maff training

If you want to get faster then maybe it is time to slow down.

I was introduced to a relatively new concept in training by a fellow runner. I had kind of heard about it before but I had not really looked in to it. Over the years I have heard people using this concept and having success with it.

So what is the concept? Well is the all about running slower to get faster. People often think that in order to run faster you have to do interval training, hill training and speed work. To some extent this is true but this type of intense training also is tough on the body and is a leading cause of many running injuries.

This new concept is that you run slow for a couple of months in order to build your aerobic base. By building your aerobic base you will become fitter which in turn will make you faster but without the risk of injury. The aerobic system is vitally important for all sports. In fact between 95-99% of the energy used for endurance sports comes from the aerobic system. The aerobic system is something we do not train, yes we may go for long runs, or easy runs. However you may surprise yourself that you might not be running these slow enough to work your aerobic system. Where as we spend time training our anaerobic system and our lactate threshold.

If you wish to give this a go then you need a heart rate monitor and to calculate your aerobic zone. Most sport watches have heart rate monitor in them so you shouldn’t need to buy a monitor. In the article by Dr Phil Maffetone he shows you how to calculate your aerobic zone,

  • To find your maximum aerobic heart rate:
    1.   Subtract your age from 180 (180 – age).
    2.   Modify this number by selecting a category below that best matches your health profile:

    a.     If you have, or are recovering from, a major illness (heart disease, high blood pressure, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or you are taking medication, subtract an additional 10.
    b.     If you have not exercised before or have been training inconsistently or injured, have not recently progressed in training or competition, or if you get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, or have allergies, subtract an additional 5.
    c.     If you’ve been exercising regularly (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems listed in a or b, keep the number (180 – age) the same.
    d.    If you have been competing for more than two years duration without any of the problems listed above, and have improved in competition without injury, add 5.

    For example, if you are 30 years old and fit into category b:
    180 – 30 = 150, then 150 – 5 = 145.

Are there any downsides to this? Well there are a few to mention. If you give this a go even for one run you will see how slow your pace feels. So the first downside is having to get used to a much slower pace. Also you have to be hard on yourself and force yourself to stay in your aerobic zone and not push your run, even if you are feeling good or want to do a sprint finish to your house. Technically every workout you do has to be in this aerobic zone, so that includes any exercise class you do like Spin, club runs and Park runs. You can not race whilst you are building your aerobic base and to do this aerobic training properly it will take you 2-3 months. I would say that this is the biggest factor in people not trying this type of training.

This type of training would be perfect if you are just starting out on your running journey or are coming back from injury. Or what I suggest and what I will do it just take a month and try working in my aerobic system and see if I get faster.

So your homework is to work out your aerobic zone and to look back over the data from your long/slow runs and see if your heart rate matches your aerobic zone. The one take home message I have is to stick to your aerobic zone heart rate when you you are running your recovery runs or your long runs. This one change will help your running in the long term.