Avoiding The Gray Zone

This blog is going to be a quick concept talk on my approach to training athletes. This concept is used by a lot of coaches, particularly in triathlon training. I find the concepts make a lot of sense for any endurance endeavor. So what exactly is the “Gray Zone.”

The typical “Gray Zone” athlete is one who has just ran a 5k and decided they want to train for their next one. The approach to training often times is repeatedly running 5ks as hard as they can 3-6 days a week. This approach may get you a tiny bit faster, but more often than not, you are likely to burn out.

Avoid the Gray ZoneBy running as hard as you can every time you run is a sure fire way to keep you in the gray zone. First of all, you won’t allow your body to recover between these runs. You are unnecessarily beating up your body. Though you may argue, no pain no gain, that hard effort is unlikely to be hard enough to elicit a proper training stimulus and adaptation.  

This is why pace variation and interval training is helpful! When you vary pacing in your running, you can apply training stimulus by going hard on your hard days, but then allowing your body to make those changes while you recover. You recover by taking your easy days easy!

In my experience as a coach a lot of runners are often going too hard, too often. Usually this results in being discouraged and overly fatigued while potentially putting yourself at risk for injury. Identifying your ideal training zones can maximize your training gains and minimize your risk of injury.

Nat on the dirt Road
No gray zones for Nat, just some gray clouds

There are a couple ways to identify optimal training zones:

1. Find a coach! Coaches can be that objective perspective you need to get to the next level. Coaches with personal experience and education can help you identify your training zones based on your goals and current fitness.

2. Get a metabolic assessment and heart rate monitor. Metabolic assessments can provide you with your unique Lactate or Anaerobic Thresholds identified with a heart rate or specific pace/power output. Often times they are just a graded exercise test that takes you to near exhaustion, but it’s worth it to know your optimal training zones. If you are interested in receive and assessment Come get one with me at ProActive Physical Therapy!

There are endless combinations to varying your paces  depending on what your training goals are. Again, I refer you to finding a knowledgeable coach to help dial in unique purposeful training so you can avoid the gray zone and optimize your training!

If you are interested in personalized endurance coaching I offer online training to anyone with internet access and personal one-on-one coaching to anyone in the northern Colorado Area. Whether you are just getting into running or if you’re a seasoned vet looking for some change I can help you out! Feel free to E-mail me with any questions, coaching interest, or general running talk!


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