We are big fans of Zone 2 training. This is the idea of low-intensity training, where most of your exercise is done at relatively low intensities. People sometimes say 80/20, where 80%+ of your training is done at these levels, with no more than 20% done at higher levels of intensity.
A host of studies show this approach can be very effective for building cardiovascular fitness among recreational athletes. Yes, many elite athletes' training logs show similar patterns, but we should be cautious about applying what elites do to normal people. We will get into that in a series of upcoming posts.
Zone 2 training can be made unnecessarily confusing, with lots of discussion of gear, trackers, straps, ventilatory thresholds, fractal math, and so on—and that can be good fun—but, like so many things in health, it doesn't need to be that complicated. Are you running, or hiking, or bicycling, or even walking at a level of effort where you can speak in full sentences, but paragraphs are a stretch? Then you're probably in Zone 2. Spend more of your active exercise time there.
While we're fans of Zone 2 training. we're not zealots. There are many paths to fitness, even if low-intensity training has a lot of data going for it, and works well for most people, most of the time.
We have lots more to come, including a how-to series, which is highlighted below.
Zone Training: The Series
We know this is an area of interest for many people, so we are collecting our most important Zone 2 training pieces here for people. Once the series is done we will put all of these into a downloadable package.
An introduction to Zone 2 training, why it's important, and why it's misunderstood. We cut through the noise and confusion, and make a simple case for why it is useful—even if it isn't a magic elixir of health.
You can't go very deep in this subject without running into endless claims, many of which, even if well-intentioned, are just plain wrong. We go through a long list of common myths about Zone 2 training, from the stability of heart rate zones, to what elites and whether it matters, to whether you need a heart rate strap, and more.
While you don't need to be a human metabolics researcher to understand low-intensity training, it helps to have an idea of what's going under your own personal hood. We go deep on the topic here and explain the relationship between exercise volume and mitochondria.
Finally, we get into gear, tips and hacks. What do you really need? What could you use if you wanted to get more precise? Do lab tests help? Apple Watch vs Garmin? What about esoterics like detrended fluctuation analysis? It's all here.