How to train your cardiovascular fitness | Peter Attia

How to train your cardiovascular fitness | Peter Attia

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This clip is from episode #261 of The Drive – Training for The Centenarian Decathlon: zone 2, VO2 max, stability, and strength

In this special episode filmed live in front of readers of Outlive, Peter answers questions revolving around his concept of the centenarian decathlon.

In this clip, we discuss:

– The pyramid of cardiorespiratory training
– Peter’s zone 2 training and recommendations
– Peter’s VO2 max training and recommendations


The Peter Attia Drive is a deep-dive podcast focusing on maximizing longevity, and all that goes into that from physical to cognitive to emotional health. With over 60 million episodes downloaded, it features topics including exercise, nutritional biochemistry, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, mental health, and much more.

Peter Attia is the founder of Early Medical, a medical practice that applies the principles of Medicine 3.0 to patients with the goal of lengthening their lifespan and simultaneously improving their healthspan.

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  1. What’s the point of all this exercise? None of the oldest people studied did systematic training, much less the fanatical amounts discussed here. Another point is that you are putting an inordinate amount of time and effort into something that cannot be sustained as you age but that level of intensity is almost certainly going to be detrimental to longevity. If this type of exercise zealotry payed off, then we would see elite athletes living substantially longer than they normal population, many of which are walking heart attacks, diabetic disasters or cancer factories. Instead elite athletes on average fare no better than the general population.

  2. If you look at the actual long distance pro athletes at the highest level " no one does 80/20. I f.e.accompanied that with Kenyan athletes Its just to market the concept. Even the data of the original founder of polarized training is full of sketchy data preselected to fit his bias and selling point. A honest description would be something like 65/20/15 variations and thats not as catchy. Also dont even try to emulate pro training plans. They have completely. different targets and necessities. Its cool to f.e. start with 80/20 but the loose the numbers as deeper you go into it and cater to your specific needs. They f.e. accomplish very different training goals with a ga2 be ause of how fast their basic speed is. Still to kearn about tze different concepts is great just dont take it as gospel.

  3. But 80/20 doesn’t maximize the area of the triangle. Moreover, 90/10 reduces the area of the triangle even further. With that analogy it should be 50/50.

  4. Can anyone explain the 4×4 workout to me? Peter always says he trains zone 5 with 4×4… but that is a Zone 4 workout…

  5. I spent the summer attempting to run in zone 2 but it is not practical. For me my zone 2 tops out a 120. To stay in this zone I have to shuffle instead of run. Even then I have to walk to keep my heart rate down. Since I only have limited time for cardio during the week, I would rather run/jog for 10 km at an average of 135 and peak and 145 a couple of times a week then spend that time shuffling. Maybe my zone 2 is higher than 120, but according to my age and all the formulas I should be around 120 peak zone 2. BTW after spending the summer attempting to stay in zone 2 my VO2 max decreased 5 points.
    Zone 2 training probably works for athletes but for old guys, it kind of feels meh?

  6. So there is no accurate way to know in real time if you’re in zone 2 (like you would with a heartrate monitor). And being in and out of zone does’nt achieve the same as being exactly in it or right below glycolisis. And training VO2max seems to be quick tricky as well since you want to push hard but in a certain fashion. I kinda feel like I ordered a medium-rare steack and some fries and someone brought me a picture of the meal instead of the actual meal 😉

  7. Thank you! I’ve been trying to figure out whether the Zone 2 80/20 should be by time, training load, or what for a while, even after watching every GCN and similar video. It seems obvious, but you never know. The section about keeping it steady state is also helpful to know, although probably far less enjoyable to put into practice.

  8. I’m in San Diego, and Fiesta Island at Mission Bay, is a great place to ride 12:56 laps without having to deal with traffic. Highly recommended if you’re coming to San Diego with a bike and you’re looking for a place to workout.

  9. it is insane how people overcomplicate fitness. listening to this guy talk just stresses me the fuck out and reminds me of when i had a big problem with binge eating, OCD workout spreadsheets, and body dysmorphia. i’ve overcome most of that through years of trial/error, suffering, and personal growth; now i am pretty comfortable my own skin and recognize a lot of popular fitness methods/science as idealistic distractions, unnecessary burdens, and even harmful quackery (not necessarily this dude, but some others). his intentions seem good, and i am sure the science is grounded, but let me emphasize to anyone like my perfectionistic younger self, who is watching this video and feeling overwhelmed, confused, or stressed by all the various points and distinctions he calls out:

    just do your best.

    don’t worry about lab tests, calibrated methods of measurement, zone 2 definitions blah blah blah… that is egghead shit. you will find 105 year old Italian ladies who only ever walk to the grocery store and cultivate their patio garden. they live longer than some dudes who work out every day. you may get cancer and die at 65 for all you know. squeezing the last drop of longevity out of your body has extremely diminishing returns for the effort required.

    here is how simple fitness is (and this basically agrees with what he’s saying, in less words):

    1) do low-intensity cardio for about an hour a day, like jogging, swimming, cycling, or even just brisk walking. low-intensity means you can talk while doing it.
    2) do one one day of max effort, high intensity interval cardio. max effort means max effort. simple as.
    3) get a basic lifting routine 3x a week centered on well-established, compound lifts like squats, presses, bodyweight lifts, and deadlifts. supplement with a few targeted accessory exercises that you like for aesthetic or functional reasons (bicep curls, delt rows, etc) so that you feel good and ENJOY the workout
    4) stretch every day and do a few mobility exercises throughout the week (hip flexors, ankles, etc)
    5) eat whole, unprocessed foods with a high protein intake (0.5 – 1.0g / lb bodyweight); minimize added sugar
    6) don’t smoke, do drugs, or drink heavily
    7) sleep 7-8 hours every night

    bonus: relax, get out in nature, make friends, love others, seek God (he’s real and he loves you). be joyful. you only live once, so enjoy your life as best you can. being stressed out all the time is going to counteract longevity benefits. notice how there are no depressed, irritable, or anxious centenarians.

    you can do a solid workout in an hour if you are efficient. if you have to miss a day here and there, it’s okay! life is busy, especially if you are a parent or have an important responsibility. but if you do this every day you will be ahead of 95% of the population. maybe you could squeeze an extra few years of longevity if you rigorously followed some autistically calibrated method with expensive lab tests, but the stress, time, money, and energy is not worth it. stop worrying about all of that. you don’t need to be superman. accept mortality. we all age, we all die. you can only do so much to stop it. enjoy life and enjoy fitness instead of seeing it as a burdensome task that you must fulfill perfectly. that is a recipe for disaster and burnout.

    peace be with you all

  10. Cardio is overrated. Just do sprints. All running animals need to either sprint from danger or fight to survive.
    We evolved a "fight or flight" mechanism for a reason…humans get fit the quickest when they do either sprints, or lift weights intensely, or mimic fighting. Fighting and sprinting are generally maximum intensity workouts, and get you fit the quickest, because the majority of fitness improvements happen when you rest and sleep, NOT when you are working out.
    Long term workouts are for training your muscle, but fitness improves the quickest during recovery.

  11. The problem with this 80-20 ratio is that it would have me “running” 12 min/K.
    So I have to run in zone 3 and 30% in zone 4. Anything else has me inching along like a 90 year old man.

    I’m 55 and can run a 10k in comfortably 60 minutes. Im would NEVER enter a race if it took me 90 minutes because I had follow your 80/20 split.
    It’s stupid

  12. How does one measure lactate within a workout to make sure one stays in zone 2? I’ve always done it by heart rate. I didn’t know you could measure lactate buildup within a workout. Or did I understand you wrong?

  13. Is this true no matter the training volume? For example, it seems unlikely to me to me that if you train 2 hours a week, 90 mins should be zone 2? What about 1 hour a week? From my expierience the intensity is better when really cramped for time.

  14. What is the percentage of your max HR for zone 2? I shoot for 120-140 BPM for zone 2. How would I hit the vo2 max range?

  15. I think a Dr. with an extensive training and scientific background just equated 1000kJ to 1000 kcal… er. No. ~240 kcal is the corresponding value. 1000kcal might be a 4 hr workout. Otherwise I have gained from this eloquent conversation.

  16. When I was in grad school in exercise physiology, we found the lowest all cause mortality in runners at about 50 kilometers per week which is only about 3 hours of running. People who only did 5 k were generally less likely to get sick and die than 10 k and marathoners. When you get to walking for health, we found that for people who didn’t need to loose bodyfat, we found peak health at about 4 miles of total ambulation a day, and for people who needed to loose fat, peak at about 5 miles a day, meaning that above those levels, there began an increase in health hazards. 10 hours a week at about 70/30 would basically be the literal peak of the health hill. In fact, at double those levels of 4-5 miles a day total movement, and about 30 minutes hard, we had health hazard ratios and actual death rates equal to that of sedentary individuals, and they got worse with more. The peak comes out to very close to about 10,000 steps over about 90 minutes with 30 minutes hard.

  17. what’s V02 Max? And what counts as zone 2? I have a fitbit. Is Zone 2 the "Vigorous" category (134-165 bpm)

  18. As a PT I understand what you’re is saying, but for most people you’re speaking in heaps of undefined terms. Clearly describe and/or define the terms of the lay people.

  19. 🎯 Key Takeaways for quick navigation:

    00:00: Cardiovascular *fitness is optimized by focusing on the area under the training intensity curve, emphasizing both zone two (80%) and VO2 max (20%) workouts.*
    01:20: Tadi *Pogacar, a top cyclist, devotes 80-90% of his training to zone two, emphasizing its universal relevance for athletes, including elite performers.*
    02:32: Structuring *a week with 80% zone two and 20% VO2 max workouts, considering personal time constraints, helps maximize cardiovascular benefits.*
    04:32: A *weekly training schedule example: strength training on Monday, zone two on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday/Sunday, VO2 max on Sunday, with stability training incorporated.*
    07:42: Zone *two workouts can be done through various steady-state activities like swimming, running, cycling, and rowing, promoting mitochondrial efficiency.*
    09:32: VO2 *max training can be performed with diverse modalities that elevate heart rate substantially, including biking, running, rowing, or even intense exercises like burpees.*
    11:34: An *effective VO2 max workout involves intervals, like four minutes on and four minutes off, with a strategic approach to intensity, avoiding an all-out effort in the initial minutes.*

    Made with HARPA AI

  20. Is there a site where you can get a copy of Dr. Attia’s workout sessions/per exercise? or if there is a book anyone recommends I would appreciate it.

  21. 7:58 best description of I messed up training in past. I’ve been focused on steady state Z2 like you’re describing the correct way recently, and have noticed so much change in my RHR, my workout HRs, and my ability to recovery from hard efforts.

  22. Having a high V02 max is a good thing of course but to say it is the largest causal factor to longevity is just flat wrong. I have personally known too many people including smokers and drinkers who have lived into their 90’s and elite athletes with high VO2 max that died relatively young.
    Diet aka low carbs and sugar, quantity and timing of food intake affecting insulin levels and overall body weight
    Low stress
    Love & purpose
    and light exercise albeit very light without a high V02 max
    Above are predictors of longevity, not VO2 max. Truthfully high VO2 and toll on the body for training involved aka stress, may be counterproductive to longevity.

  23. Everyone is saying how amazing this conversation is… he seems pretty bored and irritated to me honestly LOL

  24. Pogacar hasn’t been mopping up the field, he’s great, but that’s like saying Joel Embid is mopping up the NBA

  25. Sounds great. But how does the average person actually do this? I can do cardio, but how do I know I’m in Zone 2?

  26. How do i know the effort im running at is definatly V02 max?? Is it based on the amount of minutes i can hold that pace at??

  27. Does this 80/20 rule apply for soccer players? There is the perception that too much of steady-state training let you give away some match fitness.

  28. Today I understood the importance of zone 2. I hadn’t done MMA and BJJ for like five months now and only trained zone 2 for my cardio the last three months and stopped the last month, today I went sparring and expecting that I’d gas out in like one round but to my surprise I was able to spar as hard as I could and ended the training with three rounds of MMA, if you know MMA you know that it’s not easy to do that if you haven’t been active and all I did for cardio was zone 2 for 2-3 months and stopped a month ago, I’m gonna start it back.

  29. Except Tadje has been eclipsed at this point by Jonas. But the can you do two hours daily. Zone two outside hilly is the challenge but outside is the only place I am not going to lose my mind

  30. Ok, so he says at the 4 minute mark of his v02 max session, hes feeling very uncomfortable. So after i do my 4 mins, how much of a recovery should i take before i go for another 4 mins??

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