Perhaps you've heard about cardio "zones".
You may have even heard me harp on the importance of steady-stage cardio more than once.
Well guess what, it's for good reason!
Zone 2 cardio is sustained cardiovascular effort that is typically 60-75% of your max heart rate (give or take a little for everyone.)
Let's breakdown why this is important, how to determine your zone, and how much you should get in every week!
How do I find my Zone 2?
I like an easy rule of thumb. So unless you are training for elite competition or have a need for a number that is much more specific to your body, the simplest way to determine your Zone 2 is to start with your heart rate max.
Your heart rate max is 220 - your age. So if you're 37 years old, the maximum heart rate you should acheive during exercise - AGAIN give or take as there is always some fluctuation - would be 183.
To get your Zone 2, multiple that number by .7 and in this instance the Zone 2 is roughly 128. Staying within 10 BPM of that number during your Zone 2 workout would be the goal.
What is moderate, Zone 2 work? And, Why?
There is a time and a place for HIIT - especially if you want to work with training at higher intensity thresholds, you're short on time, you want to spice up your metabolism, or you want to improve your heart-rate recovery. But unlike HITT, Zone 2 cardio is working with a steady-state of moderate cardio.
The endurance factor of Zone 2 is one of its best benefits. You are literally strengthening your heart, and helping your body adjust and become more comfortable with the discomfort of sustained effort - without completely draining yourself.
The way you burn fuel in Zone 2 is also beneficial and efficient. When you are in a cardiovascular state your body is going to demand more oxygen. This is ideal for the body. It also has an easier time burning up easily available glycogen stores, and because of the sustained effort move on to also burning fat reserves.
The intensity is achievable, and you will be less prone to injury. Regularly getting in a brisk power walk, jog, swim, or cycle for 30 sustained minutes will acclimate you to developing more durable joints (go for lower impact if your joints are already tender) and it gives you a break from high-impact work like plyometrics, or exercises that demand quick directional changes that you might engaged with during more focused athletic conditioning workouts.
How much Zone 2?
It really seems like we need to do everything, all the time, doesn't it?
I hear that! How could you possible lift 2-3x per week, and get Zone 2, and engage in Yoga & Meditation -- and live your life?
Well think of Zone 2 as something that can stand alone, or in combination.
A rule of thumb for cardio is typically "elevate your heart rate for 30m/day, 5 days per week" But, guess what? There are lots of ways to get your heart in the Zone. You don't always have to do an hour long workout, and there are a lot of ways to get your heart rate up that don't include running. You might be surprised!
Some ideas to keep your heart in the mix:
Remember, we train for our game, and we cross-train to prevent injury.
So if you love Vinyasa Yoga you will need to incorporate some structure to offset its repetitive motions in end-range positions. If you love to run, you'll probably need to incorporate some stretching and conditioning days that get you moving in different directions. And, if you love to lift heavy, you may need to make an extra effort to get cardio and mobility training in to prevent injury.
Plan for your week, and don't skip your Zone 2.
This body sigh or physiological sigh is a pranayama practice PERFECT for when you are feeling stressed, anxious, out of breath, or just plain tired. It's resets the nervous system, improves breathing efficiency of both taking in the good and letting go of the bad, and can help improve your mood. Perhaps you've heard of it from popular podcasts - like the Huberman Lab. It's much like many pranayama practices we already work with in Yoga.
The basics of this breathwork are:
Step 1: Inhale (nose)
Step 2: Sharp Second Inhale (nose)
Step 3: Long slow (mouth)
When you exercise your breath this way you are working with both sides of the nervous system, stimulating the vagus nerve, and it utilizes more of our lungs' capacity to deeply take in oxygen and more efficiently let go of carbon dioxide.
The inhales are stimulating and opening for the lungs getting in more O2
The exhales are relaxing, and allow for a long release of CO2.
Inhale, big sniff, exhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaale.
Inhale, big sniff, exhaaaaaaaaaaaaale.
Inhale, big sniff, exhaaaaaaaaaaale.
Inhale, big sniff, exhaaaaaaaaaaale.
Maybe you have heard that chaturanga dandasana translates to four-limbed staff pose and is essentially a plank variation. Perhaps you have heard this pose referred to a tricep-pushup. That's not necessarily wrong.
But you will hasten your progress, and build more durable joints that don't result in injury and pain when you start incorporating conditioning to your yoga practice.
In my experience as a yoga teacher, and in my own personal practice, vigorous daily vinyasa yoga without also paying attention to other ways to strengthen joints results in overuse, inflammation, and pain.
A lot of people want to do what they 'like', and want to know 'which is better for ....'.
My answers often, at first, may feel frustrating if you don't haven't developed a good cross-training routine.
Do what you like - often, but also do what you NEED - regularly. Discipline is as fun as our attitude allows it to be. Motion towards action is a lot better than letting our mood dictate action.
No exercise is necessary 'better for' anything when its the only thing you're doing. Athletes cross-train for a reason. This is why you need to train-for-your-game. If you are a distance runner, you spend a lot of time running. But you don't only run distances. If you want to be better at vinyasa yoga, handstands, planks, and arm balances - then you need to both practice for them AND condition your body to stay flexible and durable. Often the conditioning and cross-training don't look like your favorite classes.
So here are some conditioning exercises you can rotate into your week to improve your skills in planks, and arm balances - keeping your shoulders strong and healthy.
COOL DOWN & MOBILITY
Let me know if you loved this workout! If so, I'll film it so we can do it together and continue to build our strength.
I've been paying attention to my protein goals a lot more in the past 4 years. An increase in strength training, the fact that I am in my late thirties, and now pregnancy, are all reasons why this has been an important part of my health and wellbeing.
I also don't tolerate dairy very well, and I don't eat much meat. I was vegan for many years, but have never really been much for labels. Because I avoid most dairy and I still don't eat beef or pork products I have had to learn a lot about quality sources of protein, and easy ways to incorporate them into meals.
So I'd love to share my tips with you for delicious and satisfying ways to increase protein intake.
10. Not All Protein Powders Are Created Equal
Because I cannot do whey, I am a big fan of Organic Pea Protein and Organic Soy Proteins. (No, I'm not scared of soy.)
Get UNSWEETENED protein - not "sugar free." Sugar-free varieties have a lot of other crappy artificial sweeteners and they taste horrible.
When you get plain, unsweetened protein powders you are in control of the recipe. You can add them to sweet and savory options. Plus you won't get the nasty stevia aftertaste.
9. Get Creative With Eggs
Egg crepe wraps.
Eggs are incredibly versatile. Typically when I meet someone who doesn't like eggs they don't like eggs for breakfast, like a over-medium runny egg yolk, or they are avoid the rubbery the texture of boiled eggs.
But, when you start to approach egg as a super-food INGREDIENT you learn that eggs have a lot of function in recipe. They bind. They fluff. They offer flavor, and they also pick up flavor. Eggs can be sweet and they can be savory.
8. Do Your Research on Vegan Yogurts (or go Dairy)
Most dairy-free yogurts have very little protein in it. When it comes to alternative dairy, you really have to read the label. I have been lucky to find a go-to at my local HEB. It's creamy, tangy, delicious, and has a good amount of protein and fat. I doesn't get watery like other vegan yogurts.
So, if you're in Texas grab yourself this yogurt.
If you're not READ THE LABELS.
And if you can find your favorite dairy yogurt.
7. Don't Just Eat Chicken Breast. Explore the Bird!
If you're strictly vegan or vegetarian, skip this tip.
If you're not I want to tell you to branch out from the boneless, skinless chicken breast. Yes, it is less fattening than skin-on, and dark meat options. It also gets bland, and boring very fast. That's a recipe for boring.
I personally love to get thighs and drummies (organic whenever available, and skin on.). They are almost always less expensive, and I prefer the taste.
Fat is flavor, but maybe you don't want all of it. I suggest using a wire rack in your trusty Instapot. During the poultry setting much of the fat will render off the cut of meat, and the rack helps the chicken not cook in too much of it's own juices. The meat stays tender, but some of the unnecessary fat is caught below the rack.
From there you can transfer the thighs to finish in a cast-iron pan (skin side down for crispy!) Or, remove the meat and shred it up. You can use the shredded dark meat for salads, tacos, bbq sandwiches - you name it.
6. Consider Non-Breakfast Foods for Breakfast
Sometimes breakfast can leave us grabbing for the simplest thing - bowl of sugary cereal, a bagel (I love bagels), nothing? And unless our breakfast has some protein we're often hungry again quickly after. Sometimes to up the protein in your breakfast you have to think outside of the norm.
Try lettuce and turkey wraps with some mustard, paired with apple slices or a banana. Who said you have to wait for lunch to eat lunch meat?
5. Bulk Up Your Salads!
I'm a huge fan of a huge salad. There are tons of way to jazz up a side salad and make it a main dish.
Some simple ways to bulk up your salad with more protein here goes:
- Slivered Almonds
- Peanuts plain or toasted
- Airfried Tofu Cubs
- Hemp Hearts
- Yesterday's shredded chicken
4. Protein Pasta in Salad or with Sautéed Mixed Veggies
I'm not someone who is ever going to tell someone to give up carbs. It's not great advice, especially if you regularly workout with moderate to high intensity.
I also love to increase my protein intake, and prevent overdoing it with pasta by incorporating my pasta into a veggie dish.
The hack is two-fold. 1) Getting a protein pasta brand gives you a little more from each delicious pasta bite, and 2) reframing the dish as a 'pasta dish' to a veggie centric dish means you'll get more tasty and nutritious veggies but you also get pasta - win win!
I typically get the Barilla Farfalle Protein Pasta. It works cold in salads, hot with sauteed mixed veggies, or on its own with a favorite sauce.
3. Love a Little Lentil
Lentils have higher protein content than many other legumes.
They are also tender and versatile.
Lentils go great in soup, in salads, and also can stand on their own as a base of a dish. One great way to use them is to go 50/50 with rice. So you get your delicious rice (in my house we only go white rice - can't stand brown rice if I'm being honest) and you also get the flavor and nutritional pop of lentils.
50/50 Rice & Lentil mix is a great thing to batch cook and store in the fridge. You can use it all week long for the base of bowls or with other dishes.
2. Wrap It Up
A lot of times your favorite chicken salad can also transform into a delicious chicken wrap. I personally don't waste too much time with low-carb wraps because I want them to taste good and I also want them to be tender and pliable enough to hold all my delicious fillings.
But keeping a few wraps on hand is a great way to pack in the protein and veggies, but switch it up when you're burned out from salad or you need your lunch to be a little more filling. The added carbs from the wrap will help you feel full, and give you energy.
1. Add it in at every meal and snack
Protein helps us stay full and really enjoy our food. Take a look at your plate and if it's looking very beige or white you probably have a lot of starches. Shift the ratio by adding a meat or vegan option (like tofu) and more vegetables. The plate visual rather than the pyramid visual is not only easier, but often a more accurate depiction of what to shoot for in every meal.
When we allow veggies to be the star, and then protein and starches to play equally important supporting roles we naturally will eat less starches, likely more protein, and definitely more vegetables ensuring we're getting satisfied, energized, and nourish in the ways that matter.
Body. Mind. Spirit.
Hi there! You found me. My name is Julia Marie Lopez. For 22 years I have studied meditation and mindful movement as my primary tools for healing. For the past 13 years I have worked as an instructor, a wellness business owner, the Founder of Practice Everywhere, and now I am embarking on a new adventure to expand how we define our Personal and Public Practices.
Since I offer you my experience and perspective, share my writing about life, love and wellness, and offer a bit of unsolicited advice, I think you should also know that I do include affiliate links and promotions in some of blogs. If you make an action (such as sign ups, memberships, or purchases) I might earn a commission. I promise to use this income to support my love of coffee, dogs, yoga, and my family (in no particular order).💜