Speeding Up by Slowing Down
Yes, you read that right. Welcome to your recovery and/or base training cycle.
We are going to use this time to SLOW DOWN and develop your aerobic system, and improve your Maximum Aerobic Function. Training your aerobic system allows your body to improve efficiency (teaching it to move at faster speeds with less effort over time), burn fats for fuel, recruit more muscle fibers, improve form, reduce stress, and even improve immunity.
As runners, we have the mentality that the workout has to hurt to work; and certainly there is a time and a place for hard, anaerobic work; but not now. We MUST develop your aerobic base FIRST. This will improve your running economy, making you a BETTER runner, which is why we're all here, right?
So bear with me. This phase is not as exciting as 400m repeats and progressive race pace tempos. You might be bored. But there is so much value in the low and slow. (I will do a more detailed Q&A on the science here, but THIS post is designed to be a quick "How-To" guide to get us started.)
If you're here, you saw a purple box in your training log marked "MAF Test", and are wondering what the heck that is. This is a monthly test you will be seeing in your calendar for the foreseeable future. It is how we will track your aerobic development and other biofeedback markers as your training progresses.
1. Choose the flattest course available to you for the prescribed distance (a track works best if possible). Be sure this is a course you can return to for your test every month, it's important to keep variables as consistent as possible.
2. Get a heart rate monitor. If you have a Garmin, you should have a wrist-based monitor, or you can purchase a chest strap to sync with your watch. If purchasing a monitor isn't feasible for you, we're going to be using nose-breathing to monitor effort. (Scroll past #3 if you don't have a monitor.)
3. Use the guidelines below to determine your heart rate zone. *If you completed your season goal-race within the past 4 weeks, use guideline B. *If your goal race was more than 4 weeks ago, use guideline C. *Do NOT use guideline D unless I have specifically instructed you to do so.
4. Go run. Complete your prescribed distance, on your designated course. Keep your eyes religiously on your heart rate, and stay at your prescribed rate. Your test does not count, and will need to be repeated if you are above that heart rate. You are not running by your own perceived effort, you are running by the RULES of your heart rate or nose-breathing effort.
*If you do not have a heart rate monitor, you will be closing your lips, and running at an effort that allows you to breathe through your nose ONLY. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
5. Do NOT care about your pace. Do NOT be discouraged. This is a test. If you have not trained this way before, it is likely that your PACE at this effort will be several MINUTES slower than what you think your easy pace is. That's part of the point. Breaking down the "no pain, no gain" philosophy and determining where your true effort lies. The good news: if you are diligent, and patient, it will get better. A lot better.
6. Log as much data as possible for me in your log. Your heart rate, your perceived effort, details about your course, the weather, and anything else you can tell me. Don't leave your notes blank PLEASE.
**Side Note: THIS is the method by which we train your body to fuel with fats. Whether or not you are on board with my nutrition guidelines, your body has plenty of excess fat stores it wants to burn. You hold FAR more (like thousands of times more) potential energy as fat, than as glycogen. It is only at lower heart rates that your body metabolizes fat for fuel. Anything above your prescribed MAF heart rate is transitioning your body to ANaerobic function, which is glycogen-fueled. You are not in a fat-adaption phase if your heart is higher than your MAF.