The Power of Zone 2 Training: How to Boost Endurance and Improve Performance

The Power of Zone 2 Training: How to Boost Endurance and Improve Performance

What is Zone 2 Cardio - and how can we use it to our benefit in training?

The intensity that we train at can be split into 5 HR Zones which are each individually distinguished by a percentage of your maximum heart rate (HR).These zones range from Zone 1 being warm up and basic daily activity/movements, and Zone 5 being MAX effort anaerobic work.

Aerobic work is considered zones 1 to 3. Zone 2 is measured at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. A very easy way to calculate this zone is to use the Maffetone method which is 180-minus your age. This formula will give you the upper target limit of your aerobic capacity (i.e. your aerobic threshold but I will explain this a little further down below). Beyond this zone you’re moving yourself into anaerobic exertion (which has its own importance in your training regiment).

So what is zone 2 specifically?

Zone 2 training is typically the lowest zone used for training purposes. Think of it as going for a run or doing a workout where you can still hold a solid conversation while still putting in dedicated effort – and as I mentioned above this sits somewhere in the range of 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. The purpose behind Zone 2 training is to sustain a pace just below your aerobic threshold for anywhere around 30+ minutes to work on increasing your bodies endurance and gas tank for energy. 

How do we calculate our zone 2 percentages then?

A gentleman named Phil Maffetone came up with a super easy way to calculate what that zone 2 upper threshold is, and is super easy for you to plug in your info to find out your upper threshold and get after training today. 

1) Subtract your age from 180.

2) Modify this number by selecting from the options below:

  • If you have or are recovering from a major illness, or if you’ve recently gone through a bout of chronic overtraining, or are on regular prescribed medication, then subtract an additional 10 from the number you got from #1.
  • If your waist measurement is more than half of your height, subtract another 5.
  • If you're injured, or have regressed in your training, or you get more than two colds per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent with your routine or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.
  • If you have been training (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems mentioned above, keep the number (180–age) the same.
  • If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, then add 5 to (180 - age) to find your upper threshold.

So now that we know our numbers what will zone 2 cardio do for me?

Training in Zone 2 has countless benefits to your health and training abilities, and can absolutely transform your endurance and increase your training performance.

Some examples are;

  • Higher cardiac output and lowed resting heart rate
  • Increased VO2 max
  • Increases the ability to sustain performance when working in your aerobic capacity.
  • Decreases the detrimental effect of built up lactic acid. 
  • Helps your body learn to use fat more efficiently as a fuel source when working out, which ultimately helps to preserve your glycogen stores for periods of higher intensity training.
  • Helps to bring your body into a more parasympathetic state - which is a fancy way of saying it "de-stresses you" and takes you out of your fight/flight and allows you to rest and recover more effectively.
  • Ultimately it increases your overall endurance performance.

What are some misconceptions athletes have around zone 2 training?

There are few misconceptions surrounding Zone 2 training that leads some athletes to dismiss its importance or effectiveness when incorporated into their training. However, these misconceptions are largely based on misunderstandings of what Zone 2 training entails and what it can do for your performance.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that Zone 2 training is too easy or not intense enough to make a significant difference in an your performance. This is not the case. While Zone 2 training may not feel as hard or as challenging as other high-intensity workouts, it is instead designed to build endurance and improve aerobic capacity over extended periods of time. When performed consistently Zone 2 training can be just as beneficial as more intense workouts for building your overall endurance and improving your performance.

Another misconception is that Zone 2 training is only for beginners who are not yet in top physical shape or accustomed to intense training. FALSE!!! Even the most experienced athletes can reap the rewards from Zone 2 training. In fact, it is often used by the worlds most elite athletes as a way to build their aerobic capacity and endurance while minimizing the risk of injury from high-intensity training and the risk of overtraining.

Finally, less of a misconception but more of a qualm that some athletes have with Zone 2 training is that it is too time-consuming to fit into their busy schedules. Even short sessions of Zone 2 training can be super effective for building endurance and improving your overall performance. By incorporating Zone 2 training into your workout routine, you can actually save time by improving overall efficiency and reducing your need for longer, more time-consuming workouts as you become more efficient in your training.

That's a wrap on Zone 2 - Are you ready to start incorporating it into your training routine. 

Wrapping it all up, its paramount to have an understanding of the benefits of Zone 2 training, and how implementing Zone 2 cardio into your training routine can be a game-changer for your endurance and overall performance. By training at the right intensity, you can improve your cardiovascular health, increase your VO2 max, and reduce the risk of injury while training. It's important to note that Zone 2 training is not just for beginners, but also for experienced athletes who want to improve their performance while minimizing the risk of injury of overtraining. So, start calculating your Zone 2 target heart rate and get after this type of training by incorporating it into your routine to take your endurance and overall fitness to the next level.

Back to blog