You’ve got a million things on the go, from chasing after little ones to catching up on emails. You don’t need to push yourself to the limit at the gym, too. Instead, try Zone 2 training to level up your cardiovascular fitness.
First things first, let's talk heart rate zones and “zone training.” Training zones are the heart rate ranges that correspond to how intense your exercise is.
You've got five of these zones, ranging from Zone 1, "I’m taking it super easy " at around 55-65% of your max heart rate, to "I'm in the last stretch of a sprint” at Zone 5, or 90% of your maximum heart rate.
Zone 2, often called the aerobic zone, is the sweet spot for building endurance and improving your fitness. It clocks in at a manageable 2 or 3 out of 10 on the effort scale – think of it as a brisk hike while chatting with a friend. It is typically around 65-75% of your maximum heart rate.
A blood lactate test can measure the heart rate at which lactate1 - a product produced during metabolism and exercise - starts to accumulate rapidly in the bloodstream and is useful for establishing your heart rate zones for training. If you don’t have access to a lab-grade lactate test (Sprout members - ask us about a lactate test!), the best way to understand your heart rate zone percentages is to measure your heart rate when you are giving 100% maximal effort.
*If you are mostly sedentary or your healthcare provider has recommended you should avoid maximal exertion, please consult a medical doctor before performing a maximal exertion test on your own.
Zone 2 training is a game-changer for your heart and overall health. Working out in this zone helps lower your resting heart rate and boosts your aerobic capacity. Research shows that Zone 2 training improves cardiovascular health, which can help you fend off diseases like heart disease and stroke. It can also improve metabolic health, which helps you manage blood sugar levels and keep your body's insulin sensitivity in check.
A 2014 study2 even showed that endurance athletes had greater gains in VO2 Max (considered the gold standard measure of your cardiovascular fitness level) when incorporating Zone 2 training than when just focusing on High Intensity Interval (HIT) and sprint training.
So, how do you know if you're in the Zone? Hello, fitness trackers! Your Fitbit or Apple watch can help you track Zone 2, just check the settings to see how it works on your device, and you're good to go.
You can also try this simple test: during a Zone 2 workout, you should be able to sustain the effort for a longer time, and still be able to chat with your workout buddy. If you can hold that conversation on a jog, you're right where you need to be.
Now, for the nitty-gritty. For best results you should aim for at least 45 minutes per session and a weekly total of 150 minutes (or more!) in Zone 2.
Zone 2 is about consistency, not going all-out. Think consistent intensity instead of a sprint to the finish line. The hardest part of Zone 2 for you might be slowing down your workouts and not pushing yourself too hard.
If you're a runner, consider mixing in some walking to stay in your Zone 2 threshold. Don’t be afraid to slow down and enjoy the process!
With Zone 2, the key is to find an activity that you love and that you can keep up for 45 minutes or more. This might be a walking with walking poles, rucking (walking with a weighted backpack), a fast walk with your dog or a great podcast, or even rocking some rollerblades. Get creative!
Making an effort to incorporate Zone 2 training into your routine means you’re investing in a healthier, happier future. For more on Zone 2, lactate testing, or just incorporating more activity into your lifestyle, give us a call. We're here to make your fitness journey as easy as a Sunday morning.