Zone 1-2 Distribution | 80/20 Endurance

Zone 1-2 Distribution

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    David – I have seen you mention that since you put together the original 80/20 Running and 80/20 Triathlon plans and books you have reconsidered the balance between Zones 1 and 2 intensity distribution. Can you give me specific guidance on when I might want to modify one OC the existing plans to move some amount of time from Zone 2 to Zone 1, as a 50+ year old what kind of distribution between Zones 1 and 2 I should aim for, etc?

    David Warden


    To review for other forum readers, the division between low and moderate intensity in the 80/20 system (Zone 2 and X) is empirical. The division between Zone 1 and 2 in the 80/20 system is not. It’s a best guess. It’s a really good guess from two coaches with a combined 35 years of experience.

    In fact, we could have eliminated Zone 1 altogether and had just one big easy Zone. For things like warmups, cooldown, and interval recoveries it made sense to keep some sort of distinction between easy (Zone 2) and really easy (Zone 1).

    Then, we also discovered that adding Zone 1 to the plans helped enforce the easy. Our athletes who did not have specific Zone 1 added to their plans tended to creep up more into Zone X. Athletes who had Zone 1 specifically added to their plans were more likely to stay within the 80/20 intensity balance. Zone 1 acted as a “firewall” from Zone X.

    The results is that about 30-40% of your 80/20 plan will be prescribed as Zone 1.

    OK, back to you, ted. Recently, Matt is finding that even more slow than we thought is probably better. Not only more slow, but slower slow, like a Zone 0… or Zone A… Anyway, my guidance for you or other masters athletes is that you can replace any Zone 2 with Zone 1 at any time. How much? I don’t know. It will depend on the athlete. This is something you’ll have to experiment with. It won’t be 80% Zone 1, but it might be 50% Zone 1?

    However, the 20 percent has to stay. The 80/20 system tends to focus on the 80, but the system is really based on the 20. You can perform the 20 well because the 80 sets you up for it. If increasing your Zone 1 allows you to perform the 20% better, then for sure increase your Zone 1.

    I know you wanted something more specific, but I just don’t at this time and it really would be different for each athlete. I hope understanding the principle and background will be enough for you to make your own adjustment.


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