Setting Your Run Zones

Our final step to setting your zones is to use a run test– either: (1) a 30 min time trial you do by yourself or (2) a race + a 20 min threshold run.


The “standard” way to set our run zones is to follow Joe Friel’s protocol that he writes about here:

  • warm up and run a 30 minute time trial (race effort) all by yourself (detailed workout including warmup is in your training plan)
  • hit the lap button on your heart rate monitor at 10 minutes into the time trial (and stop your watch when you’re finished!)
Threshold Heart Rate.  Your threshold heart rate is your average heart rate for the last 20 minutes.  

Threshold Pace.  Your threshold pace is your average pace for the entire effort (to get this you’ll need a measured course or a GPS).  Your threshold is technically what you can hold for a full hour (not 30 minutes), but Friel recons that what you can hold for 30 min by yourself in practice is probably about the same as what you can hold for 60 min under race conditions.

Figure out your zones by inputting your threshold heart rate into the team swim, bike and run zones spreadsheet (save a copy for yourself if you haven’t already).  Also input your threshold heart rate and pace into trainingpeaks (see video bel0w).  


1. Do a race that will take you 30 min to 1:30 (the closer to 1 hour, the better).

2. Put your result into the McMillan Calculator and figure out your estimated threshold pace (what pace does the calculator say you could hold for an hour?)  Enter that into trainingpeaks as your threshold pace.  (see the video below)

3. Several days after your race (once you’ve recovered), warm up thoroughly and run for 20 minutes at your threshold pace from the McMillan Calculator that you calculated in the last step.  Note your heart rate during the last minute of your 20 minute run.  That’s your threshold heart rate.  Enter it into trainingpeaks.   (see video below)

Now you know your run heart rate zones (which will tend to change very little over time) and your run pace zones (which will change as you get more or less fit).  Now get out and use them!

About Coady

Lucky to be coaching some really awesome & fun people!
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