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Training Zones - Zone 1

If you missed the introduction to Training Zones click here.

In order for your body to adapt to a training stress, you need to apply a training stress above a certain threshold based on your ability. For example, if you can dead lift 300lbs for a one repetition maximum, but you only have 10lbs, you can dead lift that weight as much as you want but you won’t gain any muscle or strength. The reason is that based on your ability at dead lifting, 10lbs is not enough of a stress on your muscles to illicit them to change in response. Zone 1 for endurance training is similar to the example above, the stress applied is so light that no training response will occur. Zone 1 is still an important training zone though when used appropriately.

A common way to use Zone 1 in training is on easy days of training. In order for you to perform your hard workouts on your hard days of training you need be fresh and ready to go as hard as possible. You can accomplish this by not going hard the day before. This is where Zone 1 workouts can help. Having a day where you don’t apply a stress large enough to actually stress your body means your body won’t need to recover from that workout and thus be too fatigued the following day when you need to go harder.

You’re probably asking why not just take they day off on your easy days. The reason is that Zone 1 workouts can also help you recover from previous workouts either that day or in the preceding day(s). Getting blood flowing, muscles contracting, and joints moving can help your body recover from previous workouts. If you were to not workout at all you may find yourself stiffer and sorer the following day than if you performed a Zone 1 workout instead. This expedited recovery can also allow you to go harder the following day, improving the quality of that workout and thus your training overall.

Other common places to use Zone 1 is during your warm-ups and cool-downs during your workouts. During your warm-up, you want to slowly elevate your body temperature and ready your muscles for the demand you are about to place on them before the hard part of your workout gets underway. This can be accomplished with a few minutes of Zone 1 training before the harder efforts to come during your workout. Ending your workout with a cool-down in Zone 1 can start the recovery process from your workout quicker. With a lot of blood and built up waste products flowing from your workout, this cool down can gradually slow down that flow, aid in flushing out those waste products, and prevent pooling of this blood if you were to just stop a hard effort suddenly.

Lastly Zone 1 is often used for recoveries between harder intervals during a workout. As mentioned above performing a lighter version of the same activity can help you recover from that harder effort. In this case you would just be preparing for another hard effort within the same workout and not in the following day(s).

To know you are in Zone 1 you simply adhere to the intensity Zones laid out below, which in this case means just keeping your efforts easier than those listed. Zone 1 should feel incredibly easy and should feel like something you could do forever. It will be easy to hold a conversation at this effort. Where Zone 1 workouts aren’t meant to illicit any training adaption and are more about recovery and preparing for future workouts, they should be quite short based on your ability. This would be approximately 30-90min of cycling, 15-45min running, and 15-45min swimming.

Just because the effort is low and the workout is short, doesn’t mean Zone 1 workouts always have to be boring. You can spice things up by cycling at different cadences, performing bike handling skills, running on different surfaces, or performing swimming drills while maintaining Zone 1. Since you won’t be out of breath, you can do with a friend or group but only if they agree to maintain Zone 1 and things don’t turn into a race as training with others often can. Another consideration during these workouts is to choose your terrain appropriately. If you pick a route that is too hilly you will certainly be working too hard during portions and putting too much stress on your joints and muscles on the downhills if running. Performing these workouts on the trainer or treadmill where effort can be kept low may help.

Zone 1 can often get neglected or performed too hard, but now that you know its benefits and how to properly perform Zone 1 workouts, you can use it when appropriate to reap all its benefits.


~77% of FTP

66-85% of FTHR

1-2 RPE


<55% of FTP

<68% of FTHR

1-2 RPE


FTP: + 11-15sec/100yds(m)

4-5 RPE

Duration: 30-90min

Continue reading about Zone 2 here.

Rather watch than read...see video below:

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