How to Run in Zone 2 ? Why Do It !

There are five heart rate (HR) zones. Runners use them for various aspects of their training. They measure fitness levels, burn fat, and control pace. Zone 2 is a very commonly discussed HR zone as it’s the one most linked to fat burning.

Zone 2 is also a critical part of all professional runners’ programs; some neglect it for several reasons.

We’ll show you how to run in zone 2. For most runners, it’s very comfortable; it’s a jogging pace only, and easy to maintain a conversation while doing the activity. The heart beats at 60–70% of its maximum heart rate, and training in this zone benefits the body.

What Are the 5 HR Zones?

They’re based on a percentage of a person’s heart rate. There are numerous ways to calculate them, from mathematical formulas to lab-based stress tests. Each zone has a different benefit for runners; some should be used more than others, like zone 2.

First up, here’s a look at each of the five zones. The table shows what percentage of your heart rate they begin and end, what they feel like, and their benefit or use. (Source)

Zone% of Max HRFeels likeBenefit / Use
150–60%Very easy, fast walking, barely joggingMoving without stressing the body
260–70%Easy jogging, maintaining a conversationRecovery runs, building endurance, fat burning
370–80%Challenging, but sustainable for a raceBuilding aerobic fitness
480–90%Uncomfortable, anaerobic activityTempo runs, building fitness, short events
590–100%All out effort, not sustainable for long periodsIncreasing speed, perfecting stride
Heart Rate Range, It Feel Like, and other Benefits or Uses

The rest of the article will focus purely on zone 2, answering some commonly asked questions.

How Do You Calculate Zone 2?

By far, the most accurate way is to do a ‘stress test’ at a sports center or physio hospital. As this is not an option for many people, there are some mathematical formulas to use to get a rough idea. They keep being updated, and the following is the most recent one.

First, calculate your maximum heart rate (MaxHR). Use these formulas:

  • Maximum Heart Rate for Males = 208.609 – (0.716 x age) 
  • Maximum Heart Rate for Females = 209.273 – (0.804 x age)

So, using me as an example (55 yo male), 208.609 – (0.716 x 55 = 39.38) = 169.23

This result is almost spot-on as I use 170 as my MaxHR.

Now, calculate your reserve heart rate (HRR). You’ll need your resting pulse (RP) for this. That’s easy to determine; it’s your pulse as soon as you wake up. Mine is 58, so we’ll use that.

MaxHR – RP = HRR

169 – 58 = 111

The final formula to calculate your zone 2 minimum and maximum is

HRR x 0.60 + RP = Zone 2 Min

HRR x 0.70 + RP = Zone 2 Max

111 x 0.6 + 58 = 124.60 (125)

111 x 0.7 + 58 = 135.7 (136)

My zone 2 falls between 125–136 bpm. 

If you have a sports watch, you can enter your MaxHR and RP, and it does the calculation for you.

For more on this, we highly recommend that you check out our post “Heart Rate Vs Swim, Bike, Run (Simplified Definitive Guide)

What Is a Zone 2 Running Pace?

Zone 2 pace varies per individual. For those just starting, 4–5 miles per hour would most likely keep you in zone 2. 

When I first started running, that was a typical zone 2 pace for me. Now I can maintain zone 2 at 6.5 mph. I have some elite marathon runner friends who remain in zone 2, even at 7.5–8 mph.

What Does Zone 2 Running Feel Like?

For many runners, especially those just starting, zone 2 feels too slow. It’s somewhere between a power walk and a comfortable jog. The runners can maintain a complete conversation without having labored breathing.

Like many before me, I used to find zone 2 was painfully slow. With a better fitness level, zone 2 has become my favorite training pace. It’s a comfortable, low-impact, unlabored breathing pace. 

In fact, it’s perfect for a ‘recovery run’ the day after an event. Brad highlights this in his article What Should You Do the Day After a Triathlon? Recovery & Nutrition Tips 

How Do I Train To Run In Zone 2?

Zone 2 training is running while keeping the heart rate between 60–70% of its maximum. At first, it’ll be uncomfortably slow, but with time the body adapts and can run faster at this HR level.

Use a sports watch with the heart rate page displayed. You can watch your heart rate and change to a slow walking pace as soon as it goes into zone 3 until you bring it down to your zone 2 minimum. Then you can increase your speed again.

More running done in this zone will benefit endurance athletes. This zone is the one that you can run for hours on end and should. It builds muscle and heart strength and helps to control breathing.

Run Slower to Run Faster? How to Run in Zone 2 and How it’s Changed my Running

How Long Should You Run At Zone 2?

Zone 2 running should be a significant part of every runner and triathlete’s weekly running volume. Most top coaches recommend at least 60-75% of a program should be zone 2 cardio. These include recovery runs and long runs. The benefits of zone 2 usually begin around 45 minutes into the activity.

If you run five times a week, at least three of these should contain a significant portion of zone 2 running. Polarized training is mixing up the fast with the slow to benefit your body. (Source)

Can You Overdo Zone 2?

As the maximum heart rate used is 70%, it’s not easy to overdo zone 2 training. This is the zone that experts recommend running for hours in.  

However, if you’re new to running, you could overdo it in any zone if you run for too long. Running training is based on progression. Remember ‘learn to crawl before you can walk’? The same applies here. 

In time, zone 2 will feel very comfortable for a slow jog, and it’s maintainable for hours.

For a bit more challenging workout, we also highly recommend that you check out our post “Running With a Weighted Backpack! Should You Do It?

Is Zone 2 Best For Fat Loss?

Zone 2 is the best zone for fat loss. Running at this pace takes its energy from fat, not glycogen, so it’s the ideal zone for fat loss. 

You must run in zone 2 for at least 20 minutes to get the maximum benefit. It’s at this point that the fat burning begins. Try running for 45 minutes and above to shed those extra pounds.

We have an entire article dedicated to this. Is Slow Jogging Good For Weight Loss? How Long You Need To Jog! 

Do You Sweat In Zone 2?

Under regular conditions sweating in zone 2 should be minimal. If the temperature outside is hot enough to sweat just by being outdoors, then yes, sweat will appear. 

If you’re training in zone 2 in regular conditions and you start to sweat more than a little, you’ve most likely moved into zone 3 or even zone 4. Of course, body size, weight, and time you’ve been running factor here too. If you’re brand new, sweating is likely in all zones at first.

Is Zone 2 Running Worth It?

Zone 2 is absolutely worth it. Once runners get past the feeling of being too slow, they reap the benefits. It reduces the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, strengthens the heart and lungs, burns fat, and helps the body bounce back from endurance racing.

If Zone 2 running isn’t part of your training program, start including it today. Your heart, lungs, and legs will thank you for it.

Also, check out our post “How Fast Do Triathletes Run ?

Stephen Christopher

began running at the age of 50 and 2 years later ran his first marathon in just over 5 hours. He continues to join events all over Thailand and South East Asia with Berlin and London on the list for the future.

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