Strict Zone 2 vs the 80/20 rule for ADS

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  • #27574

    Hi Scott,

    I completed my first ultra marathon last month (a 50 mile trail race with 5,000 vert) despite self diagnosing myself with ADS about a third of the way through my training cycle (AeT = 146 and Lactate Threshold = 177). When I retested my AeT using the Uphill Athlete treadmill protocol the week before my race (about 14 weeks later) it hadn’t budged despite about 80 hours of (mostly) zone 2 training (my program included zone 3 and 4 tempo intervals once a week that I chose to include and definitely helped mentally me in the late stages of my race).

    I’ve read on your site and in “Training for the Uphill Athlete” (which is excellent by the way!) that the best way to remedy ADS is consistent zone 2 training, however, I am worried that without at least 1 hard run each week, I might lose some of my top end speed? Having also read about the 80/20 rule (divide weekly volume into 80% zone 1-2 and 20% zone 4), I am wondering if this might be an acceptable way to take care of my ADS without losing too much speed or if strict zone 2 is preferable?

    Right now, I’ve created a base period schedule following the programming in “Training for the Uphill Athlete” and will be building to 35-40 miles weeks which I hope to maintain until the spring when I’ll hopefully be able to run another ultra if school allows.


Posted In: Mountain Running

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    Anonymous on #27575

    What was the average number of minutes per week in Zone 3 or above?

    The 80/20 notion comes from the “session goal” approach to quantifying volume. If an athlete had ten workouts in one week, and if the goal of two of those workouts was high-intensity, then the program would qualify as 80/20.


    The problem with the session goal approach to volume is that it doesn’t account for the actual time spent in high-intensity training. When looking at high-level athlete training programs for long-duration events (i.e. like the marathon), actual minutes of training above aerobic threshold are in the neighborhood of 5%.

    If you trained 80 hours over 14 weeks, you’d have an average volume of ~5h45′ per week. So to maintain your aerobic threshold, you wouldn’t want more than ~20 minutes of intensity for the week. To improve your aerobic threshold, you’d want less.

    Actually quantifying the time spent at low and high intensities is described as a “modified session goal” approach.

    With a long-term focus, I wouldn’t worry about your speed loss in the short-term. Improving your AeT now is where you’ll get the greatest benefit. I wouldn’t be surprised if, over the very long-term, your future AeT pace could be faster than your current AnT pace.

    derekosborne22 on #27624

    Hi Scott,

    May I probe your answer to JDB’s question a bit further.

    My primary aim is to improve my aerobic base for multi day events – not races, but tough mountaineering/ski touring journeys. I’ve based my program around Z1 and Z2 zones where top of Z2 is my AeT as measured by recent heart rate drift test. I intend to redo the test monthly and adjust as or if the AeT moves up which is should do as i suffer from ASD. Most of the training will be “walking” based as I live close to mountains, but I was intending to keep in my standard Sunday cycle with friends as much as anything for the social side. However that cycle will take me into Z3 and occasionally into Z4 – will that reduce the effectiveness or even negate all the Z1/Z2 work to build aerobic base.

    Duration of base building plan is ~7 months, and the cycle part will be between 15 – 25% of weekly volume. Time spent in Z3/4 will be less than 10% of volume, but will be weekly. IS this ok, or should I look at removing it totally?

    Thanks for any guidance.


    Anonymous on #27629

    @JBD- I agree with Scott Semple’s advice. If you have the significant Aerobic Deficit that you mention, you have a lot of low hanging fruit if you just take the time to improve the AeT HR and pace. Like Scott, I have coached an number athletes who after a few months to a year had moved their AeT pace up to where their AnT/LT pace used to be. When you’ve done that and then add in the high intensity you will really see big performance gains. Until that aerobic support system is in place you will be scratching around for tiny gains.

    The time itself spent in Z3/4 when it is this low will not have a large negative impact on improving your aerobic base. Especially when it is in a non specific activity like cycling when your goal event is mountain climbing and ski touring. The bigger issues related to your Sunday cycle is if the ride is both long(multi hour) and hard (Z3-4). Mixing high volume and high intensity in one workout will require a longer recovery. On top of this the time you spend on that ride could be time you are spending building that aerobic base on foot. In the end you must be the one who decides how much compromise you are willing to accept in meeting your goals.


    JDB on #27634

    @ScottSemple and @ScottJohnston,

    Thank you both! My weekly Z3 total was between 45 – 90 minutes per week, however I had a few weeks with upwards of 2 hours in Z3 on long training runs (which after the fact I learned from the UA forums that spending that much time in Z3 is inadvisable even while racing).

    I’ll keep at the Zone 2 running and update this post in a few months with my results! Thanks again!


    derekosborne22 on #27732

    Thanks Scott ….. appreciate the advice ….. think I can still do the Sunday cycle but need to modify …. food for thought.


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