As we move into the breakup season here in Alaska, the sun is shines longer, the snow is begins to melt, and the runners emerge from their dens. As more of our fairweather running friends resume their training, we are going to take a look at the 80/20 principle: how it can be applied to help you to improve your training and keep you feeling refreshed.
What is the 80/20 you may ask? Well, quite simply put, it is a methodology in which 80% of your training is done at an easier level and 20% is done at a more aggressive level.
The 80/20 principle was first brought to us by Dr. Stephen Seiler, a professor from Norway (Go Vikings!). This principle was popularized by a book known as the 80/20 Principle, written by Richard Koch. Dr. Seiler began studying some epic ultra runners who were capable of running marathons at five to six minute pace. He wanted to examine their training plans and examine he did! Upon investigation he found that these "hermes-esque" runners were training a majority of the time at a might easier level. To put it into perspective, these athletes that could hold a 5-6 minute pace for a marathon spent a majority of their training runs at an eight to nine minute pace.
But Mark... how can that be? Well, I wondered the same thing and let me tell you I felt like Sherlock Holmes looking for the answer!
When we examine endurance sports, we find that the majority of our time is spent in an aerobic state vs an anaerobic state. Our body uses oxygen to produce energy which is known as an aerobic reaction. An anaerobic state is when our body produces energy in the absence of oxygen. Looking at an exercise such as running, which is an aerobic exercise, our body requires more oxygen. Keeping this in mind, we can determine that the majority of our runs will be in an aerobic state. Pushing so hard that we are out of breath during our training will deprive our bodies of that sweet sweet O2 that we love which push our bodies into an anaerobic state. Depriving our bodies of oxygen is a not-so-bueno idea, as anaerobic states are not meant to be maintained for extended periods of time.
Hence, the 80/20 principle is born!
The 80/20 principle states that 80% of our training should be performed at an easier level. Think of this as zone one or two where you can have a nice chat with your friend while jogging. The remaining 20% should be hard; zone three or four where you are working hard to get that heart rate up.
A study performed by the aforementioned Dr. Seiler, followed 30 runners who were able to run a 10K or 6.2 miles for those Americans in the crowd in roughly forty minutes. The good ol' doc had them run a preliminary 10K and then he randomly divided them into two training groups: one group training at a 50/50 effort (50% easy, 50% hard) and one following the 80/20 principle for 10 weeks. Following the 10 week training regiment, he had them run the same 10K course again. The results for the 50/50 group showed a pace improvement of about 3.6%, whereas the 80/20 group showed an improvement of 5%!
Now, I know what you're thinking, "It is only 5%..."
That is true! BUT, over the course of the 10K the 80/20 group on average improved their time by 2 minutes, which was 35 seconds faster than the 50/50 group. For an established runner that is a pretty substantial drop. That could be the difference to get you into a higher seed for Western States invitational or if you're like me, it could get you to a cold beer a few minutes sooner!
Another great aspect of this 80/20 principle is that you can slow down. There are 2 huge benefits to slowing down:
Slowing down will help to conserve your energy reserves for that 20% push in your training.
Slowing down will help keep you from developing injuries due to overtraining.
Let's delve a bit deeper on both these points. If you run at a slower pace, the energy you save can be used to really crank out the speed for your remaining 20% which encourages faster splits because you have more energy in your tank. Having more effective and harder workouts less often is important to help prevent injuries. We want you to focus on quality over quantity. Think about the quality of your workout over the amount of miles run.
So as we start racking up those miles, it might not be such a bad idea to slow down a little with the desired effect of speeding up!
Come train with us! Join our Thursday Night Run's (TNR) for a 3 mile run or 1 mile walk every Thursday night starting at 6 PM at Healthwise Care Center and Physical Therapy. 11421 Old Glenn Hwy, Eagle River AK 99577.
Follow our run group on Facebook to see the theme & route for each week’s run.
Cheers! Mark Snyder, PTA