HOW TO TRAIN IN INTENSITY ZONE 2

OK, so let’s look at how to train in Zone 2.

This is the zone you’ll likely spend a lot of training time in and see why it’s super beneficial to our fitness progression…

WHAT IS ZONE 2?

This zone is the second zone in the 6-7 zone intensity scale, depending on which system you’re using.

If you missed the article on how to train in Zone 1, you can read it here.

Anyhow, Zone 2 is generally considered a low intensity training zone.

It’s typically executed by the athlete at any intensity in the range of 75-81% of maximum heart rate.

For power meter users, the intensity is 60-75% of current FTP or functional threshold power.

Zone 2 is a zone which introduces a degree of structure into the athlete’s training.

It’s a zone that requires discipline in order to perform correctly.

Unfortunately, it is an element of training that many athletes get wrong or misunderstand. 

Therefore, it is important that we’re clear on why we are spending a considerable amount of training time in this zone.

WHY TRAIN AT ZONE 2?

There are several key reasons to train in Zone 2.

EFFICIENCY

The first is that of making the body more energy efficient by teaching it to spare glycogen.

Instead, we want it to preferentially use a higher percentage of fat for energy when cycling. Zone 2 helps with this.

This is key for endurance athletes, as the body has a far higher storage capacity of fat than of glycogen.

The latter needs to be spared for the end of a race or event when it matters most.

The more time spent training in zone 2, the more efficient the body becomes and the faster the athlete is at that level of intensity.

Let’s say athlete A and athlete B are riding at the same intensity.

If athlete A is more efficient than athlete B, then athlete A will go faster for the same effort.

FATIGUE RESISTANCE

The second key reason and benefit of zone 2 training is less well-known but no less important.

When training at this intensity, the athlete is using their type 1 muscle fibres, A.K.A the slow twitch muscles.

By stressing the type 1 fibres, the athlete improves their body’s ability to clear and process lactic acid.

This is a by-product of the burning of glycogen that happens at higher intensity exercise.

When lactic acid is produced, it needs to be cleared and transported back to the mitochondria to be used for energy.

If not, it will accumulate, introduce a burning sensation in the muscles and force the cyclist to slow down.

Through improving the ability for the body to clear lactic acid, the cyclist can train themself to ride faster at a given intensity and improve their endurance.

STRUCTURING ZONE 2 TRAINING

As mentioned, Zone 2 requires a considerable amount of discipline to perform correctly.

This is mainly because it is an intensity that overall, feels quite comfortable to the cyclist.

Riders can find themselves slipping into Zone 1, which in most cases won’t supply enough of a stress to stimulate adaptions.

It’s also easy to drift up into zone 3, because Zone 2 often doesn’t feel difficult enough to improve fitness.

What’s important is to disregard the flawed “no pain, no gain” mentality.

Following the principles of base training, cyclists can make large gains in fitness and reach a higher peak of fitness for their chosen events.

Zone 2 training should be undertaken throughout every training phase and will be present in almost every week of training throughout the year.

It’s essential for consistent and long-term development and is an enjoyable intensity to train at, making training more fun and rewarding.