As promised, here is the schema I’ve put together. In developing it, I’ve drawn from a number of sources, including Peter Janssen’s book ‘Lactate Threshold Training‘, Joe Friel’s ‘The Cyclist’s Training Bible’, the British Cycling Federation’s training guidelines (developed by Peter Keen), in addition to my own background in exercise physiology and experience of training and racing with a PowerTap the last couple of years. I would also like to recognize all the people who responded to my initial request for power data, as that has helped me to verify/refine the system. I’ll begin by describing the various ‘levels’ in the system first, then discuss some of the details…
Level 1: Active recovery
Average power: <55% of 40k TT average power
Average heart rate: <68% of 40k TT average heart rate
Perceived exertion: <2
Description: “Easy spinning” or “light pedal pressure”, i.e., very low level exercise, too low in and of itself to induce significant physiological adaptations. Minimal sensation of leg effort/fatigue. Requires no concentration to maintain pace, and continuous conversation possible. Typically used for active recovery after strenuous training days (or races), between interval efforts, or for socializing.
Level 2: Endurance
Average power: 56-75% of 40k TT average power
Average heart rate: 69-83% of 40k TT average heart rate
Perceived exertion: 2-3
Description: “All day” pace, or classic long slow distance (LSD) training (note that the “slow” refers to the very high intensity, interval-centered training programs that were popular at the time the term was coined in the 1970’s). Sensation of leg effort/fatigue generally low, but may periodically to higher levels (e.g., when climbing). Concentration generally required to maintain effort only during very long rides. Breathing is more regular than at level 1, but continuous conversation is still possible. Frequent (daily) training sessions of moderate duration (i.e., 1-2 h) at level 2 are possible (provided dietary carbohydrate intake is adequate), but complete recovery from longer workouts may take more than 24 hours.
Level 3: Tempo
Power: 76-90% of 40k TT average power
Heart rate: 84-94% of 40k TT average heart rate
Perceived exertion: 3-4
Description: Typical intensity of fartlek workout, ‘spirited’ group ride, or briskly moving paceline. More frequent/greater sensation of leg effort/fatigue than at level 2. Requires concentration to maintain alone, especially at upper end of range, to prevent effort from falling back to level 2. Breathing deeper and more rhythmic than level 2, such that any conversation must be somewhat or very halting, but not as difficult as at level 4. Recovery from level 3 training sessions more difficult than after level 2 workouts, but consecutive days of level 3 training still possible if duration isn’t excessive.
Level 4: Threshold
Average power: 91-105% of 40k TT average power
Average heart rate: 95-105% of 40k TT average heart rate (may not be achieved during initial phases of effort(s))
Perceived exertion: 4-5
Description: Just below to just above TT effort, taking into account duration, current fitness, environment, etc. Essentially continuous sensation of moderate or even greater leg effort/fatigue. Continuous conversation difficult at best, due to depth/frequency of breathing. Effort sufficiently high that continuous cycling at this level is mentally very taxing – therefore typically performed in training as multiple ‘repeats’, ‘modules’, or ‘blocks’ of 10-30 min duration. While consecutive days of training at level 4 is sometimes possible, in general such workouts should only be performed when sufficiently rested/recovered from prior training so as to be able to maintain intensity.
Level 5: Aerobic power
Average power: 106-120% of 40k TT average power
Average heart rate: >106% of 40k TT average heart rate (may not be achieved due to slowness of heart rate response and/or ceiling imposed by maximum heart rate)
Perceived exertion: 6-7
Description: Typical intensity of longer (3-8 min) intervals intended to raise VO2max. Strong to severe sensations of leg effort/fatigue, such that completion of more than 30-40 min total training time is difficult at best. Conversation not possible due to often ‘ragged’ breathing. Should only be attempted when adequately recovered from prior training – consecutive days of level 5 work generally not desirable even if possible.
Level 6: Anaerobic capacity
Average power: >121% of 40k TT average power
Average heart rate: N/a
Perceived exertion: >7
Description: Short (
Level 7: Neuromuscular power
Average power: N/a
Average heart rate: N/a
Perceived exertion: * (maximal)
Description: Very short, very high intensity efforts (e.g., jumps, standing starts, short sprints).that generally place greater stress on the musculoskeletal rather than metabolic systems. Power useful as guide, but only in reference to prior similar efforts, not TT pace.