Zone 2 training is the “secret” of Tadej Pogacar’s training. You may be thinking, “Well that’s not a secret. Everyone knows what zone 2 is.” While it’s not necessarily something special, it’s the foundation that Tadej relies upon.
It can help make you a stronger athlete, increase your lactate threshold, and help you use fat for fuel so you can save glycogen for when it really matters. Zone 2 is sometimes referred to as the LSDR: Long. Slow. Distance. Ride. But, it's not necessarily as long, or as slow, as you might think.
What is Zone 2?
Specifically, it’s the range in which your heart rate and power are low enough to maintain the effort for extended periods of time and equates to around 70% of max heart rate. This is the more oxygen-dependent energy system; zones 1-2 rely more heavily on fat as a fuel source and oxygen to break it down. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are the key drivers in the lower zones.
Zone 2 keeps you below an effort that requires a shift in fuel sourcing. It’s one of the most reliable fuel sources long term but requires a lower effort to do so. As you start to slide into Zone 3+ it shifts the fuel type your body needs to maintain the effort – which becomes glycogen/glucose.
Why Zone 2 Training is Important
Zone 2 is that range of effort that basically teaches your body how to break down fuel effectively and become more efficient. If you can prolong the switch from the aerobic system to the anaerobic system, you can save muscle glycogen for when it’s really needed and rely on a more robust fuel. As Tadej Pogacar’s coach, Iñigo San Millán, says, it all comes down to improving mitochondrial function.
The issue is that you’re brushing over the area that contributes most to overall cardiovascular development. Zone 2 training props up the rest of your training like a pyramid: the broader and stronger the base, the higher you can build on it. The problem? It’s not hard, but it’s not easy. When done right, it’s a nice steady pace that eventually wears on you.
According to Iñigo, “You never win a race in Zone 2, but you could lose one because of it.”
Fueling Zone 2
Tadej Pogacar is proof that carbohydrates are still vital in the lower-intensity Zone 2 range. The more fit you are, the more glucose you burn, the more lactate you produce, and the more lactate you need to remove. So, while a healthy Zone 2 stimulates lactate clearance, carbohydrates help facilitate this movement.
Here is a Gameplan:
<2hrs: you shouldn’t need much more than a good hydration drink mix. (hint hint: our LMNT Salty Samples is perfect for a short ride)Your body has enough energy to adequately fuel you for an hour or less and staying away from high-calorie intakes can help enhance the endurance effects of a Zone 2 ride.
>2hrs: fueling goals should be 80g carbs per hour, every hour. It’s important to start this within the first 30min and to continue throughout the ride. This means beginning early and continuing consistently. Think this isn’t necessary? Well, Iñigo’s world-class athletes target 120g of carbs an hour on their rides. Now that is a lot of fuel.