Heart Zones for Base

I'm confused with the differing opinions I read regarding heart zones.

I wish to build an endurance base, currently doing about 300-350km a week, want to get to around 450-500km. What heart zone should I be riding with the longer base rides?

I'm comfortable with my training for AT, SE, power climbs and intervals, yet something as simple as long steady kilometers confuses me. I ride with a bunch and sometimes feel as if I'm not training enough, for example last Sunday I did a 110km bunch ride I spent five seconds above 85 percent, 1:05:00 at 70-84 percent, 1:31:40 at 60-69 percent and 0:43:40 at 50-59 percent. To me I thought I should have more in the 70 percent-84 percent zone.

M. Sam

Dave Palese replies:

You're right. It can be confusing. Six different sources will give you six different sets of heart rate zones.

Let me address a couple of your concerns.

You say "I thought I should have more in the 70-84 percent zone" during your 110km group ride.

Group riding can be great and, I think, should be a part of every rider's training plan with regards to addressing certain aspects of training. It is however important to realize, that when you go on a group ride, you are granting a certain amount of control over your training for that day to the other members of the group. In some cases, that may mean that the intensity of the ride may be too high or too low for your plan. I say this only to make the point that when you choose go on a group ride you need to be flexible about your training.

You say "I feel as if I'm not training enough". I'll interpret that to mean that you feel as if you aren't working hard enough during your Base rides.

Since you used the word "feel", I'll take that as an opportunity to speak to intensity zones and heart rate.

It is important to know that heart rate is not the end-all-be-all of zone training. Since heart rate monitors have become so affordable and so widely available, I have found that the importance of these numbers has gotten a bit over-blown.

For the type of training you are talking about, Endurance level training, you could easily just ignore heart rate altogether, and go by feel alone. The Endurance level intensity should "feel" easy, or fairly light. Almost a guilty pace. If you go for a ride and just ride at an easy pace, you are training in the Endurance zone (commonly referred to as Zone 2). Also, if you go on a group ride and the pace is such that you spend a good chunk of time at an intensity below easy, say very light, what might be called Recovery intensity (Zone 1), don't sweat it. The physiological benefits of training in Endurance (Zone 2) over training done in Recovery (Zone 1) is minimal.