Zone 2 Cycling Very Hard | 80/20 Endurance

Zone 2 Cycling Very Hard

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    Hey all – I am in a new 80/20 cycling FTP builder power plan. I have taken multiple tests that put my FTP at 230W. However, my Zone 2 workouts on the plan are really quite hard. I turn down the bias on Zwift a bit, but even then it targets 170W…or almost 75pct of my FTP. I find that to be doable for a 30 minute or hour workout, but it is hard and my heart rate reflects that…going into the 170s (max of 194, my threshold from FTP was 184). It does fall in a Zone 3 heart rate, not X or Y. But still…am I doing something wrong? Is this usual? I know training in higher heart rate zones is bad news, but I also want to trust the zone calculator on here. Partially because if I don’t trust it, I’m not sure how I’d set my zones otherwise (and then the training plan will become pretty confusing…like Zone X and Y); any advice on if I had to move down Zones 2 and 2 how to dial in the remainder?

    • This topic was modified 12 months ago by njcornell.

    I purchased the 8020 fondo plan but had to stop using it as the cycling zones were WAY too difficult for me. I asked the question on here but was pretty much told that was how it was. No real explanation or support.


    That is helpful to know I’m not alone. I am open to the approach if the idea is I build into the zones, but I don’t want them to be accidentally counter productive. I’m thinking I should adjust the zones, but not sure how I’d come up with alternatives. I could also just manually ride everything easier? The intervals are doable / almost too easy, so it’s not a top end problem.


    Something does seem to be out of order.

    Top of Zone II for me is 171w and 112bpm and I have carried that up to 2 hours on Zwift without difficulty and very little cardiac drift. My max hr is 161 and resting hr is 46. I set my zones using the Zwift protocols.

    I”ve only been using cycling for about 3-1/2 month, but I brought a good level of fitness with me from several years of daily running.

    My CTL is currently in the 50s. My numbers will be different than most others because of my age. I share it here to provide a snapshot for comparison.

    From the sounds of it you have a good deal of power, but your cardio is lagging- a sprinter attempting a marathon. Your power zones are probably good, but it will take some time to develop endurance to get everything in balance. (You are training your heart muscle to push more blood with each beat).

    Just a guess…



    I’m not sure if you’re replying to me or the other person. I’m far from a sprinter. I ride gran fondos and other long distance rides coming from a background in Ironman events. There is something far wrong with the zones for cycling.


    Sorry for the confusion, I was replying to njcornell.

    I was just sharing my experience which is quite different from yours. I’m a runner with only a couple of outside century rides (a long time ago).

    Any comment on the correctness of the zones needs to come from the 80/20 coaches.

    David Warden

    @oldcyclist First, apologies for us not giving you a thorough answer previously. I’ll attempt to do so here.

    Your experience is not uncommon, but we also hear just as much that our Zone 2 is too low. Some athletes, whether through genetics, experience, or habits, really struggle with our Zone 2, and others complain it’s way too easy. This is the natural result of trying to fit a universal zone system to each athlete: your results will vary.

    But, here is the easy solution for you. The division between Zone 2 and Zone X (the threshold between low and moderate intensities) in the 80/20 system is empirical. The division between Zone 1 and Zone 2 in the 80/20 system is an estimate. Matt and I just made a best guess on where Zone 1 ends and Zone 2 starts. There is no empirical data for “low intensity” and “really low intensity.” Therefore, high Zone 1 is still low intensity, and qualifies in the 80/20 system the same way as Zone 2. Feel free to hover in Zone 1 when Zone 2 is called for, and as you get stronger Zone 2 won’t feel so hard. Or, maybe it never will and that’s OK too, you can just hang out in Zone 1 and that’s completely compatible with the 80/20 system.



    Thank you for this! My wife is also on a plan and having a similar challenge and we appreciated the guidance on turning it down, so to speak. We modified our zones and that appears to be going much better, swapping some space between zones 1 and 2 to get the programmed values dialed in.

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