Fall in Love with Aerobic Training Zone 2
Written by Kirsten Ahrendt

Movement can be medicine. But you have to choose the right dose and right drug.

One thing that everyone encounters is stress – whether that be financial, emotional, psychological, or physical illness. Whatever the medium, stress takes a physiological toll on our health and immune system. Your movement and exercise routine can either contribute to or detract from our wellness.  Let’s break down why we want to become a Zone 2 ninja and how it will make us better athletes in the gym by developing your base aerobic capacity.

What is Aerobic Zone 2?

Exercise intensity can be split into 5 distinct “zones” distinguished by a percentage of your maximum heart rate (HR). Zone 0 being daily life existence and Zone 5 being max effort anaerobic work. Aerobic work is considered zone 0-2. Zone 2 is measured at 60-70% of your max heart rate. A quick and dirty way to calculate this is 180-minus your age (developed by the Maffetone method) . That will give you the upper limit of your aerobic capacity (i.e. your aerobic threshold). Beyond that, you’re edging into anaerobic work. 

What are the benefits of Zone 2 training?

Spending time in Zone 2 HR training zones brings with it a plethora of health as well as performance benefits. Increased aerobic capacity and endurance is the primary benefit. This doesn’t just mean you will get better at running 10k and rowing marathons. A greater aerobic capacity provides a stronger foundation from which to exert maximal power or high intensity effort (i.e. – Fran or 1k row). When you return to 6-12:00 AMRAPs, you’ll be able to sustain a higher level of work aerobically before going anaerobic.

As it relates to your health, Zone 2 extols less of a physiological toll on the body and immune system as compared to HIIT style training or heavy weightlifting cycles. Because it is less demanding on the CNS and creates fewer waste products like lactate, it has less inflammatory response in the body and therefore on the immune system. If you’re stressed out on life (sympathetic response), Zone 2 aerobic work also facilitates a parasympathetic response in the body, think “flow state”. 

Aerobic Adaptations from Zone 2 Training

  • Increased strength of the left ventricle of the heart, resulting in increased stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped in one contraction. More blood, more oxygen.)
  • Lower resting heart rate
  • Increased VO2 max
  • Increased mitochondria and capillary density

TLDR (too long didn’t read) SUMMARY

Are you stressed right now because we’re experiencing a global pandemic and that creates either an existential, logistical, physical or financial crisis for you? If so, lay off the HIIT and Smolov squat cycles. Give your nervous system a break by choosing exercise and movement that will be rejuvenating rather than demanding on your nervous and immune system. Zone 2 aerobic work will keep you healthier and make you fitter for when you return to the gym. Give some of these workouts a try. 

*Bonus points for performing nasal breathing.

Aerobic Zone 2 Workouts

All of these could be performed nasal breathing only. At a minimum you should be able to maintain nasal inhale/mouth exhale.

Workout #1
AMRAP in 20-35 minutes of:
500m row
Lateral Lunges x 20
Push-Ups x 20

Workout #2
AMRAP in 35 minutes of:
Row x 30/20 calories
Dumbbell Walking Lunges x 20
Assault Bike x 30/20 calories
V-Ups x 20

Workout #3
4-5 rounds of:
Run/Bike/Row x 20 calories
OH Carry x 50 meters (single arm, double, or whatever you have) 
Run/Bike/Row x 20 calories
Front Rack Carry x 50 meters (or hold a child, barbell, filled suitcase, duffle bag, sandbag, cinder block) 
Run/Bike/Row x 20 calories
Farmer Carry x 50 meters

Workout #4
No equipment option:
Run 400 meters
Handstand Hold x 30-45 seconds
Run 400 meters
Prone Plank x 30-45 seconds
Run 400 meters
Paralette/Chair L-Sit or Tuck-Sit x 30-45 seconds

Workout #5
Steady State Sleds
20-30 minutes of:
Sled or Tire-Sled Pull 

Choose a weight that you can continually keep walking – you probably need to start lighter than you think. Loop a strap around your waist and start walking.

Invictus Athlete Program

The next cycle’s focus – which begins August 16th and takes you through October 10th – will continue to build on the previous cycle, with emphasis on foundational strength and developing stamina for higher skilled gymnastics movements. We will be adding in sessions to build on all the strict gymnastics work completed in the previous cycle and a deadlift cycle will be added. Our Masters athletes will also continue to work on olympic lifting positional work, incorporate more Zone 2 training and will continue to place emphasis on improving mobility.

Invictus Athlete
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June 22, 2023 12:02 pm

I need more like this

Richard Guzman
Richard Guzman
September 5, 2020 2:20 pm

Which Invictus Program actually programs Aerobic Zone 2 work?

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard Guzman
November 18, 2020 6:59 pm
Reply to  Richard Guzman

My run club at the downtown Invictus location 😉

April 28, 2020 5:37 am

This is great. Thanks

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