Are you the type of person who always trains too hard or do you think you should? Perhaps you struggle to motivate yourself because you believe that you don’t have the time right now.
If this is you or you just want to learn how fantastic Zone 2 Cardio is and how to utilise it, continue reading!
What Is Zone 2 Cardio
Zone 2 refers to a heart rate zone that’s used by fitness professionals and athletes to categorise the intensity of any given cardiovascular exercise. There are in total 5 heart rate zones which can be used in different training modalities and they’re all great but today we’ll focus on zone 2 only.
To identify any heart rate zone we need to use some calculations and activity trackers like apple watch, Fitbit etc. or the RPE scale (Rate Of Perceived Exertion). Zone 2 is anywhere between 60%-70% of Heart Rate Max (HRMax)
What Is Your HRMax?
HRMax Formula: To identify our heart rate max we use a simple formula:
220 – Your Age = Heart Rate Max
Let’s take me for example. I’m 31 yo which means my HRMax is: 220 – 31 = 189
Training in Zone 2 of my 189 BPM will be anywhere between 113 to 132 BPM (60% – 70%).
To use these numbers we should have the above-mentioned activity trackers or alternatives.
How to identify a Zone 2 heart rate using the RPE scale (Retes Of Perceived Exertion)
This is an amazing method that with little practice works perfectly fine. There are two different RPE scales and both indicate the way you feel whilst doing the exercise. With this method there’s no need for activity trackers or any calculations.
Both scales indicate the same things but with different numbers on them. Please refer to the image below to compare both scales.
The way to describe zone 2 cardio is the following:
Feeling light, like you can go on for a long time. Being able to have short conversations with the need to stop talking and catch your breath every now and then.
Using an activity tracker would be more precise but in general, you can use whichever method you prefer. They both work perfectly fine.
What Are The Benefits Of Zone 2 Cardio
The benefits are many and spread broad between a wide spectrum of health and well-being factors. Below I’ll list some of the main and most obvious benefits and before that, I’ll just say: No training regimen will be complete without adding Zone 2 cardio to it.
- Improve Cardiovascular Health & Strength: Training in zone 2 requires the heart, lungs, and blood vessels to work together to deliver oxygenated blood throughout the body and remove the carbon dioxide CO2, which helps to improve cardiorespiratory fitness. This can improve the blood flow, lower the resting heart rate, reduce chronic stress levels and improve the vasculature muscles like the heart and other smooth muscles in the veins.
- Increase Endurance: One of the primary benefits of zone 2 cardio training is that it helps to build aerobic endurance. That will allow you to sustain low-intensity efforts for longer which will enhance your ability to exponentially increase your gains from zone 2 training.
- Enhance Mitochondrial Function: Zone 2 training can improve the number and efficiency of mitochondria in your body, which are responsible for creating ATP (the body’s energy currency). This will make producing energy even easier.
- Reduce The Risk Of Injury: If done right, Zone 2 training is less taxing on the joints and muscle tissues. Also, because of the increased blood flow through these tissues, we can heal worn-off tissues faster which otherwise can lead to injuries if not treated.
- Optimal Fat Utilization (Burning Fat): One of the greatest and unique benefits of zone 2 cardio is that the energy we use comes mostly from fat. This means that the time spent in zone 2 cardio will help you lose fat (considering you’re staying on a caloric deficit) and it will also improve the fat utilisation process that will make being on a caloric deficit much more natural and easy for you because your body doesn’t struggle to use the fat as a fuel source.
- Lower The Risk Of Overtraining: Because of the recovery aspects of zone 2 cardio that I mentioned above you’ll be able to speed up your recovery between sessions which will increase your ability to push harder on the next session and make bigger gains as a result. It’s important to mention that the nervous system also recovers faster, similar to all the other body systems.
- Improve Aerobic Performance: Adding zone 2 training into your weekly routine can boost your performance by increasing your VO2 max (the maximum oxygen that you’re able to utilise through the bloodstream which is not the same amount as the oxygen that you inhale) and increasing your lactate threshold (the point at which we start utilising lactate for energy which is the transitioning from aerobic to anaerobic energy systems)
- Improve Cognitive Functions: Your ability to concentrate and think will increase because of the increased oxygen flow to the brain and the improved mitochondrial efficiency which I mentioned above.
- Improve Your Mood And Self-Esteem: The very fact that you purposefully decided to workout and finished will increase hormones in your body that will help you see yourself as an achiever and will improve your overall mood throughout the day. Also, if you go through the mental walls within your cardio workouts and you don’t stop when you feel like you want to stop, that will increase your mental resilience which is directly transferrable to your daily challenges in life.
How Often Should We Do Zone 2 Cardio
Here is the interesting part. It will depend on the training objectives of the individual.
If you want to lose weight fast or slow it might be a great start to do it once per week and assuming that you’re coached by me or other experienced and knowledgeable coaches out there you’ll be also having a full resistance training protocol throughout the week.
In that case, Zone 2 cardio helps you recover, improve your cardiovascular conditioning and burn extra calories without the danger of injuring yourself. In this scenario, you can push yourself and do more sessions in combination with your workouts or separately.
If you don’t have a strength training regimen in combination it’s good to know that only cardio training is not the easiest nor most efficient and healthy way to lose weight. At the same time, starting with one cardio session per week would be a great motivator and a tool to build up your momentum towards a complete weightloss training regimen.
If you want to excel in power and strength one full session per week might be just perfect. Anything more than that has to be monitored because overdoing it can reduce strength and power gains. Basically, there is a fine balance between doing the right amount and overdoing it.
If you want to increase your endurance as a main objective, for example, if you want to run marathons, cycle or swim long distances, one a week won’t be enough. This is the only case where you need to look into training in cardio zone 2 for longer sessions and more often than usual.
If you want to train for general health once or twice a week would be just fine assuming you have the full training protocol which will be the complete general health and fitness training style. That’s not to say if you only do cardio and especially if you mix the training modalities between swimming, rowing, running etc. it would be wrong in any sense. That’s perfectly fine and it’s up to your personal preference.
I guess I should say that starting with one session per week will be perfectly fine and again, it will help you build up the right momentum.
No training program would be complete without one zone 2 cardio session throughout the week and what’s great about it is that one session per week might be just perfectly enough.
For the record, I train 6 days a week with a complicated hybrid training style focused on calisthenics skills, power, strength and aesthetics at the same time. With this regiment, I have only One Zone 2 cardio session per week and I’m pretty happy about my results.
It works wonders and the benefits are serious. If you don’t train at all and you want to start, this can be a great start for you and if you already train regularly you should definitely figure out a way to add this one session somewhere throughout the week.
If you need advice on the best way to structure your training plan you can make use of Your Free Fitness Strategy Call offered on my website.