Can I achieve the same central conditioning through Zone 2 in any activity type?

Hi There,

New to this forum after discovering the site via the Podcasts last week. Loving it!
So, I am very early on in my understanding, and therefore this may be a very simplistic question.

I have long respected the value in Zone 2 training as part of a (5 zone) polarized plan. But if I am honest, until I read this article last week The Science Behind Going Slow to Be Fast - Fast Talk Laboratories
and I hadn’t quite understood the principles behind it. I just took confidence that scientific studies had proven it’s effectiveness.
But now I understand that zone 2 training is about central conditioning, and looking to train stroke volume, as the foundation for peripheral conditioning.
And the article makes it super clear why you can get adaptations at lower intensity.

I am a cyclist, training for a 200km gravel race.
My question is - if I walk for an hour, at the same Z2 heart rate - will I gain the same value to my stroke volume as if it were an equivalent time and extertion on the bike?
I assume so!?
And therefore, during my week, if I am looking to get 10 hours of Z2 work, can I count my Z2 walking as part of that training?

The reason I ask is that I always have to walk the dog, and sometimes find it tricky to fit in a Z2 ride on the turbo trainer every day.

Many thanks

I stopped doing recovery rides and enjoy walking instead as I find it more benficial from a recovery standpoint. I wouldn’t have thought walking will give much in the way of zone 2 training benefit unless it becomes more of a run/jog though

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Welcome! I’m glad your enjoying Fast Talk.

Regarding central conditioning, I’d say for all intents and purposes the stimulus for adaptation of central components is similar across different sport disciplines for the same “zone”.

Peripheral stimulus for adaptation can be complimentary, but it depends on the different chosen sport disciplines.

However, the heart rate zones are not universal across sports. Back when I was doing a lot of running and cycling lactate testing for athletes I would routinely see running training zones being 5 to 10 beats higher than cycling.

I would suspect that for walking, you may need to push the pace a bit beyond your cycling heart rate zones to achieve a stimulus for adaptation. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you would be hard pressed to be above zone 2 for any walk on flat ground without breaking into a run. Hills, obviously, are another matter!

Great question. Looking forward to more.


Thanks very much Rob.
All very useful extra info.
I live in a town in Southern England that is surrounded by small hills. I wear a Garmin to track my activities (as part of my health insurance plan) so I monitor what HR I average on a walk. I can design my walks to keep at my Z2 HR pace pretty well as an average - but just like cycling, it’s the hills that make it tricky to keep a constant effort, so probably very marginal in terms of the walks being part of a training plan.
Thanks again

Welcome @alistair.banks !

When training, you are always training three things:

  • the cardiovascular system
  • the muscles
  • energy system(s)

The cardio (heart) is trained regardless the modality (the specific sport). But as @robpickels points out, the modality may have different effects due to various reasons such as the effect of gravity, number of muscles in use, the size of the muscles and probably 10 other factors → Check out what happens to your heart rate if you transition from ‘leaning on the handlebar’ to sitting upright. The heart needs to work harder to pump blood to your head → HR will rise.

The vascular part refers to blood vessels / blood supply to the muscles. This is sport specific. You need to develop the vessels and capillaries in the muscles you need for your primary sport.

The muscles are also sports specific. Your legs won’t get stronger if you curl your biceps :slight_smile:

Energy conversion (fat to useable energy) is done through cells (mitochondria) you can develop in size, efficiency and number. As these are located in the muscle, you need to train ‘those’ muscles to develop the mitochondria.

In conclusion: you can train cardio (stroke volume) in many sports, but you will not see the same improvement in the muscle endurance you need for cycling.
You can recognise that condition by ‘feeling you have more to offer’ (central) but your legs do not comply (peripheral fatigue).

The same thing happens when you do a lot of aerobic training. You can’t sprint very good because you haven’t trained the relevant muscles. And if you trained a lot anaerobically, your aerobic endurance suffers for under developed mitochondria.


Ha, I’m hard pressed to get out of Z1 walking on flat ground.

My favorite training partner and i did an inscyd test together. We both finish a 1 hour uphill TT at the same time but he weighs 20kg less has a vlamax of 0.3 vs. my 0.6 and has a lower V02max. Each year as we train he always talks about his super high heart rate and I make fun of him for never trying hard on a session because he always has something in the tank later… And he always makes fun of me for sandbagging because of my super low HR and complaining that my legs are burning.

Besides one of us being more of a sprinter the other main difference between us is that I do more training by 30-50% (between multiple sports). So be careful of what you wish for or you might end up like a triathlete; good but not great in many sports :slight_smile: