So as I have mentioned previously, my coach trains using the MAF method. The MAF method uses heart rate to guide effort during training. All of my workouts (minus swim and strength training) have specific instructions for heart rate. You can find more information about the method in general here.
MAF training is essentially training aerobically (and avoiding anaerobic training) based on your individual maximum aerobic training heart rate with a goal of building a strong aerobic base. The focus is on heart rate instead of pace.
The general theory is that at your MAF heart rate, you should feel like you can run/bike/swim for an extended period of time without tiring. To find this, you take 180 and subtract your age (it slightly more involved, but that’s the gist). So, for me, my MAF is 180 – 27 = 153. My coach rounded this up to a lovely 155. Many people become frustrated with this method since it involves slowing down your pace when first beginning. I can tell you from experience that it *is* frustrating at the beginning, but that it has been completely worth it.
One of the methods that this method uses to gauge progress is the MAF test. This run is done on a track preferably or on a treadmill. For the test, my coach has me warm up for a mile while increasing my heart rate slightly each lap. Next, you run 4 miles at your MAF heart rate. As you would expect, each mile is slower than the previous. My coach has me redoing this test approximately once a month in order to gauge progress. While I knew and could feel that I was improving over this last month of training, I had no idea how much I was improving. The answer? A lot!
My first MAF test was on the 17th of July and I realized that I had a long way to go before being in 70.3 shape.
Mile 1 – 13:44
Mile 2 – 14:16
Mile 3 – 14:39
My coach had me run this test again last week (on the 7th) and the results made my jaw hit the floor. Seriously.
Mile 1 – 11:40
Mile 2 – 12:18
Mile 3 – 13:26
Mile 4 – 13:55
My slowest mile during the second test was only ten seconds slower than my fastest mile of the previous test. Consider me a believer! Now yes, I realize that improvements would come from training regardless. But what makes me really love this program is that because it is based off of heart rate, I have never felt run down like I have in past training programs. I am the poster child for doing too much, too soon and burning out. This training combats that for me and keeps me at a healthy level of training and improvement. Finally finding a training method that is sustainable for me is worth its weight in gold!