Thursday, January 10, 2013

Matt's Back with a Training Update

Since Jan. 2, I’ve been running steadily, racking up seven 60-70 minute runs. I’ve been consistently wearing my heart rate monitor and have noticed modest improvements (too modest to discuss yet). The most significant improvement; however, has been in my attitude -- I am comfortable at my slower pace. In fact, I embrace it. It is less taxing on my body, which allows to run every day without being sore or tired. As any runner will tell you, this is what we aim for.

Matt continues to further his knowledge of heart rate training. He’s back with a second post on the topic.

First, a technical gadget update. Kellie and I both have heart rate monitors now. She has a Polar FT4 strap and watch. It’s working out very well for her. It actually pairs with the treadmill at home and at the YMCA, which is especially convenient.

I received on Wednesday a Wahoo strap and iPhone key. The key plugs into my iPhone, which enables it to read the strap. In turn, this allows me to view my heart rate via my Runkeeper app. It also sends me audio alerts every five minutes to let me know my heart rate.

I’m also reading The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing by Dr. Phil Maffetone. Maffetone is an internationally recognized researcher, educator, clinician and author in the field of food and nutrition, exercise, sports medicine, and biofeedback. You can learn more about him here.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

Use a simple formula to determine your maximum aerobic heart rate (subtract your age from 180) and follow a 10 point zone. For example, the aerobic zone for a 40-year old would be 130 - 140. Maffetone says the closer you stay to the top end of your zone, the better.

The general idea is to build your aerobic base by training in your aerobic heart rate zone for as long as you continue to see improvements.

Typically, with weekend warrior type of endurance athletes like us, this improvement phase can last many months and even years. Monitoring progress is pretty simple -- just monitor the time it takes to run 5 miles once every month. Those who adopt this practice will begin to see progress as early as a few weeks.

Maffetone suggests that most endurance athletes train in the aerobic zone exclusively. Training anerobically (above your zone) will have marginal impact but will significantly increase the risk for an overtraining injury.

The book is not light on case studies and testimonials from endurance athletes who have come to Maffetone for consultation/coaching. The stories all trend the same way -- an athlete is struggling with his/her training and progress. He/she begins training in the aerobic zone and ultimately ends up achieving personal records in all types of races from 5Ks to marathons to triathalons and ultramarathons.

It’s worth noting that Maffetone is also a proponent of restricting refined sugars/carbs, espousing that the best health can only be achieved when the aerobic system is optimized.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in endurance training or improving overall health. Maffetone’s personal experience as a doctor and coach is very compelling.

I know that it probably sounds too good to be true (i.e., running at  a reasonable pace to achieve faster race times). The challenging element for most of us is to have the patience to: 1) Run slowly; and 2) Put in the weekly time required to reap the benefits.

Kellie and I are committed to training exclusively at our aerobic heart rate zone from now until our half marathon in May (with the possible exception of a 5K or 10K along the way).

I’ll check back next month to report on our progress.

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