Is Zone 3 better than Zone 2?

and you’re kind of exaggerating my point. For me, the floor for workouts are 60min tiz for sweet spot and more like 90min tiz for tempo with something like 3x30. see above for a prior post of mine, i did 3x45 tempo this past week, I haven’t quite worked in a 3x60 but in the recent past I’ve done 3x50. so, to my original point, 3x20 really isn’t a lot of tempo work if the goal is to build more time in zone and really work fatigue resistance. and I suspect if I asked some coaches I know, they may say 20min is just barely getting started for an interval like tempo.

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Keegan has said repeatedly on the podcast he prefers tempo because for the long races he does it is the zone he often os racing in (“Do a lot of what you want to be good at”). That and prior to upping his volume this year, he would do a lot of tempo in place of super rides. (“If you can get in the work in 5 hours why noodle around for 8 or 9?)

Of course that’s an elite and as we know regular humans shouldn’t emulate the pros. But I think the idea that tempo is a gray zone and junk miles isn’t necessarily true. It depends on your event, fitness and race ability. If you are going long gravel races you are probably spending quite a bit of time at tempo. Why not train there?

I don’t think the coaches we know would even prescribe it as an interval

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A similar question would be: “is orange juice better than milk?”

But to really answer, the context matters. Oj can do things milk can’t do and vice versa. We shouldn’t think of training zones as some sort of zero sum game. Both are better at different things.


No “kind of”. I am :slight_smile: . But I am making a point, too.

This is my point.

I can do a lot to tempo too because I’ve done a lot of tempo. Starting someone off at 2-3 x 20mins is legit. That may be all they can handle. I don’t have to ask any coaches I know.

I’m trying to make the “sweetspot is a concept” argument.

Is Zone 3 better than Zone 2?

Other than fatigue management–and I’m not dismissing fatigue management by saying this: they are the same thing.

Relevant to this discussion: ~11:15 (Neal Henderson speaking)

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About the only thing it can do better is to help a Type1 Diabetic to bring blood sugar up quicker.

This is mostly inaccurate and a bit of self aggrandizing. And to counter your n=1, All I did when I started riding was tempo and I was fine, more than fine, nothing to fix, nothing to measure, just good old common sense.

It’s extremely self aggrandizing. That’s why we’re here, right? It was also a not-so-subtle tip of the hat to having a coach, something many forum participants seem to be reluctant to do. I understood that a few years ago (or thought I did), but now I’m not sure why that is still the case.

I think too much tempo can make ppl tired, that’s basically my point. Sounds like you don’t suffer from that affliction. Keep up the good work.

One way to not get so tired from Zone 3 is to ride some Zone 2 (again, not you. the other guy). Doesn’t make it better (since they are essentially the same thing), but that is primarily how they differ, which addresses the original question.

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because apparently skynet knows all?! :rofl: Thanks for fighting the good fight.

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Tempo work that was included in the traditional base plan and the ironman & half-distance triathlon plans left me VERY fit.

I was obviously doing more than that and it was in the context of a plan with a sensible progression.

There are other far more obvious things if you consider that many non-western cultures have high rates of lactose intolerance.

Excluding that, one is mainly better before a workout while the other better post.

But not surprisingly someone wanted to get super pedantic on a message board.

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Just because there are X’s in the table doesn’t mean it’s true… it’s a nice idea that training easy will have the same outcome as training harder but it doesn’t make sense. Overload is real and is an essential part of training. You will get more overload from Z3 than Z2. That doesn’t make it better though of course. Maybe you will get too much overload. 3 hours of Z3 is a brute but are we talking 3 hours? If your doing 3 hour sessions then which is a “better” zone to work at will be totally different to if you are doing 1 hour sessions. There aren’t really easy answers. Ironically I was just listening to a podcast with Coggins talking about how there is no “golden” intensity.

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(on a more practical level, if you only have an hour to train Z3 is great, gives a nice amount overload, not too much, for me at least, and is still firmly aerobic) I couldn’t do it 5 days a week though.

Inigo San Millan, researcher and director of performance for team UAE has mentioned in several podcasts that training in z2 increases mitochondrial density. Once you exceed z2 metabolic byproducts reduce the mitochondrial benefits.

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Are you a bot


I have no clue if it’s better or worse. But I love tempo zone. It’s a fun zone to be in. It’s not painful and not boring and I can do it for a long time. 2-3 hour tempo interval workouts like sky lakes or Mount Bond feel better and compared to 3 hrs of zone 2, I feel exactly the same the following day. But I also think it’s necessary to do over unders and vo2 stuff.

Here is personal experience Z2 vs Z3 over 2 similar base periods. Weekly/monthly structure is same (3 weeks loading, 1 week recovery)

  • 1st month: 6xZ2
  • 2nd month: 1xZ4/1xSS (switched over week) + 5xZ2
  • 3rd month: 1xZ4 + 1xSS + 4xZ2

Hard workouts were similar, most difference was how I approached Z2/Z3

  1. Outdoors: Z2 by HR (70% max HR, or 80% threshold HR), power falls around 58-62% FTP:
  2. Indoors: Z2/Z3 by power, usually 68-80% of FTP. HR usually around 75% max HR

Note how much more (1) has Z2+Z4 vs (2) has Z3 slightly more but overall volume is much less, while HR Z3 is way higher. FTP improvements were roughly similar (2-3% per block). So, externally looks like same outcome from slightly different input. RHR/HRV/sleeping patterns are also very similar and stable, i.e. recovery should be sufficient.

Now comes “but”: during (1), I was always eager to get to bike. With (2) same until suddenly lost motivation completely, had to take 2 weeks to reset mentally. It may seem like outdoor vs indoor, but it is not – I have seen it earlier with SSHV plan/outdoors as well. All is good for 3 months, getting stronger but suddenly interest is gone.

I imagine, it might be due some kind of slowly growing hormonal imbalance that I do not notice week-over-week until it hits. Obviously we all are different, for you numbers might be different or no such issue at all. But this is something to be aware of and compare long period trends to draw conclusions.


I’ve noticed something similar with tempo training. I’m doing great for 6-8 weeks and then the fatigue hits me like a ton of bricks all at once.

My mistake is definitely not doing some kind of 2-3 weeks on, 1 week easy/off plan. By that 3rd or 4th week, I’m still feeling great.

I also want to say that tempo is quite a large range. Some people in this topic talk about doing it for hours. Low tempo - sure I can do that for hours. Mid to high tempo results in much faster accumulated fatigue and I can’t do it for hours.


Agree with this. Especially tempo being a range. It’s really everything above LT1 until you reach threshold. Sweet spot falls in there in the upper range.

And depending on how much volume you do and what percentage of your FTP LT1 actually is it’s makes the range larger or smaller

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