Have you ever heard yourself say: “After running I always need a few days off. How do others manage to go running only 4 days a week? That would kill me in the long run. “
If so, then you are in good company. Many less experienced runners only train in a medium moderate intensity range . True to the motto: “After all, you have to feel something. Besides, the others all run so fast. “
Walking in the avoidance area is problematic
The problem of those who only run in the moderate range trains too hard to be able to build up a reasonable basic endurance. On the other hand, it is too slow to address high intensity ranges that, for example, increase oxygen capacity or lactate tolerance.
The middle moderate intensity range is also referred to as an avoidance range, which does not produce a positive training effect in the long term, but which slowly exhausts you so that you can no longer perform your next training units with sufficient rest.
But constant exhaustion stands in the way of regular and progressive training planning.
The rule of thumb
As a rule of thumb, you can remember: At least 80% of the weekly training duration should take place in the low-intensity area. If you’ve just started running, you may have to walk longer distances.
If you take this to heart, you can be proud and say to yourself: “In a month I can still jog with joy, while the others ran too fast and lost the fun.”
Long running increases endurance
Running is an endurance sport. Ultimately, it’s about being able to run regularly and healthily with fun and perseverance. All the better when you can walk long and far without any problems. But this only works if you do most of your training in the low intensity range , otherwise you will sooner or later end up in listlessness or in extreme cases in athletic burnout.
The remaining 20% of the weekly training duration can then take place in moderate and high-intensity areas, for example to add speed to endurance or to increase lactate tolerance.
This intensity distribution is also referred to as the 80/20 method to illustrate the importance of 80 percent.
How the 20% is completed depends on the training theory followed and offers a lot of leeway and countless variants, which never let ambitious endurance training become boring.
By the way, Torsten wrote a wonderfully understandable article about the 80/20 method that you should read: If you want to get faster, you have to run slowly
World class runners train according to the 80/20 method
It has long been no secret that almost all world class runners train according to an 80/20 intensity distribution.
In the case of top athletes, the low intensity range is impressively still very fast because they are extraordinarily fit. Most triathletes also get this ratio when you add the total time of running, cycling and swimming together.
The 80/20 method is not to be confused with the 80/20 principle (also Pareto principle) from statistics.
Are you exercising properly? The intensity control shows you whether you are training in the correct intensity range and what you should pay attention to.
Measure and determine intensity while running
The intensity of a run can be determined by various methods.
Intensity after speed
Professionals and experienced runners usually already know the intensity ranges in which they have been based on their speed .
Heart rate intensity
The most common way, however, is to measure the heart rate .
The heart rate can then be divided into different zones , also in sections over the course of the activity.
The intensity range then results from the ratio of the measured heart rate to your maximum heart rate.
Intensity according to wattage
Measuring power is another method of determining running intensity and has the advantage of providing immediate feedback when the wattage is displayed on the sports watch. For this purpose, a small power meter is attached to the shoe, for example.
Basically, you can divide endurance training into 3 intensity levels – low, moderate and high.
Here can more intensities occur in a workout at the same time .
For example, interval training has a low intensity in the walking or trotting phases and a high intensity in the fast sections.
Low intensity (up to 72% of the maximum heart rate)
Low intensities can be:
Really relaxed and easy runs
Slow and long fat burning runs
Fast walking and long hiking
Moderate intensity (73% – 82% of maximum heart rate)
Moderate intensities can be:
An individually brisk pace
Your marathon pace and also just the half marathon pace
On the high end, scratching the lactate threshold
High intensity (from 83% of the maximum heart rate)
High intensities can be:
Longer runs at the lactate threshold
The intense sections of interval training
A 10km competition
Do you train in the relaxed area?
So, now you can see if you are really doing 80% of your training with less than 73% of your maximum heart rate.
With a high probability you are between 75% and 80%, i.e. exactly in the middle moderate range, which you should actually avoid.
This then also answers the initial question of how some manage to enjoy a regular 4 or 5 day training week and how others fail.
The duration counts, not the distance
The intensity distribution and intensity control in training planning is crucial for regular and sustainable training.
What is important is the duration and not the distance. The speed is relativized to insignificance.
Enjoy the moment while running and forget all the runners around you who regularly run far too fast because of a false ambition.
Training software can be helpful for intensity control
When summarizing your intensity distribution on a weekly or monthly basis, it is helpful to use training planning and analysis software that sums up and clearly displays the intensities of your training for you.
If you would like to delve a little deeper into the topic, then I recommend my further article: How the zone distribution influences the effort of an activity . The zone distribution is based on the 3 intensity levels, but offers an even finer division. This is helpful for a detailed analysis of your run and enables very precise training control.