Sunday, April 14, 2013

Taking a look at Maffetone Training

I'm not long home from cheering on runners in the Canberra Marathon / Half / 50k races. Yesterday I raced in the feature event of the weekend — the Adidas 5k Fun Run. I had a good race! Ran strongly all the way, enjoyed some one-on-one racing with various people (mainly youngsters), caught a fast-starting Janene inside the last kilometre and recorded a respectable time — 22:46. One memorable duel was with an 8-year-old girl in pink. Caught her with about 500m to run, settled for a bit then threw in a strong surge. Thought she'd been despatched but then she came flying past with an impressive kick over the last 100 metres. All good fun!

My sister gave me a Kindle for Christmas and I've downloaded a few books, the latest being 'The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing' by Dr. Philip Maffetone. I was impressed by Mark Cucuzzella's enthusiastic review on Amazon, summing up the book as 'The best holistic approach to endurance for life.' Mark follows Maffetone's training methods and has an impressive list of running achievements, including winning the Air Force Marathon in 2:38 at the age of 44.

I've only read 7% of the book (according to Kindle) but I'm enjoying it and think it'll serve as a good reference to guide my training. Phil Maffetone is well known for using heart-rate monitors to coach athletes. What I didn't know about is the emphasis he places on the 'holistic approach' to training. Running needs to fit into one's life in a balanced way. Stressful work and home time plus stressful training (hard interval sessions and high mileage for example) doesn't produce successful racing. The Maffetone heart-rate 'zone' is the 'fat-burning' zone and running in it is usually relaxing and not stressful. My MAF (maximum aerobic function) heart rate is calculated to be 130 (180 - my age of 55 + 5 for running history) and by feel I can tell that 130 is a good number for me. Phil Maffetone recommends that as much running as possible be done in a 10 heart-beat range up to MAF heart-rate, so my range is 120 to 130. This quite suits my 'run by feel' philosophy — 130 on flat ground equates to a pace (at the moment) of about 5:30 per kilometre. As my aerobic condition improves, my pace at HR 130 will get faster. I can run well by feel on a day to day basis too — if I've had a stressful day at work I'll do a shorter run, closer to 120 HR; if I feel good and fresh, I can run longer and/or faster and/or over a hillier course. I have a 12k 'rolling hills' trail course which seems to be ideal for building leg strength. Anyway, I'll expand on my thoughts once I've finished the book and with a few months of training in the diary.

My palindromic number for the Adidas 5k


Blogger Black Knight said...

22:46 is a very good finishing time and running the races help to maintain the speed. In other words a 5 km is a fun speed work. I also noticed how many kids run the shorter distances and how they are fast.
I am sorry but I'll never read anymore books on training and running, I feel too sad at the moment.

8:23 pm  
Blogger Raina said...

So kind of you to let the 8 year old girl by so she could enjoy that small victory. :) Next time you won't take it easy on her!

Interesting to read about you doing MAF training. A friend of mine, actually 2, have done that through their coaches. I haven't read the book, only looked at the website for Maffetone, but I do agree with running solely in your easy heart rate zone while base building. I did that for about 6 weeks last summer and could hardly take it! When I started back with intervals for a few weeks, it was amazing how much faster I could run and still stay in the easy HR zone. Do you plan to run strictly easy for a while, or will you still be doing racing/intervals?
Holistic running- this is something I should explore more. Balancing it all can be so tricky.
BTW- great race number :)

3:44 pm  
Blogger Robert Song said...

If I had only known that the 5k was the feature event I would have entered that rather than the half ;-) No pesky kids in the half though.

You and I managed the same avg pace for our races.

And what was going on with the balmy weather?

4:30 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Stefano. Sorry to hear that. Hope your injury gradually improves over time and you can get back to enjoying your running.

Raina, next time I'll tie her shoelaces together before the start.
If you should ever try it again you need to persist beyond 6 weeks. I won't be doing intervals - plan to do short 75m sprints (and 10 sec hills) as Cucuzzella did for neuro-muscular training. I'll do short races (3 to 5k) every now and then.

Robert Song, you bought the bloody balmy weather down with you from Queensland! Bet you were glad you weren't running the marathon. Nice half from you. Have a good pics of you and Tesso - will post to FB tomorrow.

7:41 pm  
Blogger Jason Montfort said...

Always interesting to the see the cross-over between the different training system. Maffetone heart rates versus what you find is appropriate on feel. I completely agree about finding that balance between life, work, family, training and different stressors is paramount.

7:44 pm  
Blogger Janene said...

Good running in the feature event ET. There were lots of ankle biters out there on the course! How about the guy pushing 3 kids in that huge running pram thing?! He flew by me early in the event never to be seen again!

You sure do seem to chop and change your training approach. That HR approach didn't work for me. I hope it works for you. But yes, getting a good balance in life is vital! Maybe you just need to ride the motorcycle more to boost speed work ;-).

8:32 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Jason you're doing particularly well with the balancing act - especially doing shift work. Maffetone does cross-over well with running by feel.

J, yes, that was embarassing. Consoling myself with the thought that he must be a 15-minute 5k bloke. My changes aren't radical - I've always liked Lydiard and Maffetone takes a lot from Lydiard. If this motorcycle-friendly weather continues I will!

9:11 pm  
Blogger Grellan said...

Interesting post Ewen. My MAFF Hr of 138 is exactly the same (allowing for age) and has served me well - although I haven't necessarily kept my aerobic run HR within the 10 BPM band below this - will do now though.

7:56 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Grellan, I think staying in that 10-beat zone could be especially beneficial to marathoners by teaching the body to use fat as fuel (rather than sugar) - so less likely to 'hit the wall' in a marathon.

9:33 pm  
Blogger Run, Karla, Run! said...

I really like the idea of a holistic approach to training. It makes sense to me. Thanks for sharing. I hadn't heard of that book.

11:05 pm  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

My Kindle is full of running books :)

9:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on a great 5km race! It adds to the excitement when there are little speedsters to race against.
Very interested on how you go with the Maffetone training & your thoughts on his book once you've finished it. I've had a bit of a look on his website & he has a very holistic outlook. I'm keen to read more about his approach to eating as it seems very sensible (avoiding processed food, sugar, refined carbs) & his recommendations for fuel during long training runs (using honey in water instead of gels).
On your longer runs do you walk up really steep hills or just aim to keep your average HR in the recommended zone? I've set my Garmin to buzz me when my HR goes over 135 but this means I'll be walking up even my 'slight slopes' ;-)
Happy running & reading!

9:06 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

No worries Karla, it's a good book.

Liz, mine's not. I have 'actual' running books I've yet to read! This one has jumped the queue ;-)

Thanks Fiona! When I followed 'Hadd Training' in '07 I would stop and walk on hills as it was impossible to keep my HR down. After a number of weeks I could run those hills. I think for the improvement to happen it's important to stay in the MAF zone. My MAF HR is 130 and I'll slow on hills if I see 135 (I'm still running) - sometimes I'll see 140 or so briefly by mistake. I'd set the alarm at 5 over your MAF HR and slow to a jog or walk if you hit that. As you improve you'll be running up slopes comfortably under MAF HR.

4:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ewen, Good racing. There is little doubt about the value of a good balance of life activities, especially seeking every opportunity to relax and developing the skill to relax well. Many Kenyan runners seem to manage that well, at least those who are able to devote themselves fully to running. But it requires greater imagination when you have a demanding job.

With regard to Maffetone training, there is a lot of evidence that a large volume of running below aerobic threshold is very effective at building aerobic capacity. The intriguing question is whether or not a small amount of high intensity running within a polarized program damages this aerobic development. Some of the evidence from studies of muscle physiology suggests that accumulation of acidity during a session might limit some of the benefits of low intensity training within that session, but I am not aware of evidence that it damages the benefits from surrounding sessions. If your only goal is to enhance the ability to utilise fat, this might be best done with running only at a pace a little below aerobic threshold, but to my mind, increasing LT is also a major goal. It seems to me that a moderate amount of exposure to lactate might encourage the development of the enzymes that metabolise lactate. In the early stage of the Hadd program, he recommended two sub-LT sessions a week together with some lower intensity sessions. Hadd’s criterion for sub-LT was based on individual aerobic capacity, and, most importantly, was adjusted upwards according to progress during base-building. Maffetone’s recommended HR seems too arbitrary to me. Hadd’s protégé, ‘Joe’, was doing the 200/200 fartlek sessions by week 8. Did you ever do the 200/200 fartlek session and if so, do you think you exceed LT during the later part of the session.

My guess is that many of Lydiard’s protégés exceeded LT during the Sunday morning run in the Waitakere Hills.

8:04 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment Canute.

Yes, I'm curious if there is a 'retreat' of aerobic development from accumulation of acidity, either within sessions or from sessions following 'lactic' days. I recall doing at least one 200/200 session and definitely would have exceeded LT in that. My recent months of 1k intervals would have exceeded LT (even though moderately paced) and I'm wondering if that has caused my aerobic ability to recede?

In the book, Maffetone has a table of Mike Pigg's RQ values (respiratory quotient). It shows 'sugar burning' at quite low HRs - for example, at his HR of 127, 70% of energy is from fat and 30% from sugar (RQ .79). He says that 0.7 is hypothetically 100% fat burning. A ratio of 0.85 is 50% sugar, 50% fat. At 0.87 (HR 155), Mike Pigg was running sub-5:25 mile pace.

So I'm thinking lactate threshold is quite a wide band. Perhaps Maffetone's MAF HR is 'conservative' because of this? So as to prevent aerobic regression during training? What you say about Lydiard's protégés is true for sure. It'd be impossible to keep HRs down over those hills.

6:06 pm  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

Well done on the 22.46!! Sub 23 is always good! Reckon the HR and LT would both have been pretty high towards the end of that race by the sounds. While its good to avoid racing your training too much especially in 2hr+ efforts (otherwise you end up training your races), I would think that training should simulate the demands of racing as much as possible as training is designed to help your body and mind get ready to get to higher levels in racing? I agree with getting on the motorcycle as Janene said, for sure that has the potential to jump up the heart rate and simulate the mental "zone" of racing. Some of my friends are big Lydiard fans. I'm not convinced that works for me, prefer Cerutty and others. Maffetone I'm not familier with, but when you have read the other 93% of the book, I'm guessing you should be very well versed in his training strategies. Agree with the idea of doing some training around the Aerobic Threshold, and also the idea of adjusting training to take into account a hard day at work or other factors, but IMO some high intensity stuff is useful especially in shorter sessions. All the best with the continuing journey. Two sub 23min efforts and a 23.07 in March/April suggests to me you are hitting a bit of a purple patch and could be a big breakthrough run waiting to be unlocked in the next few weeks. All the best!

11:38 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Jonathon - yes, want to edge that 5k time down if I can get the purple patch happening. Avoiding 'racing your training' is, I think, one of the good things about Maffetone training - pace at MAF HR is way slower than 5k race pace (about a minute per k slower for me at the moment). Agree that some intensity is useful, but I think alactic running (very short sprints or very short hills) would mix OK with Maffetone training. I'll let you know more when I've finished the book!

8:46 pm  

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