So let’s talk about the “Gray Zone” – what is it??
✅ I refer to the Gray Zone as the pace range that does not serve your training. The Gray Zone is typically a pace you can hit pretty easily. It’s tempting to hang out because it feels EASY. Your Gray Zone pace is usually faster than your easy pace, but slower than half marathon pace.
For most athletes, the Gray Zone falls somewhere between your Marathon Pace and Easy Pace.
For Example: Let’s say you have a 3:30 marathon PR around ~8:00 per mile. Most run coaches and online pace calculators would suggest an easy pace between 8:45-10:00 pace.
This example athlete has a ‘Gray Zone’ is that 8:00-8:30 pace range. It feels easy & is mainly aerobic, but it is not the optimal pace to run on your easy/recovery runs during a training cycle if you want to improve as an athlete.
👉🏻 The Gray Zone is just fast enough to impede your recovery from the harder quality days during the week. When you get caught running in the Gray Zone you are running at the fastest possible paces in the aerobic zone. Running at the fastest possible paces puts additional stress on the body. Why run 8:15 pace when running 9:15 pace will give you the same aerobic benefit? 8:15 pace would cause additional stress on the body because it is the higher end of your aerobic zone.
Each run has a PURPOSE! The purpose of easy running is to build your aerobic base and recovery from quality sessions. When you spent too much time in the gray zone, it can add unwanted additional stress to your training. Too much stress will be harder to hit paces on workout days. When workout days are compromised, the training plan is compromised! By avoiding the ‘gray zone’, you are able to keep your quality workouts quality. Quality workouts are important when you want to take your training to the next level
Many athletes unintentionally hang in the Gray Zone quite a bit. It can feel ‘weird’ to slow down. As athletes we are taught to push and stay outside of our comfort zone. Many athletes report that staying in the easy pace range feels like a ‘walk’ or it’s ‘too easy’. This is how is should feel. Easy running should be very minimal stress on the body and NOT feel like a hard or even moderate effort.
When we see athletes make this adjustments & stay out of the ‘Gray Zone’, we see they are able to breakthrough in their training because they keep their quality sessions HARD and are able to fully recover on easy days.
Training polarization: keeping the hard days hard and the easy days easy is the foundation for a successful running career. Spending too much time in the Gray Zone causes training to de-polarize. This de-polarization often allows athletes to maintain their fitness level. It can be challenging for an athlete who has been stuck on maintenance for 2 years to suddenly run slower on their easy days to allow them to recover between quality sessions. When an athlete implements these changes, we usually see big breakthroughs within 3-9 months depending on the athlete.-
⭐️ We challenge you:
Be Honest with Yourself: Are they TRULY easy or are you falling into the Gray Zone??
Easy pace should feel EASY. Almost like a walk! It is NOT the fastest or even moderate pace you can hang at and still be kinda comfortable.
There is a huge Big DIFFERENCE in those paces. The very slow running on easy days can be a tough change that requires athletes to trust the process and no ego.
It takes more self confidence and discipline to run slow than to run fast!
If you are worried about making the change and experimenting. Here are our tips:
- Put your strava on private
- don’t share your training
- run with friends who are much slower than you on easy days
- try running on the treadmill and watching netflix
- run without music
- Monitor your HR try to keep it below 150 😉
Trust the Process & have fun!