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    When doing interval sessions, do I include the recovery periods as high or low intensity?

    In the book it looks as if the whole session is classed as high intensity. I’m a bit confused, surely, a 20 minute time trial would be a lot tougher than 5 sets of 2minsZone4/2minsZone1 but both would use the same percentage of my weekly high intensity work.

    Is this right, or am I missing something? Also how does it work for workouts with standing recoveries? Should I pause my watch and only include the running sections?


    David Warden


    Per page 139 of 80/20 Triathlon, any recovery interval of less than 3 minutes is included as high intensity. This is for two reasons:

    – This is how high intensity was calculated for elite athletes when the 80/20 ratios were identified. Our 80/20 method and plans mirror that research.

    – One of the amazing benefits of intervals is that it provides “interest.” When you complete a 6-minute interval, your cardiovascular system continues to be stressed for 30+ seconds after the interval. Thus, you actually do spend more time at “high intensity” in a 5×6-minute session as opposed to a straight 30-minutes session.

    It’s the beauty of intervals, and why they are so frequent in 80/20 training. 80/20 can give the athlete more for less. A 4×5 minute Zone 3 on 2 minutes rest is 20 minutes of “actual” high intensity, another 4 minutes of “interest” for a total of 24 minutes of “potential” and 28 minutes counted toward high intensity. If you you were to bike 20 minutes straight at the same intensity, you’d run into two problems:

    1. You would not likely reach the same total output. With the 2 minutes rest between intervals, you’re performance would be something like 250, 252, 255, 253 watts an average of 253 watts. If you went for 20 straight minutes, your average would be much less than 250. In summary, you can do more work (the literal physics definition of work) using intervals.

    2. The recovery requirements from 20-straight minutes is significantly more than the same 20-minutes broken up.

    In summary, the 80/20 intervals allow you to do more work in the same time, and take less time to recover so that you can hit it harder again sooner and gain new fitness.

    To answer your direct question, yes, we are still counting some time towards high intensity that is not actual high intensity output, but again, this is how the research was measured. When I review actual time at moderate to high intensity for an athlete who adheres 100% to 80/20, it ends up being closer to 85/15 in terms of output. However, this strict method can’t capture the “interest” and recovery potential that the 80/20 system allows, and we are confident that the 80/20 method works (so are all these people!).

    Don’t stand for any interval recoveries, all 80/20 interval recoveries have a Zone 1 requirement which is a minimum output during those recoveries.



    Thanks, that’s a great response. Really helpful. Makes a lot of sense now that you’ve explained it.

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