Zone 2 Cardio Training: The Science + Benefits

Many runners assume that training fast for speed is important to achieving faster results. New studies suggest that you really need to run slower to get ahead. Heart rate zones indicate various exercise intensities ranging from 0 to 0 intensity – moderate effort – maximal intensity zones. Zone2 training can be incorporated into all the fitness programs for distance runners. Do runners need any help to improve their performance? Read on!

In this blog post:

  • What is zone 2 cardio?
  • Benefits of Zone 2.
  • How can I get into Zone 2?
  • How do you know when you are in Zone 2 cardio?
  • How much Zone 2 cardio do you need?

What Is Zone 2 Cardio?

There are 5 heart rate Zones of training, ranging from low to high depending on the level of intensity of your training:

  • Zone 1: low 50-60%
  • Zone 2: light 60-70%
  • Zone 3: moderate 70-80%
  • Zone 4: hard 80-90%
  • Zone 5: maximum 90-100%

A well-balanced training regime should include workouts in all of these zones!

Zone 2 is where your endurance is improved. Your body will get better at oxidizing – burning – fat and your muscular fitness will increase along with your capillary density.

Zone 2 training involves training at a lower intensity for a longer period of time. It is also called base training and many elite athletes swear by it.

It is imperative that you include Zone 2 cardio or training days in your exercise routine in order to avoid overtraining!

Benefits Of Zone 2 Training

Here is a list of Zone 2 benefits:

  • Increased Mindfulness: During high-intensity training, we tend to stop paying attention to whats happening in our bodies and focus on trying to push our minds to keep up with our activity. During Zone 2 training the mind is at a much more calm state, especially since the heart rate is at a calm state as well. This results in an increase in mindulness and calmness!
  • Inceased Mitochondria Efficiency: Mitochondria are cells that generate most of the chemical energy needed to power the cell’s biochemical reactions. Acording to an article on UltraHuman, “Zone 2 training helps build mitochondrial density (the number of mitochondria in your muscle tissue), increases ATP production, and improves lactic-acid clearance. Increasing the time spent in Zone 2 can help you build a strong aerobic base that can significantly improve your performance and longevity.”
  • Improved Endurance: As an athlete, spending more time in Zone 2 will help you go faster for longer, aka improve your endurance. This is why many elite athletes swear by training in Zone 2 for the most part. As you train your body’s ability to use fat for fuel, you’ll be able to increase your pace without shifting over to carb-burning. And because you’re using fat, you’ll be able to go faster for longer because you have a nearly unlimited supply of fat. So, it might seem like you’re not doing much, but you are actually becoming a better athlete by slowing down!
  • Improved Cardiovascular Health: Your heart does a lot for you, especially if you train often. Zone 2 strengthens the heart and eventually makes it pump less to pump blood. This also leads to a lower resting heart rate.
  • Aids In Recovery, While Preventing Injury: Ever wondered what can I do the day after a tough weightlifitng workout? Zone 2 training is the answer! That’s because it pumps blood into your hard-working muscles, which in turn delivers nutrients that help your muscles repair themselves. Zone 2 training is also a great rehabilitiation way of training since it keeps the body moving without adding too much stress.

How Can I Get Into Zone 2?

There are many ways to get into Zone 2.

However, there is a catch.

Cardio sports like running or swimming are fairly taxing and will most likely bring your heart rate past the Zone 2 point.

This is why you should try Zone 2 training on cardio machines. That’s where you can control your pace and stay in that optimal state for as long as you want, without any ups and downs.

A good example would be the elliptical machine, or if you have a treadmill, pump up the incline and go on a long walk without holding on to anything!

How Do You Know When You Are In Zone 2?

There’s a few ways to figure out if you are in Zone 2 during your cardio workout.

  • Check Your Heart Rate: This one’s pretty obvious. You can track your heart rate during your workout, and check to see if you are in that sweet spot. When you’re in Zone 2, your heart beats at 70-80% of your maximum heart rate, more or less. In order to figure out what that translates to, you need to figure out what your maximal heart rate is. To do that, use this formula: 220 – your age.

So if you’re 25 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 195 (220 – 25 = 195).

70-80% of 195 would give you a Zone 2 heart rate range of 136-155. Ideally, you would want to stay as close to that 155 number as possible, without going over.

  • The Talking Test: Another very easy way to detemine if you are in Zone 2 is by doing the “Talking Test”. In Zone 2, you can hold a conversation fairly easily. You shouldnt be able to speak as clearly as when you’re at rest but you should be fairly comfortable.

How Much Zone 2 Cardio Do You Need?

So, you know about what Zone 2 cardio is, and its benefits.

How much of it do you need?

According to this article on ArtOfManliness, “to get the full benefits of Zone 2 cardio, you want your sessions to be at least 45 minutes long. That seems to be the minimum effective dose to get the mitochondrial benefits of Zone 2 training. 

So if you’re aiming to do 180 minutes of Zone 2 cardio a week, you could do four 45-minute weekly sessions, or you could do your 180 minutes in one very long session. Find what works for you.”

Remember that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing as well!

Do not surpass three 60 minute sessions per week, in order to avoid overtraining!

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