Why should you get in the zone?

As we talked about last week, Zone 2 training is going to be the topic that we dive into over the next several weeks.

Patients, after a conversation about exercise and seeing all the kettlebells in the office, would frequently ask  "What do you do for cardio?" For years, my response has always been the same. I would simply shrug my shoulders and wryly say "Pick up the weights faster."

As of a couple of weeks ago, my answer has remained largely unchanged. Recently, I have been playing with my response because my "cardio" approach has certainly changed a bit. That doesn't mean that I stopped "picking up weights faster" it means that I have added some Zone 2 training cardio as a supplement to my regimen several days per week. Zone 2 training is also known as Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) training, in contrast to the more common High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) which we see in most group fitness environments.

Dr. Attia talks about the benefits of Zone 2 training on your lifespan, and more importantly on our healthspan, in his book. We will cover more about some of those long-term benefits in an upcoming newsletter. Today we are going to talk about the potential performance benefits of Zone 2 training.

The secret sauce of Zone 2 training is that it lies just below the aerobic threshold. Why does that matter? Training below the aerobic threshold allows your body to burn fat as the primary fuel source, rather than carbohydrates, during each training session. The more time that we spend in this zone, the more fat our body will burn for energy. Average humans are able to sustain Zone 2 exercise far longer than we are able to sustain Zone 3-5. To give you an idea about the differences between the zones. Ask yourself - How long can you walk or slowly jog before needing to stop? Compare that to how long you can sprint before you need to stop. That is the difference in the amount of time that you will be able to stay in Zone 2 vs. the time that you can spend in Zone 4-5. We may be able to burn more calories per hour if we do Zone 4-5 work, but we can sustain Zone 2 training for a much longer period of time. That would allow us to burn more total calories in our workouts!

Zone 2 training is often referred to as Base Training because it allows us to increase our aerobic capacity while burning calories and limiting the stresses placed on the body. The improved aerobic capacity will help us on those days when we are required to push it a little harder in training. It is a great way to be able to still get exercise on days in between more intense training sessions, allowing your body to recover fully between more challenging training sessions.

Give Low Intensity Steady State training a shot on a day when you have no other exercise planned and see how you feel when you are done! I think that you will be surprised how much you like it!

Movement is my medicine,

Dr. William "Chip" Bleam

Dr. William "Chip" Bleam


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