Confounded by Declining Performance YoY | 80/20 Endurance

Confounded by Declining Performance YoY

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    The last few years I was following a low-aerobic program espoused by the Uphill Athlete methodology ( Essentially it is very similar to MAF where almost all of the running is done below the Aerobic Threshold, until a late stage peak phase where some Intensity is added.

    One thing I noticed during that training was that my tolerance for hard running (and higher HR) seemed diminished (in other words, I wimped out a lot when it came to hard workouts – I did them but they seemed to hurt more than they should’ve) I also underperformed in a few races using that training so it caused me to re-evaluate and go back to a more 8020 approach with regular hard(er) workouts included in the plan.

    For awhile I enjoyed the freedom of extending efforts into the upper HR register, and over the winter I saw some gains with my Stryd CP climbing from 283w to 309w before settling down around 301w where it’s stayed for the last 1.5 months.

    During that time, which also coincides with a big increase of outside temp/humidity, as well as an uptick in my volume (I’ve climbed from 35-39mpw to 50mpw+) – I’ve stagnated and running both seems hard and doesn’t “score” well on my metrics. HR in particular doesn’t compare well to last year at all – I was doing faster paces last year at lower HR. Power metrics fair okay but once HR is introduced things look really bad in comparison. It’s hard not to get discouraged.

    However, my question is this: Is it possible that my HR zones have just shifted upward? As far as I can tell, LTHR is in the same ballpark as last year, it’s just the EASY pace/HR that are so out of whack. On the flip side, I am tolerating higher HR numbers much better than I did last year, on hill repeats for example HR is peaking much higher – and some recent Ramp tests compare very well to last year at this same time.

    I’ve always used HR as a benchmark metric for fitness, but am I putting too much stock in it? I hate to toss it out after so many years of us just because I don’t like what the numbers look like.

    Matt Fitzgerald

    Yes, you’re putting too much on heart rate. Quite honestly, I would be a very happy coach if I could get all of the 80/20 athletes who currently train by heart rate to give it up for either pace or power plus the indispensable RPE. If this were to happen, a very large percentage of the “problems” that athletes encounter in training and bring to the forums would instantly disappear!


    Thanks Matt – I guess some old habits are hard to break.

    Have you ever seen that phenomenon I described when I was training low HR mostly, higher efforts being harder to tolerate? It’s like I got locked into one intensity level and anything above that was a shock to the system.


    You’re exactly right in that habits can be hard to break. For the first few runs I did without looking at heart rate, I hardly knew what to do with myself. It was like a security blanket had been taken away. But after a week or so, I found that I was starting to enjoy it. Some of the easy runs were in the upper part of zone 2. Some stayed entirely in zone 1. Regardless, the easy runs all felt appropriately easy.

    Since I’m using Stryd, I’ll look from time to time, but not that often. Basically, I’m just trying to equate my perception of effort with a certain power range. Then, as I see the range starting to increase, I’ll retest.

    As far as being harder to do harder runs after doing mostly easy (low HR) running, I would agree. Whenever I’ve spend a decent amount of time doing only easy running, I felt like I lost my faster gears. But doing just a few runs with some higher intensity mixed in, the faster gears always return pretty quickly.

    Marius T

    In 2020, I had a similar experience with only low HR/pace training and few race pace efforts approaching the race. In race day, I wasn’t able to push, it was like I was stuck in only one gear mode.
    One year before (2019) I use 8020 approach for the same race (a 70.3 iron) and it was way better.
    This is not to say that one system is superior to the other but, for me, doing regular higher intensity session works.



    Good feedback guys, thanks.

    I was also doing a lot more volume last year too, not necessarily with running but with a lot more cross training hours. I felt pretty tired all the time and it often seemed like there wasn’t as much “fluidity” in my HR range, like my heart was too “tired” to easily ramp up to the upper registers. Maybe that has something to do with the big difference in HR average then and now.

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