A not so new concept is the idea of heart rate training zones. This concept is based upon our heart rate and energy systems being utilized to supply energy for the activities being done. But what are the heart rate training zones?
These zones range from Zone 0 (simply existing) to Zones 5-6 (anaerobic and max heart rate). In Zone 6, you are pushing as hard as you possibly can. An often neglected training zone is Zone 2 because of most people’s complaint that it’s “too slow.”
However, Zone 2 training can provide a host of physical and mental benefits which we will delve into.
What is Zone 2 Training?
In the simplest of terms, Zone 2 training can be thought of as the training zone that feels very maintainable and in which you feel you can hold an effortless conversation. You are somewhere in between a leisurely stroll and a max effort high intensity workout. It is an aerobic training zone, but one where you aren’t exhausted and in which you can still breathe out of your nose.
Zone 2 is done at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. Peter Attia, a huge proponent of Zone 2 training, describes zone 2 training as one where if he was on the phone, he could hold the conversation for hours, but the person would be able to hear that he was exercising.
Zone 2 training can be thought of as the base of the fitness and longevity pyramid. If you have a solid Zone 2 fitness level, then all other types of fitness will be easier. Not only will it make exercising easier, it will also contribute greatly to overall health and longevity.
In their blog on heart rate zone training, Crossfit Invictus describes Zone 2 as the base of our fitness: “Think of it this way… what’s the strongest part of the tree, the trunk, or the branches? Let’s just say Zone 2 is the tree trunk to your aerobic ability, Fran [a popular Crossfit WOD] is the acorns.”
What are the Benefits of Zone 2 Training?
Improves cardiovascular efficiency
Zone 2 training improves stroke volume, or the amount of blood pumped out of the left ventricle during one heartbeat. This is an indicator of overall health, and can positively contribute to any type of athletics from marathon runners to olympic weightlifers.
Increases mitochondrial density and efficiency,
A lot of the benefits of Zone 2 training lie in its role in longevity. It contributes greatly to our overall cellular health, most notably our mitochondria. If you remember anything from science classes growing up, it is that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.
Mitochondria produce ATP- the energy our body utilizes for anything from reading to sprinting. Zone 2 training improves the efficiency of our cell’s existing mitochondria, and also increases the overall amount of mitochondria we have.
Rest and recovery
Zone 2 lies in a zone that simply gets our blood flowing and hearts pumping, but doesn’t push us over the edge. This blood flow and parasympathetic activity helps our muscles, body, and mind recover.
Have you ever thought about different training zones as using different fuel sources? Zone 2 helps your body utilize fat more efficiently as its primary fuel source.
Zone 2 Training Misconception
A common misconception regarding Zone 2 training is that for non-endurance atheltes, any type of aerobic training will lead to a reduction in strength and speed and is not necessary for elite or power athletes. But here at Made 2 Move, we encourage all of our athletes to incorporate some sort of Zone 2 training into their lifestyle. Coach Luke Jones states it perfectly: “With the exception of a few athletic events, no sport is purely anaerobic.The majority of athletes could benefit from including some aerobic work.”
You would have to train primarily aerobic activity for months at a time to have the strength and speed loss effects many people worry about. Think: marathon runners and professional cyclists did not get into that type of endurance shape by doing 1 weekly zone 2 training session; they worked their tail off to get to their fitness level! Saying that zone 2 training will make you lose strength and speed is like saying eating one salad will make you lose 5 pounds. This is just simply not true.
How do I calculate my Heart Rate for Zone 2 Training?
Zone 2 training is aerobic exercise performed at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.
Maximum heart rate can be found by simply subtracting your age from 220. So for a 23 year old, max heart rate will be somewhere around 220-23= 197.
Zone 2 heart rate would be .60 x 197=118 .70 x 197 = 138.
Thus, their Zone 2 training zone would lie somewhere between 118-138.
For those with a fitness tracker like a Garmin or Apple watch, it is easy to track your heart rate while working out. For those without one, no problem! For zone 2, just focus on an intensity that you can nasal breathe and hold a conversation for the entirety of the workout.
Zone 2 does not have to be a new workout routine that you add into your existing one. It can literally be adapted to whatever your current workout type is. Zone 2 could be whatever your typical workout looks like- just scaled up or down. For example, if you’re a Crossfitter, typically pushing to close to max heart rate every day, try incorporating some zone 2 training in your weeks by doing some movements like farmers carrys, sled walks, dead hangs, or planks.
The value of Zone 2 training lies in where your heart rate is. So the options are endless. You can do a yoga flow, a walk, strength workout, jog, or bike ride at 60-70% of your max heart rate. Your physical therapy sessions at Made 2 Move could even fall under your zone 2 training if you wanted!
At Made 2 Move, we always emphasize the point of finding movement and workouts that you love and will maintain. Are you moving in a way that serves you? Interested in learning more about Zone 2 training? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org today to set up an initial consultation!