Ask The Expert: Isn’t the Strength Energy Zone(R) supposed to be all climbing?

Nancy asks:

I am Mad Dogg certified and I teach energy zones. All the SEZ profiles I see in the instructor resources include recoveries and flats. This has always confused me as I thought the purpose of a “strength” ride was the consistent and steady resistance to increase muscular strength and endurance. If you put flats and recoveries into the SEZ, doesn’t it just become another IEZ (Interval) profile?

Nancy, if you only knew how many times I heard that question! And how many times I asked it myself. In my opinion, one of the reasons why it is so confusing is the fact that the Energy Zones themselves are so limiting, but, I’ll get to that in a moment…


  1. Great to hear all the comments and of course the original article.
    As originally trained in indoor cycling by Schwinn and more recently I obtained the Spinning certification (to enable me to teach at certified Spinning clubs) I found the Spinning Energy Zones way too constrained, and therefore have never used them per se.
    I ride a lot outdoors, and have started a small “cycling club” at the club where i spend most of my time, and do long distance charity events mostly in France, and others here in the UK. Most of my classes are inspired either by long rides I have done, local routes or Pro Tour stages – often using my Garmin trace / Tour stage profiles to help plan the class.
    My class members have really taken to the idea of getting outside and several have bought road bikes in the last 12 months, which is great – tho’ sometimes it trashes my class numbers 🙁 but i can’t really complain if they are getting out and riding for real, my job in inspiring them seems to be working.
    Co-instructors who are Spinning certified, seem to me, to be sometimes a bit blinkered into these Zones and in particular, as described, calling a set of climbs an Interval class which it patently is not.
    I am so grateful to you Jennifer for clearing up this issue – i will direct them to your website – no longer will I be the lone voice in ensuring that Interval classes are both specific and meticulously planned and targeted, knowing that if the wrong folk turn up at class i have to ditch the planned interval profile and ride a mixed terrain instead.
    Thank you!

  2. Jennifer, Thanks for responding to my question. It has become clear to me that I need to reorganize my profiles into goal related categories, as you suggest. After years of teaching I have hundreds of profiles but all are arranged in Spinning categories of EEZ, IEZ, SEZ and RD. Fortunately, I create my profiles around a goal so it shouldn’t be too difficult, but will require time. It is amazing to me, how much time and effort it takes to be a good instructor. I guess that’s why there are so few of us out there. Thanks for all you do!

  3. The SEZ spinning zone was always the odd-child of the energy zones, since it was never clearly an energy zone or was never clearly a terrain or an odd blending of both. Actually SEZ always felt like terrain with an energy zone bolted on the side of it. Certainly clumsy to communicate i.e. strength means hills… but only if your HR is 75%-85% of MHR, huh?

    The energy zones or intensities make sense when there is a specific training goal or adaptation, otherwise it’s just a hill or a flat. The EZs did in large degree open up a view to many instructors and students the notion of having a specific purpose for a training session (labeled in a easy to wear form of 5-sizes-fits-all, well almost).

    Think of it as training wheels or building blocks for building a training plan. While 5-sizes does not fit all situations, it did start an important dialog (which continues now many years in to the future). And was where many started gaining knowledge about training, periodization and training programs.

    From my view the notion of separate terrain and separate intensities makes things a bit more real. Climb hill at 75% of MHR, Climb Steep Hill at 85% MHR. This is in line with Jennifer’s comment regarding the out and back profile. Not exactly SEZ but not exactly IEZ.

  4. Amen Jennifer and Renee! There are as many “profiles” as there is imagination! No limits to your terrain and how you combine it. When you weave a story around it you’ve just created magic.

  5. well, i guess i learned about 2 years ago after getting my Spinning Cert. and THEN finding a great group of masters and experts, a ton of reading from quality professionals and joining quality organizations like this one that my previous rides weren’t giving me what was appropriate or needed. I now had new information, and often times, conflicting, that threw what i learned somewhat upside down. After reading and listening to multiple sources and finding now a theory and practice that made sense, was safe and based on sound training principle I learned to change the format, focus and profile objectives of my initial first year rides which meant a re-org of my thick binder of profiles. I now have categories based on obj. of HRzone, LT focus, categories for strength, power, cadence, HIT, base building, race and holiday. i ditched the interval category as i too found it so confusing and such and overlap and catch all. some of my profiles fall into more than one category and so i will include them in multiple files. now moving into a 2nd binder. there are so many profiles given here based on sound and safe principles with varying objectives that are fun to ride and great to learn from when planning your own. sometimes all you have to do is purchase some tunes and even that you tweak for your own population. READ as much as you can get your hands on and LISTEN to the experts. Great learning found within.

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