ATC 301: Setting Heart Rate Zones Based Off MAF, Bringing More Intuition Into Your Runs, and Always Injured What the Heck?

December 20, 2019


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Peter W. asks:

MAF Test Question – Time to Introduce speed now?

First off – let me say thank you for this really wonderful podcast.  You guys have helped changed many peoples lives – many of whom you have never, and will likely never met – extremely grateful for this podcast, and all of the insights.  So a big Thank You is in orders!

Offseason MAF maintenance question:

I am 32, 6’1 – 160lbs and on a plant based diet.  I’ve been run for about 3 years, but have only really focused on training MAF for the last 18 months or so.  I average about 30 – 40 miles a week in the offseason and about 50 – 60 miles during more formal training.

I recently completed a 10 mile MAF test using the 180 formula and adjusting for +5 beats – which puts me right at 153HR as my MAF level, and I normally train between 140 – 150HR for about 90% of my runs.  Results are as follows – note the course was not a track, and had some bridges with elevate…which I love to run due to the very scenic route.

·      Mile 1: 7:09 (pace)/ 149HR

·      Mile 2: 7:16 / 154HR

·      Mile 3: 7:22 / 155HR

·      Mile 4: 7:30 / 155HR

·      Mile 5: 7:32 / 155HR

·      Mile 6: 7:41 / 153HR

·      Mile 7: 7:46 / 153HR

·      Mile 8: 7:48 / 154HR

·      Mile 9: 7:55 / 154HR

·      Mile 10: 8:00 / 153HR

My question: I’ve been responding very well to MAF based training over the last year or so, however, given the results above, and the fact that I find it challenging to hold a HR of say 165 – 170HR for an extended period of time (puts me in the low 6 min pace wise)…would you start to incorporate specific speed drills right now, or should I see were MAF takes me, and introduce speed-work closer to an event.

What the Coaches say:

  • It’s important to know what you’re training for, but Lucho’s initial reaction is to say, yes, do speedwork.
  • Holding 165-170HR should be difficult. But if you find that you can’t hold 170-175 for more than a minute, then yes, you’re deficient in that upper-end.
    • Once a week doing a long threshold run at 165-170 would be fine. Also doing work in the 155-165 zone would be good.
    • Speedwork: 8″-20″ all-out followed by 4′ of total recovery. This is a safe approach that won’t wreck your MAF training. But ease yourself into it. Gradually build up the intervals (start with 3-4x 8″ on a hill).
    • 800s and 400s would also be ok, so long as you don’t go overboard.
  • If you’re more than 30 weeks out from a marathon, then go ahead incorporating speed. Ease off at the 30-week mark and focus in on marathon-specific build starting from 18 weeks out.
  • Strength and lactate are also important factors in running well. MAF/aerobic fitness isn’t the whole picture.

Roland Y. asks:

Is most of the time spent training below your actual MAF?

(This is a question we’ve had sent to us several times recently)

I discovered endurance planet 10 years ago – how listen to you guys is to save the episodes so when I take my holidays I can binge – I cannot count the number of times I have been laying on the beach in the canary islands and drifted into relaxation. Setting myself up raring to get out training when I return home to the uk.

So I decided let’s give this MAF thing a go… you are always talking about it.

Quick question

When you calculate your MAF is the objective to do most of your training below MAF. Currently I am attempting to train in the fat burning zone which is around 10 beats below my MAF, or do you train as normal but below your MAF regardless.

What I am attempting  run / cycle and  lower my heart rate but increase my speed /  pace – aka Mark Allen style.

( already with MAF I am leaning that walking is now my best friend – keeping in that fat burning zone is hard)

What the Coaches say:

  • Initial thoughts: while MAF is a good approach to maximize fat burning, about 80% of fat metabolism is dictated by diet.
  • The objective is certainly not to train above MAF. Ten beats over is aggressive and can cause damage, but five beats over can be ok so long as perceived exertion still feels easy. The mental aspect is very important!
    • Don’t use a run to let off steam. But if you feel amazing and want to push it (naturally), then go for it.
  • Also let recovery be your guide. If you’re exhausted the next day after your run, then you went too hard. Adjust accordingly.
  • Lucho allows a 20 beat range for MAF, with only 5 beats being over true MAF.

Craig M.

Always injured – what the heck?

I started running at age 18.  I made it to age 40 without any major injury and rarely stretched or did any mobility/strength work (other than the beach muscles).  Then I got a sacral stress fracture.  The PT’s told me I was very, very stiff (usually they said I was the stiffest person they’d ever met- yay me! First Place!!!!)  So I diligently did mobility work, stretched and did specific leg strength work for years.

Now it has been 6 years of that type of work and I get injured ALL THE TIME!  I haven’t ramped up my mileage or thrown in speed work too soon, in fact I haven’t even attempted speed work since I seem to get a soft tissue injury every 3-5 weeks.  ANd I don’t rush back to training when I do get these injuries.  I take all the time needed until I don’t feel anything in that area to start running again.

So I guess my question is; how come?

I go back to not doing all that work since it doesn’t seem to help (answer is no)?

Am I doing it wrong (answer is, it depends- love that one)?

Or should I keep doing what I am doing as I am actually doing things right, I would have probably gotten injured way, way worse had I continued to not do any of that work and kept running.  The cumulative miles have actually caught up to me and I need to do so much work to reverse the poor training habits of the past.

Side note- 2 of my older friends never do any of the strength/mobility/stretching and they are never injured.  I know each person is different and it may catch up to them, but it doesn’t seem right (sorry that was more of a vent than a question)

Keep up the great work.

What the Coaches say:

  • Stress fractures often come from lack of nutrients as well as over-training.
  • The pattern of your approach seems imbalanced.
  • Stretching can negatively impact tendons. Beware of static stretching.
    • Stiffness isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  • Switch out your mobility work for something else (anything else!) and see if you stop getting injured.
  • Where is strength training fitting into all this? Consider going back to that.
    • Lunges and bulgarian split squats could act as both strength and mobility.
  • Your recovery might be too passive. Active recovery is most helpful. Don’t be a “couch potato,” but do activities that healthfully stress the injured tendon/muscle.
  • One study found that those who exercise while stressed have a 900% increased likelihood of getting injured.

One Comment

  • Kumodog says:

    Lucho and other listeners may want to look up the excellent book "Anatomy for Runners" by Jay Dicharry. He explains how much stiffness is needed for running and how much flexibility. There are self-tests to identify imbalances and a plan to fix yourself if broken or preferably before you get broken.

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