Zone 2: Fat Burning

Did you know our bodies have two main energy sources? Fat and glucose. You might be thinking, “But, Michelle, I thought fat and glucose were bad for you.” While an excess of these resources (as with most things) can be bad for you, we need healthy amounts of fat and glucose to energize and fuel our bodies. So, let’s start with some simplified information about how our body gets energy!

Burning Fat (Fatty Acid Oxidation):

Fat is like a big storage of energy in our body - kind of like a battery. When we need energy for low intensity movements (like Zone 2 workouts), our body takes fat from the storage. It breaks down fat into tiny pieces called fatty acids. These fatty acids are then turned into energy in our body's "energy factories," called mitochondria.

Burning Glucose (Glycolysis):

Glucose is like a quick energy snack that our body uses when we need energy fast. When we need quick energy for running, jumping, or doing something intense, our body uses glucose.

Our body can use both fat and glucose. The energy source used depends on the type of activity we’re doing, how fast we need energy, and how long we need it. 

We often think the harder we work out, the better. This isn’t necessarily true. The best type of workout varies person to person, and is based on the desired outcomes that you are looking for. 

For most women in the second half of life, we are hoping to: 

  • get to and maintain a healthy weight, 
  • have strength and energy to do the things we love and feel called to do, and 
  • we just want to feel good. 

If that is part of what motivates you to move, then it’s important that you include Zone 2 workouts in your fitness routine. 

So, what is a Zone 2 Workout?

In exercise physiology, "Zone 2" refers to a specific intensity level of exercise based on heart rate zones. These zones are typically defined as a percentage range of your maximum heart rate.

For most people, Zone 2 corresponds roughly to 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. Here is the formula to figure out your heart rate for Zone 2 workouts:

220 - your age = x  Take that number (x) and multiply it by 0.6 and 0.7 and that will give you your Zone 2 heart rate zone. I am 61 years old so here are the numbers for me. 

220 - 61 = 159

159 x 0.6 = 95

159 x 0.7 = 111

My Zone 2 heart rate range is 95-111 beats per minute. This does not take into account all factors, like resting heart rate, but it is a simple way to find your heart rate zone.

At this intensity, you're working at a moderate pace, where you can still carry on a conversation but you're breathing noticeably harder than when resting. It's a sustainable effort level that allows for prolonged exercise without quickly tiring out.

Given what I shared above, Zone 2 workouts primarily rely on fat as a fuel source. While higher intensity exercise may burn more calories overall, a higher proportion of those calories come from carbohydrates. Zone 2 training targets fat metabolism more directly.

It's important to remember that while Zone 2 training can be effective for fat loss, it's just one piece of the weight loss puzzle. Nutrition, amount of lean muscle, overall physical activity level, and other factors also play significant roles in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Individual responses to exercise can also vary, so what works best for one person may not be optimal for another.

If you’re looking for a Zone 2 workout, check out our new “Fun, Fat Brunin’, Walking Workout.” This workout should keep your heart rate in the Zone 2 range, but make sure to adjust the movements based on what your target range is and how your heart rate responds to the exercises. 

Other activities that are good for Zone 2 workouts include:

  • Brisk Walking: Maintain a steady pace where you can comfortably hold a conversation without gasping for air. You can do this outdoors or on the treadmill.
  • Cycling: Ride at a moderate pace on flat terrain or with gentle hills. Keep your cadence steady and your heart rate in the Zone 2 range. You can do this outdoors or on a stationary bike.
  • Swimming: Swim laps at a moderate, steady pace, and focus on maintaining consistent breathing and stroke technique.
  • Cardio Equipment: Elliptical, Stepper or Row Machines are great at a moderate intensity level, keeping your heart rate within the Zone 2 range.
  • Cross-Country Skiing: I love to cross country ski. It’s not something I can do often because you need the right snow, but it is such a great workout. You need flat or gently rolling terrain at a moderate pace to stay in the Zone 2 range. 
  • FW Exercise Videos: Many of our workout videos that are low impact or less intense are great for Zone 2 workouts!

Remember to listen to your body and adjust the intensity as needed to keep your heart rate within the Zone 2 range. Over time, as your fitness improves, you may find that you need to increase the duration or intensity of your workouts to continue seeing progress. 

My exercise plan includes a variety of workout styles. I will do some zone 2 workouts, but I also add some intervals, strength.. I think it's best to mix it up and that's why we offer over 500 workout videos on our website. Make sure to check them out


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