Low HR Training

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Great! But what is all the fuzz about? Am I doing it right? (Read 841 times)

LastingDamage


    I recently (last week) stumbled upon the Maffetone method and this community, among others, searching for ideas to my training situation. It made sense, and I tried it, felt great - so I'll continue. But I wonder if I'm doing right, reading a lot of comments from beginners with the method here.

     

    My background is that I've run regularly for two years now. I used to run a lot until my early 30s, preferably trails, and could do sub-40 10ks in hilly terrain. Then I got married, got into my career, kids etc. Running became intermittent with looooong off-seasons (completely off), longest lasting a couple of years. 6 years and 14 kg around the waist later, my sister entered me in a half-marathon, one and a half years ago. I picked up running again, but not much - 2-3 times a week, mostly short runs of 8-10 km. I ran the HM in 1:51, fading badly after 15k. I was entered again last year, in the same race, and picked up training in the spring, ran longer runs (up to 25k) and finished in 1.40 - feeling great. I've stuck with running since then (september 2011), upping training to 4-5 times a week, approx 40-50k. Some interval sessions thrown in, otherwise mostly tempo, fartlek and long distance. Very few recovery runs.

     

    I'm now training for a marathon in the beginning of June. To increase milage I've started to run commute to work, which is about 11k one-way. I run this distance 7 times a week, and fit a long run (between 1,5 - 2,5 hours) in the weekend. (It's winter here and -15 C in the mornings, so mentally challenging at first but now a great way to start the day). I quickly realized that I can't run this volume as I normally do - very sore legs, a foot acting up etc. So I figured I'd run slower, which works fine. I feel refreshed rather than fatigued and have no problem running the distance day in and day out. This is when I got curious, did some searches and discovered that there is a whole (or rather, several) philosophies behind this.

     

    So, this week I've been applying the 180-age formula (142 for me) and I really like it. I use a Garming hrm. I expected to have to slow down a lot, walk the (few) hills on the route, be overtaken by old ladies, etc. But it didn't happen at all. I'm running at hr 140 and doing 5 - 5.10 min/km (about 8 min/mile). I feel pretty good ,as I said, with controlled breathing and a smile on my face. But it doesn't feel effortless and there is slight soreness in my hamstrings in the hours following the run. (However, there's quite a bit of snow and ice on the streets, which affects the running).

     

    Therefore I'm wondering if I'm doing this right. Should I use an even lower threshold, or should I continue and see if there's further progress at this level.

    jimmyb


      Hi LD,

       

      Welcome back to the life!Cool

       

      I recommend gobbling up some of Dr. Phil's books and interviews. The Maffetone Method, Training For Endurance (if you can get it),  Big Book Of Endurance Racing And Training (comprehensive), and also the boilerplate sticky (there is a link to a fixed version) and FAQ (click) here in this forum.There are some good links in my post in the Boilerplate.

       

      The key to your success with this program is monitoring your aerobic speed. How your body feels is always the first indicator of when adjustments need to be made, beyond that the most important thing is a regular MAF test (click for info) done on the same course every 2-4 weeks (treadmill is good if you have one). If the MAF you calculated is correct (not too high), then you should be seeing an increase in speed at MAF. If you aren't, and you are either on a plateau, or regressing, then something needs to be adjusted. It could be an adjustment in volume (more or less), amount of recovery time, your MAF calculation (e.g. maybe you need to work at 180-age-5), shifting the sources from which you are getting your carbs (from sugar to grains, fruits, veggies), or a different scheduling. Whatever. So, MAF tests--key.

       

      The heart of the program is keeping healthy. Dr. Phil built his practice helping broken down athletes return to health and better performance (Mark Allen and Mike Pigg being the most famous), and thus the focus on staying healthy first, and gaining fitness second. They are two different things. Essentially what the Maffetone Method helps you to do is manage total stress on the body.

       

      Total stress=training + life stress + diet + amount of recovery.

       

      You might be going along running 50 miles per week, your aerobic system progressing fine, and then something in your life raises your stress levels above normal for more than a few days (maybe weeks or months---job, family, finances, death and illness, etc.). You might find that you plateau or regress in aerobic speed during these times. If that happens, cut your volume by a third, half, or even more. This will reduce the total stress on your body, and maybe get your aerobic speed progressing again.  The same thing can happen when summer hits. Let's say a runner is running 60 miles per week all Spring, then summer hits, and she or he plateaus or regresses. When it gets hot, there will be slowing at first at the same heart rate, but there should be progress after that from your initial summer aerobic speed. If it's not moving, or continues to regress, cut your volume down until it turns around. Sometimes, just going deeper into your aerobic system works as well. For example, if your MAF is 140, then use 130 or 135 as a ceiling, or even lower.

       

      Going deeper into the aerobic system never hurts. I've made good progress at times working deeper. Dr. Phil recommends spending time at your MAF, but also adds (in one of his books)  that he has seen people become great endurance athletes working much lower.

       

      Working at your MAF is working at the point where your body uses just a very slim amount of anaerobic fibers. It's 99.9% aerobic (slow twitch, fat-burning fibers). When you work out below, there are no anaerobic fibers involved, except maybe in a very long run where you have exhausted most of your slow-twitch fibers, and the body has engaged some of the fast twitch fibers that can gain aerobic qualities (when you run mostly aerobic and do long runs). You will see a spike in heart rate, or a major slowing at the same HR this point when your slow twitch are exhausted.

       

      That's it. Welcome. Have fun. Keep us posted on your journey. Muck about the threads here, there's a lot of good stuff.

       

      --JimmyCool

      Log    PRs

        I'm now training for a marathon in the beginning of June. To increase mileage I've started to run commute to work, which is about 11k one-way. I run this distance 7 times a week, and fit a long run (between 1,5 - 2,5 hours) in the weekend. (It's winter here and -15 C in the mornings, so mentally challenging at first but now a great way to start the day). 

         

        If you are running to work in -15 degree weather with ice and snow, you get my vote for something!

         

        Keep us updated with your progress.

        ___________

        Chris

          So, this week I've been applying the 180-age formula (142 for me) and I really like it. I use a Garming hrm. I expected to have to slow down a lot, walk the (few) hills on the route, be overtaken by old ladies, etc. But it didn't happen at all. I'm running at hr 140 and doing 5 - 5.10 min/km (about 8 min/mile). I feel pretty good ,as I said, with controlled breathing and a smile on my face. But it doesn't feel effortless and there is slight soreness in my hamstrings in the hours following the run. (However, there's quite a bit of snow and ice on the streets, which affects the running).

           

          Therefore I'm wondering if I'm doing this right. Should I use an even lower threshold, or should I continue and see if there's further progress at this level.

           

          Sounds like maybe your aerobic base is pretty good - that's about the pace Mark Allen was running when he started MAF!

          When I started I was more like 6:30 min k (though came down to 6 pretty quickly).

          It will be interesting to see if you can improve on it using MAF. 

          What kind of HRate were you doing most of your longer runs at before?

          rarian


            beyond that the most important thing is a regular MAF test ... (treadmill is good if you have one).

            --JimmyCool

            I accept that a treadmill provides a controlled test environment. 

             

            But MAF tests on a track are controlled by the individual changing their pace in order to keep their heart rate at MAF. 

             

            Do you suggest changing the treadmill's speed in the same manner?

              Yes, in doing the MAF test you want your heart rate to saty as close to MAF as possible.  Thus, on a TM yoiu will have to adjust the speed according to your heart rate.

              ___________

              Chris

              jimmyb


                I accept that a treadmill provides a controlled test environment. 

                 

                But MAF tests on a track are controlled by the individual changing their pace in order to keep their heart rate at MAF. 

                 

                Do you suggest changing the treadmill's speed in the same manner?

                 

                Yes. When doing an MAF test on a TM you have to adjust speed down as you go like you would outside.

                It's still an individual changing their pace to keep at MAF (except on those days when I'm experiencing inner duality).

                I've always done mine on the TM at 1% incline.

                Variables do change inside, like temp and humidity, but there be no wind or sun or overcast. 

                And the distance is accurate.

                --Jimmy

                Log    PRs

                LastingDamage


                  Wow - thank's for all the information. I will certainly dig deeper into the books and articles covering this method, and I'm grateful for all the links. I am determined to give this some patience since I feel very comfortable physically with the (for me) high volume of training.

                   

                  But my original question was that I thought I'm going to fast, yet keeping my hr below the 180-age formula. Like seanm comments, this pace is similar to what Mark Allen started with, and I'm no Mark Allen... anyhow, maybe my previous training has conditioned my well for aerobic effort. I didn't really use an HR monitor on my long runs previously, but I guess my average hr was around 155-160, and reaching higher in hills. Maybe my relatively low resting HR (35) has something to do with it. We'll see how I progress.

                   

                  This Sunday I did a long run (1h45m) and averaged around 5:20/km, 5:30/km in the last half hour. Beautiful run on a lake, ice with a little snow, so totally flat. The slower time compared to my commutes surprised me a little, maybe this is more accurate. On the other hand, the snow slows you down a bit.

                   

                  A proper MAF test would be good, but I found something that Phil Maffetone wrote to the effect that if you run the same course (which I obviously do) you can track progress to the same effect.

                   

                  crmilt - thank's for the vote of confidence. This week temperatures seem to be a bit higher. But there are actually quite a few run commuters (and bike commuters, who're having a worse time due to wind) even in winter. Maybe we're just used to exercising in the cold here in Sweden - after all, it's the only time of year that skiing is an option...

                  jimmyb


                     

                     

                    A proper MAF test would be good, but I found something that Phil Maffetone wrote to the effect that if you run the same course (which I obviously do) you can track progress to the same effect.

                     

                     

                    That works. You just have to havea course you run exactly the same way at your MAF, and keep tabs on the pace. If it something you run every week (e.g.), don't freak out if it's slower some weeks---it will be that way. If the pace continues to regress over a months time, then there might be a problem that you have to make adjustments for. The transition between colder to warmer seasons can cause a little regression, but it should reverse as you acclimate.

                     

                    About your speed at MAF maybe feeling uncomfortable.....Dr. Phil writes that you can get so fast at MAF that it becomes an uncomfortable HR to work at for long periods of time. Even though the heart rate is low, you are still pushing at a hard speed. I think these athletes ending up working out at MAF-5 through -10 or eve lower, and they do what he calls "aerobic intervals"--using MAF for the fast part of the intervals. You will still develop aerobically at sub-MAF. Experiment.  Take Mark Allen for example, he went from 8:00 to 5:30ish--- 5:30 is a pretty hard pace.

                     

                    --JImmy

                    Log    PRs

                    LastingDamage


                      That's good to know jimmyb - since I use an hrm/gps I'll have very detailed data for every day, including weather - just add my own daily condition, and I should be able to see how I progress.

                       

                      Just to clarify - I don't feel that my runs are uncomfortable at all. On the contrary. However, they are not effortless, they still feel like a workout and the pace is acceptable - I get to work, and home, loosing very little time compared to my previous level of effort. But reading about the method on various forums, a common critique is that it's a challenge to run that slow, it will affect your gait negatively, you'll loose motivation etc. That is not my experience at all. Keeping my HR low just allows me to run more often and still feel refreshed, without aches and soreness.

                       

                      Time will tell if what the effect on my pace is, also at higher effort levels and in races. I'm doing a 10k at the end of March just to check form, and I will probably introduce some higher effort training on hilly trails around then, just because it's fun and I like the feeling of strength it provides. Then the big test is of course the marathon in beginning of June.

                       

                      I'll keep posting, this is very interesting stuff.

                        That's good to know jimmyb - since I use an hrm/gps I'll have very detailed data for every day, including weather - just add my own daily condition, and I should be able to see how I progress.

                         

                        Just to clarify - I don't feel that my runs are uncomfortable at all. On the contrary. However, they are not effortless, they still feel like a workout and the pace is acceptable - I get to work, and home, loosing very little time compared to my previous level of effort. But reading about the method on various forums, a common critique is that it's a challenge to run that slow, it will affect your gait negatively, you'll loose motivation etc. That is not my experience at all. Keeping my HR low just allows me to run more often and still feel refreshed, without aches and soreness.

                         

                        Time will tell if what the effect on my pace is, also at higher effort levels and in races. I'm doing a 10k at the end of March just to check form, and I will probably introduce some higher effort training on hilly trails around then, just because it's fun and I like the feeling of strength it provides. Then the big test is of course the marathon in beginning of June.

                         

                        I'll keep posting, this is very interesting stuff.

                         

                         

                         

                        the answer is very simple. there is low HR, and then there is even lower and even much lower HR.

                         

                        the 180 formula does not land everyone in the same HR range compared to anaerobic threshold or maxHR or RHR or anything. some people will get a very low HR with the formula, and some people will get a HR close to their anaerobic threshold (note I mean the classic definition of anaerobic threshold, that you race at in ~1hr long races). you said your RHR is very low, so that would probably explain it.

                         

                        what does that mean on the whole? well, if you feel like it's still a workout, you do need to go slower on some days to allow recovery (but not necessarily slower everyday). I'd say don't worry about formulas at all. we all have unique bodies, differing in everything from recovery capacity to anaerobic threshold. just figure out what works for you without overtraining or undertraining you, and stick with it.

                        rarian


                          Yes. When doing an MAF test on a TM you have to adjust speed down as you go like you would outside.

                          It's still an individual changing their pace to keep at MAF (except on those days when I'm experiencing inner duality).

                          I've always done mine on the TM at 1% incline.

                          Variables do change inside, like temp and humidity, but there be no wind or sun or overcast. 

                          And the distance is accurate.

                          --Jimmy

                           

                           Thanks Jimmy, I now understand that your enthusiasm for MAF tests on tms is because of the controlled conditions.  I had wondered whether you had a tm with unusually useful HR control. 

                           

                          And as to controlling conditions, the tms I use are in an air-conditioned gym.