Why training in the right zone matters.
But why bother with zone running? The short answer is: running in the right zone will help you improve, prevent injuries, and get faster.
The longer answer is that when you run in the right zone, your body can tackle more intense training because it’s not overtraining. Running in the wrong zones for too long will lead to burnout and injury—and no one wants that or even worse, a lack of progression!
Running in the right zones also helps you enjoy your runs more. It’s enjoyable to see yourself getting better as a runner. It’s enjoyable to be able to run easier and farther at current paces than you could have a couple of months ago—all of which is made possible by using heart rate zones correctly.
And finally, running in the right zones helps you keep running for longer! Being able to avoid burnout means that once you start enjoying the sport of running, it becomes something that stays interesting for years (even decades).
The biggest error that most people make is zone 3
Zone 3 is the biggest mistake that most people make. Most people think that they’re training hard but actually, they’re not. Zone 3 is too slow to get fit fast, but also too fast to improve your aerobic system. This means that training in zone 3 can do more harm than good and it’s a huge mistake to think this will get you fitter. Oddly, most people who don’t have much time to plan their training, think zone 3 is that challenging zone which will get them fastest quickest. It just doesn’t fit any running goal intention, they’ll run in the zone day after day and it’ll lead to a plateau, demotivation and burnout!
Why training at the threshold is so important.
Training (or running) at threshold is a necessary component of training for any race distance. Why? Training at the threshold level strengthens your body to sustain running at a faster pace while enduring fatigue. A simple example is: if you can run 10 miles without stopping, at some point during those 10 miles your legs will start to feel fatigued and your breathing will be heavier. If you continue to push yourself beyond that discomfort, eventually your muscles will strengthen in order to run longer distances. You are training your body to endure that fatigue and keep moving forward.
Threshold running should make up about 20% of all weekly mileage for any runner who wants to improve their performance in races from 5k’s to marathons.
The importance of recovery and easy runs.
You run, right? And you probably run in a heart rate zone, correct? But are you sure that what you’re doing is best for your training? Are you really training in the right zone?
- Why recovery is important.
As athletes, we know that we need to recover and rest between workouts. A few minutes of stretching or rolling after a workout and taking days off… all of these are things we do to help us recover from our hard efforts. The problem is a lot of runners neglect the importance of recovery during their workouts and training runs. They don’t understand how valuable it can be! Recovery runs are vital and encourage oxygen circulation to repair the muscles. On top of this, if you’ve completed anything like a half-marathon or more, you need a carefully programmed few weeks of recovery. You’re probably thinking but my legs feel fine a week after the marathon, nope that’s silly. You need to understand there is cellular level damage that has occurred.
If you’re getting injured you’re probably doing this
If you’ve been running for a while, you’re well aware of the concept of zone training. In fact, your workouts are probably divided into three zones: easy, moderate and hard. Easy runs should be done at the slowest pace you can sustain for an extended period of time. Moderate runs can be done at your current half-marathon race pace; these runs will take effort but shouldn’t hurt or leave you unable to talk. And hard runs are best conducted at a variety of paces faster than 10K race pace; they’ll feel painful but leave you wanting more…may be.
As a performance coach, it’s my job to carefully work out how much of your weekly mileage falls into which zone. Any more and your risk of injury goes up. Too little and you won’t progress as fast as possible. One thing that is apparent every single time to me is that too many runners do too little (none) strength training. You need to do that conditioning, the heavy lifting, the plyometrics and ab work to stop getting injured. Unless you’re unlucky to have had a fall or trip then an injury is more often than not a result of not applying the same attitude to your strength training that you do to your running.