Where in zone 2?

I’ve been cycling for several years but just got my first power meter about 8 weeks ago, so am in the process of learning what different power levels feel like, and trying to figure out how to use power in my workouts.

The Andy Coggan method puts my zone 2 (in a 5 zone model) spanning from 112W to 151W. After a several 3-4 hour rides holding at various levels in that zone, that range seems very “wide” to me. More specifically, the session RPE for me for a 3-4 hour ride can be dramatically different if I try to hold in the range of 112-130 watts as opposed to holding in the range 130-150. 3 hours in the former range feels like nothing (maybe session RPE 4-5 out of 10), but 3 hours in the latter feels more like what I would consider a long tempo ride (session RPE between 7 and 8 out of 10) and takes me about 2 days to fully recover from.

The big difference I’ve experienced in session RPE between one part of zone 2 and another makes me think that the training effects of those two different places in zone 2 might be quite different for me. So I guess I’m wondering whether this is something others have experienced – i.e. big differences in session RPE for rides of equal duration at different rangles within zone 2 (according to the Coggan method or other widely-used methods)?

Another possibility is that my experience suggests that the Coggan calculation doesn’t really fit my actual zone 2. Maybe my zone 2 tops out at about 130w, and once I’m above that, I’m in zone 3? (In case it matters…all this is based on an FTP of 200w).

Thanks!

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I think what you have to remind yourself is that Zone 2 needs training also. Whilst in Zone 2 on structured training plan your body is making physiological adaptions to working in that power zone which should gradually bring down your RPE as your FTP increases.

I get the same thing whenever my FTP gets a bump and Zone 2 ceiling rises. Then gradually throughout the year, what was once the ceiling of Zone 2 becomes your lower end and RPE certainly decreases.

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So…are you saying that if my intention is to do a long Zone 2 ride, I shouldn’t shy away from the upper half of the zone, despite the high RPE?

Maybe some context is worth adding here…COVID shutdowns and other demands in my life have made it so that there are no definite races happening for me in the foreseeable future…so right now my goal is just to expand my aerobic base over the coming several months. So long rides in Z1 and Z2 are the main thing. Knowing that I want to sustain this over several months makes me think I should be cautious about doing regular high-RPE sessions.

If your FTP is correct (in a ballpark kinda way) then Coggan Z2 should be correct.

Z2 is all about duration. That you feel wasted after a 3hr upper Z2 ride simply means you lack training in that intensity/duration combo.

You definitely should not shy away from it, but you don’t necessarily have to be riding right at that upper Z2 limit to gain the benefits of the training.

Also, you might need to eat more on those long upper Z2 rides.

Keep at it and enjoy!

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I think you’ve answered your own question. If your training calls for a long z2 ride, ride in the lower end of the power range.

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I shoot for the middle of my zone 2 for base rides. If I’m feeling tired I might go in to the lower end of the zone, but in general shooting right in the middle has worked for me. The point of a base ride is to get time in your aerobic zone taxing your aerobic fibers by riding a long enough duration for them to tire. I find that if I ride closer to the top end of the range your turning the light switch closer and closer to tempo and that isn’t the point of an aerobic ride. I really don’t use RPE for anything other than how recovered I am, not zone confirmation.

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Normally, your zone 2 ends where you stop speaking full sentences. Where to ride in zone 2 should probably depend on the overall CNS fatigue status: you would want to minimize it, as elevated adrenaline levels are proven to reduce training adaptations.

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And/or being able to breath through your nose/taking that first big breath through your mouth.

Give it a try.

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Firstly remember that the zones are more like vague ranges rather than strictly defined levels where you switch over into different energy systems at a certain wattage.

There was a good episode of FastTalk about this fairly recently and the guy was saying that once you are in a particular zone and training an energy system then there is little to be gained (at least in terms of training the specifics of that energy system) from riding at the top of it vs. at the lower end of it. It’s just more fatigue.
For zone 2 think long and easy. Very long and pretty easy indeed: more than a recovery ride or like you’re riding with your 7 year old kids, but not enough to feel like it’s any real effort. Keep well away from tempo. Save that for a tempo ride, not this one.

One can also do high zone 2 intervals. This is similar to the concept to MAF intervals once your MAF power is highly trained. For example, on your lower Z2 power endurance ride, you can mix in 3 x 10 minute at high Z2. You can keep extending time in zone.

There are lots of other topics on zone 2 running right now - San Millan topic, Ferrari topic, plus there are the MAF and 80/20 topics.