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.


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.

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.


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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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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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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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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Fatigue dependent training = pretty high RPE for Z2 rides for me. When Z2 feels easy for me I didn’t do the more intense work prior and/or the Z2 ride is too short.

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I’d do more tempo on Saturday then. Or ride longer. Either way up the TSS on Saturday.

From my experience, for the first few rides you gotta be on top of it in terms of making sure you’re staying in the right range. It can be mentally fatiguing and a little frustrating, but you will eventually habituate and it will feel normal. The really hard part is riding with friends that are pushing the pace.

The first time I experienced this was when I used to run quite a bit a little over a decade ago. I agreed to be coached by a local running guru, and his philology was very polarized, where the easy runs were really easy and the hard runs very hard. At the time I was a decent masters runner with a 5km time of around 18min. or so. I’d do all my runs kind of tempo like many runners do. The coached warned me that my easy runs were going to feel brutal compared to what I was used to and they were. He had me running 9min miles compared to my usual 7min miles to stay in a certain HR zone. It took me weeks to wrap my head around this and feel like I wasn’t wasting my time. After a few months of this and some very hard workouts, I was running a low 16min. 5k and feeling more fresh overall! kind of amazing actually.

Your post has reminded me that I should be doing this more with my riding. I def. do my easy rides a little too hard, once I’m outside - I find easy riding on the trainer not hard mentally at all though.


It’s pretty hard, no doubt. All about making those easy days as easy as possible, or that your fatigue should come from the duration, not intensity which leaves you ready to crush the HIIT days. These are things you already know. Finding that z2 feeling takes a lot of practice and I’m still learning it for sure!

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This is so true. Zone 2 shouldn’t feel easy if your in a fatigued state

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