Purple Patch Training Zones
Most of your workouts will be prescribed by zone. We use 5 zones at Purple Patch. Zones are ranges of power, pace, or effort that will guide you through your training and help you execute your workouts at the right intensity for optimal physiological adaptation.
When it comes to determining whether you're training in the right zone, perceived effort (RPE) is your best metric. RPE is a powerful tool and one you should always keep in mind during training, no matter how many smartwatches, heart rate monitors or other devices you're wearing. Do not just blindly train at X watts or Y pace simply because that's the zone prescribed: also learn how those intensities feel, and be willing to adjust your power or pace if your RPE seems far off the prescribed effort.
All that said, you will use pace, power, and heart rate zones to help dial in your training intensity. For example, if you have a smart trainer, power meter, or a power-enabled spin bike like a Peloton then you will typically use power zones for your bike sessions. For longer run intervals (especially over variable terrain), we usually recommend going by heart rate.
Check out the video and notes below for more details on using zones in your training.
You'll calculate your zones by doing periodic threshold testing (about every 3-4 months). Once you complete your assessment and get your new threshold numbers, you'll enter that into Today's Plan, and the system will calculate your new zones for you.
Below, we'll take a look at what these zones look like in terms of effort/RPE. You can also get additional resources on using zones here:
- How do I determine my training zones?
- How do I update zones in Today's Plan?
Understanding Zones by Effort/RPE
Z1: EASY. Blood is moving without big effort. This effort is utilized in warm up and recuperation sessions and is below an effort you would typically deploy in racing.
Z2: SMOOTH A conversational effort in which you can sustain your effort for extended periods without accumulation of fatigue or that leaves a residual effect the day following (such as soreness). Any global muscular and overall fatigue will be manageable from long periods at this effort. Many athletes maintain an IRONMAN ride at the very upper range of this effort.
Z3: STRONG This effort is sustainable for extended periods but requires real focus to maintain. You would not want to lead a conversation at this effort but are not breathless.
Z4: VERY STRONG This is an effort that allows the maximum amount of work you can sustain, over a set duration, combining your current fitness and good form, but without force. The result is an uncomfortable effort that requires all of your dedicated focus to maintain. This is also called your "steady state" effort. (A great rule of thumb for determining this is the intensity at which you can no longer say the Pledge of Allegiance. If you're struggling to get through a line of the Pledge without dropping words or pausing to take a breath, then you're likely right around your Z4 effort.)
Z5: HARD This effort is one in which high force is added to form and fitness to achieve a very high effort. This effort is not sustainable for more than a couple of minutes at a time, will put you into significant duress, and will result in residual effects from accumulating much time in this effort.
The video below describes the application of zones to your training.