Training Zones

by | Bike, Run, Training

By utilizing varying levels of effort we are able to train more efficiently. gadgets are a great way of providing some feedback of your effort levels. Power and HR on the bike, pace and HR on the run and a lap timer in the pool. But gadgets give real time feedback that does not take into account your particular situation in any given workout. Your training load, levels of fatigue, amount of sleep, nutrition and several other inputs all have an affect n your performance. At PB+J we like to view your perceived effort as the highest priority marker for your levels of effort, regardless of what your gadgets say.

Here are some indicators of how the training zones should feel.



 Lower GREEN Zone

Descriptions: Easy / Recovery Pace / Zone 1

Variety: Recovery pace running refers to warm-ups, cool-downs , recovery runs, recovery running within a workout. It’s a little more than a job, but very low stress.

Intensity: In general, Easy sessions are working at a very comfortable, conversational pace.

Purpose: Working at your Easy Pace has physiological and recovery benefits. Increasing blood flow, and loosening tight muscles. This zone may also be used as recovery in between more intense intervals. 


Upper GREEN Zone

Descriptions: Endurance Pace / Aerobic Pace / Zone 2

Variety: Steady Endurance or long sessions

Intensity: An Upper GREEN Zone  effort should still feel relatively easy. Conversation should be possible and your breathing should be easy and controllable without effort. Of course, a very long GREEN Zone session may start to feel a bit tougher at the end as you start to fatigue

Purpose: A whole hot of benefits are available in this zone and, combined with the lower GREEN Zone, should form the bulk of your training volume. It encourages slow twitch muscle fibre growth as well as the bodies ability to utilize fat as fuel and builds a solid base from which higher-intensity training can be performed. The heart muscle is strengthened, muscles receive increased blood supplies and increase their ability to process oxygen delivered through the cardiovascular system. It also builds strength and durability in your structure. 


Description: Tempo Pace / Zone 3

Variety: Steady, prolonged or tempo intervals.

Important: Athletes tend to gravitate towards the YELLOW Zone far too often. We spend a significant time trying to get athletes to drop below YELLOW Zone when they should be in GREEN Zone and lift them above YELLOW when they should be in the RED Zone.

Intensity: These sessions will be done below your Lactate Threshold (L2) but above the L1 Threshold Green Zone.

Breathing should still be controllable but in YELLOW Zone conversation would definitely be awkward and towards the top end. You will require a reasonable amount of focus to maintain great form and breathing, although both should easily be in control.

Although edging towards harder work, YELLOW ZONE efforts can still deal with any lactate being produced so they can be manageable  over longer intervals.

It should be noted that there is evidence to suggest the YELLOW Zone is kind of a grey area. Similar adaptations to GREEN Zone but harder to recover from, while it ams has less benefit that RED Zone. In general, we do not want to be in YELLOW Zone  too much, although it does provide race specific benefits when your race pace is in Z3.

Purpose: Tempo pace is comfortably hard. It builds endurance, mental toughness and increases your ability to go fast for longer periods, such as you would during a race. Great for muscle memory if you are racing at a YELLOW Zone pace. Also good for strength work.


Lower RED Zone

Description: Threshold Pace / Zone 4

Variety Threshold + Intervals (see below).

Intensity: This is a intense workout zone and should be reserved for relatively short intervals. You should be able to be in control of your form. Your breathing with be harder and faster but still in control. You will only be able to maintain these efforts for fairly short periods of time and, unlike Yellow Zone, you may experience a consistent increase in difficulty as lactate builds in your system. This should be manageable though. Getting to the point where it is not likely means you have ventured above Zone 4. This effort level might be around your 10km pace in a run for example.

Purpose: Build strength and power. Move your lactate threshold performance capability and increase mental toughness.


Upper RED Zone

Description: Maximum Pace / All out effort / Zone 5

Variety: Pace reps and strides.

Intensity: Reps are fast, but not necessarily too “mentally hard” because intervals are relatively short and are followed by relatively long recovery bouts. Recoveries are to be long enough that each interval feels no more difficult than the previous interval, because the purpose of Reps is to improve speed and economy and you can not get faster (nor more economical) if you are not running relaxed. If it takes 3 minutes recovery between Rep 400s, then that is what is needed.

Purpose: To improve your speed and economy.