Above Zone in Z3-Z5... | 80/20 Endurance

Above Zone in Z3-Z5…

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    I’ve had a question lingering in my head for a few weeks… On my quality workouts that have Zone 3-5 intervals (e.g. RCI1, CCI1, , take Zone 3 intervals for example, what’s the thought of going higher than Zone 3 (power) in those intervals if it’s deliberate, controlled and progressive? I have over the past few weeks, when I have a set of say 3-5 x Zone 3 power intervals, I have been doing them progressively, first few at mid-Zone 3, the middle one or second to last one increased to 100% FTP (top of Zone 3), and last interval at about 110%-120% of FTP. Seems like this would be ok in 80/20 balance because it’s all in the 20% of moderate-high intensity so doesn’t impact that, and it aligns with how I have trained in the past where I try to tighten up my output, focus on a specific target not just the range of the whole zone, and complete a progression of hard to harder in my workouts, giving just about everything I’ve got in the workout. I’ve seen substantial gains in my power and run pace by doing the training plan in this way compared to how I have in the past (not all things being equal – I’ve been orienting a bunch of things toward greater gains in my quality workouts lately, like caffeine before these Z3-5 workouts, Amp PR lotion – what the heck giving it a try, and perhaps most importantly a more assertive mindset toward these workouts (“*strive to reach* a stretch power level on the last interval”) as opposed to the goal being to simply stay within a hard zone over and over again which feels more like *required* punishment/pain than something I am *achieving.* And to be clear, by going progressive, and then way above zone on the last Zone 3, I’m not hindering my ability to complete the rest of the workout in the appropriate Zone1-2 intervals. And so far, by doing this, I haven’t seen any problems in achieving what’s on the calendar for my next workout, either that day or the next day.

    What do you think about going above Zone 3 like this?

    David Warden


    I can’t argue with progress. If you are seeing progress, carry on. And, you are correct that it does not interfere with the 80/20 ratios.

    However, my default advice is that the scheduled intervals should be paced at the maximum pace you can maintain for all intervals in the set. That means that you might be able to hold 110% of Zone 3 for 5×3 minutes, but just 95% of Zone 3 for 6×10 minutes.

    At the same time, what your doing is instinctively correct for certain workouts. What you are suggesting is similar to what we have included in our new run plans with the Variable-Intensity workouts. In these workouts, you do indeed vary the intensity from moderate to high within the same interval segment, as opposed to trying to maintain a narrow intensity for the segment.

    The difference is that you are proposing spreading that variability out between segments, whereas we have the variability within the same segment. Why should this matter? I don’t know, but it does. We received the Variable Intensity workout from Veronique Billat, who tested out several other methods and found this to be the best.


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