How to avoid the most common Zone 2 running mistakes

If you're new to heart rate run training, this guide will help you avoid common mistakes and make it easier to start. Taren Gesell explains…

Young woman jogging in park at sunset.
Welcome to this guide that will help you avoid the five most common mistakes beginners make when running in Zone 2. If you’re new to heart rate run training, you know how hard it is initially. This guide will help you avoid common mistakes and make it easier to start.
This post will discuss the five mistakes most people make when running in Zone 2. Knowing about these mistakes and how to avoid them can set you up for success as you start your journey.
So, what are these five mistakes people often make? They are:
  1. Using heart rate monitors worn on the wrist.
  2. Not setting up heart-rate training zones correctly.
  3. Running up hills or in the heat.
  4. Thinking that every run with a low heart rate has to be all running.
  5. Hoping to make quick progress.
Read on to learn more about each of these mistakes and how to avoid them as you run in Zone 2.

Mistake #1: Using a wrist-based heart rate monitor

People often make the mistake of using wrist-based heart rate monitors to track their heart rate while they work out. Even though these monitors are easy to use, cheap, and convenient, they are often less accurate than chest-based heart rate straps.
The problem with wrist-based monitors is that they use sensors that measure blood flow through the wrist, which is often inaccurate, especially when the wrist is moving around a lot or the body is sweaty during high-intensity exercise.
So, heart rate monitors worn on the wrist can sometimes give readings that are off by as much as 40 to 50 beats per minute.
On the other hand, chest-based heart rate straps use sensors that pick up the heart’s electrical activity; this is a better way to measure heart rate because it doesn’t change when you move or sweat. Some people find chest-based heart rate monitors uncomfortable, if this is the case you can use an armband heart rate monitor which is also very accurate.
Overall, a chest-based heart rate strap is better than a wrist-based monitor if you want to keep track of your heart rate while you work out. Even though wrist-based monitors are easy to use, straps around the chest are more accurate.

Mistake #2: Not setting up the correct heart rate training zones

Training zones are ranges of heart rates used to work on different energy systems and reach different fitness goals. For example, zones one and two for endurance training, while zones four and five are for high-intensity interval training, which helps you get faster.
People often make another mistake when running in Zone 2: not setting their training zones properly. Setting up your training zones correctly is important because it ensures you’re working out at the right level of intensity for your fitness goals. If your heart zones are set too low, you won’t be able to run in Zone 2 for very long.
The Karvonen Method is the best way to determine your training zones. This method looks at your resting heart rate (RHR) and maximum heart rate (MHR). Your MHR can be calculated with a max heart rate test or using the formula 220 minus your age.
The Karvonen Method is great because it considers your unique body to give you a set of heart rate training zones that are just right for you.
To use the Karvonen method, you need to know your resting heart rate (RHR) and maximum heart rate (MHR). Then, to figure out your Zone 2 training zone, you can use the following formula:
  • Lower range = ((maximum heart rate minus resting heart rate) x 0.6) + resting heart rate
  • Upper range = ((maximum heart rate minus resting heart rate) x 0.7) + resting heart rate
For example, if your maximum heart rate is 190 and your resting heart rate is 60, and you want to work at an intensity level of 60-70% (the Zone 2 training zone), your training zone would be:
  • ((190 – 60) x 0.6) + 60 = 138 beats per minute ((190 – 60) x 0.7) + 60 = 151 beats per minute)
This means that for their Zone 2 heart rate running, this athlete should try to keep their heart rate between 138 and 151.
If you want to know what your heart rate is in Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, you can use this calculator.
To get the most out of your workouts, you must set your heart rate training zones correctly. Based on your resting heart rate and maximum heart rate, the Karvonen method is a simple and accurate way to figure out your zones.

Mistake #3: Running on hills or when it’s hot

Many runners also make the mistake of not thinking about how hills and heat can affect their heart rate. It’s important to be aware of these things because they can make your heart rate go up a lot and make it harder for you to stay in Zone 2.
When you run up a hill, your heart rate will naturally go up because you must work harder against more resistance, this is especially important on steep hills, where the additional effort required to get up the hill can be significant. So, even if you are running at a low-intensity level, keeping your heart rate low while running uphill can be hard.
In the same way, running in hot weather can also make your heart beat faster. When you work out in hot weather, your body has to work harder to cool itself down, which can raise your heart rate, this is especially important if you’re running in humid weather because the extra moisture in the air can make it harder for your body to get rid of heat.
To deal with these problems, you need to keep your ego in check when running uphill or in hot weather, and you may need to slow down a lot to keep your heart rate in Zone 2.
You may also need to try to do your Zone 2 runs at a low intensity on flat ground or early in the morning before it gets too hot. Also, staying hydrated and taking breaks to walk around as needed is important to let your heart rate recover.

Mistake #4: Thinking that you have to run during all low heart rate runs

Many runners think they must run the whole time when their heart rate is low. Even though running should be a big part of your training plan, there are other ways to get a low heart rate workout that can be just as good.
Turning your long runs into long hikes in Zone 2 is another way to train. Instead of running at a slow pace, which most people find boring, you could hike slower, keeping your heart rate in your Zone 2 range.
Hiking can be a great way to change up your training and give your joints a break from the impact of running. (All athletes who use our MOTTIV training plans are encouraged to do this).
There are many good things about hiking in Zone 2. First, it lets you work on your endurance without putting as much strain on your body as running does. This can be helpful if you are recovering from an injury or just want to train in a way that doesn’t hurt as much.
Zone 2 hiking is also a great way to find new trails and enjoy the great outdoors. Hiking will also reduce your likelihood of developing a running injury.
Mixing up how you train can also help keep things interesting and keep you from getting tired of it. Adding hiking to your training plan can keep your workouts from getting boring and make yourself a more well-rounded athlete.

Mistake #5: Thinking you’ll make running improvements quickly

A common mistake that many athletes make is to think that their training will make them better quickly. Even though it is possible to see some initial performance improvements after a few weeks of consistent training, it is important to be realistic about how long it will take to see more significant changes.
When it comes to Zone 2 running or endurance training, it’s important to remember that progress is often slow at first. It can take as long as four or five months to see a big improvement in performance from Zone 2 running.
Training for endurance takes a long time and requires consistent effort over time. Running in Zone 2 has benefits beyond just improving performance immediately.
With low-intensity endurance training, you can keep improving yearly instead of plateuing, which can happen with other, more intense types of training.
Zone 2 training also has long-term health benefits, such as lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes.


In this post, we talked about some common mistakes that beginners make, such as using wrist-based heart rate monitors, not setting heart rate training zones correctly, and expecting to make quick progress.
Knowing about these mistakes and how to avoid them can set yourself up for success as you start out on your journey.
We hope this guide has given you the tools to avoid these common training mistakes and reach your goals. As you work towards your goals, remember to always listen to your body, stay consistent, and be patient.
Top image credit: Getty Images