Achy Breaky Heart?…

“There are as many worlds as there are kinds of days, and as an opal changes its colors and its fire to match the nature of a day, so do I.” – John Steinbeck

You may be wondering what in the hell this post might be about given the title and the opening quote! Well fear not, I’m not having some kind of emotional breakdown or setback! This post is about heart rate training and changing up my training regime. I feel the time has come as I change my goals from running faster times to actually competing and trying to finish higher up the ladder at races. So it is that I’ve chosen to try heart rate training, specifically using the Maffetone method or the MAF 180 as it’s otherwise known.

The MAF 180. What is it? Well, it’s a pretty simple method of aerobic heart rate training. You train just inside your maximum aerobic HR zone for a few months, for the majority of your workouts and you get faster with less effort. In theory it’s the most efficient way of running long, strong and fast – this theory has been bourne out by many endurance athletes from Ironman to 100 milers. I’ll name the two specific athletes who have opened my eyes to this concept. Firstly, Larisa Dannis who was 2nd female at 2014 Western States Endurance Run and who ran that race entirely within her aerobic maximum and second, one of the most successful Ironman athletes of all time, Mark Allen.

My maximum aerobic heart rate, using the MAF 180 formula, is 164bpm. Therefore the majority of my training run should be undertaken between 154 to 164bpm on average over any distance I run. I am absolutely terrible at mathematics so I can safely say this calculation is extremely simple and easy to understand – you don’t need a calculator or an hour – it takes a minute!

So, I’m going to give it a go this year! I have a lot of questions about the method and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about trying something completely new and outside of everything I ‘know’ to be ‘effective’ training. For the next few months I will be training at slower and more comfortable paces than I’m used to, racing my ultras in the same way and using shorter stuff like the Midnight Sun Marathon to run anaerobic. I’ll also be going anaerobic (above my maximum aerobic HR) when I undertake incline treadmill workouts and possibly in the pool as and when I feel like it. Hopefully this will see me run a really strong race at The Grimreaper Ultramarathon​ 70 miler on June 31st which I have chosen as my A-race for the year.

The way I see it, I’ve got nothing to lose! I’m not sponsored (yet), I’ve not won anything (yet) and I’m looking for ways to get fitter, faster, stronger in training so I can then race intelligently. It won’t hurt to try something new and, from what I’ve read and heard, this method could actually see me improve quite a lot in a short space of time as long as I stick to it and have faith! What I’m hoping to see by the end of the year are improved race results and maybe some PRs in the mile, five mile, marathon and 50k range. Time will tell whether these things happen and also it will tell whether or not I actually stick to the program – I am not exactly known for sticking to structured training plans!

Larisa Dannis crosses the line in 2nd place after running the entire Western States 100 in an aerobic state!

Larisa Dannis crosses the line in 2nd place after running the entire Western States 100 in an aerobic state!

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