Vince and I at the finish line of my first ultramarathon (50k) in October last year.
Recently I had a friend start using MAF training in order to avoid over training and doing too many of his runs too fast. After my disappointing run at the Gold Coast Marathon at the beginning of July I was willing to try anything to improve my fitness and speed. MAF training has been working well for my friend so I figured why not. My boyfriend @run.vince.run also thought it was worth a try as well.
“MAF stands for Maximum Aerobic Function. The method focuses on improving the function of the aerobic system, the fat-burning engine responsible for fueling all of the body’s needs."
It basically recommends training at a heart rate that is aerobic rather than anaerobic. It also mentions other factors such as nutrition and stress but I am only going to focus on the exercise.
There is a very simple way to calculate your training heart rate:
I decided to keep it simple and just subtract my age from 180. So for me (I'm currently 39 years old for another 4 weeks) my maximum heart rate is 180-39= 141. (NB: There are exemptions for athletes over 65 years of age and under 16 years of age)
Admittedly I am only 3 weeks into trying MAF training but I think I am converted. My first long run was three weeks ago. I did an out and back course from home with the plan of running 45 minutes in one direction, turning around and running back for another 45 minutes. I am 39 so my max HR is 141. Running out I was doing pretty well at keeping my heart rate down. I noticed it increased going up hills (and in my ignorance I just kept running). It was an undulating run and after 45 minutes I stopped took a Revvie (which is basically a caffeine hit) and started on my way home. I can hear you say “What? You took a caffeine hit?” Yip! Rookie mistake, my heart rate sky rocketed and was all over the place, sometimes over 170 beats per minute. In order to get it down again I would have had to walk and I didn’t want to walk. I got really frustrated with how slow I was having to run to keep my heart rate down that when I was a few kilometres from home I decided to ignore my heart rate and try and get my pace back. Admittedly it was not a very successful first attempt. I got home and was frustrated that it had been so much more difficult than I had anticipated.
My heart rate graph from my first attempt.
I decided to not give up after one bad run and give it another go. I had a second attempt on the treadmill after an easy bike. My plan had been to do 5k. Initially I was running really well and a lot faster than I had the week before, just before the 5k were up my heart rate soared and I had to slow to a walk, once my heart rate got back down I decided to speed up again but that sent my heart rate soaring again. I eventually realised that if I slowly built the speed back up I could get back to a faster pace but it had to be a slow build up not to make my heart rate rocket up again. I ended up doing 45 minutes on the treadmill and feeling a lot better about the MAF training.
My third attempt the next day was another 90 minute long run. I was lucky enough to have Vince want to run with me and we took the same route I had done the week before. This time I was more disciplined and instead of focusing on my pace I just watched my heart rate. A couple of times I had to slow the pace down, and two or three times I had to walk part of the uphills. The weather was atrocious and we were often met with strong winds and rain. The upside of that was a faster run on the way home with the wind behind us. It did also mean that we got wet and my heart rate belt caused some major chaffing! Overall, I managed to run faster and further that weekend. Even though my runs are not at what I would call a fast pace and not even close to a pace that I would need to do the marathon at, I know that with time I will get faster (I am seeing speed gains with my friend who has been doing this for 3 or so months now). I also know that at that heart rate I seem to not tire as easily. On Sunday I felt like I could just keep going.
My heart rate graph from my second long run attempt.
This is very much still a work in progress and I will keep you all posted on my progress and how I am feeling about my training. I am hoping that by slowing down I will eventually get a lot faster- or be able to run at what is a fast pace but with less effort. Fingers crossed!