Incorporating Zone 2 Cardio Into Weekly Plan -- How Do You Do It?

I spent some time over the last week or so reading up on Zone 2 cardio and I am trying to find a way to incorporate more of it into my training. I’m lifting 4 days a week right now so am considering doing one day of road cycling (weather permitting) and another day where I aim for 60 minutes of Zone 2 cardio. If the weather discourages a road ride, I’d do another day of 45-60 minutes of cardio. That ends up with about 120 minutes of Zone 2 cardio weekly, which is still a bit less than the bottom end of 150 weekly minutes that I’m reading is recommended for Zone 2.

I’m curious how others set this up and how many minutes per week you all are targeting.

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I’ve managed to do something similar combining burpees and squats

Admittedly I was in zone 3 however if I had slowed the pace down then zone 2 would have been easily achieved


I do 10-30 mins of mixed intensity a day. So if its zone 2, ill do closer to 30mins. If its more intense ill do less.
I would suggest everyone to not limit themselves with zone 2. Even tho it is super great, doing ONLY zone 2 is like doing only 1 exercise per bodypart. As much benefits there are in the zone 2, there also are in higher intensities. And if you do different exercises for all muscles, you should do different stuff for the most important muscle also.


Depends on your schedule and the reason you’re doing Zone 2 work.

4 x 40 min in the mornings or evenings (opposite of lifting schedule) could work
2 x 60, 1 x 40 on off days could work
2 x 75 on off days could also work to hit your minimum

These are based on your stated minimum threshold of 150 weekly minutes (Huberman podcast fan?)

If you’re interested in Zone 2 work for the health and longevity benefits, my understanding of the research is that you probably want 3 or more sessions per week, with a minimum session duration of about 45 minutes, and 3-4 hours total (although more probably provides additional benefits with minimal drawback if all other factors are equated). That said, there are probably substantial benefits from every incremental increase below 3 hours, so 1 hour is probably WAY better than zero, 2 hours is probably substantially better than 1, etc.

Timing doesn’t seem to matter much other than avoiding doing your Zone 2 immediately after more intense work, as the presence of lactate in the blood likely impedes improvements in mitochondrial function. (This is somewhat speculative but based on research by exercise physiologist Iñigo San-Millán).

If you’re interested in Zone 2 for recovery benefits, probably better to do it on off days or as part of an overall “active recovery” workout. As little as 20 minutes can be effective to improve recovery and next-day performance per in-the-trenches research by Joel Jamieson.

If you’re only interested in fat loss, none of that matters very much. More is better in that you burn more calories without the additional fatigue that would accompany more intense exercise. Maybe better to avoid doing it immediately before lifting as there could be a slight decrease in lifting performance.

Good point. Though I’ve read that 80% of ones cardio training should be in Zone 2, so while I’m not going to limit myself to Zone 2, it does seem like it needs to make up the vast majority of cardio work.


Yeah, I should have mentioned that – I’m interested in this for two reasons. First and most importantly, the health benefits, specifically heart related. Second, I like the idea of doing the Zone 2 work to improve my cycling. I enjoy cycling when the weather is nice and being intentional about building a better aerobic base so that I can cycle for longer and further is appealing.

I think I’m going to try 2x75 on off days and then perhaps add another session in either on a day I lift of one my other day off from weights.

Depends on your goal, but for health and longevity measures I think this is a good guideline. For those goals, Zone-based cardio recommendations probably break down like this:

Zone 1 (i.e. walking): As much as possible. Diminishing returns after about 25 miles per week for most middle-aged people (~8hrs at 3 MPH)

Zone 2: A lot. Probably a “more is better” situation, but diminishing returns after 3 or 4 hours per week

Zone 5: Probably want to “touch” this zone for a few minutes a week. Diminishing returns after about 10 or 15 minutes per week. Research shows substantial improvements in VO2 max with a single session of four, 4-minute-long maximal efforts separated by 3 minutes of active recovery. Brutal workout, but less than 15 minutes spent in Zone 5.

Some people make an argument for Zones 3 and 4, but I’m not aware of any compelling arguments to spend much time there if all you care about is health and longevity.

For performance improvements, guidelines are going to be very different and vary tremendously based on the type of performance you’re talking about.


I appreciate all your detailed replies! Much of what you’ve written jives with what I’ve pieced together from what I’ve been reading. I’ve been aiming to get ~10k of steps per day for a while now but feel like the Zone 2 cardio has been a missing piece for me. I went for years without doing any cardio and then started cycling in my late 30s and early 40s but mostly as transportation to and from work. It’s only since the pandemic started that I’ve become more intentional about doing cardio and only in the last couple of months that I’ve even had an inkling what Zone 2 is.

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That’s awesome man. The ROI on Zone 2 work is incredible. It provides so much while taking almost nothing but time (produces 0 fatigue, almost 0 injury risk, doesn’t impede strength or hypertrophy, etc). If it wasn’t so goddamn boring, I’m convinced it would be the “biggest thing” in fitness and everyone would be doing tons of it.


It doesn’t have to be boring. People study languages, while doing that. Connect with family. Reply to clients. Watch documentaries or just you favourite TV shows. In this century you can even finish online courses while doing your cardio, read books or whatever.


This is a great point and what I personally do. However, the difference in how it feels to get to the gym and realize I forgot my headphones for a lifting workout vs. a Zone 2 workout is pretty profound. haha


I actually watched the first half of a football game I’d recorded while doing 60 minutes yesterday. I was going to watch the game anyway, so this worked out wonderfully. Even listening to a podcast makes the time pass so much more quickly for me than listening to music.

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I do my Zone 2 cardio (incline treadmill walking, just added a weight vest for 2023) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A morning session and an evening session (without the weight vest) after jiu-jitsu. I go for just under 45 minutes a shot, so I’m around 180 minutes a week.

I do an hour of Zone 1 cardio on Sunday. I get my higher intensity cardio from BJJ 2x/week and a WALRUS workout with row sprints on Saturday.


Another question: Are folks just using a heart rate max calculator (220-age or the like) to determine max heart rate and then apply a percentage (I’ve read both 60% to 70% and 65% to 75% as being the Zone 2 range) to determine if one is in Zone 2? I would think that plus making sure one is meeting the talk test would be enough and that actually testing to determine max heart rate is probably not needed.


This is one of those frustrating things that I haven’t found a great answer for. The most “technical” explanation of what Zone 2 actually consists of is “the highest level of output that you can maintain indefinitely without your blood lactate reaching 2.0 mmol per liter.” Helpful, right? lol

Barring buying a blood lactate monitor or getting a metabolic test, I think doing a quick and dirty max heartrate test and staying around 70% of that number is a pretty good proxy.

Barring that, staying somewhere between 120 and 140 BPM and going hard enough that you could talk to someone on the phone but they would know you’re exercising is probably good enough for 90% of people.

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I read this somewhere too and I think I even read about folks testing themselves, which seems a bit nutty (unless one is a professional athlete).

I’ve been staying between 110 and 130. I’m 44, so this puts me roughly between 60% and 70%.

Completely agree. It’s also going to be a moving target as your body gets better at buffering lactate, so I’d just rather shoot for something easier to measure in real time.

I think this sounds great. Cardiac output is going to be maximized for most people between 120-140 BPM because the heart has time to fill completely between each beat, so thats where a lot of the “heart health” benefits are going to come from. The favorable cellular adaptations seem to drop off sharply as intensity rises, so it makes sense to me to undershoot intensity slightly rather than overshoot.

I personally aim for 130 as an average, have a hard cap at 140, and don’t allow myself to drop below 120 very often. Not super scientific but that feels about right to me. That said, I’m a decade younger than you and as I continue to age I’ll probably nudge all those targets down a bit.


What do you find puts most folks into that range? Jogging?

Jogging gets me higher, though that may be because I have a hard time not pushing things on a run. For Zone 2 stuff, I’m a big believer in the elliptical

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Absolute same! I feel like such a tool, but this is my modality of choice for accumulating cardio minutes.