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.


Zone 1

Descriptions: Easy / Recovery Pace

Variety: Recovery pace running refers to warm-ups, cool-downs , recovery runs, recovery running within a workout and generally long sessions.

Intensity: In general, Easy sessions are working at a very comfortable, conversational pace, which certainly may vary daily, depending on how you are feeling.

Purpose: Workingh at your Easy Pace promotes physiological benefits that build 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.


Zone 2

Descriptions: Endurance Pace / Aerobic pace

Variety: Steady or very long sessions

Intensity: A Zone 2 effort should feel relatively easy. Conversation should be possible (not while swimming!) and your breathing should be easy and controllable without effort. Of course, a very long Z2 session may start to feel a bit tougher at the end as you start to fatigue

Purpose: Builds a solid base of volume and builds endurance. Encourages slow twitch muscle fibre growth as well as the bodies ability to utilize fat as fuel rather than sugar.


Zone 3

Description: Tempo Pace

Variety: Steady, prolonged or tempo intervals.

Intensity: These sessions will be done well below your Lactate Threshold (Z4) but above Zone 2 effort. Breathing should still be controllable but at lower Z3 conversation would definitely be awkward and at upper Zone 3 you will require a reasonable amount of focus to maintain great form and breathing, although both should easily be in control.

Although difficult, Zone 3 efforts can still deal with any lactate being produced so they can be tough but over longer intervals.

It should be noted that there is evidence to suggest Z3 has less benefit than Z4, which boosts threshold and Z2, which has similar physical adaptions but with a lot less recovery required. In general, we do not want to be in Z3 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. Zone 3 is a known as a it of a grey area.  Too quick for longer endurance work and too slow for threshold work. 



Zone 4

Description: Threshold Pace

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 Zone 3, 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.


Zone 5

Descriptions: Maximum Pace / All out effort

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.