As we enter the last quarter of the year with more races coming up, incorporating some higher intensity work will boost your fitness a level higher. Previously, we explored the various types of Zone 1 runs to build your foundation. Let’s more on next to Zone 2 & 3.


Zone 2 – Threshold Tolerance Run


We won’t dwell a lot here as its pretty straight forward. See the following diagram for a description.


Zone 3 – High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)


HIIT is a workout that that alternates between bouts of work and rest. It is also commonly termed as “track workouts” or “speed-work”. The challenges lie in knowing which type of HIIT to utilize and how to structure it appropriately. Elite professional endurance runners tend to engage in both short (100 – 200m all out sprints) & long (800 – 1200m) HIIT while recreational runners prefer to adopt the “monkey see, monkey do” approach without understanding the logic behind it. Using the wrong type of HIIT will only minimize the benefits you reap out of your training.


If you watch how elite runners race (be it 10km or marathon), they tend to congregate in a pack for the bulk of the distance before the potential winner attempt to accelerate and break away from the pack, ultimately sprinting his/her way to the finish line. LONG HIIT allows the development of the fitness that is required to STAY in a pack while SHORT HIIT serves to enhance your explosive ability to BREAK away for the win. Unless you are already racing in a pack for a podium finish, our recommendation is to use only LONG HIIT in your training. See below for a description.


*See our previous article Mix & Match for the calculation of V.max*


The 5 Rules of HIIT

A) Frequency: 1x/week, usually mid-week & never the day before your long run.

B) Intensity: Start at 90% and work towards 95% Vmax.  Recalibrate your Vmax every 10 – 12 weeks.

C) Volume: Beginners should start with only 4 sets; increase by 1 set every fortnightly

D) Rest: Beginners should utilize Passive rest (walk or stop completely) for the first few sessions and gradually work towards utilizing Active ( slow jog) rest.

E) Start / End your HIIT session with an easy jog of 1.5-2km.


Putting it all together

Accurately establishing your training zones is only half the battle won. The other half is to know how much mileage to invest in each zone. Most books and coaches tend to PERIODIZE their running programs, whereby the runner undergoes a long period of clocking mileage at a very low intensity before adding some speed-work in the weeks leading to competition. This practice is really built on assumptions rather than science.


Emerging evidence from the past decade propagates the concept of POLARIZATION. To POLARIZE is to train at the 2 ends. In other words, a runner should spend the bulk of his/her mileage in Zone 1 & 3 but rarely in Zone 2. This practice can be maintained throughout the year to meet the demands of the numerous races. Generally, 70-80% of your weekly mileage is spent in Zone 1 (regardless A, B or C), 7-10% in Zone 2 and 15-20% in Zone 3.



Training well will help minimize the risk of overuse injuries and bring you safely to the starting line. The final victory, however, can be affected by the things you do during the race itself. In Part 4 of the series, we will share with you the nutrition / hydration strategies that you can use and pacing practises to keep your speed in check.


Philip is an Exercise & Performance Scientist with Running Guild who specializes in optimizing the performance of endurance athletes. With his motto “for sports, for science, for service”, Philip left his career at a local hospital several years ago to go out & bridge the gap between science and man while constantly encouraging others to challenge beliefs and practices to seek out scientific truth.

Running Guild is an events & coaching company that focuses on boutique events. Renowned for their ultra-marathons (including Southeast Asia’s longest single-stage Craze Ultra 100 miles Challenge), Running Guild believes in delivering high-quality event experience to all their participants. Follow them on their facebook for the latest news & updates at https://www.facebook.com/RunningGuild



View Similar Articles
  • Understanding the Art of Chinese New Year Snacking

    It's truly inevitable to start snacking on the Chinese New Year goodies when the festive season arrives. Lets walk you through some of the all the time favourite foods as well as strategies to refrain from excessive snacking!

  • 10 Christmas Gifts For The Runner/ Cyclist Who....

    Tired of cracking your brain deciding what to get for your runner friend?! Fret no more, we are here to save you! Say goodbye to simply buying a pair of running shorts, socks or even a t shirt for him. There's actually many more fun and interesting things out there.