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On my recent question What should you do between short running series? I got interested in the comments regarding how to train for a 10 K race at a pace of 4 min/km:

(...) far more effective - and less taxing for CNS and regeneration - would be to train your base endurance and your body's ability to clear lactate. (...) It seems to be consensus among experts that 60-90% (depending on target distance) of endurance training should take place in the aerobic zone, the bulk of the rest at threshold pace.

This got me thinking about what the best combination of kilometers / training days of each type would be. According to comments, it seems that:

  • 60-90 % would be endurance? That is, easy runs that get used to long efforts.
  • 10-40 % would be tempo runs? This meaning shorter runs at a higher pace that train the clearing of lactic acid from the bloodstream quicker.

How can we know how much of our training between that 60-90 % should be on endurance, and hence how much should be on tempo runs?

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In my opinion, there is no definite answer.

Look throughout the history of running performance. You will see that seemingly opposite methods led to similar results e.g. Lydiard with high volume base period and then peaking with high intensity pre-competition.

Then you've got someone like Igloi who builds everything with intervals.

Credit to Science of running who made a good podcast about this question exactly.

You could understand then that

  • no one-method fits all

  • that details don't really matter that much and only the overall work counts

The numbers you mention regarding the split between base endurance and more intense work (intervals, ...) can be found also in the work performed by Seiler on elite endurance athlete. He states that elite endurance athletes seem to display 80% volume at base pace and 20% at high intensity. And no "junk" work at medium intensity. Keep in mind though that one speaks about elite athletes who have plenty of time to train and to develop.

Maybe if you are an average Joe that does not have 5 hours per day to train, then modulating the ratios will be necessary for you to obtain the performance you desire and/or simply enjoy your training and fitness.

Now back to your question : How do you know if what you are doing is right ? I would track the following metrics :

  • HRV : This is a proxy for your recovery and nervous system state. The FIRST thing to do if you want to perform is not get injured and fatigued. So this is a staple. If your HRV drops, this means you are overdoing intensity or frequency or do not get enough recovery
  • Sleep : Monitor your sleeping patterns and particularly REM sleep. Same Reasons as above

  • Motivation to train : Not many people consider that but enjoying your training is important ! If you do not enjoy it ... Chances are you won't grow with it

  • Track your progress ! Run a 5k, 10k, 15k once in a while in a local competition or something like that and see if you improve. If you improve, chances are you are doing a good training ! And if you reach a plateau, review your training and see what you can change. What got you here won't get you there. If you want to progress again and again you will have to work on things you did not before e.g. strength training, speed training, fix your imbalances, ... Always upping the volume and/or the intensity is not the solution. It will break you at some point.

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