At Saltwater Athletics, our CrossFit programming is referred to as “constantly varied,” ranging from high intensity interval training, heavy lifts, and longer aerobic workouts, to gymnastic-based movements (think pull-ups, toes to bar, etc.), body-weight workouts and metabolic conditioning.  We believe wholeheartedly that integrating diverse workouts into one’s daily routine is a step towards improving overall health, especially when we know the dangers/health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle.  Each of our members has a unique reason for committing to CrossFit at Saltwater Athletics, which means we want to individualize our training and optional work to help reach those personal goals.  Both competitive, elite athletes and folks simply looking to burn fat will benefit from training the Zone 2 heart rate, so we want to take a deeper dive into what Zone 2 Training is, how it works, who should integrate this into their fitness, and more.

Want to burn fat and show off those abs?

To understand Zone 2 training and it’s benefits, we need to quickly understand Heart Rate Training Zones. Essentially, we have 6 different “zones” for our heart rate, ranging from our Resting Heart Rate to our Maximum Heart Rate.  If we’re in Zone 0-1, that means we’re totally sedentary: laying down, sitting, resting, lightly walking.  If we’re in Zone 6, we are at our maximum heart rate, with our heart beating out of our chest at a rate that’s impossible to sustain for an extended period of time.  Most fitness training (like many CrossFit WODs, 5ks, High Intensity Interval Training “HIIT”) takes place in Zones 3-6, but Zone 2 is where we spend very little time and can really improve our aerobic capacity.  

Zone 2 is also wear we burn fat. Think of it…all those distance runners, surfers, gymnasts, swimmers ect ect. They are all very slim. It’s because they spend their days training in Zone 2.

A great video by Luke Jones of “Hero Movement” explains Zone 2 training and highlights the benefits in simple, understandable terms.  For most Zone 2 training, we’re looking at activities like cycling, rowing, running – all at a conversational pace.  Often folks who are beginning to train at Zone 2 feel they’re moving too slowly, but with commitment to training, a person can eventually move more quickly while keeping their heart rate in Zone 2. Our heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood… which means we can keep our heart rate lower as we perform more challenging activities.

So how do I get started with Zone 2 training? First, we need to find the Zone 2 Heart rate. There’s a simple formula that’s not super precise, or a more scientific approach. Let’s start with the simple formula first (more details can be found here):

We’ll estimate that your Maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. To get your target heart rate zones you need to do the following calculations:

  • (Maximum heart rate) x 0.6
  • (Maximum heart rate) x 0.7
  • (Maximum heart rate) x 0.8​

Your heart rate zones are:

  • Zone 1:  Heart rate between (Max heart rate) x 0.6 and (Max heart rate) x 0.7
  • Zone 2:  Heart rate between (Max heart rate) x 0.7 and (Max heart rate) x 0.8
  • Zone 3:  More than (Max heart rate) x 0.8

For example, a 30 year old would subtract their age from 220 and use a maximum heart rate of 190 for these calculations.  That means Zone 1 would range from 114-113, Zone 2 ranges from 133-152 and Zone 3 is a heart rate of 152 or more. 

If we want to get a little more specific, we’ll measure our Morning Resting Heart Rate as soon as we wake up in the morning *before getting out of bed* for three days in a row.  For folks with a Whoop, you can simply look at your heart rate after waking up over the course of 3 days (you already have all the data!) and do these calculations.  Once you collect your heart rate for three mornings, add those 3 numbers, then divide the sum by 3 to calculate the average Morning Resting Heart Rate. Your Max HR will still be 220 minus your age. See the chart here for specific details about these zones. 

(Morning 1 + Morning 2 + Morning 3)/ 3 = Morning Resting Heart Rate (MRHR)

Good recovery is a powerful weapon, but often we lean towards overtraining because we think it’s how we’ll improve.  By training Zone 2, we avoid overtraining and spend significant time in a fat-burning zone.  The amount of time one should spend Zone 2 training really varies, but most athletes suggest spending 30-90 minutes working in this zone, as it’s a mental challenge as well. Just like we don’t constantly lift at our 1-rep max to improve that number, adding this aerobic piece can improve our capacity during a variety of athletic tests (running, sprinting, etc.).  We can add this into our individual training and start to see some incredible improvements in endurance and overall performance. For an intensive but easy-to-digest overview of Zone 2 Training, check out this page.

Monitoring your Heart Rate

Now the question is how to monitor your heart rate during one of these workouts. We suggest the WHOOP and if you use this link you will get a month for free. The Whoop has become the official “wearable” of CrossFit. Not only can you geek out on your recovery, sleep and activity strain…you can also watch your heart rate while you do one of these Zone 2 fat burning workouts.

The picture below will show you Ian’s 60min C2 Bike workout. He was trying to keep his heart rate at a 125bpm. You can tell by Whoop’s graphic that he inadvertently missed the mark and only averaged 113 BPM – he should have pushed a little harder to keep the heart rate between 125 – 144 BPM (based on his personal max HR). Whoop allows you to watch and monitor your heart rate live, which makes it easy to adjust speed/intensity during this type of training.

Optional work at Saltwater Athletics

Now that you understand Zone 2 training and the benefits for your overall fitness and performance, let’s put it to the test. For our members with weight loss goals in particular, spend 60mins a few times per week and take a bike out for a spin, go for a gentle run, row… you decide! Adding this to weekly training has a wealth of rewards for our health, performance, and more.