Coming Into Skiing From A Cycling Background

Q: Coming from a cycling background, Zone 2 is typically seen as the magic endurance training zone that every coach and plan I’ve ever worked with puts the most training time in and Z1 is typically used for recovery. I’d love know why this seems to be the standard for cycling, but EOD for the CXC plans is Z1. Being new to the sport I find keeping the heart rate in Z1 while skiing really difficult as I’m transitioning into fall season from cycling.

A: Thanks for the question. As somebody who has a limited background in the world of cycling but someone that does road bike, here are my opinions.

This zone 1 can be broken down into two halves. The first half being what you are talking about as a recovery pace. Second higher half being our longer distance training zone. This second zone can extend into the zone 2 as you want to work on skiing with good pace and not have to walk on the trail to maintain heart rate.

One of the main reasons skiers don’t work zone 2 very often is that it’s a zone that is in between our two most important zones, and sacrifices Improvement on both sides. Zone 2 doesn’t help the body learn to utilize fat more and spare bodies glycogen stores that are used during high intensity as well as zone 1. It’s also not quite zone 3 which helps to improve your anaerobic threshold, your long distance race pace.

I think in certain doses, zone 2 skiing can be beneficial and working on technique and trying to increase training pace. Doses of 30-45 minutes could be really beneficial. My experience with biking is heart rate is secondary marker for effort and wattage is more regularly used. Maybe skiing can learn something from cycling and incorporating zone 2 skiing into training may be beneficial when appropriate.

My suggestion would be to be wary of doing too much in zone 2 as it can get you in trouble quicker than keeping the easy skis easy and the hard skis hard. Zone 2 can become zone 3 quickly and we want to work the appropriate systems the appropriate amount.

Andy Keller, CXC Team Head Coach


FOLLOW-UP COMMENTS:  Ha, it’s always possible to slow it down! Cyclists always call Z1 junk miles, but for skiing it makes sense to complete distance in Z1 to train the aerobic systems with the minimum possible needed recovery time so you can be fresh and maximize the hard days. In a long road race you can actually spend a lot of time in Zone 2 while hiding from the wind in the pack, where given the shorter duration of ski racing you’ll be Z3+ for the majority. I pasted the below link much better describing how I am used to looking at Z1 vs. Z2 for cycling, and another article on the importance of Z2 training for cycling.

Power Based Training Levels

Zone 2 Training For Endurance Athletes

One thought on “Coming Into Skiing From A Cycling Background

  1. Depends on what scale you are using too. CXC uses a 5 point scale while others may use up to 7 levels. For example, CXC calls VO2 max L4 but I would call that L5 (I am an ex cyclist) so in those terms we would say L1 is spinning your legs out for recovery and L2 is LSD and converting that to CXC terms, they say L1 is LSD and below that is walking or recovery.

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