Zone 2 foundation runs | 80/20 Endurance

Zone 2 foundation runs

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    I’ve been following 80/20 methodology for 6 months now with fantastic results (albeit using a tweaked plan from elsewhere) and am now starting your 80/20 plan for an upcoming 50 miler in June.

    So far I’ve been using 137bpm (my MAF HR according to some calculators) as my upper limit for all my easy runs. Interestingly, this equates to my zone 1 upper limit using your 80/20 metrics.

    I’m seeing a lot of foundation runs in my new plan aiming for zone 2, which is 15bpm more than I normally do for an easy run.

    I guess my questions are:
    – have I been going ‘too easy’ for 6 months?
    – is there any harm in doing foundation runs in zone 1 instead, or does the science suggest zone 2 is more beneficial? (I’m happy to follow the plan, I only question it as I’ve had such great improvements keeping to zone 1 for my easy sessions)?
    – is there more detailed guidance about where to aim for within the zone (lower/mid/upper)?

    David Warden


    Welcome to the Forums!

    – This is a hard question to answer for two reasons. First, it really depends on the athlete. Second, more and more research supports that the slow part of 80/20 can’t be too slow. I would say that you have probably not been going too slow IF you have also been doing some high intensity work as part of the 20 of 80/20. This is where we diverge from MAF. The high intensity part of training is essential to progress. You’ve only been going too slow if you have been declining to perform high intensity work 20% of the time.

    – While the division between Zone 2 and X is empirical (VT), the division between Zone 1 and 2 is not. It’s a best guess by Matt and I. Zone 1 and 2 are both “easy” in the 80/20 system, and somewhat interchangeable. We could have just created one big Zone 1 that spanned both. So yes, you can stay in Zone 1 even when Zone 2 is called for.

    – Yes, from our guide we discuss how to manage intra-zone intensity, segment included below:

    Note that you have the flexibility to perform the workout at any point within the zone. For example, if the workout segment calls for Zone 1, and your Zone 1 heart rate is 115 to 129 bpm, you can perform the segment anywhere within that range. Continually performing workout segments at the upper end of a zone does not always lead to superior results. Sometimes appropriate recovery requires performing Zone 1 and 2 segments at the low end of the range. It is also best to perform moderate and high intervals consistently rather than intensely. Performing a set of 5 intervals at mid-Zone 3 is preferable to performing each of 5 intervals at a different point in Zone 3. Only when you are well-recovered and can perform intervals consistently is it recommended to execute the segment at the high end of the zone.



    Thank you for your prompt reply.
    I have indeed been keeping 20% of my workouts at higher intensity (hill repeats, tempo runs, strides, etc), so ticking that box.

    I’m happy to plod along at an easy pace, and will probably stick to highZ1/lowZ2, but it’s good to know I can eke firmly into zone 2 for foundation runs when needed without feeling guilty – keeping below 137bpm has been frustrating at times, but I couldn’t really complain given the improvements I was seeing in time trials)!

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