DAYP 19: The Compounding Effects of Zone 2 Training – Start Now

Here’s what’s on the healthspan menu today:

  • The Compounding Effects of Zone 2 Training
  • Inspiration for the Week: Joan McDonald the 74 year old who deadlift 175 lbs

The Compounding Effects of Zone 2 Training – Start Now

Peter Attia had a 3 hour podcast talk with Dr. Iñigo San-Millán, a specialist in Zone 2 training. 

I’m already a believer in Zone 2’s benefits, but after listening I’m even more convinced that If you aren’t doing Zone 2 training you’re missing out on good health in your later age and on performing better during your current workouts.

Zone 2 training is part of the Zone 1 (think walking) to Zone 5 (sprinting from away from a bear) spectrum. It’s sometimes called “low intensity steady state training.” It’s working out where you ARE NOT gasping for air like you would with high intensity workouts.

Q: What does Zone 2 training do for me?

Zone 2 trains your mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, to produce more energy. This makes any physical activity you do more efficient. More energy = good.

More importantly according to one study: “A decline in mitochondrial quality and activity has been associated with normal aging and correlated with the development of a wide range of age-related diseases.”

By improving mitochondria function through Zone 2 you can combat those age-related diseases and improve healthspan. 

While you do get an adrenaline rush from high intensity workouts, these workouts do not improve mitochondria efficiency. Dr. Inigo has observed bodybuilders and high intensity athletes who have poor mitochondria function compared to those who do Zone 2 training.

Q: How to know if you are in Zone 2?

If you look online, Zone 2 is defined as training at 60-70% of your max heart rate.

A simpler way to figure out if you’re in the “Zone” is a talk test. If you can carry on a conversation, but it’s not as comfortable as if you were not exercising, then you are probably in zone 2. If it feels too difficult, slow down.

Q: What exercises should I use for Zone 2?

Any type of exercise where you can ideally go for up to 60 – 90 minutes continuously for. Running on a treadmill (or outside), cycling / biking, rowing, etc…

Q: What’s the Zone 2 prescription? How many times a week for how long?

Inigo lays out this prescription:

  • 1 day a week – not bad if you are just starting out
  • 2 days a week – you can maintain your fitness
  • 3-4 days a week –  you can make more improvements

Goal is to eventually get to 60-90 minutes of continuous work. However, if you’re new to exercise, work your way up. Start with 30 minutes.

This is especially important if you choose running as your body will need more time to adapt. This is where doing Zone 2 on a stationary bike might be better.

Another important point is if you want to do a high intensity workout (which is still good for you) to do your Zone 2 training before rather than after. You’ll still get the benefits by doing it in this order.

Q: Why should I start now?

Improving mitochondrial function is a patience game. You won’t see changes right away as it takes months to years to see cellular improvements.

Attia made a great analogy that Zone 2 training is like building wealth. Each time you train, you are making small deposits which compound over time. This is how Inigo observed an 81 year old champion cyclist, who started cycling at age 40, had mitochondria as powerful as active 30 year olds.

My (Ben) takeaway.

I started doing Zone 2 running in November 2021. Before I started, I tested my 1.5 mile time and it was 10:55 (7:18 per mile). In March 2022, I tested again and my time was now 9:59 (6:38 per mile). Close to a minute faster! My training hadn’t changed and the only thing that was different was now doing the Zone 2 training.

Because of the gains I saw I’m now going to incorporate at least days a week of Zone 2.

Inspiration of the Week: Joan McDonald the 74 year old who deadlift 175 lbs

I came across this video of a 74 year old woman, Joan McDonald, deadlifting 175 lbs. That’s pretty  impressive!

Even more impressive is her background and story. Turns out, she didn’t start lifting weights and getting in shape until she was 71 years old!

Check out this before and after photo.

She went from 199 lbs to 130 lbs in 3 years! She looks like 2 different people. 

Of course she had help from her daughter who is a bodybuilder and trainer, but still, it’s great to see how it’s never too late to start improving your health.

If you ever need some inspiration, check her out on instagram. If you are younger than 74 you have no excuse!

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"Healthspan is the period of life spent in good health, free from the chronic diseases and disabilities of aging."

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