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Zone 2 Training: Why you need to SLOW DOWN to get faster.

In a world of time-crunched, fitness crazed, selfie taking gym-goers and athletes, the High Intensity Interval Training fad is in full swing. We are in a society where information is literally at our fingertips all day every day. The articles, blogs, books, etc that tout HIIT as the way to go has quite the following, and rightly so. So many people base their workout on how much sweat they lost, how close to vomiting or passing out they came, or how sore they are the next day. They want to burn as many calories as possible in the shortest amount of time, with no thought of what they are asking of their bodies on a day to day basis. Don’t get me wrong, High Intensity training has its place! Just like low intensity training, proper recovery, periodization, and many other aspects of training and fitness. However, many athletes try to go “HARD” every workout resulting in them actually going “MODERATE” every workout even though their effort seems hard. They get stuck in Zone 3 training, which over time usually results in staleness, fatigue, burnout, injury, and SUB-PAR PERFORMANCE!!! Tell these athletes to “slow down” in their training and you can expect some serious resistance. These are the strava-driven, type A, have to get faster every workout athletes. They can’t go “easy”, what if they get passed by a 70 year old on an e-bike? What if their buddies decide they want to race that day? What if they only get their fix if they ride or run in Zone 4 for an hour? Many of us can relate to these feelings and thoughts and have to fight the belief that a workout was only worth it or beneficial if it was HARD. Without going into too much physiology, the following are some of the benefits of zone 2 training:

  • Stimulates Type 1 fibers, which stimulates mitochondrial growth & function

  • Increased plasma volume

  • Increased capillarization of muscle

  • Increased glycogen storage

  • Increased use of fat for energy production

In layman’s terms, Type 1 fibers help not only with fat utilization but with lactate clearing. The more Type 1 fibers you have, the more efficient your body will be in utilizing fat for fuel and preserving precious glycogen. Not only that, but you will improve your body’s lactate clearing capacity which is key for athletic performance!!!

All of that being said, every workout should not be in Zone 2. Matt Fitzgerald, coach and running guru has written a book about this whole topic called “80/20 Running.” He presents a plethora of information and research that supports 80% of your training be done in Zone 2, and 20% be done above Zone 2. This essentially polarizes your training, allowing you to go faster on fast days or intervals, and also reap all the benefits of Zone 2 training. Getting your training balance closer to the 80/20 rule will result in less fatigue and burnout, less injury, increased fat utilization, and increased lactate clearing capability. In essence, you can get FASTER by going SLOWER!!

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