Stuck forever in zone 2, looking for ideas to keep it interesting

Based on some unfortunate diagnoses (aortic aneurysm and bicuspid valve), I’m confined to zone 2 and no heavy weightlifting. Mountain bike races, soul crushing trainer intervals, squats, and deadlifts are a few of my favorite things but those are in the past now. So, I’m hoping the forum can give me some ideas to keep getting enjoyment now that my focus has changed to simply exercising and the days of intense effort are in the past. Right now, I’m still a bit freaked out and am just staying completely off the MTB since I have two kids who need their dad and endurance pace doesn’t really work on my local trails, plus I think crashes present extra risk. I honestly feel like part of me has died since so much of my free time, social life, and stress maintenance has revolved around these activities.

So anyway, what to do to fill the void? I don’t ride on the road since I promised my wife a few years ago that I wouldn’t do that anymore. Riding zone 2 on the trainer while watching a good TV show is one option. I’m taking up jogging since a slow outdoor jog is more enjoyable to me than a slow trainer ride, and I should be able to do some 5k and maybe 10k races as long as I go easy pace. Maybe take a couple swimming lessons? Anybody been through this situation or have any good ideas?

Many thanks to the TR community!

Check out it’s a very fun website to use your rides and explore unridden roads and areas. It can be really motivating trying to get all the roads


Unfortunately this might make exploring all the roads more difficult.

But for OP, swimming isn’t a bad idea.
Do you have any good paved trails near you?
Could you bike over to the trails and then hike in the woods? That might scratch the outdoor itch a little.

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How old are you?
I don’t understand why you’re allowed to run but not at least go tempo on the bike. Running even easy will get your heart rate and BP to sweet spot level.

I’m sorry you have this issue. But I’m afraid, tv, video games, and reading is all I can offer.

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I’m 45. I find I can run/jog at around 10:00/mile (6:00 per km) pace and keep my heart rate around 120-125, which is around my cycling heart rate going at 70% or so of ftp. I think either of those are fine with my condition but need to have further discussion with my doctor. You get hit with a lot of information at the first appointment and don’t even know what questions to ask until you’ve gone home, digested things, and read a dozen horror stories on the internet.


Yep, we have a few greenways that I plan to explore - just need to put some road tires on the cross bike. As a family, we hike a lot so maybe I’ll start doing that a bit more. Thanks!

I can relate somewhat……was diagnosed with an aneurysm last year on my aorta, but my type of aneurysm was essentially an enlarged aorta vs. having a weak wall with a bulge in the aorta. Possibility that the larger-than-normal size is just due to my training. After stress tests and CT scans, etc, I was given the all-clear to train as normal. But for a couple of months, it was definitely in the back of my head every time I hit the red line.

I’m assuming your aneurysm is a bulge in the aorta based on what you posted……

You said that trails were not an option, but do you have gravel roads in your area? With a mullet set-up for gearing, you should be able to keep your HR in the Z2 range.

You can absolutely run and keep your HR in that range as well….you may not be running fast, but you can do it and it will help satisfy that outdoor urge.

Swimming could be tough…Adult Onset Swimming is a challenge and even short swims can be stressful and cause high heart rates. If you go that route, I would recommend using a pull buoy to start. That would help with your body position and eliminate kicking from the process, both of which would reduce your cardio load. Start with a single length, recover, go again. You can then start to string two lengths together, etc as you gain fitness.

The other option you could consider is finding a recreation group of cyclists who ride on the road. Discuss this option with your wife and explain that you would only ride on the road in a group since that is much safer than riding alone. Of course there is still some risk, but that is true if almost anything…but we each need to find the right balance of risk vs. happiness. Talk to your wife about how this would help satisfy your needs and would make you happier overall, which makes you happier at home, etc.

Good luck…please let us know how things are going!


There is also rowing, skiing (and their erg equivalents), roller-skiing.
And weightlifting might be substituted with bodyweight training (pushups, pullups, etc)

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The bulge vs. general enlargement is something I plan to talk with my doctor about. I’m seeing a sports cardiologist because I’ve heard that doctors not accustomed to athletes can misinterpret changes int he hear. I have a CT scan today to “get better measurements.” Do you have a bicuspid valve by any chance? From what I have read, they are usually linked to a connective tissue disorder which leads to weakening of the aorta.

Gravel is a good option. Most of the close gravel roads are in the mountains but there are some tamer ones south of me. Appreciate your thoughts on the swimming - the very few times I’ve tried to swim laps, it felt more like running sprints rather than a gentle jog. Maybe I can learn to be one of those people that seem to glide through the water.

Thanks for the well wishes!

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No indication or mention of any issues with my valves.

Also glad you are seeing a sports cardiologist…they will understand the lifestyle, etc. One of the cardiologists I saw was also a cyclist (although not competitive) so he totally udnerstood my mindset and concerns. It is very reassuring when your healthcare providers truly understand.

Definitely look into a mullet setup…and you can even run a smaller than normal front chainring up front since there is no real need to have to go fast given your HR limitations. A 36x52 (or even a 34x52) should be able to get you up almost any gravel road without raising your HR too much.

Let us know what the doc says about the type of aneurysm. Fingers crossed for you on just a general enlargement vs. a bulge!

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In your case, wouldn’t an e-mtb be the perfect tool for you? You can prob still hit some of the trails you used to go to at zone 2 while on the turbo mode of an e-mtb.


That is a GREAT suggestion…could also work for a gravel bike.


Yeah, this sounds like a perfect use case for an e-bike!

Getting some other sports in the mix is a good way to keep some variety in there, and if you’re mostly training for health and enjoyment I think there’s some additional benefit to versatility and being able to get outside more often. (might also be some scope for social runs or something similar- the good thing about those is everybody tends to spread out anyway, so you can work within your own limits a bit more than a group ride) Not to mention, If you’re missing the aspect of challenging yourself and setting goals, taking on an entirely new sport can be a good way to scratch that itch without needing to train hard to see improvements.

Could also be a good time to get involved with a local club- embrace the social side, volunteer at some events, help out with the juniors… there’s a lot more to cycling than just training and racing!


perhaps taking up different sports like: swimming, golfing, surfing, hiking…

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Yep, maybe I’ll give an e-bike a try at a demo sometime. I want to get some assurances from my doctor that I don’t need to be overly worried about crashes, but that might help me keep up my love of mountain biking while sticking to the health guidance. Thanks.


Cycle a long way? If you go far enough, Z2 is race pace! Bikepacking? I find that when I’m exploring new places the speed doesn’t matter.


Take up bike packing? Can even go with the whole family.

The ebike is a great suggestion, maybe a more xc type bike, so you’re not tempted by the downhills too much.

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