Training Zones: The mental and physical realities, demystified. 

It’s the weekly social spin. A ride buddy starts recounting the gory details of his ‘zone five’ workout last night, and how today must be ‘strictly zone one and two’.

You nod, blankly

These concepts mean nothing to you.

Let us explain.

Zone One: Active Recovery

0-55% Functional Threshold Power

0-68% Threshold Heart Rate

You barely push the pedals - you’re ‘crystal cranking’ – spinning the legs as if those the cranks and pedals were made of glass and you’re scared of breaking them. This is your pace when you’re out riding for coffee, maybe the day before a big race or event, or perhaps the day after a super-hard effort. Your mind wonders and amazing ideas flitter through your mind, only to be forgotten seconds later.

Sock Selection: You’re actively recovering, and so you want to enjoy and luxuriate in the process. Any of the Pongo range is ideal. We use the finest Italian fabrics and artisanal methods to ensure that every one of our pairs of socks will make your feet feel fantastic.

Zone Two: Aerobic Threshold 

56-75% Functional Threshold Power

69-83% Threshold Heart Rate

The preserve of the social group ride or your club run, or maybe your ride to work. Zone two is the essential zone for those long, cold rides in winter, bundled up in every layer you have praying that the warmth of the café arrives soon, patiently letting the base miles tick by. 

 There’s a bit of a bite in the legs as you pedal, but you could do this for hours. It’s a functional pace that gets you from A to B. You can feel your lungs opening and your legs working, but you’re not taxed as you chat with others and take in the views. 

Sock Selection: Zone Two is the workhorse of zones, a mainstay. A lot of your winter riding will be in Zone Two, and our Merino collection is perfect for this – your toes will be toasty and comfy as you rack up the base miles. For the rest of the year, you want a staple of your sock drawer. Our Pro Classic collection is a fundamental part of the range; simple, classy, and ever-effective.

Zone Three: Tempo

76-90% Functional Threshold Power

84-94% Threshold Heart Rate

A dangerous zone to fall in to, the pace at which the junk miles can accumulate – you’re not going hard enough for the riding to be called ‘hard’, you’re not going easy enough for it to be ‘easy’. You set a good pace and it feels satisfying to ride like this; you feel fast and strong, but you’re not being overly-taxed. 

Push deep into the upper end of Zone Three and you hit the magical ‘sweet spot’. The gains here can be immense as you work both your endurance and strength, and without the slightly barbaric nature of Zone Four, you can work at this load repeatedly and effectively. Your skinny mates who always go to Europe to ride the Etape Du Tour, Maratona, and Marmotte rave about sweetspot work as they prepare for the demand of riding multiple mountain passes. 

Sock selection: If you think of Zone Three as a junk zone, then we just cannot recommend a suitable Pongo sock. The care and attention that goes into all of our products, and our focus on customer service, means you’ll never have a poor experience with a pair of Pongos.

Zone Four: Lactate Threshold

91-105% Functional Threshold Power

95-105% Threshold Heart Rate 

Your lactate threshold, the point at which your body fails to remain in homeostasis and you can no longer stabilise the lactate accumulating in your legs.

The first few minutes at this pass by easily enough and you wonder where the pain is. Time continues to pass as you complete an effort of anywhere between 15-30 minutes and you feel ok. You feel like a hero. Then, around 10 minutes in, the pain starts to bite a little; the pace suddenly feels uncomfortable. You fight the desire to stop the interval that feels unpleasantly long; it becomes a battle of both mind and body. Physiologically it’s possible. Mentally it’s a brute. 

Sock Selection: You’re riding hard, you’re on your limit. Maybe a Time Trial or the final kilometres of the summit finish of a Gran Fondo. You want to be cool and composed under the pressure. Our Pro Race and Climber ranges will keep your feet sweat-free and let you concentrate on your performance when it matters most.

 Zone Five: V02 Max

106-120% Functional Threshold Power

106%+ Threshold Heart Rate

The torture zone. The pace you can hold for around five to eight minutes of eye popping, lung busting effort. As you frantically turn the pedals, the time passes oh so slowly, and within minutes, the pain sears through your legs.  You have a workout of five sets of five minutes planned for that night, and the day at work leading up to it is filled with dread of what’s to come. It niggles at the back of your mind and won’t go away. You know how hard it will be, and yet you know how much of a hero you will feel when it’s complete.

Sock Selection: Let’s face it; this zone sucks. If you’re performing a VO2 Max workout, you want to have something awesome to cheer you up as you glance down at the numbers on the bike computer in front of you. Catch a glimpse of our distinctive yet stylish Apron or Breton Stripe range as your legs churn, and a glimmer of light and hope will be restored.

Zone Six: Anaerobic

121-150% Functional Threshold Power

Those efforts of around two minutes long when you’re in fight or flight mode. You’re about to lose a wheel and trying to sprint back on, you’re forcing a break away from the peloton group, or maybe the last to the café has to buy the cakes.

The first ten seconds feel fine, the adrenaline surges through your body as you churn a huge gear and spin your legs unnaturally fast. Then it feels absurd, barbaric. Your body panics as it tries to keep up, and even your heart seems to rebel, taking a good 30-60 seconds to respond fully, before it suddenly reaches your maximum You can feel the effort in your chest, and you feel nauseous, light-headed. The effort ceases, and for the first thirty seconds, your mind goes blank and your legs go to jelly. Just as your heart had initially rebelled, your brain seems to reject what you’d just done to your body.

Sock Selection: It’s brutal, simple suffering. As the sugar drains from your brain to try to fuel the legs, the world feels black and white. Symbolise your suffering with the Monochrome range. Black and white simplicity. 

Zone Seven: Neuromuscular Power

Maximal Power

The effort is so short, so ridiculously hard, that sometimes it doesn’t even register. A brutal stamp on the pedals, as much about the size of your thighs and glutes as the quality of your lungs and heart.   Do it once, you feel almost nothing. It’s with the repetition that the pain comes. Just be thankful that you very rarely enter this zone.

Sock Selection: We don’t make socks ugly enough for this zone, sorry.


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