The Secret to Longevity and Improved Athletic Performance: Zone 2 Training

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Zone 2 Training is a favorite among professional athletes. Learn how to identify it through your heart rate, the practical implications of this training zone, how it's a game-changer for your fitness journey by improving your mitochondrial function, increasing your overall energy output, and contributing to longevity.

Mary Daphne: Hello, Advanced English learners. Welcome back to another conversation. I'm joined by the one and only Greg. 

Greg: Hello. Hello. 

Mary Daphne: Thank you so much for joining me for this conversation, Greg. And thank you to all of you as well. We wouldn't be here without you, so we really appreciate you tuning in. So we have a wonderful worksheet that goes along with this conversation and you can access that as a member of our private members only Community Explearning Academy. So just go to the link below or visit the site Alright. And as a reminder, we do these for you to improve your listening comprehension, your conversation skills and techniques, and to learn something along the way as well, and to listen to native speakers, with their phrasal verbs and connected speech and our vocab and all that jazz. So without further ado, let's jump in today's conversation. All right, Greg, do you wanna know what our conversation is? 

Greg: I'm waiting at the edge of my seat. 

Mary Daphne: All right. So today we're gonna talk about zone two training. 

Greg: Ah, that is a great topic.

Mary Daphne: Let's get into it.

All right, so we're gonna first define zone two training, and then we'll talk a little bit about it. This is one of my favorite types of training and I think for Greg as well. 

Greg: Yeah, it, it is one of my favorite types of training because of the positive benefits it has. I can find it a little boring, but I appreciate the, the benefits of it.

Mary Daphne: Okay, that's fair. So what is the definition of zone two? 

Greg: Yeah. So zone two is a zone, sort of a range, uh, that your heart rate is in at a certain level of activity. Mm-hmm. Right? So there are multiple zones from zero to five or to seven, depending on what scale you use. But all of 'em are pretty consistent about what zone two means, right?

So zone zero is like us sitting right now sitting in a chair. If you're watching this, you're probably doing zone zero if you're sitting down. But maybe if you're walking or listening to this while you're, you know, on the road you could be in zone one. Mm-hmm. Right. Which is, you're moving and your heart rate is elevated, but it's still not really doing much in the way of providing the benefits of exercise. 

Mary Daphne: Right. You're not exerting yourself as you would be if you were brisk walking or if you were biking or doing some other form of activity that's classified as exercise. 

Greg: Right. And that's where we go to next, which is zone two. So if a casual walk is zone one, a brisk walk, right, a walk where you actually notice that you're walking fast, that you're pushing yourself a little bit, and you can start to feel your heart rate coming up and your breathing getting harder, um, it might even be hard to have a normal conversation. That's when you've entered zone two. 

Mary Daphne: Right. I love that breathing test because if somebody doesn't have a wearable or some way of tracking their heart rate, if they don't have a heart rate monitor strapped to their chest, which is the most efficient way, and most correct way of checking accurate heart rate.

If you don't have something like a smartwatch, then one of the greatest tests you can do is if you're, if you have somebody next to you walking or biking, can you hold a conversation? And if you can hold it very easily, it's probably zone one. If you can hold a conversation, but. It's a little bit strained, meaning you're pausing, you're a little bit out of breath, you know, it's a little bit more difficult to get the words out then that is zone two.

Greg: Exactly. And there are other ways to measure zone two. You can look at, uh, lactate, which is, um, excreted by your muscles. Uh, when they're exerted, you can look at. Um, you know, your actual heart rate and there's a calculation, sort of a rough approximation. It's, you know, your age, it's your max heart rate minus, do you remember the number?

Mary Daphne: So I think it's 220 minus your age would be your maximum heart rate. Heart rate. Mm-hmm. And then zone two would be a certain percentage of that. Do you remember what it is? That's, that's the part I don't remember. Yeah, I think it's like, I think it's like between 40 and 60%. If I not, 

I think, I think it's actually Do you think it's lower?

Greg: I think, no, I think it's a little higher. I think it's like, Um, maybe you're right. Maybe it's, let's just say 60. Anyways, look it up. The point is there are multiple ways you can sort of calculate zone two, but in our experience, we've done this quite a bit now, the best metric is really to figure out that level of respiration, that level of breathing, where it's just a little bit difficult to have a conversation.

If you were talking on the phone, you would sound like this. Yeah. Like you sound winded. Right. 

Mary Daphne: And, and it doesn't even, I don't think have to be that extent, but as of course as your fitness level increases it, it'll be harder to get to that zone too. And not harder necessarily, but it will, you'll be not out of breath as easily you as you were before your fitness level increased.

Greg: Yeah. You will need to exert more raw power, to reach the same level of exertion. 

Mary Daphne: That's a better way of saying it. Yes, yes. So you work harder to get those same numbers that you, you know, were pre pre fitt. 

Greg: Yeah. But what's confusing about that is, yeah, you work harder on a technical basis. Meaning if you measure the output in energy, which is watts.

Yeah. The number of watts that you put out increases, but your perceived exertion. Right. How hard it feels. Is about the same. 

Mary Daphne: Yeah. Or even lower because as your fitness level increases, it's not as difficult to perform, you know, to be on a bike pedaling at 80, um, not watts, but miles per hour. Right? Or RPMs.

That's what it's rps. RP revolutions per minute, right? So if you look on an exercise bike, you will see as you pedal, how much you're exerting yourself will, you'll have a number there. So for somebody who's trying to target zone two, that could look like 60 RPMs, but it could also look like 90 RPMs, depending on your fitness level. 

Greg: And also the resistance of the bike. So that even that, again, it comes down to the wattage. Yeah. Right. So, um, as your fitness increases, you'll be able to put out more watts, with the same perceived exertion. Yeah. Right. And so anyways, we've talked a lot about what zone two is. Let's talk about why it's important. 

Mary Daphne: Okay. So the benefits of zone two.

Well there are many in terms of your overall fitness. One of the metrics of how fit you are, it it relates to, you know, your mitochondrial fitness and one of the best ways to improve overall longevity is by exercise. And it's not just any exercise. Because if you were to say to someone, oh, what kind of exercise you do, and they brag about doing, hit five times a week, that's more than zone two, and it's overkill. It's not necessary to do that much hit for longevity. If you like doing hit every day, then God speed. But for just achieving your optimal fitness and your longevity zone two is really what we see as being something that we should be doing more of and every day. 

Greg: Yes. So there are multiple ways to measure fitness, mitochondrial function, which is a long word for how well you can produce energy, um, and atp, which is a precursor to, uh, energy output. Uh, All of that, uh, relates to, um, mitochondrial function, right? Mm-hmm. That is a measure, uh, of fitness as well. And it's a great measure because it basically says, how well are your cells working?

And, um, by, by measuring or, or by doing zone two training, that is what we've determined to be one of the best ways to improve the function of your mitochondria. Right? So if you want to, uh, most efficiently improve the way that your body can generate, uh, sustainable energy. Um, zone two training is the best way to do that.

And what does that really mean in your day-to-day? It means you just, you feel better, your body works better, right? Um, you have more energy throughout the day. You have more steady energy, um, and ultimately you live longer. So it's one of these sort of subtle levels of fitness or measurements of fitness that it's not as cool or impressive as big busts or being able to sprint really fast. Right? It's not as impressive as those. But if you talk to professional trainers, professional, uh, athletes, they actually do the majority of their training, something like 80% of their training, in zone two. Right? Only a small part of it, are they actually training really hard in a way that's, that's, you know, Exhausting. Yeah. Most of the time they're doing zone two, which doesn't drain your body too much, but it produces this tremendous beneficial boost to your mitochondrial function. 

Mary Daphne: For sure. And there's a, a, a world renowned, uh, running coach who's been on one of our favorite podcasts, Dr.Peter Attia's, The Drive, and he has this, um, This acronym, it's like MAF um, and it's something where he's essentially saying that to train these elite athletes to be able to run the fastest that they've ever run before they basically spend most of their time, as Greg said, in zone two training. And what zone two training then allows them to do is when it comes time to ramp up speed, they're able to do that, not because they were training at zone five, but because they were training at zone two, even when they perform at zone five.

Greg: Yeah. One way to almost visualize it is, um, if you have a gas tank in a car, Um, it's increasing the size of that gas tank so you have more energy, um, more, um, sort of output, total output in you. Right? Doesn't necessarily mean you can burst harder. Um, though it probably does help to some extent. What it really means is you just, you have more total output that your body's capable of.

Mary Daphne: Yeah, so it's, it's really remarkable that even just something such as zone two can increase your overall fitness. And what's great about it too is that, Greg touched upon this earlier, is that it doesn't exhaust you the way, you know, a strenuous HIIT workout would or another sort of high level cardio workout would, meaning you're able to sustain that, you know, even for two hours, like I've gotten on my bike and I've been able to do a zone two, zone three, two hour ride, and you feel like you're exerting yourself, don't get me wrong, it's not easy peasy lemon squeezy, but you know, you don't feel the way you would after a one hour strenuous strength workout or something. 

Greg: Yeah. It doesn't exhaust you. Right. If, for example, for most people, if you're running or even jogging, you're actually probably beyond zone two already.

Right? That's, that's how mild it is. And the reason this is nice for me, um, is, well, I talked before I opened up by saying how I found it boring. It is kind of boring cuz you're not pushing your body that hard. But the way I, I make good use of it, um, in addition to improving my mitochondria, is I listen to podcasts, right. And I know you watch shows. Yeah. Um, and that's a great way to make use of that time. Right. Um, so I end up getting, uh, a lot of productive time in, while I improve, uh, my mitochondrial function while I improve my zone two. 

Mary Daphne: For sure. And it's a, an amazing way to just get some downtime. Like, it's funny because on one hand it's not downtime in the sense that you're fully relaxing, but on the other hand, it's a nice recalibration, you know, it's a nice way of a, a nice modality to relax a little bit.

So that for me is my downtime. It's my sacred time where I can watch a show, watch a documentary, even read a book like sometimes I have my tablet on and there's like a nice little stand and I can do that because again, you're not going super fast. So you're able to, you know, concentrate a little bit more than you would if you're going really, really fast or exerting yourself a lot.

Greg: Yeah, and that's important because zone two as a sort of total percentage of your weekly exercise, um, should make up the bulk of it from a time perspective. Right. What they say is you want about two to three hours of of zone two in a week. And so, um, and you want each zone two training to be about 40 minutes.

Yeah. Uh, in duration. Yeah. Less than that. You don't get the optimal benefits more than that, you don't get. Uh, as much relative benefit, so targeting around 40 minutes. So you do a couple of these per week, and so, uh, fortunately they add up, they do add up. Um, and so fortunately, uh, you know, there are ways to, to make it efficient.

Of course. Now the other parts of your training are important too, right? Absolutely. You need the resistance training. Yes. Um, you want some high intensity training where you're getting your heart rate up really high. Um, but zone two, is, uh, I've often forgotten part of it. That is also very important. And, um, if you talk to, again, the professional athletes and trainers, they'll say it is the most important.

Mary Daphne: Yeah. So it's something to keep in mind, you know, maybe the next time you hop on a bike or you go out for your walk. You're paying attention to that. Okay? That test, right? Am I able to carry on a strained conversation? And that's how you know you're in zone two. Or just do the math. It's 220 minus your age for your max heart rate.

And then from that you look at the percentage, and I think it's something like 60%, but the point is to just try to incorporate these in your daily routines, your weekly routines, and you'll find that you have a lot more energy to do the things you wanna do and just be happier and healthier overall.

That's why we love it. Yeah. All right, so thank you so much for joining us. We hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did, and we will see you in the next one. And hopefully we'll see you in our community Explearning Academy. Bye for now.