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The Grey Zone of Volume

The Grey Zone..... of Volume...

I wrote an article about the Grey Zone of intensity a while back and the feedback on it has been great. Almost every runner has gotten stuck running kind of, sort of hard too often without a good clear distinction between the hard days and easy days. It's a super common thing most runners have experienced. I just spent the last three days straight writing/programming training for a bunch of runners and I just realized there's a new Grey Zone. The Grey Zone of.... Volume.

Wow Will! That sounds so interesting! Please tell me more!

Sure thing.

Most of the exact same principles from the intensity piece apply here. It's very common for runners to reach for this middle zone of volume. (Also volume is the same thing as mileage. Sort of.) There's nothing necessarily wrong with that middle zone, but we need the really low weeks of volume to recover and the really high weeks of volume to create a big enough stimulus to adapt.

Now, I try to avoid all Grey Zones, and that's a major reason I write most training in time or Minutes instead of Miles. Athletes have strange mental connections to certain weekly mileage. The classic is,

"Oh, I just really need to run XX number of miles a week, then I'll feel good about my training!"

That thought constantly pushes people into..... The Grey Zone of mileage.

Rushing the Recovery

Let me give you some examples, and then maybe we can come up with a solution.

I see this happen in a few ways. The first one is coming off of big training blocks and really hard races. If you've ever worked with me, you'll know that if we just did a LONG training block and then ran a marathon race or longer, we're going to take about 2 weeks pretty chill. We might do some running, but not a ton. It's not the same for everybody, but for a lot of folks, we take a nice chunk of recovery and downtime. If you do a block like this, and then the race, and in 48 hours you are wondering what the next few weeks weekly mileage are going to be... we need to do some serious reflection. How was our dedication and discipline during our training block? Did we push hard enough to find our limits during the race? Did we do the same throughout training? Ideally, we want to push to get the most out of ourselves at these competitions, enough so that we're excited to take an easy week!

But for some folks, we're incredibly eager to get back to a moderate amount of training.

Rushing through our recovery so we can get back to 70% of our training capacity.

The same way we need relaxed, very slow easy runs, our bodies need relaxed, very light training weeks.

The Zone 2 of training weeks?? Idk but you get it.

The other side of the coin

There are a few points in a training block where we will push volume. Of course, we're going to do it in a safe, methodical, monitored process. But there are certain folks who just always end up missing a run or two here and there. Pushing what would've been our biggest weeks..... right back into.... ...The Grey Zone...

Now, a million things happen during a training block. Life and injuries happen to all of us, but there are folks who always end up, for some reason or another, altering those big weeks to kind of look like the other weeks. It could be fear of higher mileage. Sometimes runners just don't take recovery and nutrition seriously enough on those big weeks to make it through. There are many reasons why we might end up a little short, but we have to be mindful when and if we're making that a habit.

The same way we need higher intensity, fast, high volume, upper end threshold workouts, we need larger volume training weeks to create a stimulus big enough to grow from.

The Solution

Polarity, folks.

Embrace your downtime.

Success in running hinges on understanding when to push your limits and when to hold back. In both training and racing, timing your efforts is crucial. Charging through the first mile at full throttle will almost always undermine your performance. Conversely, reserving your peak effort for the final third of a race or workout significantly increases your chances of achieving a personal record and finishing strong.

In the same way we need to start easy runs, workouts, and races relaxed, we need to start training blocks the same way. While being mindful that there will be a time when we need to exert more effort, knowing how to find the flow of a single run or a lengthy training cycle is a similar mindset. That skill will propel your running to new heights.

Alright, that's the rub. Remember, don't chase mileage. Chase the process. Embrace the lazy, easy weeks of recovery.

Get ready to go to battle on the big volume weeks.

I'm glad we're friends; I'll see ya out there.

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