We run aerobically or in what I call the Yellow Zone for our easy runs, recovery runs, and long runs. Running at this effort allows us to run for a long time, improves our fat-burning enzymes, and isn’t very stressful on the body.
The Orange Zone is a step up from Yellow and hovers around the lactate threshold (redline), the point at which we shift from using more fat for energy to using more glycogen. We run in this zone during workouts like tempo runs and long intervals to raise the redline, which helps us run faster at easier efforts.
When you cross over the redline, you run into the Red Zone, or the effort level that is flat-out hard, well outside your comfort zone. This is the effort where we run intervals, hill repeats, and any high-intensity workout. Training in this zone will improve fitness and speed and boost your metabolism for hours post-workout.
When you follow your body’s response on any given day, you will always train at the optimal effort level, which helps you work out harder, recover more efficiently, and make faster progress.
It takes time to learn how to pace by feel, but the benefits are plentiful. I’ve had runners take minutes off personal records, get back to running after nagging injuries, and rekindle their joy for running again. It all starts with tuning out the numbers and tuning into your body.