Debbie Potts Coaching

Is Zone 2 the same as MAF Training?

Everyone on podcasts and blogs are talking about this “new” trend in ZONE TWO TRAINING!

What is the deal?

Do they not know that we, endurance athletes, have been talking about Zone 1/2 training and metabolic efficiency to improve fat oxidation for 25 years or more? 

Look at what we talk about all the time and my clients use to bulid their foundation… The MAF Method.


The 3 Steps for MAF Training

“Devised by Dr. Philip Maffetone based on 40 years of clinical and scientific research, the MAF Method helps walkers, runners, cyclists and elite athletes of all ages and ability to reach their full human potential.”

The method is focussed on exercise, nutrition and stress – the 3 forces that exert the most influence to achieving optimal health and fitness.

Exercise:  MAF uses heart-rate training to build your fat-burning engine.
Nutrition:  MAF will tell you exactly what foods to eat and what foods to avoid.
Stress: MAF analyzes physical, biochemical and mental-emotional stress

What is the MAF Formula?

The MAF 180 Formula:
Determining your MAF HR
1. Subtract your age from 180.

2. Modify this number by choosing one category below that best applies to you:
a. If you have or are recovering from a major illness (including any operation or hospital stay), are in rehabilitation, have been prescribed
any regular medication, or are chronically overtrained, subtract an additional 10.

b. If you are injured, have regressed or not improved in training (such as poor MAF Tests) or competition, get more than two colds, flu
or other infections per year, have seasonal allergies or asthma, are overfat, are acutely overtraining, or if you have been inconsistent, just
beginning or returning to exercise, subtract an additional 5.

c. If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems mentioned in a) or b),
no modification is necessary (use 180 minus age as your MAF HR). d. If you have been training for more than two years without any of
the problems listed above, have made progress in your MAF Tests, and have improved competitively, add 5.
The resulting HR is the high end of the HR range with the low being 10 beats below.

For example, a 40-year old in category b) would have an exercise range of 125-135 bpm. Users can self-select any intensity within this range.
While the 180 Formula is best known for guiding aerobic exercise, initially it was for used for weight- and fat-loss. It soon became popular with athletes
in virtually all sports to boost performance (including use with performance horses beginning in the early 1980s), and continues to help virtually all types
of people monitor their heart rate. Success is demonstrated by increased  fat-burning, improved health, and the ability of athletes to run, bike and
otherwise perform at faster paces and increased power at the same MAF HR as determined by the 180 Formula.

Now what is ZONE TWO Training? 

Zone 2 is one of five heart rate zones you can enter when training. It usually refers to intensities where your heart rate is 60-70% of your maximum, with most athletes choosing cardiovascular exercises like walking, running, cycling and swimming to achieve this.

  • Zone 1: 50-60% of maximum heart rate
  • Zone 2: 60-70% of maximum heart rate
  • Zone 3: 70-80% of maximum heart rate
  • Zone 4: 80-90% of maximum heart rate
  • Zone 5: 90-100% of maximum heart rate

This training method has many benefits, from enhancing athletic performance and overall health to improving body composition – when twinned with an appropriate diet.

“Long zone 1 and 2 sessions are critical for athletes to build their aerobic base,” Luks says. “When considering the epic proportions of disease that people are contending with now, low heart rate activities are crucial to building mitochondrial flexibility and improving metabolic health.”

Heart Rate Training Zone 2

60-70% of Heart Rate Max 

What is Zone 2 Training?

Zone 2 training is typically the lowest zone used for training purposes. Think of it as going for a jog while you can still hold a conversation – somewhere between 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. The purpose behind Zone 2 training is to be able to sustain a pace just below your aerobic threshold for 30+ minutes.

How to Calculate Zone 2 Threshold

What and Why should we train low?

Zone Two Training or level 2 endurance training is at the “correct physiological stress, i.e. below the first ventilatory (or aerobic) threshold. The reasons that this is so important are both from an adaptation perspective (i.e. ensuring we are making the correct physiological adaptations), but also from an overall physiological stress, which effects our ability to train consistently well.”

Lessons for training programming

For us as long-distance triathletes, this study helps justify two things: (i) keeping low-intensity training exactly that – low intensity, and (ii) the importance of the aerobic threshold as a concept for endurance athletes. The data described in this study neatly shows that the aerobic threshold defines the highest intensity at which essentially minimal autonomic disturbance is induced, with training performed above this intensity resulting in disruption to cardiac autonomic balance. 

This means that low-intensity training, that is truly of low intensity or below the aerobic threshold, should form the majority of our overall training load and all of the training between specific ‘key’ high-intensity workouts (in LDT 102 we will explore how this information should be used to structure specific training weeks). This is because training sessions performed below the aerobic threshold are not physiologically stressful to a degree that is going to hamper recovery and readiness to perform those key sessions later in the week. Chronically training above the aerobic threshold, a common mistake amongst long-distance triathletes, impairs our ability to go hard in our high-intensity workouts. The result is non-functional overreaching and overtraining on just a few hours of training each week. 

Easy should be easy, so that hard can be hard!  Learn more from the courses in EndureIQ!

Read about the study here

What is the 80/20 Polarized Training?

Here is a study on Cross Country Skiers…

Training Program

POL training utilized the training program suggested for existing cross-country athletes [,,,]. The Polarized training method is a training method that performs 70–80% of the total amount of exercise at low intensity (HRmax 65–80%), 5–10% at middle intensity (HRmax 80~88%), and the remaining 15–20% at high intensity (HRmax 88~100%). It is the training method that achieves possibly the greatest improvement in the key variables related to the endurance performance of athletes [,]. For strength training, low weight and high repetitions were performed, focusing on the tissue adaptation period which accounts for 18% of the total training volume. The detailed training program is shown in Table 2.

What about the female athlete in peri or post menopause?

The researchers concluded that perimenopausal women may be able to avoid the loss of fat-free mass and unfavorable metabolic changes by engaging in activities that help maintain muscle mass and fat-burning capacity such as resistance training and focusing on HIIT training.

I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I tell the perimenopausal women I work with that if they do nothing else, they should lift heavy sh*t. You need that strong stimulus to maintain muscle as your hormone levels fluctuate and decline. Muscle cell studies show that when researchers take estrogen away from animals, their ability to regenerate muscle stem cells can drop 30 to 60 percent. Muscle biopsies in women during the menopause transition show the same thing. Resistance training that includes heavy lifting stimulates those cells and helps you maintain that muscle. Ideally, you should be lifting three days a week. (If you’re an endurance athlete, you can lift twice a week in season.)

I also recommend sprint interval training—super short 10 to 30 second all-out efforts—for women in the menopause transition as a way to maintain fat-burning metabolism and body composition. Many of my clients do their heavy lifting and sprint sessions on the same day with plenty of recovery between these hard days!

On a nutritional note, the perimenopausal women in this study also ate the least amount of protein, 64 grams (which is about 20 grams per meal) a day, compared to 71 grams among the premenopausal and 67 grams among the postmenopausal women. I’d tell them all to eat more protein, but especially the women in and through the menopause transition, because they absolutely need it to maintain muscle. Active women should aim for at least 1.8 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram a day, which is about 30 grams at each meal, and 15 to 20 grams with snacks.

Once again, it’s never the wrong time of your life to incorporate heavy lifting and high-intensity exercise and to boost your protein intake. But if you want to have the biggest impact on your metabolism and body composition as you reach menopause and beyond, starting early in your transition may be the most effective strategy.  –

So how should you fuel and train so you perform your best in life and sports?


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