Training Zones for Distance Running

Different physiological responses occur at different race paces. In general, as you increase your pace: heart rate, effort level, oxygen consumption, ventilation and lactate all increase. Some of these variables increase linearly until reaching a maximum level or plateau (heart rate and oxygen consumption). Other variables exhibit a "threshold" after which they increase at a faster rate than at slower paces (lactate and ventilation).

Measured variables against Pace

  • Heart rate
  • Ventilation/breathing rate
  • Lactate level in your blood
  • Oxygen consumption (VO2)
  • Effort (Perceived Level)

Easy Zone / LSD Runs

  • Effort & Breathing = Easy
  • Heart Rate / Oxygen = Low
  • Carry on a conversation

Aerobic Threshold Zone

  • Measured variables start to increase
  • Usually around marathon race pace
  • All systems running smoothly and efficiently

Lactate Threshold Zone

  • Sustainable for 45-75 minutes
  • 30k – ½ Marathon pace
  • Effort = “comfortable hard”
  • Heart Rate & VO2 continue to increase
  • Breathing reaches a noticeable increase
  • Lactate begins to increase faster

VO2 and Heart Rate Max Zone

  • Effort = “Hard”
  • HR and VO2 increasing considerably
  • Sustainable for 20-45 minutes
  • Lactate accumulates at rapid pace
  • Legs become heavy, fatigue starts to set

Anaerobic Capacity Zone

  • 3k-5k pace & Faster = near SPRINTING, but not quite.
  • Effort = Very Hard, breathing reaches maximum
  • Lactate production rate > body’s removal rate (Not sustainable for very long)
  • ~10-15 min maximum

Training Zones

All levels of training for short and long distance running can be broken in to four (4) zones:

  • Endurance / Easy Runs
  • Stamina / LT-Tempo Runs
  • Speed / V02m Workouts
  • Sprint / Speed Workouts

As marathon training is concerned, we will focus most of our time and training in the first two zones, endurance and stamina.  We will touch slightly on Speed, and little on Sprint zones.

Endurance (Easy Runs)

    • Builds endurance: increase heart stroke volume, increase in # of capillaries, increases # muscle cells.
    • More efficient in burning fat as fuel.  Builds coordination & running economy
    • HR = 60-75% (55-75% VO2Max)
    • 30sec – 2 min slower than marathon pace
  • These are our “Long & Easy” runs and majority of our training.  Especially when training your body to run for 13-26 miles.
  • Easy Runs, Long Runs, Recovery Runs

Stamina Zone (Tempo Runs)

    • 30k-1/2 Marathon - 10k Race Pace
    • Helps push several critical thresholds (lactate, ventilator, anaerobic) to faster paces.  Feels “comfortable hard”  
    • Paces where lactate is produced and dealt with.  Training in this zone increases “Efficiency” of your systems. Basically, you adapt to run longer and faster.
    • The speed and time at which your body reaches “lactacte threshold.”  The most critical in long distance performance.
  • Tempo Runs, Cruise Intervals. Done during 2nd half of season

    Speed Training (V02m Runs)

    • 3k-5k pace.
    • HR ~ 90%. Breathing fast, effort Hard.
    • Speed training increases the “Capacity” of your body’s systems.  Energy sources, lactic acid buffering, stimulation & training of fast twitch muscle fibers.
    • Running motion/form more consolidated
    • Will do some of these during 2nd half of season.

    Sprint Training (Sprint Repeats)

    • 800-3k race pace.  Some benefit to distance training, though not practiced much.
    • All variables at maximum capacity.
    • Neuromuscular adaption: fast twitch fibers become more coordinated to achieve more power and speed.  Similarly to entire muscle group
    • Won’t focus much on these for marathon training, though some of our Hill Workouts will reach into the Sprint Training zone.

    Source: McMillan Running