Program design and training zones by Zac Turner

Every athlete wants to make sure they are training effectively. When planning for events / setting goals we tend to make clear plans with what we want race day to look like (e.g. overall time, splits, placing etc.). However, we often see that one’s training does not accurately reflect how they want to perform on race day.

A common conversation I have with runners and athletes, particularly those with self-designed training programs, is avoiding getting stuck in ‘no man’s land’. So, what is no man’s land? This is what I deem to be an heart rate zone where your training intensity is not overly high, but similarly nor is it overly easy. And in terms of the science behind exercise and training you are not reaping the benefits of an easy recovery run, but also not getting all the benefits that of training at threshold provides. 

 

Target training zones

 

Training zones are a representation of how hard you are working, and are calculated by a percentage of your maximal heart rate. Each person’s maximal heat rate is different and is dependent on age, gender, genetics and current fitness level. Therefore, two different people running at the same pace may indeed be in different training zones, therefore the effect of their training will be different. 


When training for a race or an event it is important to make sure your training is reflective of how you are going to perform on race day. For example training for a faster pace 10km run would differ greatly from training for a marathon, whereas many make the mistake of just adding volume and distance to training for distance events, and may disregard the nature of hard they will be working with respect to different distances. 


Without getting too much into the complex science behind exercise and training design, this does not mean that every run in your program should be the same and all at you target race intensity. What it does mean is that every run in your training program needs to have its own purpose, and this will change which zone you target. For example, you week may consist of one recovery run at 55% MHR, one interval session with running efforts at 85% MHR and one distance / volume run at 65% MHR. In order to make sure you training is purposeful, similar structure to this is needed to get the most from your training.