Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ego checked at the door

I placed last in the 5000 metre race on 13 January (24:14), but feel satisfied the race marked a small improvement on the Base Camp 23:54 run of 18 November. "How so?" I hear you say. Well, in November I raced pretty much flat-out with an average heart-rate of 154, whereas for this race I ran at something akin to tempo effort for an average heart-rate of 149.

Scott Brown brought my attention to a post on Tim Waggoner's blog about MAF training. Tim was told by Mike Pigg in 1996 "to just train at HR 145-155 as much as possible and I would do anything I wanted." Following this advice, Tim went on to be #1 amateur in the world at the Ironman Triathlon by the year 2000. This is the base-phase training advocated by Phil Maffetone. Googling around I came across a forum post with a lengthy excerpt from the "Lore of Running" in which Timothy D. Noakes talks about the training of Mark Allen under Maffetone.

Mark Allen has an article on his website about how he switched from the "No Pain, No Gain" motto when he was a competitive swimmer to training for triathlon with his ego checked at the door. In other words, not "winning" training sessions but patiently logging mileage in the heart-rate zone advocated by Phil Maffetone. According to Noakes, Allen would monitor his progress by "regularly completing an 8-km run at his maximal allowed aerobic heart rate of about 150 beats per minute. During his Patience Phase his average pace when running at that heart rate would fall progressively. When he first started training according to the Maffetone approach, his aerobic pace during this test was 4:05 per km. During this phase, Allen would expect his running speed at his aerobic heart rate to fall by about 3 to 4 seconds per km per week. When Allen retired in 1995, his aerobic pace had improved to 3:19 per km, as the result of a steady progression during his entire career. For physiologists used to reporting human training studies lasting a few months, this is a remarkable finding. It shows that the human body may continue to adapt for 10 or more years to the form of prolonged, intensive training undertaken by Allen."

What do you think? Is there something bad in the blood chemistry of anaerobic training that retards aerobic development? My inclination is to continue training along the lines advocated by Maffetone until my pace for the MAF test stops improving. The training range for me is a heart-rate of 130 to 135 (or lower) and I'd test my progress at a HR of 130 (79% of maximum). My pace at this HR right now would be about 5:48 per km (9:20 per mile). If my pace at that HR improved to 5:20 kilometres (8:35 miles) I'd be within cooee of running 20 minutes for 5k.


Blogger Grellan said...

I think you're spot on Ewen. I trained the Maffetone way two years ago and saw my 8k average drop from 5:10 to 4:30/km in 2 months (my Maff HR was 143). I moved on when my average moved up to 4:35/km - perhaps that was a bit premature and I should have stuck at it a bit longer - but it does get a bit monotonous after a while.

Just look at the way Thomas's training is going. My plan over the next few months is to ditch the speedwork and get a solid base in using Maffetone, which should suit my ultra training.

11:13 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

Great post Ewen!

I think it's safe to say you are a genius!

Not particularly true, but safe to say ;)

11:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not think there is convincing evidence that exceeding a specific heart rate is damaging. However I do think that there is good evidence that sustained periods of intense training lead to cumulative stress that results in overtraining and the associated impairment of fitness. Therefore, in my opinion the crucial feature of Mark Allen’s training was periodization, including phases that of low-stress training.

Although sustained high intensity training results in high stress, there is almost as much evidence that high volume can produce cumulative stress and overtraining.

2:51 am  
Blogger Chad said...

I don't think there is any worry in exceeding a certain heartrate. I think the most important lesson from Mark Allen's career is that if you are consistant with your training over many years, you will see major improvement over what you can accomplish in just one season.

7:54 am  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

Ewen, Dare I say that you do seem to jump around a lot with your training!
You need to find a plan you can believe in then 'stick to it'.
Over training needs to be avoided at all costs, but its not always that simple; work, family stress, health can all add to burn out and possible Adrenal glad burnout
I think builing a good base again after your illness is a good idea but, you need to plan ahead to your end goal then STICK to it :]

9:36 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Grellan, that's interesting. Agree that Maffetone training is a little monotonous (easy?). I'm sure it'll suit your ultra running. Thomas is certainly doing well.

Scott, with one liners like that you should go on Twitter ;) And you're only game to say that from the safety of Osaka!

Canute, thanks. That's an interesting point about exceeding a specific HR. I wonder if there's any evidence that staying in the anaerobic zone (near maximum HR) for X number of minutes per week is detrimental to aerobic conditioning? I think Maffetone training could lull one into doing too much volume (because the effort level is reasonable) and therefore build a cumulative stress that could cause 'staleness'.

Chad, I agree we can learn from Allen's seasons building upon seasons. With high HRs, I don't think there's a problem with occasional running at that effort during the base (Patience) phase.

That's right Rick. I like to try different approaches to training to see how my body responds. I believe this plan will work for me (in terms of improving my aerobic conditioning). Thanks for the adrenal gland link - I've bookmarked that page - it's a long one!

3:14 pm  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

The Maffetone approach has certainly been successful for many people, including some famous ones. I agree is well worth experimenting with different approaches to training to see what brings about a significant difference in performance for you. The only "but" or question is, how long do you give each "new" approach before you start assessing its effectiveness and perhaps then going on to try yet another approach? Perhaps it's a moot point in that if regular changes in approach is what adds interest and excitment to training/racing then perhaps each serves its purpose for as long as it is interesting and/or exciting. I suggest that because sometimes "interesting and exciting" is all it takes to bring about an improvement in performance. Food for thought ...?

6:29 pm  
Blogger Andrew(ajh) said...

They do say that changing and surprising your body is key to making your muscles adapt and grow, but I'm someone who gets into a steady place exercise-wise and stays there too. Not sure what is best for you, stick with what your gut is telling you to do?

8:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ewen, In response to your question about whether there is evidence that a certain number of minutes per week above a certain HR is damaging, I think the answer is no. There are too many variables that affect each individual. Therefore the best approach is to monitor the response to training.

The question is how best to do this. I do not think that ‘listening to the body’ alone is reliable enough. Listening to the body can be made more systematic by using the Profile of Mood States (POMS), but I have never done that regularly. At present I combine three types of observation: ‘Listening to the body’; recording HRV while in a relaxed state in the morning; regular recording of HR at a steady exercise load in the aerobic zone (a variant on the MAFF or Hadd tests).

At present my stress levels are confounded by other pressures, especially work related pressures, and I cannot claim that this monitoring has led to major improvement in performance. For the time being, I will regard the monitoring as a success if I can avoid the problems with illness that affected me in the past two years.

10:36 pm  
Blogger Thomas said...

My take is that if you keep progressing like Mark Allen did, then you're obviously on a winner. But what happens if you stop progressing from doing training like that?

That's where periodisation comes in, and it's the basic idea of Lydiard training. First you develop your aerobic system for as long as you can. Then you add anaerobic stuff on top of that, but very carefully so that you do not damage your aerobic gains.

Then you peak for a few weeks.

And then you do it all over again.

4:22 am  
Blogger Black Knight said...

We have the same problem, the pack is too fast. To be last with an under 5/km is crazy!
I don't check my heart rate anymore, I did it some years ago and I spent all the time worrying and watching the monitor.

4:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have subscribed to this approach for the last 18 months and it leads to an ability to increase the weekly mileage and is excellent for distances of marathon or over. I would say that for half marathon and under you need to balance the aerobic work with speed to sharpen up the legs. My 10 mile time in 2010 was up 4 minutes on my 2009 time but my marathon time was down 17 minutes in the same period. Take what you will from that.

I would say that if you enjoy training and are not totally hung up on the races then it is the best way to train as you'll enjoy it more than any other programme.

10:00 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Jog, good question! For myself, I'd have to give the Maffetone training up to 6 months. The only problem with changing training methods is that sometimes it's the previous method that produces the improvement. For instance, if a runner switched to low volume/high intensity from high volume/low intensity and improved, the improvement could be due to the base-building effect of the previous method.

Andrew, I think this will work (as the similar Hadd-training did in the past). I'll find out soon enough!

Canute, I thought as much. I've only read what Lydiard has said about anaerobic training and that it can't be maintained for a long time. I hope by monitoring your response with those various methods you can avoid those problems this year.

Thomas, yes, I think Allen's method isn't far removed from Lydiard periodisation, although Allen didn't do 'high-end' anaerobic training.

Stefano, thankfully it's only track races where 5 minute kilometres are only good for last place! In half marathons one would finish middle of the pack :)

Richard, thanks for that. Glad you've enjoyed training with that programme. I think your marathon improvement shows the aerobic benefits which is what I'm after, even though my goal race distance is only 5k.

8:23 pm  
Blogger Sling Runner said...

Thanks for the article. It sounds similar to Hadd training, but more monotonous (at least, Hadd training varies between 60% MaxHR and 80% MaxHR)

I never tried both programs coz I don't have the patience !!

2:02 am  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

My thoughts;
-Lore of Running is highly respected widely, I havent read it yet, but a number of people I know and respect [Gila(1996) and Craig (2005-now)] have and one day I must get to it. Anything in that book is worth thinking about probably.
-The Mark Allen example sounds good, and the more long term longitudinal type studies we have and consider the better chance we have of learning something useful.
-Aerobic training has its benefits, anaerobic training has its benefits, I still think both are useful. Theres more than one way to skin a cat.
- If you are racing at your optimal, you will be racing anerobically for some of it, otherwise you are running slower than you could have. period.
You cannot race aerobically all the way and hit the best possible time you are capable of. There is always room for a kick at least, and probably some surges.
-persistent aerobic training at a low heart rate, has been shown many times to be extremely effective, for sure we don't need to "smash" ourself in every session.
-"smashing oneself" in some sessions can be very beneficial, and training with an aggressive approach can bring big dividends too if done in a persistent and intelligent manner.

-I think we all need a bit of both forms of training, how much of each will depends on what works for each individual, and what each individual prefers.

Sounds like your 5k was a better one with a similiar time, but lower heart rate, so well done on holding a similiar level, and possibly a better level. All the best with sustained significant improvement, and hope the Maf approach goes well for you.

BIG EGO...:-)

9:58 am  
Blogger Robert James Reese said...

That is a really interesting theory/approach. I wonder if that was a case of it just working for one person or if it would work for everyone. I find this especially interesting as I have just moved in the opposite direction myself. I wonder which is better? I wish there was a way to know for sure. Are you going to try this?

12:44 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Sling, yes it doesn't feel like training (there are no workouts). I'd hate to have to do it on a treadmill! Patience is a virtue ;-)

Jonathon, thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I don't think Maffetone wouldn't suit you - that training partner of yours (E. Go) wouldn't stop nagging you to set PBs in training ;-)

Robert, yes, I'll be trying it for the next 3+ months. I think it would suit everyone (especially slow-twitch type runners) who persists with it long enough. I would have loved to have tried it when I was young. Back then I mainly did Clohessy-style mixed year-round training (2 speed sessions, one race, one long run per week), but only 80k or so weekly. I think I would have faster PBs if I'd done Maffetone (or Hadd) training for 3 or 4 months each year.

11:00 am  
Blogger strewth said...

Wow Ewen,this is all far too technical and intense for me! Why don't you just try running without the heart rate monitor for a week and run as you feel! Then you wouldn't tell me to slow down on those rare occasions when I actually feel good and want to run faster on our weekend runs!!

2:10 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Strewth I'm always telling you to slow down because you're much faster than me. If I hadn't been wearing the HRM this morning and had ran how I felt, you wouldn't have dropped me on the hills ;)

4:40 pm  
Blogger rinusrunning said...

I like the Lorraine Moller's story and run that way!.
Ewen, You can run Fast the 5 km, onlu train and run the marathon and you go fast ;-).
Nice running weekend.

2:53 am  

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