Start of the training program

If you read my previous post reviewing Joe Friels book “Total Heart Rate Training” You remember I explained that the book outlined a 12 step program for mapping out the training year. Step 1 in this process is to find your Lactate Threshold (LT). Step 2 is to determine the training zones. In my case, because I am preparing for triathlon, I have to find three different numbers, one for each sport, swimming, cycling, and running. Joe Friel uses lactate threshold as the key number to figuring out your training zones, and provides charts to easily do that.

The best way to determine (LT) is with a field test. There are several different protocols for conducting field tests. One is the 30 minute test where you conduct a time trial at race effort. The time trial could or even be a race. The graded test, is similar to the type typically conducted in a lab, but can be done using a heart rate monitor, and some kind egometer like a bike trainer, or treadmill. The graded test is best done with a partner who can monitor your changes in heart rate, and record results, although I managed to do a cycling test on my own.


Trying to find your lactate threshold in the pool or pond is challenging. The main problem is that a heart rate monitor doesn’t work in the water, so it’s difficult to get an accurate reading after a long set. You could wear your chest strap, or leave it on the pool deck and put it on as soon as you finish, and get out of the pool immediately after the set, or you could take a pulse reading for a 10 second count. However, these methods have huge errors built in because your heart rate starts to drop immediately after you stop the effort. For a 10 second count, a miscount of as little as 1 or 2 beats means a total hear rate error 6 to 12.

For my swim test, I did a similar test to one previously done at one of our masters sessions. After a thorough warm-up of about 15 minutes, I did a 10 minute set. The key was to set a pace that was hard, but could be held for the entire 10 minutes. I also counted my laps during this set to test where my fitness was, and how much it improved in upcoming tests. As soon as I stopped, I did a 10 second pulse check. My pulse was 25 which translated to a rate of 152 bpm. Since this was an extended set with a hard effort, it should have represented a rate close to the lactate threshold. The resulting zones from the published tables in the book are
1. less that 118
2. 118 to 133
3. 134 to 142
4. 143 to 151
5a. 152 to 155
5b. 156 to 160
5c. 161 plus


For the bike, I attempted a graded test on the trainer. The protocol was to do a thorough warm up, and then play with my tensions and gears to come up with a systematic series of intervals at increasing intensities with the final one being a very hard effort. Then do a series of graded efforts starting in the easiest gear, and ending with the hardest. I kept my cadence at 90 to 95, and used speed as the output. I did this with my laptop next to me on a table so I could input the data into a spreadsheet with little effort so I didn’t slow down.

I deviated slightly from Friels protocol in that I cycled in each gear until my heart rate stabilized. That was sometimes 2 to 3 minutes. The resulting data is below.
Speed km/h Heart Rate Perceived Exertions

18 117 2
19.5 118 2
21.5 124 2
23.5 128 3
26.5 132 4 breathing increases
32.5 146 4
36.5 152 5
40.5 156 6
46.5 165 7 lt
50 169 8

According to Joe Friel, your lactate threshold should lie in the last five data points, and if one of the five points has a RPE of 7, assume that to be your LT. For me that worked out to be a heart rate of 165 which from a couple of 20k time trials I did last year, sounded about right. So my zones for the bike are
1. less that 134
2. 134 to 147
3. 148 to 154
4. 155 to 164
5a. 165 to 168
5b. 169 to 174
5c. 175 plus


I haven’t done a running field test yet. My plan is to do a test in the next couple of weeks, but for now, to ensure I have a set of targets for my current workouts, I estimated my LT. Friel states that if you can’t conduct tests in all three sports, you can make reasonable estimates based on one test. He states that the running LT heart rate can be assumed to be 7 beats higher than cycling which in turn can be assumed to be 7 beats higher than swimming. Using data from my graded cycling test, my estimated LT for running is 165 + 7 = 172. So again from the tables, my running zones are
1. Less that 146
2. 146 to 156
3. 157 to 164
4. 165 to 171
5a. 172 to 1175
5b. 176 to 182
5c. 183 plus

What I really want to do is visit the School of Kinematics at the local university, and have a proper test done. That way I could use the run data to see how far off my tests in the other sports are.

Next up after steps 1 and 2, determining lactate threshold, and training zones, is step 3 select annual plan.

Book Review “Total Heart Rate Training” by Joe Friel  


My latest read “Total Heart Rate Training” by Joe Friel is a must have for anyone interested in any kind of endurance type events including cycling, running, or triathlon.

Before I go further, I have to set this up with a little background info. This is the third book I have read that was written, or co-written by Joe Friel. I consider his “Triathlete's Training Bible” equally essential to anyone serious or half serious about the sport, and although more sparse on hard training data, his “Going Long” co-written with Champion Ironman Gordo Byrne is a must read for anyone thinking about trying the Ironman distance.

From reading some other reviews of his books, I realize that there are a number of people out there that do not share my enthusiasm for Joe Friel’s books. I have read comments like “It’s too technical” and “It’s too dry.” But for me, given my somewhat scientific background and my career in the engineering field, these books are just what I was looking for when I started into the sport of triathlon.

“Total Heart Rate Training” is a comprehensive tool to be used to map out a season of training and racing utilizing heart rate as a means of gauging workout intensity. He starts with a description of the heart rate monitor, including a brief history of the instruments development, and goes on to explain the main concepts and terms used in modern endurance training including heart rate zones, aerobic and anaerobic capacity, and periodization. He ends the book with a twelve step program to map out and schedule a yearly training and race program.

The main deficiency with this book is a lack of specific workouts for my sport of choice, likely because the book is geared to a broader group including cyclists, and runners as well as triathletes. This deficiency can easily be overcome by using his other book, “The Triathlete's Training Bible”

If you are a pure recreational athlete, content to dabble with your training, going for a group training sessions ad hoc, and interested only in participation, finishing, and achieving a little fitness on the side, this book is not for you. There are a lot of people out there like that, and if they are happy, more power to them.

But if you are serious about training, are self coached, or even if you avail of the services of a professional coach, this book is a must.

For me, I am always looking for ways to improve my performance, and achieve new goals. After reading this book, I have concluded that with my limited training time and resources, it is of the up most importance that I get the most out of each and every training session. That may be as little as slowing down a couple of heart beats for a long workout, or speeding up a couple of heart beats for a tempo session.

My plan is to map out my year using the principals outlined in this book, and see how much of an improvement I can make over my time in the same race last year. In doing so, I plan to document my plan, and my progress on this blog, and turn it into a working model of Joe Friel's plan. I invite anyone to read along, and make and post comments as I prepare for Ironman Newfoundland 70.3 2008.


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Happy New Year  


Happy New Year, and welcome to 2008. Here is hoping this year will be your best yet. I have been very slack with updating my blog since the holiday season crept in, but I am vowing to keep it regular with the start of a new year.

Two small children during Christmas makes for a great show. And despite the wicked weather we had during the last week or two, I managed to get in some key workouts. A couple of swim sessions, a couple of trainer sessions, and a run, as well as some yoga and strength work.

I have a lot of work done on my training plan for this year, thanks to my new copy of Joe Friel’s “Total Heart Rate Training.”

Here is to the best of a new year.