QT: An Honest Assessment After Running 80/20 for the Past Year

If you’ve been paying attention to anything I’ve been saying for the past year, you know that I’ve really embraced the idea of 80/20 Running.

80/20 Running, Running 80/20

80/20 Running

If you’re not familiar with running 80/20, it’s really pretty simple:

  • 80% of your training volume should be easy
  • 20% of your training volume should be moderate/hard

Like I said, simple right?

The Devil, as Always, is In the Details


Come on Phil…

Determining “easy” can be a bit tricky, and the success of implementation of the 80/20 running philosophy hinges on having pretty good idea of what easy running is.

On the surface, it shouldn’t be that difficult. You’re either running at an effort that feels easy or you’re not, right? 

Not necessarily. 

If you’re like many runners, and I was certainly in this camp for the first 4+ years of my running “career”, you probably do your easy runs too hard and your hard runs too easy.

And that means that what feels like an easy pace to you, if we look objectively at your “stats”, is probably harder than it should be.

So learning to slow down a bit and becoming comfortable running easy is the first step to finding success with running 80/20.

My Year of Running 80/20

What have I learned after a year of running 80/20?

A few things. Such as:

Patience is a Virtue

If you want to improve as a runner, by pretty much any measurable metric, I believe that 80/20 running will help you.

That said, running 80/20 isn’t a miracle cure for your running ails.

In all honesty, I believe that I’m only now starting to see the impact of all of the easy running that I’ve done over the past year. And I don’t think I’ll see the true fruits of this training style for another 2-3 years.

If you’re looking for instant “gratification” by switching to an 80/20 running style you’re going to be disappointed.

Running 80/20 Requires Patience

The 20 is Really Important

Admittedly, I’ve talked a lot in the past year about the importance of easy running.

Running easy, most of the time, is really important.

You know what else is important? Dropping the fucking hammer the other 20% of the time!

If you aren’t hammering your hard efforts, you are limiting the effectiveness of your training.

If you’re running quarter mile repeats, which are admittedly one of my least favorite workouts, your legs better be Jello when the last repeat is finished.

For your last tempo mile, your lungs need to be on fire and your heart needs to be pounding.

When you’re supposed to be working hard you better be working hard.

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

Keeping track of your ratios of easy and hard running is important, but don’t worry about getting bogged down in the data.

I monitor my weekly ratio and my year to date ratio, and the latter is much more important the former.

On any given week, my percentages have varied. I’ve had weeks where 100% of my running has been easy. On the flip side, I’ve had one week where I only spent 66% of my training time in the easy zone and many weeks where I’ve been in the mid-70s.

But overall, since the second week of January, the running total of my training intensity has been 77-84% easy.

I’ll be curious to see what my running total percentages are after 2 years, but I would be shocked if they are outside of the range that already seems to be firmly established.

Will I have weeks outside of that range? Absolutely. But running 80/20 is about the big picture, and after a year I’m about as close to spot on as one could hope to be.

Ready to Try Running 80/20?

You Can Do It

If you’re on the fence about running 80/20, I’d definitely encourage you to give it a shot.

It’s an adjustment, but in my experience I think that the adjustment is beyond worth it. And I honestly can’t wait to see what my running looks like after another year of running 80/20.

If you’d like to learn a little bit more about some of the science behind the benefits of running 80/20, check out my interview with Matt Fitzgerald from last year and/or get the book and give it a read.

And if you have any questions about 80/20 running that you think I can answer, just leave a comment down below and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction!

An honest look at 80/20 #running after following the plan for a year. #runchat #runnerds Click To Tweet

Have You Tried 80/20 Running or Heart Rate Training Before? What Are Your Thoughts?

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14 replies
  1. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I too have firmly embraced this 80/20 method – and I can’t say I’ve been perfect at it, but I’m trying. With race season about to kick in, we will see soon enough if I am inching closer to my goal.

    I was going to post on Monday in the FB group about 80/20 so this is quite timely for me.

  2. Suzanne Jones
    Suzanne Jones says:

    Finally took a few minutes to listen to this one! Very interesting. Gonna buy the book & give it a whirl! Thanks Cuz.

    • Denny
      Denny says:

      I’m telling you Josh, it’s the best thing I’ve done for my running. If you have any questions on it once you’re into the book, just let me know!

  3. Christian D.
    Christian D. says:

    I’ve determined this is the way I want to train and have read the book. However I don’t remember reading in the book about how one should do off season training. I’m creating my own plan, for better or for worse, but I’d love to hear what others would suggest for off season. My plan now is to do 85 to 90% slow and the other fast. MAF, running slow all the time, hasn’t been productive in my mind (not saying it doesn’t have it’s application).


    • Denny
      Denny says:

      I think that’s the perfect plan Christian. With 80/20, I don’t think you do a dramatically different training cycle vs off season. You might pull back the high intensity slightly, but I’d still recommend doing a little bit of hard running and keeping the bulk of it lite. Sounds like that’s what you’re doing. If you ever have any issues that crop up, please reach out man. I’m always happy to help!

  4. Henrik Olsen
    Henrik Olsen says:

    Late into to this. Thanks for your word at this site. Bought the Matt book, and find it very explaining. 2018 is in the name of the 80/20, so I hope it will work for me too. Very easy to read. Very easy to understand how to plan your training at Any level. Happy New year

    The danish runner

    • Denny
      Denny says:

      I’ve tweaked things a bit, I’m probably a bit closer to 90/10 or even 95/5. Though I don’t really track it as diligently as I was a few years ago.

      I’m all in on the value of HR training. I’ve adopted a bit more of the Maffetone model (doing almost every run at an easy HR level) and it’s working! Just PRd in the marathon one week after running another marathon. No injuries. Feel strong. Looking forward to continuing to train smarter and not harder for many more years!


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