Zone 1

What does Zone 1 mean?
Wes Kimball

Today we take a departure from the normal grind of heavy sweating and panting to partake in some nice leisurely activity. Today’s training session is what we like to call is Zone 1 (Z1) work. We were first turned on to the concept and its benefits by James Fitzgerald of Optimum Performance Training, but it is perhaps the worlds oldest form of “exercise”. So, what exactly is this Zone 1 we speak of?

First off, the super technical definition is as follows: Zone 1 work is “low level aerobic activity that involves working at 55 to 75% of your maximum heart rate”.

Now, let’s keep things simple and more specific to what we want to accomplish with this definition of Zone 1:“Physical activity that is restorative to the mind, body, and spirit while adding little to no physical stress”.

We live in a work hard, play hard culture. Even in the context of fitness we tend to live in extremes by coming in for :60 – :90 intense exercise sessions followed by hours on end of sitting in front of computer and tv screens. Z1 work adds balance to our training and pushes us into the habit of an active “lifestyle”, not just extreme :60 exercisers. So, here is what you need to know about Z1.

1.) What activities are Z1? Activities that are not stressful. Much of the knock of long slow distance (LSD) training is rooted in running. Due to the stress running, and even jogging, puts on the joints, running does not qualify as a good Z1 activity. However, a great alternative would be a hike, providing a low level of impact, and if elevation is involved, there is a greater range of motion, and far better scenery than running around the CFA building can provide, unfortunately. Some of my other personal favorites are: Leisurely bike rides, easy swims, shooting hoops, or just good ole fashioned yard work.

2.) How long do I do it for? Well, this will depend with most on where a person stands in their personal fitness journey. For example, a severely deconditioned person may walk for 20 minutes and have all the after effects that a well-conditioned person would feel after a very intense training session. In general, for folks that are training hard 3x-4x a week, 60 to 90 minutes of Z1 work twice a week will be beneficial.

3.) But this is boring, can I make it more intense? No. The whole point of Z1 work is to facilitate restoration (remember mind, body and spirit). So, opting for more “intense” (read: stressful) training on off days defeats the whole purpose. Z1 work can be perceived as boring especially if it is always done alone. I personally prefer Z1 work with a partner (wife, friend, or family member), it is a great “healthy” social activity, and also a great introduction to exercise for folks in your life that are intimidated to start improving their fitness level.

There is a whole spectrum of things that we could consider Z1 training with a myriad of benefits, so hit me up with questions in the comments!

“People only do their best at things they truly enjoy.” -Jack Nicklaus