Low HR Training


Questions on MAF Testing and Low Heart Rate Training (Read 366 times)


    In the new year I am going to be giving the FIRST training program a try. All of the recommended running workouts in this program, including the long run, will take my heart rate above 180-age (my MAF pace is only 11:00 mpm), and I suspect the recommended cross training exercises will too (these are at a “moderate” to “hard” perceived effort). So, in a way, the FIRST program is essentially the exact opposite of low heart rate training! I am trying to learn about training to improve running performance, but I think I have only scratched the surface. It seems like there are opposing views, even among experts. Anyway, I thought maybe some of you with experience with low heart rate training could answer some questions I have. Here goes… Most books on running talk in terms of improving basic speed, VO2 max, lactate threshold, and pure endurance (e.g., these are the things Pfitzinger talks about in his “Road Racing for Serious Runners”). How do improvements in MAF test results relate to these things? From a different angle, does an improving MAF test result mean a runner will see faster race times? If so, what does it indicate more, performance will be improved at shorter distances, like the 5K, or at longer distances, like the marathon? It’s not hard to believe that always training below 180-age will result in improved MAF results. More interesting is the question, what is the best way to improve a runner’s MAF results? Always training < 180-age?="" always="" training="" /> 180-age? Some combination of the two? This seems like an easy experiment to run. Is there any scientific research that has shown that the best way to improve MAF results, is to not train above 180-age? Thanks!


      Indeed FIRST and MAF training are very much opposite. If you read the FAQ, I have a table in there that estimates race times as a function of MAF pace. Seems to work within about 10-20%, but like any other predictor, it depends on what distance you're actually training for. Following a high heart rate, low mileage program will certainly not do well for improving your pace at low heart rates - the main way to improve pace at low heart rates is to put in mileage at low heart rates. That's not to say that some people haven't been successful with FIRST training. It depends on a lot of factors. But don't assume that low HR training will not improve vo2max, anaerobic threshold, and so forth. I actually had a vo2max test just before beginning low HR training and had another after about 7 months. My vo2max improved from 54.3 to 62.5 with almost no change in body weight. That was with absolutely no higher heart rate workouts, no speed work, no tempos, no races, nothing intense of any kind. My anaerobic threshold moved up by 5 beats. But most importantly, my pace was much faster at lower heart rates and I was burning a high percentage of fat at much higher heart rates (even much higher than my training heart rate).
        You can continue to do MAF tests through any type of training. Normally, the faster the pace in the test, the better your endurance, and the faster you'll be going in your endurance event. You can monitor you MAF while doing FIRST, and if you find the pace starts to degrade, then it might mean you are either stressing your body too much or your aerobic fat-burning system is degrading. Then it is time to go under MAF and get your endurance and body back in working order.Good luck with your FIRST experiment. --Jimmy

          Thanks Jesse, Jimmy. I will perform the MAF test periodically over the course of my FIRST training (between now and May). Then I can see the effect of "high heart rate training" on my MAF test results as well as its effect on my race performance.