Chasing Intensity, Zone 2 Training- How to Reach Your Goals

Written by Stephanie Nickitas

In this article I’d like to address the idea of how both Intensity AND Zone 2 Training should be a part of everyone’s fitness regime.

First, let’s start with intensity. For the most part, intensity is a positive thing and something that we teach at CrossFit Winter Park.

Intensity comes at the end of a sliding scale that starts with mechanics, then moves to consistency then ultimately intensity. Proper mechanics are the first priority. Once mechanics are sound, then they must be repeatable and therefore, consistent. Once you can consistently move with proper mechanics, then you can start to increase intensity.

This article from states:

The level of intensity at which a person works needs to be appropriate relative to their physical and psychological tolerances. That is, the intensity at which someone should work is always and only relative to that individual. As long as someone is working near the limits of their capacity, they will find the same increased benefits from the program whether they are an elite athlete or simply trying to maintain functional capacity for independent living. The important metric to track is not the absolute output of the athlete but rather their output today relative to what they were capable of last week, last month, or last year. If the relative intensity is rising over time and across many different workouts, it follows that the athlete is becoming fitter.

Most people that start some sort of high intensity, interval training program see great results. Some may have only been doing steady state cardio (aka running, cycling, walking) or maybe they only lifted weights (aka circuit training, powerlifting, general bodybuilding). The addition of intense, “CrossFit” style workouts improves their overall fitness level and likely helps them reach goals of “losing weight and toning up”. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably experienced exactly what I’m talking about and are hooked on that feeling of being totally spent after a workout and laying on the floor for 10min wondering what just happened.

That feeling is awesome and is what gets us hooked. We begin to want that feeling after every workout and therefore start to “chase intensity” 24/7.

Well, I’m here to explain that at some point you may hit a wall or see diminishing returns. You need to make sure you are spending at least one day, possibly two, on light to moderate “Zone 2” training. Everyone’s Zone 2 will be different based on their fitness level and it’s possible to increase one’s Zone 2 capacity over time.

You may be wondering what Zone 2 means. A general way to describe a Zone 2 workout is being able to perform it at a conversational pace, or while breathing only through your nose.  This means taking 20-40min and walking, biking, rowing, jogging etc.while keeping your heartrate in the 60-70% range. It is much lighter than most would expect for a “workout”. But you’ll find the health benefits speak for themselves.

You’re probably asking why do I need to pay attention to this? And how does this apply to me?


Zone 2 can serve to both enhance the quality of your more intense workouts, as well as selectively burn your body’s fat cells. It’s commonly referred to as the “fat burning zone”!

So, ask yourself the following:

1- Do I want to increase my cardiovascular fitness level so that I am able to live a longer and healthier life?

2- Do I want to increase my aerobic threshold which will translate into better performance in my CrossFit workouts?

2- Do I want to burn off some excess fat that just won’t seem to come off even though I’m doing high intensity interval training 6x a week?

If you answered Yes to any of those questions, then you need to be adding some Zone 2 training to your weekly program. Everyone will be different in regard to how implement this training. Much will depend on how many times per week you come in for CrossFit classes and how much extra time you have to spend on some Zone 2.

I have always programmed our Thursday workouts as “Mobility, Skill and Active Recovery” days. For those of you coming in more than 3-4x a week, Thursdays are meant to be a recovery day that isn’t too taxing on your central nervous system and leaves you feeling rested and ready to go on Friday. This is also why you might see a stroke rate rowing or skills option on the board. So one way to get started is to use Thursday’s for Zone 2 and make sure you keep your heartrate low and do the metcon at a conversational pace.

Couple things to note:

1- A Zone 2 workout is meant to be the only thing you do that day. Do not go adding these 20-40min sessions on top of a CrossFit day. More is NOT better in this circumstance.

2- These sessions can be done at home by just walking or very slow jogging or a combination of both.

3- You MUST be taking at least ONE full rest day every week. That means zero activity.

If you have any questions about how to set this up in your weekly schedule, please talk to one of the coaches and we can give you some ideas and suggestions.

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