The Dangers Of Running In The Grey Zone For Beginners

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When you should and should not train in the grey zone with Mike Trees

Running can be a great way to stay healthy and fit, but it can also be a little confusing, especially when it comes to training. You might have heard about the “gray zone” and wondered what it is and why you should avoid it. Well, my friend, let me tell you all about it!

You might have heard about the famous race between the tortoise and the hare. If you haven’t… well here it is (skip to the next paragraph if you have!)

The hare was overconfident and thought he could win the race easily, so he started out at a fast pace. The tortoise, on the other hand, started out slow and steady and eventually won the race.

Now, think of the gray zone as the point where the hare started to slow down and the tortoise started to catch up. It’s the point where you’re not going too fast, but you’re also not going too slow. It’s a dangerous place to be because you might think you’re doing enough, but in reality, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

So, what is the grey/gray zone? It’s the area between your aerobic and anaerobic heart rate zones. Your aerobic zone is where you can run for a long time without getting too tired, while your anaerobic zone is where you’re pushing yourself to the limit. The grey/gray zone is where you’re running at a moderate pace, but not pushing yourself hard enough to get the benefits of anaerobic training. It’s like going on a first date and playing it safe by talking about the weather – you’re not going too deep, but you’re also not really getting to know each other.

Now, you might be thinking, “But I want to run faster, shouldn’t I push myself harder?” Well, my friend, the answer is not that simple. Pushing yourself too hard can lead to burnout and injury, while not pushing yourself hard enough can lead to plateauing and not seeing any progress. It’s like eating too much pizza – it’s great in the moment, but later on, you’ll regret it. That’s why coaches recommend following the 80-20 rule – 80% of your runs should be easy, while the remaining 20% should be hard.

So, how do you avoid the grey/gray zone? The key is to make your easy runs really easy and your hard runs really hard. It’s like that one friend who can’t handle their alcohol and either ends up asleep or on top of the bar – there’s no in-between. Don’t try to push yourself too hard during your easy runs, and don’t hold back during your hard runs. By doing this, you’ll be able to stay out of the grey/gray zone and get the benefits of both aerobic and anaerobic training.

One common misconception is that running slightly faster during an easy run will lead to greater benefits. However, this belief is far from the truth. Easy runs should be significantly slower than race pace, as they serve a different purpose in training. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – it just doesn’t work. Going slightly faster during an easy run does not contribute to neuromuscular development, and the muscles do not adapt to the demands of race pace.

So, remember, my friend, the gray zone is a dangerous place to be. Stay out of it by following the 80-20 rule, and make sure your easy runs are really easy and your hard runs are really hard. By doing this, you’ll optimize your training and see the progress you’re looking for. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll be the tortoise that beats the hare!

Episode Timestamps of What You Will Learn

02:47 Grey Zone Definition

04:06 Why should we stay out of the grey zone?

08:18 When is it okay to be in the grey zone?

14:40 The real problem with the grey zone

14:56 Daren’s z4/z5 overtraining issues

20:14 Inigi Samelan on z2 training

21:02 Mixing up z2 heart rate training

Notable Quotables



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 for more info


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