What is Zone 2 training?

a man and a woman running together
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

You may have heard people toot about Zone 2 training and its effectiveness as a training method, but perhaps you find yourself wondering: what exactly is it all about? Can you truly get fitter from less intense exercise? Can you use one of the best fitness trackers to identify your training zones? We are here to debunk this all for you.

Zone 2 training, also known as aerobic base training, is not just another fitness fad, it's a scientifically proven method utilized by athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike to enhance cardiovascular fitness and endurance. For example, one study published in the Healthcare journal demonstrates how a group of cross-country ski athletes improved their athletic performance by taking up zone two training. But it’s not limited to skiing, it's a popular training method used frequently in endurance sports like running, cycling and swimming.

So we spoke to endurance runner and running coach, Helen Gaunt to find out more. Keep reading to find out if your workouts are missing out on Zone 2 training.

What is Zone 2 training? 

Gaunt told us, “Essentially, Zone 2 training is cardio exercise at a slow or easy steady pace and is used to build your aerobic capacity.”

This training zone typically corresponds to a moderate intensity level where your heart rate is elevated, but you can still maintain a conversation without feeling notably breathless.

The specific heart rate range for Zone 2 training varies depending on individual fitness levels, but it generally falls between 60% and 75% of your maximum heart rate. Many of the best running watches and fitness trackers will identify your individual heart rate zones, which will be of use if you intend on training in Zone 2.

Zone 2 training sessions are characterized by longer durations at a steady pace, often lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours, depending on your fitness goals and event distances. 

If you feel like you’ve hit a lull in your training for an endurance event, such as marathon training, then it could be that you’re running your easy miles too fast.  

a woman checking her running watch

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

 What are the benefits of Zone 2 training? 

These workouts help build a strong aerobic foundation, which is essential for improving performance in endurance events and can also aid in recovery between more intense training sessions.

"Going slowly lets your body use fats as fuel,” says Gaunt, “and training your body to do so helps with your stamina in endurance events.”

“You also build up your slow twitch muscle fibers, also known as type one muscle fibers. Type one muscle fibers have the highest mitochondrial density and capacity and therefore are very efficient at utilizing fat for energy purposes.”

Gaunt explains that by regularly incorporating aerobic workouts into your training routine, you stimulate mitochondrial growth and function, which will improve the ability to utilize fat as a fuel source and improve overall aerobic capacity.

How to try Zone 2 training 

To try out Zone 2 training, Gaunt recommends picking a cardio activity such as running, cycling or swimming and aim to do it at an easy pace within the Zone 2 range for at least 20-30 minutes to get the full effect. 

Wearing a fitness tracker that tracks your heart rate will help with this but you should also be able to tell by how hard you are finding the workout. Keeping things at a conversational pace is a good benchmark when you get started with Zone 2 training.

If you want to take things further with zone training and implement it into your training long-term, Gaunt suggests introducing a macrocycle. "This should include three to four days a week of Zone 2 training in the first two to three months of pre-season training. This will be followed by two to three days a week as the season gets closer and two days per week of maintenance once the season begins and training switches to more specific zone 3-5 work."

She encourages people to ⁠use a fitness tracker to monitor their heart rate (HR) and use this as a guide on the zones. "Everyone’s HR range differs slightly, your watch will help you to identify your zones."

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.


Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.


She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.