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Physiological Zone, Current Pace, Goal Pace
Using 5k as an example
A common “training approach” for many beginners is to pick a target time and gradually add distance at that pace until race day where all that is required is to run a little extra at the pace you’ve been running in training and you have your PB. A training plan might look like this (I shit you not!):
Run#1: Warm-up || 1m @ 5k goal pace
Run#2: Warm-up || 1.5m @ 5k goal pace
Run#3: Warm-up || 2m @ 5k goal pace
Run#4: Warm-up || 2.5m @ 5k goal pace
RACE: 3.1m @ 5k pace - BINGO
A more experienced runner would respond that this sort of training is unsustainable (they’d be right) and would suggest a more sensible model based on training pace being determined by current fitness, as opposed to a future utopian state. This is because, they claim, current 5k pace is tied to a physiological zone (vo2 max,) the development of which is vital for performances at the 5k distance. Due to this a goal pace is simply something that is useful in setting aspirations and to assist with pacing on race day. Given the intensity, these reps are best broken up with recoveries. So their suggestion would be more along these lines:
Run#1: Warm-up || 6 * 800m @ current 5k pace
Run#2: Warm-up || 5 * 1k @ current 5k pace
Run#3: Warm-up || 4 * 1200m @ 1.5m @ current 5k pace
Run#4: Warm-up || 3 * 1m @ current 5k pace
(Please note – this clearly isn’t the only training going on but an illustration).
Finally someone will come along and agree that VO2 max training is important but will point out that the equation 5k pace = VO2 max pace is fatally flawed because the association between vo2 max intensity and race pace is dependent on your overall ability. I.e. if you run 5k in 22 minutes then your 5k pace is nowhere near vo2 max intensity, whereas if you run 5k in 15 minutes it is. Therefore they will train at a couple of different intensities – at a speed between 8:00 and 15:00 race pace (use a calculator if not sure). Their plan might look something like this:
Run#1: Warm-up || 6 * 800m @ 15:00 race pace w / 3:30 recovery
Run#2: Warm-up || 8 * 400m @ 8:00 race pace w / 2:00 recovery
Run#3: Warm-up || 4 * 1200m @ 15:00 race pace w / 3:30 recovery
Run#4: Warm-up || 5 * 600m @ 8:00 race pace w / 2:00 recovery
Run#5: Warm-up || 3 * 1m @ @ 15:00 race pace w / 3:30 recovery
Run#6: Warm-up || 4 * 800m @ 8:00 race pace w / 3:00 recovery
The important thing to note is that the move seems to be away from goal pace based running to running which develops phyisological zones more efficiently. So does this mean goal pace running has no place?