Why is it so hard to keep my heart rate in Zone 2?

noun_343728_ccZone 2 training is something I get asked about quite often. You may have heard us talk about it in the quick tip segment of MTA podcast episode 178.

Many people find that they have to slow way down or even add walking intervals to keep their heart rate in Zone 2.

This can be frustrating but it reflects the state of your aerobic system and the fact that a better endurance base needs to be built. So give it time!

3-6 Months

With regular Zone 2 training your speed will start to increase while keeping your heart rate down. But this process can take 3-6 months (depending on your starting point) so it’s important to have patience.

After this 3-6 month period when the progress you’ve made in Zone 2 has reached a plateau you can add in speed work again while keeping your easy runs in Zone 2 (similar to using the 80/20 method of easy/hard training).

The Maffetone Calculation

If you’re interested in using Zone 2 training it’s important to figure out what your Zone 2 numbers are because there are a variety of metrics out there.

The most accurate is getting a V02 max test done in an exercise laboratory. However, you can get a decent estimate by using the Maffetone calculation of 180-age= upper number of Zone 2.

To read more about the Maffetone method including the rationale behind it and frequently asked questions see www.philmaffetone.com/180-formula/

If you have a Garmin watch you may notice that Zone 3 there correlates more closely to Maffetone Zone 2.

Wearing a heart rate monitor and using heart rate training gives us information on how our body is functioning while running so that we can adjust the intensity accordingly to develop better cardiovascular endurance.

Simply put, a healthy aerobic system helps us run more effectively. Signs of a poor aerobic system can include higher body fat, performance plateaus, injuries, fatigue, and less than ideal health.

I wrote a much longer blog post about heart rate training in the past for those who want to dig deeper.

photo credit: Charlotte Vogel from Noun Project

69 Responses to Why is it so hard to keep my heart rate in Zone 2?

  1. Lewis Van Atta May 15, 2016 at 10:24 pm #

    One problem I have always had with Maffetone’s method: we always hear that we shouldn’t use 220 minus your age for a max heartrate guideline; BUT….Maffetone says use 180 minus your age for a guideline instead. Aren’t we trying to shoehorn individuals with different needs into the same formula in either case?

    (Plus from a scientific viewpoint, it just bugs me that Maffetone has never published his results in a peer-reviewed journal. He may well be on to something, it merely bugs me that he hasn’t published).

    Can you help me understand? 🙂

  2. Angie Spencer May 16, 2016 at 8:24 am #

    Hi Lewis, Thanks for the great comment and question. You’re absolutely right that 180 isn’t a magic number that is accurate in every case. That’s why there are a list of exceptions on how to modify that number to make it fit the individual better (https://philmaffetone.com/180-formula/). And since this method hasn’t been peer reviewed and published yet I’d say that MAF is more of an art than a science. However it is based on his research on athletes for over 40 years. He states, “The use of the number 180 is not significant other than as a means to finding the end heart rate. Plus, 180 minus age itself is not a meaningful number; for example, it is not associated with VO2max, lactate threshold, or other traditional measurements.” It kind of reminds me of calculations for BMI (body mass index) which don’t take things like muscle mass into consideration. It just tracks the ratio between weight and height. Interestingly, over on Maffetone’s website it looks like they are soliciting MAF results from people who have used this training method for 6 months. So hopefully in the near future we’ll see something published on this.

  3. Lewis Van Atta May 16, 2016 at 9:10 am #

    Thank you! I’ve listened and googled a little on this topic, but your answer is one the best and well-reasoned ones that I’ve seen.

    • Angie Spencer May 16, 2016 at 11:55 am #

      I’m glad it was helpful 🙂 Happy running!

      • Kulsekhar January 11, 2021 at 9:27 pm #


        Have just started using Phil maffetone’s MAF Training method. Iam using this method and run 60 minutes 5-6 days a week. I keep HR under MAF HR I have to do a lot of walking. Infact, my pace while walking is much better than running in this method. Should I walk or continue with run-walk combination

        • Angie Spencer January 14, 2021 at 2:03 pm #

          It’s great to hear that you’re experimenting with MAF training. Since your pace while walking is currently better I’d probably stick with that. Sometimes having to slow down your running pace so much results in less than ideal running form. I’m guessing that after three months of using this method you’ll be able to get back to more running with your heart in the correct zone. Good luck!

        • AV October 24, 2021 at 2:11 pm #

          I have noticed as well that my run-walk is actually more economical than continuous running, i.e., (1) for any given HR budget, I run-walk faster than I run, and (2) for longer distances (5mi+), my PB pace is achieved by run-walking and j simply can’t match that pace with continuous running.

          I have taken the above to mean that I should continue run-walking until my run-walking pace improves and HR reduces further. I’m hoping that my walk fractions will reduce over time, but thus far it’s been pretty steady at around 35-45% of time.

          • Angie Spencer October 25, 2021 at 10:33 am #

            I think you’ve got a very sustainable strategy with the run/walk method. The fact that your overall run/walk pace is faster and your heart rate is lower speaks for itself. At some point you may be able to experiment with shorter walk intervals going from your current 3-4/1 intervals to 5/1 and beyond. Keep up the great work!

  4. Chloe Allen Maycock May 21, 2016 at 12:06 am #

    Angie- I have been listening to yours and Trevor’s podcast and really love it. I’m a big believer in MAF training. Over the past two years, I have improved my pace at MAF heart rate by almost 2 minutes. I’m hoping that all of my slow miles will give me the endurance I need for a BQ! I infuse speed into my schedule as well, but the MAF training has made the biggest difference for me as a runner. Headed to Cancale France next Friday for a half marathon. If you want a report of that run (I’m doing it as a duomarathon with my friend, who is running the second half of our relay) I’d be happy to report afterwards. Thank you again for your podcast!

    • Angie Spencer May 21, 2016 at 2:58 pm #

      Thanks for the comment and for being a listener Chloe! It’s awesome to hear how effective MAF training has been for you. I’d love to hear how you’re upcoming half goes. Good luck!

  5. Jonathan May 23, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

    Hi guys,

    I enjoy your podcast and have been listening for about 10 months. Thanks.

    I started MAF in July last year and believe 100% in Phills work, I have listened to a lot of his interviews and he just makes a lot of sense. I have gone HFLC since January this year.

    My issue is, when I was training for a marathon in August/September last year and doing MAF i ended up injuring myself (DNS) as I have found to run at a peace to keep MAF I seem to loose form. No matter how much I try I seem to get floppy in the hips and that’s what caused my problem. Bad form. When I go harder my form stays tight. My MAF is 139 but to stop the pain I was getting in my leg (nerve pain) I end up running around 150-158. Do you have any tips as I really want to master MAF. thanks.

    • Angie Spencer May 23, 2016 at 3:07 pm #

      Hi Jonathan. I’m glad that you’ve been enjoying the podcast. It’s great to hear that you’ve been working on MAF and eating HFLC. But you’re absolutely right that keeping relaxed form while running slower is a challenge. One thing that you might want to work on is keeping your cadence higher with shorter strides so that your feet land under your hips. You can practice a higher cadence by running in place to a metronome set at 180 beats per minute. If your heart rate gets too high with a higher cadence you can build in regular walking intervals so that at least when you’re running your form is good. Another very helpful thing would be to add (or increase) the amount of core and hip strengthening exercises that you’re doing. Many runners are weak through the core muscles (especially glutes) and that can equal poor running form, pain and eventually injury. Good luck!

    • Shari May 16, 2022 at 9:59 am #

      While doing Zone 2 training, is it better to “wog” (walk/jog) versus walking fast when my HR is approaching my max Zone 2 levels. I too find that I can fast-walk faster than I can “wog” while Zone 2 training on a slight incline. I’ve been inclined to try to “wog” it (to keep the jogging motion), but I’m also getting frustrated that my Zone 2 overall times are not really improving much. I’ve been at it for about 5-6 weeks (I saw a bit of improvement from the start, but now it’s kind of stagnant). Wondering about tips. (We usually Zone 2 jog 50 min 3x/week). We’re ages 65 and 60 and very fit, but are using at 120ish HR max for our Zone 2

      • Angie Spencer May 16, 2022 at 1:57 pm #

        Hi Shari, Great question! I typically advise people to fast walk when they find themselves approaching the top of their Zone 2 HR (this is what I do as well). This usually results in a more rapid decrease in the heart rate, faster forward progress, and better form. With the MAF Method they do advise adding +5 to the Zone 2 number if you’ve been injury free and overall healthy for the last 2 years. It’s also not uncommon to see improvement for a few weeks and then notice a plateau before making more progress (this is also common in all types of training). Hope that helps!

        • Shari May 16, 2022 at 7:54 pm #

          Thank you! We are avid cyclists and Nordic skiers but have not been as consistent with our running. My Polar h10 Zone 2 is actually set from 105-122 (I know my max HR is around 173), but I try to keep the max at 120. I’ll resume the fast walking on the uphill portions and hope that I see more improvements in the near future.

          • Michelle July 20, 2022 at 1:41 pm #

            I am just starting to run again, but have recently been reading about zone 2 training and have done more walking than running trying to keep my HR down. I am turning 50 in November and have planned to run a 1/2 marathon. According to my Garmin, my max zone 2 HR is 119. But according to MAF, it would be approx 130. Which should I use? Also, should I try to incorporate some running in higher training zones and if so, how many times/week? Thank you for any feedback.

            • Angie Spencer July 26, 2022 at 9:54 am #

              Hi Michelle, It’s exciting to hear that you’re planning to run a half marathon this fall to celebrate your 50th birthday!! Using Zone 2 training is so helpful when you’re rebuilding your running base because it helps you lay a foundation of strong aerobic endurance (while being more gentle on your supporting structures as well). I like using MAF to calculate my Zone 2 numbers but it often correlates to Zone 2-3 on many watches. I feel like the MAF numbers (in your case heart rate range of 120-130) are a good estimation for most people and allow you to integrate run/walk intervals. I believe the MAF system recommends doing Zone 2 training strictly for 3 months to see maximum results. Then you could add in 1 speed work session per week which would use a higher training zone. Hope that helps!

  6. Jonathan May 23, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    Thanks Angie. The run walk is a tip I haven’t really tried so will work on that. My cadence is between 180 and 184 consistently, forefoot strike under hips and I do Body Balance 2-3 times per week, TRX once and a Physio routine 30 minutes per day (working in trigger point, knee outs, squats and running men, then hip thrusters and pistol squats… My hips and glutes are getting much better now. Thanks again.

  7. Crystal Day March 30, 2018 at 7:46 am #

    “If you have a Garmin watch you may notice that Zone 3 there correlates more closely to Maffetone Zone 2.”. This is nowhere near the truth for me. Zone 3 on my Garmin is a 30 bpm above my Maffetone zone 2. Zone 1 on my Garmin correlates to my Zone 2 Maffetone.

    • Angie Spencer March 30, 2018 at 1:08 pm #

      You’re absolutely right Crystal. Each person’s heart rate metrics are unique so it’s important to figure them out personally so that you’re nailing those easy/recovery runs.

  8. rani sofyan June 7, 2018 at 12:35 am #

    what is the zone 2 training???

  9. Jon Marshall June 29, 2019 at 8:24 am #

    This is great perspective. I recently bought a Polar M430, which has a built-in monitor like most running watches nowadays, and figured I’d try out their heart-rate-based programs. I quickly found that, despite being able to run comfortably at a 9-10 minute pace for long periods, I couldn’t even jog for any length of time without flying out of Zone 2. It was essentially jog for 1 minute, walk for 2, and avoid running in any kind of heat.

    But after reading this, I’m going to stick with it and see what happens after 3-6 months like you’ve suggested.

    • Angie Spencer June 30, 2019 at 9:34 am #

      Hey Jon, Trying to stay in Zone 2 can definitely be very eye opening. It’s amazing how factors like heat and hills can bump the heart rate up quickly. If nothing else doing zone 2 training (especially for easy runs) brings a new awareness to your running as you see how your body responds. Good luck!

    • craig July 25, 2019 at 3:57 pm #


      I’m experiencing the same exact thing. I’ve been running for about 10 years, nothing formal, never any training, just go out and run. I’m 40 and up until today, have been running 3-4 miles 3x a week at 8:30-9:00/mi with my average HR around 175-182. I’m tired, but I feel good if that makes sense. Today, I tried my first Z2 “run” and holy smokes. I did my usual 5k and had to walk most of it. My avg. pace at the end was 14:30/mi and half of the “run” was in Z3 while half was in Z2.

      I cannot understand how I can sustain 175-180 for 30 minutes but have to walk to keep my HR below 135. Am I that bad of shape???

      Totally clueless and frustrated.

      • Angie Spencer July 26, 2019 at 3:47 pm #

        Hey Craig,

        I think anyone who has ever tried Zone 2 training has experienced this exact frustration. I remember having to walk large portions of my miles to keep my heart Z2 as well. It can be very humbling to realize that your endurance base isn’t quite as strong as you want it to be. Often the higher heart rates during normal runs can be an indication of under recovery or other stressors in life (things like caffeine intake, food, sleep, job, family, other workouts, age, hormones, weather, etc are all in play). A great book to read that talks about this topic (and others) is Run For Your Life by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella.

  10. Martin E Rheaume July 10, 2019 at 11:58 am #

    I’m trying to figure out what I should use as my Zone 2 ceiling because my MAF number is so much lower than the number I get from the 80/20 calculator.

    My MAF number is 142 (180 – 38). Whereas, my number based on my lactate threshold test is 157 (LTHR of 175 based on 30 minute time trial multiplied by .9). I’m having a hard time figuring out which one I should use so I’ve kind of been bouncing back and forth the last couple of years.

    Do you have any opinions on that?

    • Angie Spencer July 12, 2019 at 4:10 pm #

      Hey Martin,

      Great question! It can be confusing to figure out which metric to use for your “easy” or Zone 2 calculation. From the research I’ve done it seems like MAF is the most conservative in that the heart rate numbers are lower. Runners often struggle to keep their heart rates within the MAF zone so it’s something that should definitely be approached with patience (if you choose to stick with those numbers).

      I used MAF for 3 months to increase my cardiovascular endurance a few years ago and noticed great results (although I found that I had to throw in more walk intervals, especially in the heat and on hilly routes). After that strict period of MAF I transitioned to using those HR numbers only for easy runs.

      Based on my observations it seems like most runners do their easy runs too fast so applying the MAF numbers can be a great way to slow down and truly give the body more of a break. That’s why I’ve stuck with the MAF calculations for myself and have recommended this metric to coaching clients. Hope that helps!

  11. Steeve T July 24, 2019 at 4:13 pm #

    Is my ave. bpm must be in zone 2 or my entire run?

    • Angie Spencer July 25, 2019 at 12:57 pm #

      The goal would be to keep your heart rate in Zone 2 the entire run.

  12. Daisy July 30, 2019 at 8:54 am #

    Hi Angie, I just started paying more attention to my heart rate lately and noticed that my heart rate is relatively very high during runs. I am never in zone 2 (Garmin watch) even when I just go for a casual run. Using the MAF seems a little difficult for me, because I am training for a Marathon in October and don’t have too much time. I ran a half marathon race two weeks ago and my average HR was 180 and the max was 196. It seemed very high however I did not feel too hard when I ran. But I am concerned if I can keep my HR at 180 for almost five hours for that Marathon.
    So when I only have 2.5 months training time for a Marathon, how should I adjust my high heart rate? Is it normal to have such high HR? Wondering if I should go see a doctor to have it checked?

    Thank you so much for your suggestions in advance! 🙂

    • Angie Spencer July 31, 2019 at 11:33 am #

      Hi Daisy, Great questions! It’s definitely wise to be paying attention to your heart rate so that you’re not causing undue stress. A couple things that could be causing a higher heart rate include possibly faulty readings (if you’re using a wrist based heart rate monitor this can sometimes be off). Another possibility is that you’re running too fast for long distance efforts (you may want to gauge your effort level as well). With Garmin watches the “easy” or MAF zone 2 calculations often range up into the middle of zone 3. When I do the MAF calculation my easy zone is 130-140 beats per minute (because I’m 40 years old) and this corresponds up to the middle of Zone 3 on my Garmin watch. It’s also a good idea to get regular physicals through your healthcare provider and see if they have any reasons for concern about your cardiovascular functioning. They may choose to order a stress test to see what healthy heart rate zones are for you.

  13. Andrew M Spence September 11, 2019 at 11:37 am #

    So I’ve been running semi-regularly off and on for around 7-8 years. After a really disappointing race this year where I ended up walking much of the last 10km and finished with 4hr 9min, I took a long hard look at my training and realised just how similar in HR and pace a lot of my runs tended to be. I decided to give Maffetone/Zone 2 a go- I started just doing 45mins to an hour, twice a week, alongside two shorter runs in zone 4/5 (one hilly, one flat and sprinting). The zone 2 runs were the hardest, and like others in this thread, I barely managed more than a walk before my HR shot up. But week on week, I’ve increased the distance, and after 4-6 weeks I finally started to see my speed increase too. After 8 weeks, I’ve gone from running 5-6 miles with a pace of 12-13min/miles, to running 13+miles with a pace of 10-11min/miles.

    I have a marathon in just over 5 weeks, so ill keep you posted on what (if any) effect the training has had!

    • Angie Spencer September 13, 2019 at 12:12 pm #

      Hey Andrew, thanks for sharing your experience with Zone 2 training. It sounds like taking the time to focus on endurance has really paid off in terms of your pace. Best of luck with your upcoming marathon!! Be sure and let us know how it goes 🙂

  14. Jeff October 10, 2019 at 5:25 pm #

    So I’ve just started with my MAF runs and I’ve done 5 four mile run. My high end HR is 127, so what I’ve been trying to do is “run” up to the 127 and then walk it back down to about 110. By doing that I can get maybe 50 feet of very slow running before I’m at 127 again. The problem is if I do that it goes over 127 almost every time. One of these 5 runs I decided to walk the whole time and not only was it easier to keep my HR under 127 but I actually finished 90 seconds faster than any of the runs that had actual running in them. Would it be better to just walk for now? I want to believe in this method and give it a shot but I’m torn because I can run 50k and 50 mile trail runs and cardio is never the reason those distances suck, it’s body pain.


    • Angie Spencer October 15, 2019 at 11:39 am #

      Hey Jeff, Good question! If you’re serious about giving MAF training a go then I’d recommend keeping your HR within Zone 2 for all your training for at least 3 months. Like you found out it’s often better to stick to walking if that’s what allows you to stay in that zone most consistently. You’ll still be getting the endurance benefit and should start to see a positive change. Good luck!

  15. Orlando December 9, 2019 at 3:03 pm #

    Highly appreciated post, Angie. I’ve recently started to focus on Zone 2 training as a launchpad for much larger goals. Actually, I’ve been trying to slow down for the last couple of months or so, but I’ve only monitored my heart rate for about 3 weeks. What an eye opener. Much like (apparently) everyone who tries this for the first time, I find it humbling/frustrating at times. I definitely have to walk periodically. However, I am working on trusting the process; we shall see where I am in 3 months or so!

    I hope you don’t mind the suggestion, but I am finding that Chi Running (Dan and Katherine Dreyer) is a valuable and compatible read – practically a “must read” if you really want to increase your efficiency and help ouch-proof your running. Incorporating even one or two cues can noticeably reduce your effort (obviously so, for me, considering heart rate). This has helped me to stick to Zone 2 more consistently, and I imagine that it can and does help many other runners do the same. I also want to specify, in light of your post and some of the comments here, that this makes my Zone 2 runs easier, period.

    I have to say, with the emphasis on Zone 2 in combination with form/focus tweaks gleaned from the book, I am feeling better than ever. I would love it if every runner could feel this, honestly.

    Ditto to whoever mentioned Run for Your Life!

    I also think that what you eat is a factor that some runners – but not enough – think about, in this context. I feel that the size and composition of meals (and timing beforehand!) may be very important factors that may impact heart rate, perceived effort, performance, and of course, how good you feel and how effectively you can direct your focus as needed to “stay in the zone”, literally and figuratively. There’s also the cumulative effect of long term eating habits, not to mention sleep and other factors, but by now you get the idea. I just think everyone can benefit from being more mindful in these complementary areas.

    Happy trails!

  16. Eric B Hamilton February 7, 2020 at 8:18 am #

    I am struggling the same way many others have staying in zone 2. However, I found that after speed work, running a really hard mile or 400s, my heart rate for an 8:30 mile is comfortably back inside the zone 2 range. Will I get the same benefits if I put one of my zone 2 runs each week after my speed work? I haven’t tried to see if it stays low for more than about 1/2 mile but am thinking about trying it if it provides the same benefits and helps get my zone 2 mileage higher. I hate the run/walk with heart rate constantly moving.

  17. Angie Spencer February 8, 2020 at 2:56 pm #

    Hey Eric, That’s an interesting observation. I think it’s a great practice to keep all “easy” paced runs in Zone 2. That way you know that you’re truly getting a good recovery run after doing speedwork.

  18. Mark February 29, 2020 at 6:13 am #

    A friend struggles with hi heart rate during any run at any pace. He has alot fast twitching muscle fibers. Hes been running 5 days a week for about 10 years. Averages 35 miles a week. His long run is 10 to 12 miles. He has very low body fat and more fast twitch muscle then most people. He gets frustrated because every single run his heart rate gets up to 170 to 180. Does anyone have any idea why his hr wont come down like a normal fit person. During races his hr gets up to, and sometimes over 200. Any ideas on how to help him or why this happens?

    • Angie Spencer March 4, 2020 at 6:13 pm #

      Hi Mark, That’s an interesting question. I don’t know of any research that correlates the amount of fast twitch muscle fibers with increased heart rate during exertion. It would be interesting to know what his resting heart rate is. Typically very fit people have lower resting heart rates. My recommendation would be for him to have an exercise stress test where an electrocardiograph measures the rhythm and electrical activity of the heart. That way he’d know if his higher heart rate is simply normal for him or a sign of the heart working harder because of a potential blockage.

      • James July 4, 2023 at 10:25 am #

        I have mostly fast twitch and I cannot jog (at a v slow pace) in Zone 2, I go to Zone 3 or mostly 4.

        My average RHR is around the 52 mark and can go down to upper 40s at times, 35 male here, and decently athletic.

        Can sprint pretty quick as well, and very agile (running and switching directions powerfully). Gym once or twice a week (almost full body workout, including strength training and sprint training) and soccer once a week (2 hour sesh)

        What I believe is the fatigue of type 2s kicking in early because they can’t last as long as type 1s (slow twitch), so the heart beats quicker to try to feed the mostly fast twitch muscles which are desperately producing energy via the glycolytic pathway (but far far less efficiently than slow twitch muscles which are more oxidative).

        Mostly fast twitch doesn’t mean zero slow twitch, but much lesser than average, but this ‘lesser’ is enough to create a performance gap compared to other people when it comes to longer distances beyond 500m (yes 500m is long for me when it’s jogging)

        Fast twitch muscles also have lesser capillarisation (less blood vessels) which likely means at rest there is less need for the heart to pump blood that much. A stronger heart further lowers the RHR. But at the sign of any physical movement then the HR will spike and plateau until a higher level of intensity is reached or the more involved the person’s muscles (moving an arm uses less muscles than standing up for eg)

        Jogging uses a lot of different muscles all over so the heart has a lot of muscles to feed (and considering the lower capillarisation of such muscles in general), plus more fast twitch (fatiguing easily, and glycolytic pathway which is bad at energy production) and fewer slow twitch (more efficient oxidation pathway for energy) which means the heart pumps faster even if the heart is strong

  19. Sasha Friedman December 9, 2020 at 11:12 am #

    I just tried MAF method and walking slow kept my heart rate well over the MAF threshold the entire time. I would literally have to walk at a snail’s pace, a pace I could walk all day and not get tired. And I mean literally all day. This can’t be right. There must be some individuals that need some modifications to his formula. Thoughts?

    • Angie Spencer December 9, 2020 at 2:24 pm #

      Hi Sasha, It can be frustrating to experiment with MAF and find that you have to maintain a very slow pace to stay within the heart rate parameters. If you head over to the MAF website he explains the reasoning behind the numbers and reasons to either add or subtract to your threshold numbers: https://philmaffetone.com/180-formula/ Some people find that they get inaccurate numbers when using a wrist based heart rate as opposed to the more accurate chest straps. That may be something that you want to consider as well. Good luck!

  20. Jason January 11, 2021 at 6:37 am #

    I took up running last year as an alternative to keeping fit, as lockdown made it hard to keep a consistent gym routine. Initially I just started like most people, going out the door and running to hit a certain distance. Eventually managed to get my 10km to around 56mins, which for someone who hated running and was never a long distance runner was a small milestone for myself. I decided to set a target of trying to get a sub 50min 10km, and sub 23mins 5km, and hopefully just complete a half marathon distance in a reasonable time (sub 2hours).

    I started to research better training method and came across zone 2 training. My initial problem was working out my MHR. When using a Polar vantage M and pushing to run at my hardest with a sprint finish last 200 metres over a 5km, recorded my max heart rate as being 204. Then when doing interval training previously, I found the polar vantage m wasn’t really too accurate, especially when changing training zones. Decided to purchase a Polar H9 heart rate monitor and recorded my MHR during interval training over 30mins as being 194. So decided to use this as my MHR instead for calculating my zone 2 training.

    Like the majority of people I found that when I started the zone 2 training I had to alternate between a fast walk, and very slow run to keep in zone 2. I then did more research and read up on the maffetone training method. At 34 my Maffetone zone 2 max is around 145, with the adjustments. My current heart rate zone 2 that the Polar flow app works out for me is 132. For me there’s a big difference between running below 145 MHR or running below 132 MHR, and not sure which is the best to use.

    After a month of doing this low heart rate training, I am now able to keep at a very slow run (still painfully slow) without needing to walk if sticking to zone 2, 132MHR. But I am still deciding if I should go for the Maffetone rate, 145, and do most of my runs targeting this zone, or aim for the lower 132. My long runs are currently between 2hour 30mins to 3 hours.

    Any idea what would be best?


  21. Angie Spencer January 11, 2021 at 12:52 pm #

    It’s wonderful to hear that you’ve been able to really get into running during the last few months and make such great progress. I’m sure you’ve made gains in your endurance using the MHR of 132. However at your age and with your current running base I’d recommend that you try using the MAF method for three months and see how that works for you. With your age the range would be 135-145 BPM and that will provide a bit more leeway in your pace which should equate to more progress. Before you start do the MAF Test and then regularly evaluate so that you can track your progress. More about that here: https://philmaffetone.com/maf-test/ Keep up the great work!

    • Jason January 12, 2021 at 6:36 am #

      Thanks for your advice Angie. I’ll give the MAF method a try for a few months.

  22. Nishad February 14, 2021 at 12:28 am #

    Thoroughly enjoyed the article, too bad I didn’t come across it earlier but I guess it’s better late than never.

    I’ve been running for a couple of years now. I transitioned from weightlifting to running where I currently run 4-5 days a week (50-55km) and do a full body workout twice a week. My initial goal was to complete a half marathon, which I did in about 1 hr 57 mins last year. Since then I’ve been able to reduce around 10 mins from my time. But I never tried MAF only until a month ago due to an injury. I totally understand and feel the benefits in terms of impact on the body from running at extremely slow paces. My HR for a HM is around 162 BPM (race pace 5.10 min/km) and when I’m doing MAF (7.10min/km) is also around the same probably just under 160 BPM at times. I normally do 3 MAF runs (60-75 mins) and 2 interval runs (1km and 800m).

    Based on MAF my HR should be 141bpm. What I’m interested to know is if I should completely shift to MAF only training for 3 months ? Or have a mix 80/20 inteval training ? I’d really like some guidance on how I can apply MAF for long term benefits and also on altering training schedule for a race.

    Thanks a lot, will definitely be listening to the podcasts too now.

    • Angie Spencer February 19, 2021 at 12:22 pm #

      Hi Nishad, Thanks for being a listener! It’s awesome to hear that you’ve been able to build a solid running base and finish a half marathon last year. It’s good that you’re investigating ways to increase your cardiovascular endurance through heart rate training. I typically advise runners to devote a solid 3 months to doing MAF training (including doing the baseline and monthly time trials to measure progress). Then if you’ve noticed progress it may be a good time to shift to a training plan that includes both easy runs (which you can do in Zone 2) and focused speed workouts. Having that balance can be a great way to get faster and still recover well. Good luck!

  23. David March 1, 2021 at 12:21 pm #

    Hi. I’m interested at what approximate pace we should be running the run segemnts. I’ve just started and to stay in heart rate zone 2 its literally 30 secs segments. I thought it would be a couple of minutes. Perhaps i was running to fast? it ended up about 11min miles overall and a bit faster downhill. My 10km race pace is about 7 min/M and easy pace about 9min/M im not sure what pace i was actually running at, as I had my garmins watch face set to heart rate and heart rate alerts (programmed workout using heart rate). I’m guessing about 8min/M. Does it matter what pace you run at as it means your running a shorter time before having to start walking again so overall intensity is maybe the same? but it does feel very stop start.

    • Angie Spencer March 2, 2021 at 1:55 pm #

      Hey David, Good question! You may want to experiment slowing your pace down a bit so that you can spend more time on the run intervals and less time walking. That will most likely be the best route to building more endurance at a lower heart rate. The pace you have to maintain to stay in Zone 2 will vary depending on an number of factors including how well rested you are, how much caffeine you’ve had, temperature, and if you’re on a hilly course, etc. Good luck!

  24. Uttam Khatri March 24, 2021 at 10:04 am #

    Maf hr falls in the middle of z3 in garmin. Shall I change the zones in garmin to make 180 minus age I.e. 40 in my case as the top end of Zone 2?

    • Angie Spencer March 24, 2021 at 1:09 pm #

      Good question! You could certainly reset your Garmin Zone 2 to reflect your MAF numbers if that makes it easier for you. Or when you run you can set your watch readout to reflect heart rate and just make sure that your numbers stay within your MAF settings.

  25. Arielle Luder April 1, 2021 at 4:54 am #

    hey angie, my fast runs for a 10k are at about a 5:39 pace with a 172 HR. so i am trying to do zone2 runs to be around the 155 HR but i literally have to go at a 8:11min/km pace which is sooo painfully boring.. it seems crazy that my HR is still that high when going SO slow.. i dont know how to properly do this and why my HR is so high.. what are your thoughts?

    • Angie Spencer April 1, 2021 at 1:02 pm #

      Thanks for the question! You’re experiencing something that every person who has done Zone 2 runs deals with. It feels so slow and frustrating to keep the heart rate in that zone. Many runners have to walk a considerable amount of time (or do frequent run/walk intervals) to keep their heart rate down. There are a variety of reasons why runners deal with a high heart rate even at slower speeds. Some of these include: overall stress level, amount of sleep you’re getting, caffeine intake, certain foods and medications, not including enough easy runs, lack of recovery, history of injury, the hormonal cycle, weather, and more. The good news is that most people who go through the process of implementing Zone 2 training gain more endurance and eventually get faster…but it takes time and patience. If you’re interested in seriously pursuing it I’d encourage you to use the Maffetone Method where you do a baseline fitness test and then retest every month. Here’s the link which explains more: https://philmaffetone.com/maf-test/

  26. Alex June 25, 2021 at 6:12 am #

    olo matong

  27. Eola October 27, 2021 at 12:25 pm #

    Hi Angie. I started my MAF training about 2 months ago and have seen progress by running steadily within my MAF zone (112-122). Most of my runs have been within the range of 96-99% of my MAF range, with very little time spent above that. By now I don’t doubt this method really works, but I was wondering if there’s a minimum volume of running within MAF zone for the adaptations to occur. In other words, would a run within 75% of the MAF zone still produce any adaptations at all or should I strive to be all the time near the top end of my MAF for the magic to happen? Many thanks! x

  28. Angie Spencer November 2, 2021 at 1:51 pm #

    It’s fantastic to hear that you’ve noticed progress two months into your MAF journey. My understanding is that optimal adaptations are taking place as long as you keep your heart rate in the correct zone. But I haven’t done enough research to determine if being at the top or bottom of that zone is more optimal. That may be a good question to ask Dr. Maffetone over on his website. Keep up the great work!

  29. Lauren T` February 8, 2022 at 4:40 pm #

    Hi Angie! I really appreciate all of the comments and your helpful responses to them!

    I just started MAF running yesterday and I was able to stay in my zone (126-136), but I was running at a walking pace of 17:48 average! Its painful, but I am excited to see where this goes! Since this is an 80/20 thing, do you know if I should plan on doing one speed workout a week? Thanks!

    • Angie Spencer February 9, 2022 at 12:30 pm #

      Hi Lauren, Way to go with your first MAF run/walk. It is a bit frustrating at first because most runners have to slow WAY down. But it definitely pays off. There are a couple different ways to approach MAF/Zone 2 training. The first is to do 100% of your workouts at MAF and reassess monthly. Most people end up using this method for 3-4 months (this was the approach I took when I first tried it). The other approach is 80/20. You do MAF for 80% of your training and incorporate a speed workout during the week as well. This approach can be helpful if you’re training for a specific race and want to keep doing some speed work. It’s really personal choice. I stay in Zone 2 for all my “easy” runs and find it gives me accountability to truly keep my easy runs easy. Keep up the great work 🙂

  30. Lewis Murphy parry March 4, 2022 at 5:42 am #

    Hi Angie,

    I’m wondering if you could help with my confusion. I am just getting into zone 2 work and I’m struggling with all the variety of definitions. My polar heart rate monitor puts me at max end of zone 2 at 136BPM. However 180-27(my age) = 153.

    If I went at 153 I’d be well into zone 3 on my polar monitor?

    Any clarification would be amazing.


    • Angie Spencer March 7, 2022 at 11:33 am #

      Hi Lewis, Great question! As you’ve noticed different watches and apps use various numbers to calculate the heart rate zones. The only truly accurate way to get your individualized heart rate zones is to do a treadmill test in an exercise laboratory. Since that’s not an option for most people the key is to choose a system to use and stick with it. If you feel most comfortable using the Polar numbers then by all means use that for your Zone 2 training (although it does seem to be on the conservative side). I always use the MAF numbers to calculate my zones (180-age=upper range of Zone 2). If you chose to use MAF your Zone 2 range would be 143-153 bpm which would give you a bit more flexibility. Hope that helps!

      • Lewis March 9, 2022 at 2:19 am #

        Thanks so much. So just to confirm, based on MAF, if my max heart rate was 193, my upper end of my zone 2 would be 80% of my max heart rate?

  31. Lewis March 9, 2022 at 2:20 am #

    Thanks so much. So just to confirm, based on MAF, if my max heart rate was 193, my upper end of my zone 2 would be 80% of my max heart rate?

  32. Molly June 7, 2022 at 9:51 am #

    Hi Angie,

    Is there a recommendation for how often/how long we should be training a week? For example, should we do MAF training 30 min for 3 days a week, totaling 90 min a week? Is there a better recommendation?

    This thread has been very helpful! I have attempted MAF training in the past, but I have not been patient enough to stick with it. I always end up running instead of walking which results in my heart rate being too high. After reading this thread, I now realize how common this is so wish me luck as I test my patience for the next 3 months.

    Thank you in advance!

    • Molly June 7, 2022 at 10:04 am #

      Oh – I just thought of another question! Would I see the same results if I were to sub a run for a bike ride? Or should I stick to runs only?

    • Angie Spencer June 8, 2022 at 12:30 pm #

      Hey Molly, Great questions! It is very hard to be patient with the process. The amount of training that you do every week would depend on your goals. For example, someone focusing on general fitness would keep their running or cardio on the shorter side while someone training for a marathon will be putting in more frequency and time. You can definitely substitute cycling, swimming, etc for runs as long as you keep within the heart rate parameters. However if you’re wanting to maintain running fitness I’d recommend at least 2-3 run/walk sessions per week. Hope that helps!

    • Diana October 16, 2023 at 12:59 pm #

      This is a really old thread, but in case anyone comes across it, there’s some talk from Peter Attia (seen in this interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l-_c8kcfR4) that the “minimum effective dose” for Zone 2 running is 45-60 minutes per week, at least 3 times per week. If your runs are shorter duration than that, your body isn’t being pushed into mitochondrial production.

  33. Robert May 14, 2024 at 5:46 am #

    Hello. Seasoned runner here (multiple half marathons, spring triathlons, etc) getting back into it after a year off.
    At 45 years old, trying to stay in zone 2, using Garmin Forerunner 165 for HR tracking, using MAF, my upper zone 2 is 135, if I calculated that correctly.
    Here’s my problem: starting out back in January this year, my easy run pace was 10:30/mile. But my HR was in the 165-175 range at that pace and I was exhausted after each 3-4 mile run. (I used to run 9:00/miles 5-6 years ago).
    So I did some research and came across Z2 training, and decided to try it. I’m struggling to stay in Z2! Even an easy trot at 12:30/mile keeps my HR in the 155-160 range. A brisk walk will keep it 140-145.
    I had a recent check up with my doc, and I’m in good health.
    I will say that 12:30/11:30/miles are super easy and I feel fine after, not exhausted or anything.
    Is there skew from my watch HR tracking, or am I just dealing with the effects of middle age and I truly am out of shape with my cardio?
    Weekly distances: M-4, T-4, Th-4, Sa-6.
    Any recommendations would be welcome!
    Thank you!

  34. Angie Spencer May 23, 2024 at 12:24 pm #

    Hi Robert, It’s great to hear that you’re back to training and working on your endurance using MAF. What you’ve noticed about your heart rate being difficult to keep in Zone 2 is very common. 100% of people that I’ve worked with have had this same trouble in the beginning and have had to add in regular walk breaks to stay in their target HR zone. Most runners (even those who haven’t taken a break) tend to do most of their runs in the “grey” zone (not truly a recovery zone and also not the speed building zone). So you’re not alone. I’m not sure if you’re using a wrist based heart rate monitor or chest strap but you can get some skewed numbers from solely using wrist heart rate monitors. It might be worthwhile to invest in a chest strap while you’re continuing to use MAF. The positive thing is that most runners see significant progress in their endurance after doing MAF for 3-6 months. After that point many continue to use Zone 2 only during their easy or recovery runs. Keep up the good work!

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