PodcastTrees and DLake

What’s better: 3-zone or 5-zone heart rate run training with Mike Trees

The five zone heart rate training model doesn’t work for everyone – here’s why

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(Photo by Fit & 50 on Facebook)

If only the world operated on 3 zones like this somewhat new heart rate training model. Easy, moderate, hard. That’s it. Don’t overcomplicate things.

The 3 zone training model is quite new to me as of the last year. Mike posted an infographic about it last year on Instagram and I was intrigued. It just made it feel so damn easier.

In this episode, you will learn why the 3-zone heart rate model might be better than the 5-zone heart rate model

What You Will Learn & Highlights

  • [02:09] 3 zone HR model defined
  • [04:39] Heart rate vs perceived effort explained
  • [07:18] When should you use it and when not?
  • [10:39] How to run to feel and not use metrics/data
  • [11:40] Episode Summary with a fun car Analogy
  • And Much more!

Notable Quotables

  • “The body isn’t clever enough to know whether you are in z1 or z2 heart rate zone”
  • “Heart rate training is just like driving a car – you don’t always need to know your speed, just do most of it by feel”
  • “If you’re new to running the 3 zone model is a great place to start”
  • “If you’re running and you can’t do simple math – it’s not an easy run”



This episode is brought to you by NRG – Coaching which is Mike Trees’ coaching service. Mike coaches beginners to pros and all levels in between.

No one is too fast and no one too slow. They just want a desire to learn and improve.

They focus on 1,500m to marathon running and triathlon training.

NRG Coaching is constantly overbooked, so Instagram and this new podcast venture gives Mike and the rest of his NRG coaching team a way to reach out to more people.

Contact mike and his team NRG-COACHING.com for more info


Like what you’re hearing? Want to train and live consistently to do dope shit with your health and fitness? Sign for our newsletter “Three Thing Thursday”. We’ll put three perfectly created and curated things in your inbox. This will be regular motivation from tips, tricks, tools, tactics, and skills. And…. they all revolve around being a better human in endurance sports and wellness.

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Original Music Used Here

Full Transcript Below (or download pdf here)

[00:00:00] Daren: Imagine this, if only the world operated on three zones like this somewhat new heart rate training model that we’ll be talking about. It’s based on easy, moderate, and hard, that’s it. Don’t overcomplicate things. Simplicity. 

[00:00:19] Daren: Learn all about why the three zone heart rate model might just be better for you than the five zone, heart rate model for your own training on this episode of trees and DLake

[00:00:30] (Podcast Theme Intro ) 

[00:00:30] Daren: What is up? Welcome to trees and D lake a podcast series by Mike trees and yours. Truly Darren D lake creates. In this series. Our goal is to educate and entertain smart and committed runners.

[00:00:40] Daren: A bit more on that for Mike trees. 

[00:00:42] Mike: And the aim of this podcast is to give in a lighthearted, amusing and entertaining way, hints and tips to help you all run better and enjoy your sporting life more. So let’s see. Go with that. 

[00:00:56] Daren: Mike’s being pretty modest. He has over 50 years of running and doing triathlons under his belt.

[00:01:01] Daren: And if you’re wondering about me, I’ve been in the endurance sport game for about 25 years now done a sub three hour marathon and completed an Ironman triathlon in 10 hours. We appreciate all the help and support that we can get. So if you can please share out this episode to someone that you know, that would like this, oh, quick language warning.

[00:01:19] Daren: In some rare instances, we might use some bad words. So apologies in advance for that. 

[00:01:25] Daren: The three zone heart rate training model is quite new to me as of the last year. Mike trees posted an infographic about it last year on Instagram and I was definitely intrigued. 

[00:01:34] Daren: What you’ll learn in this episode: 

[00:01:35] Daren: the difference between the classic five zone heart rate model and the three zone heart rate model, the history of the heart rate model training zones, when to use the three zone versus when to not use it, my own experience with this model versus perceived effort versus pace and much more let’s get into it, 

[00:01:52] Daren: warm up, complete.

[00:01:57] Daren: So using the three zone training model, Mr. Mike trees, AKA run.energy. I love that it’s run.energy. I just love that. I always have to put AKA because people know you by booth. They’re like, I love Mike trees. I love run out energy. So maybe start out by defining it and maybe put it against the traditional five zone system.

[00:02:17] Mike: It’s just something that’s come to the forefront more recently. And the five zone model was really developed by polar heart rate monitors back in the the nineties. And it simply said that they wanted a way, so people could understand the heart rate training a bit more. And it’s very simple in sense that.

[00:02:35] Mike: The additional, the very first model was 50 to 60% is zone one 60 to 70% of your maximum heart rate is zone two 70 to 80% is zone three 80 to 90 is zone four and above 90% of maximum heart rate is zone five. And they came up with these different zones and then found that. Roughly zones one and two afterwards with a bit of research became the aerobic zones zone three, was that sort of anaerobic threshold zone or 80 as people call it and zone fours and five is the anaerobic or the red area where you’re using more oxygen than you’re actually able to create.

[00:03:15] Mike: And then Steven sealer, who’s a great sports scientist division of America now in Norway. He said, Hey guys it’s far too complex. Most people out there don’t need five zones. And even some models have seven zones these days. He said, let’s simplify it and have zone one, two and three.

[00:03:36] Mike: So he said, look, 50 to 60% easy aerobic, 60 to 70%, a little bit harder aerobic. Let’s just call the aerobic training. So zone one and two of the old model became zone. One of the new model. And then that zone three area, the anaerobic threshold, he said, yep, that’s pretty good. Let’s keep that. So that’s zone two of the new model and it’s zone three of the old model, and then the anaerobic work where you’re working in oxygen debt, which was a traditionally zone four and five that’s now becomes zone three.

[00:04:08] Mike: And that’s it. 50 to 70% is zone one 70 to 80% is zone two and 80 and above is zone three. And really, I would say for most people, that’s all you really need to know. Keep it simple. All right. 

[00:04:26] Daren: So I guess you’ve pretty much answered. So this is based on heart rate. Is this has not perceived effort or pace, 

[00:04:32] Mike: correct?

[00:04:33] Mike: No. So the, these zones are always based on heart rate. Okay. So if you do something based on pace and effort we use, what’s called the Bo scale of perceived exertion, which traditionally is it’s used in hospitals. It’s still a very valid, scientific tool. Research is used as a lot. I use it a lot. And that’s traditionally based on a score of one to 20.

[00:04:56] Mike: So one to 20 is balls out max. You’re absolutely pushing yourself in the limit. And CD after one, you’re probably lying in bed thinking, yeah, this is an easy day and everything in between. So for me, for example, I’ve simplified it from a scale of one to 20 to one to 10. It just makes it easier.

[00:05:15] Mike: So an easy run might sit at a perceived effort of three out of 10. So I’m running along. I think is this hard? No, it’s quite easy on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the hardest. I’d say this is about three outta 10. So then I think, yeah, it’s an easy run. A marathon race pace might start off at about a five out of 10 and as the race goes on, it gets harder and harder.

[00:05:37] Mike: And so you’re crossing the finish line somewhere, probably like 10 out of 10, because it’s just, everything hurts. It’s so painful. But that’s the perceived scale and it’s separate farm heart rate. Just to clarify, it can be used in conjunction with heart rate training because although heart rate gives you what your heart is doing often it’s good to have a perceived effort.

[00:05:55] Mike: What you feel like when you’re training as well. Yeah. 

[00:05:59] Daren: I actually funny enough, I’m on the I really the five zone model for perceived effort, one personally, where I’m just like I’m like, what does this feel like? And I’m like, oh, that’s a three outta five, just because the 10 scale, it always gets murky.

[00:06:12] Daren: It’s what’s a four, what’s a five. And it’s oh, is it a 4.5? And now it’s basically you do points. And now it’s a 20 point scale. Once you start doing 

[00:06:20] Mike: came the other way around traditionally it was 20. That was the Bo scale was developed. It’s come down from 20 to 10, but. If you’re doing for example, a a four out of 10 that’s probably if you’re doing yours, it’s like a it’s yeah.

[00:06:38] Mike: It gets more complicated. Five out 10 in yours, where would that fit? Two and a half. 

[00:06:44] Daren: Yeah, yeah, I guess I don’t can’t split it. I’m always like, it’s either two or three, but this is just like a personal thing where I’m like, yeah, 

[00:06:50] Mike: whatever, what thing is. Agreed it, whatever works for 

[00:06:54] Daren: you.

[00:06:54] Daren: All right. So we just touched on you saying most people should probably use perceived effort and probably pace. Pace is more objective. Especially when you know, you’re on a flat course or the course when should you use the three zone model and when should you not use it? So let’s step away from perceived effort and pace.

[00:07:15] Daren: Let’s throw those away, which is focusing on heart rate for whatever reason your coach says you have to do this heart rate. Your doctor says you have to his heart rate. When should you use it? And then when should you just say, I’m not gonna use it. 

[00:07:29] Mike: So training really should be a perceived effort.

[00:07:31] Mike: All the top athletes in the world know roughly how hard they’re working, what they can do. When I started running, there was no heart rate monitors. There was nothing we had to go on perceived effort, but the three zone model is based around heart rate training. And so until you get to understand your body, maybe these three.

[00:07:49] Mike: You work out what your maximum heart rate is. And then get a percentage figure that maybe these will get you to teach you what that feeling’s so you can use the heart rates initially and be going along up to 70% of maximum heart rate and get a feeling. What does that feel like?

[00:08:05] Mike: Does it feel easy? Does it feel hard? What’s my body doing and learn that feeling when you’re in that threshold zone. Of 70 to 80% running of your maximum heart rate, you can look at the heart you’re monitoring, right? I’m a threshold, what’s this feel like, and try and learn how the body feels to correlate with the different zones.

[00:08:23] Mike: But all we’re trying to do is saying it, it gets complicated to say oh, I’m going for an easy run zone one today. Oh, I’m going for an easy run zone. Two. It, the, body’s just not that clever to differentiate between them. It doesn’t matter if it’s own one or two, just get out there and run aerobically.

[00:08:39] Mike: And so long as you have a rough idea of what that feels and you know that you’re aerobic, you can breathe easily. You can breathe through your nose if you want. But the overriding factor is, it feels easy. Then you’re in zone one. If you’re in zone three at zone two, with the new model, it’s is it just a nagging sort of pain?

[00:08:57] Mike: Is it just, wow I’m not enjoying this, but I can keep going. I could probably keep doing this for half an hour to an hour. Ah, but it’s not nice. But I can do it. That’s. It’s probably very simple. I’m breathing a little heavier. I can hear myself breathing. I can still think, okay. That’s zone two.

[00:09:15] Mike: And then if you’re running and you really can’t keep it going for more than a lap, two lap of the track you’re all out your breathing’s through the roof and I give you a mental arithmetic. There’s no way you can do it. Your brain’s gone your brain dead. You. Got brain fog, whatever you wanna call it you’re working hard.

[00:09:32] Mike: That’s zone three, so I’m just trying to separate it out. And as people get better, they might get into the science a lot more and want to break it down into five zones, but definitely forgetting people getting starting the three zone mob is a great place to start. 

[00:09:46] Daren: You’ve posted this a few times and I think the graph alone doesn’t doesn’t the graph alone.

[00:09:51] Daren: I love the graph, but I think us talking about it does this more justice because. It’s liberating. It’s easier. It’s a bit more freedom again, versus that five zone model and to wrap up everything you said, this was based on polar coming out with it all. And then Steven sealer said, Hey, let’s go to the three zone model.

[00:10:11] Daren: It’s much better for amateur athletes. And I’m sure there’s pros that use the three zone model just to make the the brain power and the the mental energy just less. It’s just easier to go, Hey, I’m gonna do this. It’s gonna be zone two. Which most likely correlates, I feel like when you go to the three zone model zone, two correlates with that gray zone, is that correct?

[00:10:31] Mike: So zone the gray zone really zone three. It is zone two of the new model. Yeah, that zone two. Yeah. You wanna keep, yeah. It’s the new model, but really it’s interesting. Cuz when I go for run, I don’t think in terms of zones at all, I just think easy run and just go and run easy threshold run. I go and run at a tempo.

[00:10:48] Mike: So the threshold. Hard run. I go hard. And then afterwards, I might look at the heart rate data just cuz I’m a scientist. And then work out what it was. But I do it all off feel and then afterwards see what it correlates to when I get back. Run to feel. Yeah. Yeah. The, 

[00:11:06] Daren: the more I run, the more I the I’m into well into 20, 25 years of properly doing distance endurance running, the more I do also run to feel.

[00:11:16] Daren: And I know I’m like I know my heart, rate’s 1, 1 40 ish. And then I look down and it’s one 40. And I know when my heart rate one 50 and I can really tell now all these things. So when you should use. It depends on a lot of things. Like you said, amateurs might wanna use it more when you should not use it, probably if you get more experienced and you become more in tune with everything and you want to use more of your effort, perceived effort and pace to get more specific times.

[00:11:45] Daren: Anything else you wanna add to it, 

[00:11:46] Mike: Mike? Yeah, let me just give you one little analogy to to finish, have your thought of, so when you’re driving the car in the 30 mile an hour zone, or the 50 Ks an hour zone in the city, you’re not sitting there looking at the miles an hour rather than the speed constantly, cuz that’s dangerous.

[00:12:01] Mike: Cuz you’ve gotta watch the road. You’ve got a rough feeling that This is about 30 miles an hour. I roughly know what speed I should be doing. And once in a while, you’ll glance down and think yep, 28, I’m there with thereabouts. So it’s the same with heart rate training. Put the heart rate monitor on if you want, just get out there and run.

[00:12:17] Mike: And once in a while, just check it, just check in with yourself to see, ah, I am where I should be, but don’t stand there or don’t run you run there. They’ll be there while you’re running and constantly looking out the heart rate and. Gotta go slow down a bit. That speed up a little bit. It takes a while to adjust.

[00:12:31] Mike: Just imagine you’re in the car. You roughly know what speed you should be driving, and you just check at that speed on to once in a while to keep it under control. So same with running. 

[00:12:40] Daren: I love that there’s so many car analogies for for endurance sports and especially for running we can keep going down the list and I’m sure we’ll have a whole lot more as we continue and you listen to this podcast.

[00:12:50] Daren: Excellent. Let’s go welcome to the show. I’m your host down. And so AKA D link tips and tactics, you could train like a pro this cast to help you when faster than you could go all pay y’all your could be course record that comes in your upcoming season, right? Don’t you agree? Indoor four, a metaphor for life.

[00:13:11] Daren: That’s that metaphor, baby eating clean so you can rest, sleep all night. Mess a lot. Don’t mess a little, just stay in the middle. Don’t master off auto don’t master the none. Just be a master of some

[00:13:25] Daren: is the help and fitness internet too much, sometimes too many conflicting articles and videos that confuse you on how to train and eat, or you don’t have time to just read and watch everything about, I don’t know, the new trends on carb cycling for trail running. Don’t worry. We’ll take care of all that for you.

[00:13:42] Daren: Sign up for our free email newsletter, three thing Thursday, 1, 2, 3, we’ll put three. Curated and created things in your inbox for better living and training, go to D lake creates.com/ttt. We do the hard time consuming work and scour the health and fitness Internet’s deepest and darkest corners. This is so that every Thursday you have our piping hot new email with the latest and coolest tips, tricks, tools, tactics, and skills also that you can train and live consistently to do dope shit in your next endurance event.

[00:14:13] Daren: If you sign up now, you can receive my quick guide on how to get healthy, stay fit, and use. Create habits that last a lifetime that’s D lake creates.com/ttt to be inspired and motivated on the regular time. Time is a resource. No one can make more of, so we appreciate you taking precious time out of your day to listen.

[00:14:34] Daren: This far, our goal is to show the world how to live. Better through running, cycling and triathlon the episode, and many others have a transcription go to the show notes description to find out more. This was produced in Sydney, Australia, and I’d like to acknowledge the Gadigal of the Euro nation, who are the traditional custodians of this land.

[00:14:51] Daren: I pay my respects to the elders past president and future. I recognize that continuing connections to the land waters and culture, these lands were stolen and sovereignty was never seated. If you like this episode again, we’d highly appreciate it. If you go on whatever app you listen to and make sure to follow delay.

[00:15:07] Daren: Podcast we’re on Spotify, apple podcast, Google podcast, Amazon Acast and a bunch of others. And if you’re feeling real loose, a rating review or share of this episode to anyone that would be into something like this would be amazing. If you have any questions, concerns, suggestions for the episode or hell you wanna be on the show, hit us up.

[00:15:25] Daren: The best way is to email talk T a L K D lake creates.com. We’re also on the socials main Instagram. You can hit up Mike trees at the letters. Are you in dot NRG or you can hit me up on instagram@dlakecreates.com or just wherever you can find us is fine. If you need any transcripts you’re into podcasting, or let’s say you just are big into accessibility.[00:15:47] Daren: Please use the company that we use. Speech docs. You can check them out@speechdocs.com. Don’t worry. If you didn’t get all that, there’s a link in the show notes description. Thank you again so much for listening. Peace.