Monday, March 3, 2008

The power of an aerobic base

If you would have asked me in October, or during any of my peak training times in the past 7 years "how is my aerobic base?", I would have answered "great, just look at what I am able to do.

I now know what an idot I have been for 7 years.

I would have answered with that statement, but left out "yes, but I am chronically fatigued, get shin splints once I run over 50 miles per week, I get colds frequently, I get allergies, but no doctor can find anything I am allergic to, I often will wake up in the middle of the night for 2-3 hours, and I eat everything in the house"

These, I learned from Dr. Phillip Maffetone, are symptoms of aerobic deficiency syndrome.

After talking with Adam, reading some articles, and looking back on my years of training and performances, I figured I had nothing to lose by looking at a drastically different method of training.... the Maffetone method.... or, low heart rate training.

Maffetone states that to build an effective aerobic base, one needs to spend a MINIMUM of 3 months at your maximum aerobic fitness heart rate. For me, this was around 143 - 148. I have spent virtually all of my training over the years over 150, and a lot over 160.

Adam had me do a "Hadd" Test to track the progress. The goal was to do the following.

.5 mile warm up a 6mph (gee, I thought, I might fall asleep)

1.5 miles at 125 avg hr
1.5 miles at 135 avg hr
1.5 miles at 145 avg hr
1.5 miles at 155 avg hr
1.5 miles at 165 avg hr

2 mile cool down at 6.5.

I started low hr training in the middle of January. Maffetone states that you can not do anything anaerobic in that time, so no weight lifting, situps, pushups, etc.

My first Hadd test was on January 28. Here were the results.

.5 mile warm up 6mph avg hr 110

Interval time speed (MPH) avg hr
1 14:04 6.4 126
2 13:13 6.8 136
3 12:30 7.2 143
4 11:32 7.8 153
5 10:35 8.5 166

I found it hard to keep the first few intervals at a low enough hr, but also to get the last few up properly. You can see this in how I had to speed up a lot more to get the increased hr.

In case you were wondering, this was done on a treadmill at 0% incline.

Here are the results from todays Hadd test

.5 mile warm up 6 mph 115 avg hr

Interval time speed avg hr
1 14:15 6.5 129
2 13:14 6.8 134
3 12:10 7.4 143
4 11:07 8.1 154
5 10:21 8.7 162

I could not believe it. Here I was running at a 6:53 pace, and I was completely comfortable, and my hr was 162. I could have gone to 8.8 or 8.9, a 6:40 pace. I my world this translate to a marathon pace of about 7:15 - 7:20 (a 3:10 marathon pace), something I have not done for 7 years.

Let me be real clear here.

All of my running has been below 150 hr. No speed work. No temp work. Just long slow distances. A lot of my runs have been just 6-7 at that pace. One 20 miler, one 3.5 hour run at Afton, and a lot of 8-10 mile runs.

I have felt like I have not been training in the last month. At the end of my runs I am neither winded or tires (except for the 20, my legs were getting sore). At the end of most runs I feel like I could do the entire run again.

I still have until April 12th to do this low hr training, and then I am unleashing the racer in me at Chippewa.

I write this post today to show that you don't have to pound your body into pain to see results. They can come other ways.

I will post reading references for those who might be interested in this training style.
=updated- The book I read was "The Maffetone Method" by, you guessed it, Phillip Maffetone. The bibliography is worth the cost by itself



aharmer said...

Great post...and great work the last month! Your efforts will pay huge dividends on the trail. I believe the end of your post is the key. The fact that you're not beating yourself up, and you feel as if you could do the workouts again when you're done. That's exactly what I tell people when they ask what it should feel like. Oh, and I like the beginning about your allergies, pain, etc. It's pretty common for people to think that the pain and side effects of running are completely normal.

bryan said...

Awesome job. It'll be great to see what you can do at Chippewa Moraine.

Zach said...

I'm with you man. I had my bout of overtraining last year, it devastated me, the least of my problems was slow times. It wasn't fun to run anymore. I personally get caught up reading all these running magazines, everyone has 10 new workouts, mostly some variation of speed work and I feel like I'm slacking if I'm not doing it. Well after last years overtraining bout, this fall I committed to running all slow distance from TCM through Dec 31 to recover. Not only did I recover, but I bounced back to where my peak before all the overtraining. Since then, I've cautiously added 1 tempo run every 1-2 weeks. If I feel the least bit sluggish, I skip it. I find that any speed work just beats me up and jeopardizes overall mileage, enjoyment, results. There was an article in Running Times that just came out last week with a similar story, where the person in question, following the Lydiard method, ran tons of slow distance and recovered and made new PR's. I took that as validation and am sticking with it with no more "lack of speedwork" guilt. Especially for those of us running ultras, we shouldn't have to worry about the speed work.

Take care, cya at Chippewa, if not before.


P.S. Love the photo on the blog ;)

SteveQ said...

I still don't get it. So, you can run a mile and a half a little faster now than you did a month ago. How's that going to help you to run hard for three hours in a marathon? The improvement looks to me to be nothing that couldn't have happened under any conditions.

Runner Brewer said...

Good question Steve.

All I can say at this point is, I know my body, and I am confident I will have results to show for it.

The true test will be at Chippewa and Ice Age.

The simple answer to your question is if I ran at a 6:43 pace in September, my hr would have been around 170.

Yes, my hr will increase the longer I run at that pace, but I won't be running Chippewa at that pace either.

I guess we will see in a 5 1/2 weeks if I have delusions of grandeur.

aharmer said...

The run he did isn't as much a training tool as it is a measurement of your training program. Whether it's a good measurement is another debate. If you're seeing faster paces and/or lower HR's during this test it's a pretty good sign that you're improving your conditioning. As Matt said, the proof is when the rubber hits the road (or trail in this case)

Joel said...

Wow. I've never heard of this, but it sounds great.
I'll look into it.

Thanh Hùng Nguyễn said...

Cảm ơn bạn về bài viết ở trên, chúng là quá tuyệt và hữu ích cho tôi
Tôi cũng chia sẻ 1 chia sẻ nữa: quần aerobic