One of the spin instructors at the gym emailed me and told me to be aware of the Zone 3 Plateau. After a bit of research, I found it was also called the Zone 3 Syndrome. So, here are the questions and my answers to qualify me for this plateau:
• Are you exceedingly proud of the average speeds of your rides and do you gauge your training progress by the improvement of your average speed from one ride to another? Answer: YES.
• Do you find group rides fairly easy, even when the pace picks up, yet you can’t seem to make that final acceleration or stay with the group over the steepest part of the climb? Answer: YES.
• Do you have a maximum heart rate of 195, yet you haven’t seen it go above 180 since the season began? Answer: Sometimes.
• Does the thought of letting a rider pass you on the bike path make you ill, or do you pride yourself on the fact that no rider has ever passed you on a training ride, even on your recovery days? Answers: YES. (First part of question applies.)
• Do you often leave the house with one ride in mind but more often than not find yourself in the middle of the weekday morning world championships? Answer: Sometimes
• Do you find it impossible to imagine that riding at 130 bpm could possibly be anything other than an utter waste of time? Answer: YES.
These questions really rang true with me. And it explains the “level of sustained exhaustion” that I’ve been experiencing lately. At first I thought it was an iron deficiency so I at some steak. I also thought that perhaps I was fighting one of the ubiquitous nasty bugs. But with more research I think I’m suffering from Zone 3 Syndrome.
I really don’t take much time off the bike – not like I should. I never focus enough on slow recovery rides. I’m just go, go all the time, and at the same intensity. Because of that I can’t ever seem to get much faster.
I focused on a recovery ride yesterday. My average heart rate was only 91, with a maximum of 111. Today I figured I’d give a decent effort for the 1-1/2 hour spin class. I couldn’t manage to get my heart rate up much, and if I did, it didn’t last long and would drop very low. (This phenomenon has happened to me before on the road.) That’s an indication that I need more recovery time. I’ll go to class tomorrow but work on a recovery ride, followed by yoga. I might take the rest of the week off, with the exception of yoga Friday. No running, no elliptical, just time off. I’ll just have to be very careful what I eat during this time so I don’t put on any weight.
There is also a theory where you should take a month or two off. This article gives the examples of the Tour winners who start their recovery right after their win and take a few months off the bike. I guess that’s why we didn’t hear much about Alberto after the Tour, which we thought was odd, but now makes perfect sense.
So I’m looking forward to a little time off. It should renew my enthusiasm for the bike and for spin classes. And I’ll work on official recovery rides this year. My main goal with the women’s ride I’ve decided to lead on Tuesdays will be to have a recovery ride. Many of the women that will be riding will probably not want to hammer out any rides so I’ll take it easy, recover, and act as the sweep. (More on the women’s ride later.)