Go Slow to Get Fast
Most people are under the impression that they should go hard in every session. They get fixated on certain paces and neglect easy days. A common thought is “if I train hard and fast I will get faster”. What we should be saying is “go slow to get fast”, which is what many of the pros do by training in zone 2. If you keep training hard all the time you will keep having bad training days and likely spend a long time each year on the sidelines due to injury.
Why is Zone 2 Training Important?
The main benefit of zone 2 heart rate or zone 2 power is that it builds aerobic base and endurance. By improving aerobic capacity you can improve your ability to maintain a faster pace for a longer period of time. Of course, you still need to do the higher intensity efforts but zone 2 is the basis and foundation from which to begin to build your faster pace. If you have a strong aerobic capacity it will also allow you to recover quicker between higher intensity efforts. For example, with better aerobic fitness you will be able to perform intervals with a shorter rest in between and hit your goal pace more easily.
What is Zone 2 Training?
Zone 2 training is steady training just above the easy zone. It should be a big bulk of your weekly training and if you are doing it correctly you should be able to maintain a conversation very easily. I always like to focus on form as it’s easy to control whilst at this heart rate.
One of my coaches, Mark Shepherd, is very stern with me about training zones and the majority of the training he gives me is in zone 2. He stresses the importance of zone 2 training every week and I agree. Before I met Mark I spent time looking into how to improve my performance and the main thing I discovered was that I was training too hard, even I thought I was taking it easy. After realising this in 2015 I had my zones adjusted to my heart rate max and since that I have improved a lot from training in zone 2.
Control Results in Consistency
As well as the benefits mentioned above, zone 2 training will leave you feeling like you can go on forever, finish fresh, recover and target your hard runs when they do come around. This in turn helps keep injuries at bay, allowing consistent training. If you can get consistent training you are very likely to improve. On the other hand, if you keep overtraining and get injured you will just end up chasing your fitness and making excuses.
What is there not to like about it? This is a well-known training method. Your body needs to repair – you just cannot keep breaking your body down with hard training all the time. Even the best marathon runners in the world run slow miles.
How Do You Work Out Your Zone 2?
Firstly, you need a watch and a heart rate monitor. You need to know your heart rate max and once you have that you can put your heart rate in many calculators online HERE or watch my YouTube videos HERE and you will get your zones from there.
You do need to make sure the HR max is right, you can do tests like 5k time trial, FTP test, Coopers test, VO2 Max lab test and so on etc or even use a recent race result. Do not use your watch automatic/present zones as 9/10 times they are wrong zones. Once you know your heart rate max you can get your zones. Don’t go by pace or mileage, I just go by time and follow the zone strictly.
Even Walking is Worth It
By sticking to lower heart rates, over time you will find that you are likely to increase your pace at the same heart rate output. This is due to increased aerobic efficiency. I had to walk up hills to start with in order to keep within the zone. That was my body was telling me I was pushing too hard. In time you will improve and as you persist, you will become more efficient. You can then do more training hours at a lower heart rate. Check out old blogs HERE about if Heart Rate training is worth it.
Why Do People Ignore Zone 2 Training?
A lack of patience. We expect instant results but improvements don’t happen overnight. Around four of my runs, each week are in zone 2. It took a few weeks from adopting this training method before I saw my pace improve, but found I could train more and go harder on the hard sessions. Over the years my zone 2 pace has crept up and is now sometimes the speed I was doing back in 2015 when I was going too hard. I have improved a lot from using zone 2 training but it takes time. Stick with it and you will make improvements. Why break your body and get injured when you can train smart?
I have seen many friends train like this with great success. Why not try it?
Here are some of my other articles about HR training: