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Unveiling the Power of Zone 2 Training: Your Ultimate Fitness Secret!

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Unveiling the Power of Zone 2 Training: Your Ultimate Fitness Secret!

Unveiling the Power of Zone 2 Training: Your Ultimate Fitness Secret!

If you’ve overheard me talking about my running journey at the gym, or if you’ve been brave enough to follow my running journey on social media (shameless plug for my Instagram and TikTok accounts @running_with_amy), then sure as heck you’ve heard me use the phrase “Zone 2.”  You may even have noticed us coaches throwing around phrases about these ~mysterious~ zones when talking about MyZone, or you may even have been intrigued by the heart rate monitoring and changing box colors on the gym TV during workouts.

So…what are these zones? What is “Zone 2” training?

Training zones are different intensity levels categorized based on heart rate or perceived exertion. These zones are commonly divided into several ranges that are determined based on individual factors such as age, fitness level, and training goals. The specific heart rate range for Zone 2 can further vary depending on factors such as lactate threshold, aerobic capacity, and metabolic efficiency. Usually, we equate Zone 2 to a MILD perceived exertion. Zone 2 is often referred to as our aerobic zone.

Why is Zone 2 training so important?

Essentially, Zone 2 training strengthens our heart and lungs while improving our body’s efficiency in using oxygen (hence – AEROBIC zone).

If you know anything about me – and maybe this is my background in nursing talking – but I have a hard time believing or investing in anything unless there is backing evidence-based research. Luckily for you, I have created a concise list of what I believe to be the most important positive effects of Zone 2 training based on current research, listed below:

1.       Heart Health: Zone 2 training helps improve cardiovascular health by strengthening the heart muscle and enhancing its efficiency. Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise within the Zone 2 heart rate range can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

2.       Fat Burning: Training in Zone 2 promotes fat oxidation, meaning your body becomes more efficient at using fat as a fuel source during exercise. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals aiming to lose weight or improve body composition.

3.       Metabolic Efficiency: Similarly as above, engaging in Zone 2 training enhances metabolic efficiency by improving the body's ability to utilize carbohydrates and fats during exercise. This can lead to better energy management and reduced risk of hitting the "wall" during prolonged workouts.

4.       Endurance Building: Zone 2 training increases aerobic capacity and endurance by improving oxygen delivery to muscles and enhancing their ability to sustain activity over prolonged periods. Research indicates that athletes who incorporate Zone 2 training into their regimen experience enhanced performance in endurance events.

5.       Reduced Injury Risk: Training within Zone 2 helps mitigate the risk of overtraining and injury compared to high-intensity training. By focusing on mild to moderate intensity exercise, individuals can build fitness progressively while minimizing stress on joints and muscles.

6.       Individualized Training Zones: Zone 2 training is personalized based on an individual's aerobic threshold, which can be determined through lactate threshold testing or heart rate monitoring. This tailored approach ensures optimal training intensity for each person, maximizing the benefits while minimizing the risk of overexertion.

7.       Long-Term Health Benefits: Incorporating Zone 2 training into a regular exercise routine offers long-term health benefits beyond immediate fitness gains. Research suggests that sustained aerobic exercise at moderate intensity contributes to longevity, cognitive function, and overall quality of life.

8.       Adaptability: Zone 2 training can be adapted to various forms of aerobic exercise, including running, cycling, swimming, and cross-training activities. This versatility allows individuals to choose activities they enjoy while still reaping the benefits of aerobic base training.

Now that we’ve talked about WHAT Zone 2 training is and WHY it is so important, you may be wondering HOW you can start implementing it in your fitness journey.

The best part about Zone 2 training is its versatility. Zone 2 training isn't just about sweating it out in the gym: it's a lifestyle approach that caters to your overall wellbeing. It's about finding that perfect balance between challenging yourself and honoring your body's needs. It's incredibly adaptable, whether you're into running, power walking, cycling, or even dancing in your living room – you can still harness the benefits of Zone 2 training.

Determine Your Zones: First, you need to identify your Zone 2 heart rate range. Again, Zone 2 is our aerobic zone and is estimated to be 60-70% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). Determining our personal Zone 2 can be done through various methods, including calculating maximum heart rate and then determining the corresponding percentages for each training zone. Some athletes will be able to use lactate threshold testing, but let’s try to keep it simple.

1.       We are fortunate enough to have MyZone in the gym which breaks the percentage of estimated MHR into beautiful color-coded zones: BLUE = 60-69%, GREEN = 70-79%. That means you would aim to keep heart rate in the BLUE or GREEN zone during your workout. Keep in mind that your Zone 2 range will change as your fitness level changes.

2.       If you do not (yet) have access to MyZone, I recommend determining Zone 2 off of perceived effort. There are fancy mathematical calculations we can use to try to determine our Zone 2 range based off of our age, but sometimes those calculations can be off by a whopping 20 beats per minute! We need to pay attention to our body cues in determining our MILD perceived effort for Zone 2:

                                             i.      Breathing: In Zone 2, your breathing should be deeper and slightly faster than at rest, but you should still be able to breathe comfortably without gasping for air. If you're feeling out of breath, you may be working too hard and need to decrease your intensity. Please note that I do NOT like to use the perceived effort of being able to have a conversation in Zone 2 because frankly in my Zone 2 training I have NEVER been able to “comfortably” have a conversation while running – what does that even mean?!

                                           ii.      Muscle Fatigue: You should feel a moderate level of muscle fatigue during Zone 2 training, but it shouldn't be overly strenuous or uncomfortable. Your muscles may start to feel warm and fatigued, but you should still be able to maintain good form and technique throughout your workout.

                                         iii.      Overall Comfort: While exercising in Zone 2, you should feel physically challenged but not excessively tired or drained. You should be able to sustain the intensity for an extended period without feeling overly fatigued or needing to stop frequently.


Your coaches will then help to start implementing Zone 2 training in your workouts depending on your fitness goals!

Establish Baseline Fitness: Assess your current fitness level to determine a starting point for Zone 2 training.

Design Your Workouts: Structure your workouts to incorporate Zone 2 training sessions. Aim to include at least two to three Zone 2 sessions per week, gradually increasing the duration and intensity over time as your fitness improves. These workouts can include activities such as jogging, cycling, swimming, or any other aerobic exercise that keeps your heart rate within the Zone 2 range.

Monitor Intensity: Pay close attention to your heart rate during exercise to ensure you remain within the Zone 2 range. Use a heart rate monitor (such as MyZone!) or monitor your perceived exertion to gauge intensity levels and make adjustments as needed to stay within the target zone.

Progress Gradually: Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your Zone 2 workouts as your fitness improves. This can be done by extending the duration of your workouts, increasing the intensity slightly, or incorporating interval training within the Zone 2 range to add variety and challenge.

Include Variety: While Zone 2 training is the focus of your fitness plan, it's essential to include a variety of workouts to prevent boredom, enhance overall fitness, and target different muscle groups. Incorporate strength training, flexibility exercises, and cross-training activities to complement your Zone 2 sessions.

Now, there are TWO specific recommendations for which you will have to take more responsibility as an individual:

1.       Consistency: Consistency is key to seeing results with Zone 2 training. Make it a regular part of your fitness routine and prioritize consistency over intensity. Over time, you'll notice improvements in your endurance, aerobic capacity, and overall fitness level.

1.    We are here to help you with accountability and to help grow your intrinsic motivation and watch it flourish!

2.       Listening to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body responds to Zone 2 training. If you experience excessive fatigue, soreness, or signs of overtraining, scale back the intensity or duration of your workouts and allow for adequate rest and recovery.

And finally, if I may, a piece of advice that I have learned throughout my Zone 2 journey:

For me, the hardest part that I still continue to struggle with is trusting my body. I constantly compare myself to others – specifically runners who are faster and stronger –, and sometimes I will get in my head and feel that my Zone 2 running pace specifically is too slow.

I start to think to myself, “What am I doing? – It doesn’t even feel like I am accomplishing anything at this intensity level” or “Wow I can’t believe that mom over there just passed me for the second time pushing her two kids in a stroller – What is wrong with me?” I’ve learned that these types of thoughts will only hurt my fitness journey: not only do they undermine the very real accomplishments and successes that I have experienced after incorporating Zone 2 training, but they also are a continuance of negative self-talk (which is a whole OTHER blog post).

By actively listening to my body – assessing how I’m feeling and subsequently adjusting my activity level – I am incorporating a very rudimentary form of biofeedback. Here is one more tidbit (and humble brag) that you should know about me: before becoming a Nurse Practitioner, I graduated with a degree in Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. I am SO happy to have this education under my belt because it so heavily applies to overall physical/mental health and wellbeing. Without getting too bogged down in the details, biofeedback is a powerful tool for enhancing self-awareness, self-regulation, and overall wellbeing by harnessing the body's natural physiological processes. It empowers individuals to take an active role in their health and achieve greater control over their mind-body connection.

That leads me to the piece of advice that I promised earlier: Be PATIENT and TRUST the process (sorry if you’re a 76ers fan). But really! I am lucky to not have had many health scares throughout my life, but I understand how trusting your body may be difficult if you are currently managing a multitude of medical conditions and/or feel like your body never cooperates.  Zone 2 training is a chance to repair the mind-body connection and allow you to TRUST your body again. Start SLOW. Don’t compare. Ask for help. We believe in you and I hope that you can learn to believe in yourself.

-          Coach Amelia



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