Triathlon plans RPE conversion to HR Zones

Hello to everyone,

A bit of background for context. I am 46 years old and for the last 3 years I have been trying to get my health back in order and recover from obesity. I have lost a great deal of weight mainly through nutrition but also from exercising. Since last summer I got in love with cycling and endurance sports and shifted my training to accommodate my new addiction (was mostly doing strength and circular training before). I made a goal to try and train for a Half Ironman.

My questions are the following.

  • Since the beginning of my endurance journey all the training plans I have used have been based on HR Zones for running and swimming. I find that for my level of fitness (which is still very bad especially in running) is the easiest way to follow training instructions. I have a HR monitor and a watch that can track If I overreach etc. Is there a rough conversion of RPE used in Trainer Road Plans to HR Zones since for me (especially due to a very stressful and full work program) RPE is not very good to understand how much to push myself.
  • Since I also have to include 2 days of strength training to my plan , how do I do that. It would be nice if the plan included a good indication of when would be good to do Str training.

Thanks in advance and sorry for my English.

For the strength training part you can check out this TR Blog post: Strength Training for Cyclists.

It has a pretty good overview. Basically the gist is don’t lift when it will affect your most important rides. One way of doing this is keeping your “hard days hard”, so lift after your important rides on the same day then really recover. This works for a lot of riders/triathletes.

With the heart rate zones you really have to figure out your zones on the bike first as they are often substantially different from your HR zones in the other disciplines. Once you have a couple weeks of rides to analyze take a look back at the heart rate data and see the patterns for various effort levels. Also, apps like Strava can calculate this for you and show zones. But generally speaking, high RPE’s like 8-10 are your VO2/anaerobic work, 6-7 would be threshold, 4-6 sweet spot, and 1-4 would be endurance/recovery. At least that’s how my scale breaks down. Yours may be different.

What zone system do you use? There are a few…

I use a Garmin watch to track my activities and then I import the data to Garmin connect as well as Training peaks . With those 2 I have a fair estimate of my HR zones. I have been doing that for about 5 months. For those 5 months I used Sufferfest to train and it also has a Threshold estimation system along with an estimation test for bike threshold (HR Threshold). The thing is that my running efficiency is much more worse than my bike efficiency. I have found that running workouts to HR is what works for me so far since it is easy to see my HR on my watch and push or pull effort accordingly. I know that HR is not the best way to train and most use pace (and most recently running power with a Stryd foot pod) but until my fitness allows me HR works for me far better than RPE. On training peaks I mostly use Joe Friel’s calculation.

Okay, I personally run to pace, but you can assign either pace or HR to a zone. So if the zone system is:

1 recovery
2 aerobic
------ aerobic threshold -------
3 tempo
4 subthreshold
------ lactate/anaerobic threshold -------
5A superthreshold
5B aerobic capacity
5C anaerobic capacity

Then I would translate RPE to zones as:
RPE 2-4 = zone 1
RPE 5-6 = zone 2
RPE 7 = zone 3
RPE 8 = zone 4
RPE 8.5 = lactate threshold
RPE 9 = zone 5B
RPE 10 = zone 5C

Not sure about 9-10. There is a thread somewhere where I ask how fast I should be running my VO2max repeats. It seems that when you’re above threshold, it’s OK to say that RPE 9 might be faster or slower depending on the length of the repeat, i.e. a 30-second burst at RPE 9 might be faster than a 3-minute VO2max repeat at RPE 9. Whereas at and below threshold equal RPE means equal speed. But I could be wrong! (Btw don’t run those short reps to heart rate :slight_smile: )


This is good. I’d base everything off of the assumption that RPE 6 is high zone 2 and go from there.

1 Like

@kajet that was very helpful , thank you very much. And yes I know that high-intensity intervals are not to be done using HR. I am considering switching also to a Stryd pod .

1 Like