watt ceiling.

I also find that music will make me go harder when Im not paying attention but podcasts are better for keeping an even tempo.


Top tip… I find I can’t watch movies or listen to podcasts indoors precisely because my effort level drops. This reminds me of Terry Pratchet’s hovercraft concept based on the proposition that buttered toast always falls buttered side down and cats always land on their feet. Buttered toast strapped to a cat’s back should never hit the floor…

Right I will strap the Ipad to the bike bars, tee up game of thrones and head out.

Seriously though that is a pretty good suggestion on the podcasts. I do have the page set up more or less as you suggested. I might add the audible alert too…


I try to get a feel for what the high end of my z2 should be right away by looking closely at my head unit at first. I then just check in slightly less frequently. The z2 rides need to be pretty easy so you can nail the VO2 Max+ work you’ll be doing later, I’d keep that idea close to me, enjoy the easy days. And stay out of tempo.

I’m amazed at how much time I would spend in tempo if not for a power meter. Also amazed at home much time spent coasting even on flatfish rides.

This: Typically I find I am 10-15% time coasting. That’s on a good day… Getting the feeling thing is fair enough and much of it comes down to the old school base training coaching I once got of ‘glass cranks’ for the first few months. The problem is now I just can’t keep my head on that as I head out. Sooner or later I start to notice that mild tension in the legs, look down and I am back in tempo…

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Tell yourself you will not shift into the large chainring, or beyond the middle cog. Unless you have substantial hills, that should keep things toned down.

Ultimately, though, all zone discipline requires focus.

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Haven’t had to do this recently, but for running I used to use an alarm on my watch that triggered every time I went over a certain HR. The Garmin watches have this feature, pretty sure the bike computers do also. For polarised training I think HR zones may be as relevant as power. Probably also easier on a bike to keep HR below a certain level as it doesn’t spike like power does.


Limiting which gears you allow yourself is one good way. But at the end, it’s all about discipline. Easy rides must be easy. Easy runs must be easy.

If you’re going out to just to ride your bike then enjoy the ride and don’t worry about it.

If you’re going out to train…then, as others have said, you need focus. Last summer 100% of my rides were Z2. A few of my tips & tricks:

  • display only HR on your head unit
  • plan your route so it’s Z2 friendly
  • breath through your nose
  • forget about chasing rabbits…you’ll get your chance

Z2 isn’t thrilling, we can all testify to that. If you’re going to do it, it has to be for a reason and out on the road you have to keep reminding yourself of that reason.

Happy spinning!


Garmin Edge units have optional alarms for going outside zones for HR, Power and cadence. Annoyingly they are all the same tone so you can’t associate one tone with a particular transgression.

As others have said, it’s focus, steely application and chill.

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Actually that’s an old skool one I had forgotten. The coaches used to beat you upside the head if you had oil on the big ring in the early season. I could go there again… that would keep me spinning alright. I never cross chain anyway (I don’t have much trim in any case). Thanks.

I’ve started to try to do this on some longer endurance rides. It certainly helps at the beginning because you can only go for maybe a couple minutes at tempo before you feel the urge to breathe more. Depending on the length of the ride though even Z2 might require mouth breathing 3-5 hours in.

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As it turned out that was the problem. In the last block I did just that. As @cartsman and @bobw noted, I even set the HR alarm on my Garmin. It still back fired. I set the alarm at what I am fairly certain was my LT1 HR based on historical %HRmax stuff. True, not a test derived value but hey ho… Then went and rode. When I got back I noticed my average power was about 30 watts up on what I was expecting based on power zones. I just put it down to the differences between indoor and outdoor and kept on keeping on… then I fell totally apart. Going back through the data it was clear I had over done the z2 stuff by some margin but only if I went by power TSS, on HR everything was hunky dory. So I am going to drop a few more BPM of the LT1HR alarm and try again based on the last few power z2 rides I have sorta managed to do ok. That should help I guess.

It’s just sooooooo dreary… This is just another one of those HTFU things then!

WHY are you doing Z2 rides?

If you nail the Why?, and it’s of enough significance for you, then it should eliminate most of the dreariness.

Just because Z2 is slow riding, doesn’t mean it’s exempt from the same attention to detail you apply to other interval sessions. When you do a VO2max workout, do you just ride happy-hard or do you really try to nail those intensities and durations?

In the end, it’s only bike riding…enjoy it! :+1:

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Zone 2 riding isn’t necessarily slow riding, given a flat or flattish course and no headwind 24km/h would be typical for me. Now that’s not race speed but importantly it’s not meant to be. Zone 2 riding is part of your training so treat it with the same due diligence as the VO2max and anaerobic intervals.

Edit: a couple of winters ago I did a lot of zone 2 work on my singlespeed. When I came to a steep hill (say about 14% which was about my limit with the gearing I was using) then it was touch and go whether I made it or got off and walked to let my HR drop. That’s how you should be approaching it.

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Not a tip but I did find it took a number of weeks (riding daily) to recalibrate myself to riding easy. Stick at it, be consistent and give it time

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That’s my solution for running. Only one number to look at. Forget pace.

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Alternatively you could have just told me to stop bloody whining…I was just having a Diva moment there… In truth I love the pootling about I use it to look for new routes. It is just the focus that I really struggle with at that intensity. At the point of hurling your lungs out it is almost easy to stay focused. It is not like you have any alternative. Pretty narrow horizons there. Tripping through the daisies and admiring the scenery is quite the distraction from staying in the pootle zone. Especially if as an older fart you have pretty much worn a groove in your systems at happy hard, I am sure there is a notch in my throttle right there. There is almost a subconscious form of guilt to be pootling.

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Then don’t worry about it.
As “an old fart”, you don’t have to prove anything to anybody; enjoy your “pootling”! :smiley:

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