Training Zones for Runners. Let’s Make it Simple.

Speak the same language with training zones. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Strava’s default zones or an online Joe Friel calculator. Training zones can be equally beneficial to training prescription and training review.

When I onboard a new runner, I’ll look at their ‘time in zones’ over the last month. Typically, I’ll see their training time distributed as; 60% zone 1-2, 35% zone 3-4, and then 5% Zone 5+. This may be appropriate if you’re in the preparation phase for a marathon. However, most runners with this training style have no plan or “A race”.

They’re just training…. and getting injured.

For a runner like this, I can target 90% in Zone 1-2 and 10% in zone 4-6 via some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) style Fartlek workouts. Reduced systemic metabolic and hormonal stress and increased neurological stimulus often increase training adaptations leading to greater performance improvements after a few weeks of structured training.

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My Seven Training Zones

Zone 1 – Easy running. Used to build aerobic development with minimal stress. Zone 1 is also used for recovery between intervals. Typical duration; 1min – days

Zone 2 – Ultramarathon – Steady running. The most effective training zone for building aerobic fitness. Typical durations; 30min – multiple hours

Zone 3 – Marathon – Tempo running. Associated with the first lactate threshold (LT1). Often referred to as the “Grey Zone” when used inappropriately. Typical durations; 10min – 90min

Zone 4 – Half Marathon – Sub-Threshold running. Targeted for lactate threshold development and relatable to the velocity at VO2max (vVO2max). Typical durations; multiples of 5 – 30min

Zone 5 – 10km – Supra-Threshold running. Similar to Zone 4 except used to prescribe shorter duration intervals. Typical durations; multiples of 5 – 15min

Zone 6 – 5km – VO2max running. Eliciting the maximal demand for oxygen and induces large systemic stress. Typical durations; multiples of 1 – 5min

Zone 7 – Sprints – Neuromuscular running. A zone used for analysis rather than prescription due to the ambiguous nature of “sprints”. Typical Durations < 2min

Happy Running!
Dr Will


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