Training is like baking – Marc Laithwaite

©iancorless.com_IMG_3117Marino2014_

In recent posts, we’ve been talking about enhancing fat burning to boost endurance. This week’s post was due to focus upon pacing strategy for training and competing and specifically how pacing interacts with the types of fuel you use when exercising. However, as we’ve been discussing Maffetone in recent weeks, I’ve had a few messages stating that I’ve contradicted myself. The reason for this is that I am a believer in the importance of short and high intensity workouts for endurance performance. In the past I have outlined the danger of too much low intensity riding and running, specifically how it makes you slower. I understand why this may be seen as contradictory, so let me explain…

If you are competing in Ironman, one of the things you need to consider is your estimated time and pacing strategy on the bike section. To calculate your ‘race pace’ a simple and popular test is the cp20. During this test, the rider is required to sustain the highest power output for a 20 minute period and from the results, you can calculate your ‘functional threshold’. Some of you may have heard these strange terms before but in simple terms your ‘functional threshold’ is the output you should feasibly be able to manage for an hour. The calculation is simple, look at the average power for the 20 minute test and 95% of that figure is your functional threshold

Using functional threshold you can guess the amount of power that in theory you can sustain for all distances up to the Ironman 112. For example, 70% of your functional threshold is a reasonable target for Ironman. The critical thing here is that the power you can hold for only 20 minutes (a very short period of time) predicts Ironman pace. So, if you cannot ride quickly for 20 minutes, you will undoubtedly be riding slowly in Ironman over a distance of 112 miles, as 70% of ‘slowly’ is ‘even slower’. A common mistake people make when training for long distances is that they focus on endurance only and ride lots of slow miles. They ‘get it in their heads’ that Ironman is all about ‘the distance’ so ride long and slow. As a result of doing so much slow riding, their 20 minute power output is reduced to a score potentially even lower than when they started! Subsequently, their Ironman pace (70% FTP) is therefore also reduced.

So the solution is simple, just train to produce the highest power output for 20 minutes by doing short and high intensity riding and you’ll PB in Ironman? Unfortunately not… The test dictates your Ironman pace from the amount of power you can produce within the 20 minutes. However, the critical part is that the test also presumes that you have done the mileage, so therefore have the endurance to support your performance.

The same applies to running and training for a marathon. Let’s say as a ‘guess’ that if you double your 10k time and add 4-5 minutes, you’ll be close to your half marathon time. Now double your half marathon time and add 10 and you’ll get your predicted marathon time. You’ve probably heard that formula before, it’s been around for many years. The key thing to point out is that when using that formula, your 10k time is therefore dictating your marathon time. As with our cycling example, if you can’t run quickly for 10k, you can’t run a fast marathon.

However, the formula of double 10k and add 4-5 minutes or double half marathon and add 10 presumes that you have ‘done the mileage’. You can’t just train for 10k racing and expect to run a great marathon. Your 10k time will ‘predict’ your running speed in the marathon, but without the mileage in your legs, you won’t be able to hold that pace for the entirety of the race.

So let’s look at it this way:

  1. The 20 minute test in cycling or the 10k time in running tells you how quickly you are capable of riding or running Ironman or marathon.
  2. Whether you have done the long distances in training will determine whether you are actually capable of maintaining that speed and reaching the finish line in your target time.
  3. As a quick summary, ‘how fast can you go and can you keep it going?’

The simple lesson to learn here is that both long-term endurance and maximal output over shorter distances are equally important for performance. If you choose one but not the other, you’ll either manage the distance ‘comfortably but slowly’ or you’ll go quickly at the start and die a painful death at the end. Don’t dismiss either of these key factors if you want to hit your target time.

To finish, I’ll go back to something, which I mentioned 3 weeks ago, when writing about the Maffetone formula. Each training intensity, level or zone has it’s own benefits and purpose. Too frequently athletes do their easy stuff too hard and their hard stuff too easy, as a consequence the sessions merge into one grey area of moderate intensity. When riding or running in zone 1, there are specific benefits, which are lost when you push too hard. When attempting a high intensity interval workout you will not gain the specific benefits of that session if you do not push hard enough.

Training is like baking, you need to put lots of different, but high quality ingredients together or you’ll find that on race day the whole thing will just taste a bit bland.

Go forwards endurance students, train well and practice burning the fat

– Marc Laithwaite

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

Fat Burning Efficiency by Marc Laithwaite

Image ©getphysical.co.uk

Image ©getphysical.co.uk

Last week we talked about the possible benefits of high fat coffee (Bullet Proof Coffee) prior to an endurance workout. Greater levels of circulating fats in the blood stream, may promote the use of fat as a fuel source and thereby saving precious carbohydrate stores. It created quite a stir… as we expected!

As a recap, when you run long distances, you use a combination of both fat and carbohydrate to provide energy. Your objective is simply to get the most energy as possible from fat and less from carbohydrate, as your carbohydrate stores are relatively limited and can run out quickly.

For example: If when running at an endurance pace (say long ultra) you currently use 600kcal per hour with 30% coming from fat and 70% coming from carbohydrate, that’s 420kcal of carbohydrate per hour. If you reverse this figure so only 30% of your energy comes from carbohydrate, then you will only use 180kcal of carbohydrate per hour. That is a saving of 240kcal of carbohydrate per hour (60g per hour), which is actually the recommended intake during most endurance events!

So if the recommended guidelines are to ingest 60g of carbohydrate per hour during endurance events (that’s approximately 1-2 bars or 2-3 gels) and you switch your fat usage from 30% to 70%, then technically you don’t need to take any fuel right??

Not quite… even if you optimise your diet and training to enhance your fat usage, you’re always going to be using carbohydrate to some extent, so you still need to take it on board. There are a couple of key things you need to take into account:

  1. If you’re rested, tapered and fuelled, then you should be starting on a full tank of carbohydrate, so eat a good source of carbohydrate in the days prior to racing.
  2. We are obsessed with carbohydrate portions, thinking that more is better and a bigger portion equates to more glycogen (stored carbohydrate). Your glycogen stores are relatively small, so you don’t need to eat a lot. If anything, eat a little less in the final days to stop yourself feeling bloated and heavy. This is difficult to do, as we generally believe that ‘carbo loading’ is required so eat excessively in the final few days. The same rule applies for breakfast, a huge meal is of no benefit as your stores are probably already full.
  3. If your fat usage is enhanced, you don’t need to eat as much during the race or training. In Ironman many people ‘panic eat’ on the bike with a fear that we won’t have enough fuel on board. There is a real trend for people to be obsessed with how much they can eat during the cycle section. Athletes often have a set plan of several bars and gels, plus energy drinks at regular intervals. Stomach problems are very common due to high amount of carbohydrate, which gather in the stomach, leading to bloating.
  4. The most common reason given for people failing to hit their target times in endurance events is ‘I got my nutrition wrong in the race’. The truth of the matter is that you got your training wrong.

Last week, we suggested that Bullet Proof Coffee or training in a fasted state works best when training for 1-3 hours, depending upon your sports and ability. But what if you’re going further? What if you’re running for 3-5 hours or cycling 5 hours or more? For many athletes, riding for 5 hours in a fasted state would create a very high level of fatigue, which may take several days to recover from and impact upon your normal weekly training. If you are riding or running longer distances, breakfast and food throughout the session is needed and you should follow these guidelines:

  1. Eat food which will maximise fat usage to save carbohydrate.
  2. Maintain a constant blood sugar level and avoid spikes and dips.
  3. Based on point 2, eat foods which provide a slow ‘drip feed’ of energy rather than those which give you an instant hit.

Here are examples:

Breakfast is 1 mug full of muesli with no sugar. To increase fat content, buy mixed seeds/nuts breakfast cereal topper and add quarter of a mug. To further increase fat content sprinkle on desiccated coconut. Add dried or chopped fruit (anything low GI) and eat with full fat milk or natural yogurt. Don’t add any sugar, honey or syrup. It should be a small to medium bowl, don’t overeat and try to stock up with extra toast and jam for carbohydrates.

During exercise eat nothing for the first hour then take something every 30 minutes. You need to avoid things, which give you an instant hit, so avoid all high sugar products and don’t use energy gels. Energy bars take longer to digest so half a bar every 30 minutes would be suitable. Opt to have half every 30, not a full bar every hour, as this is easier for your stomach and intestines to deal with. You can choose something different to sports bars, such as flapjack, dried fruit or bananas. If you make your own flapjack, butter, fruit, coconut and oats are good, avoid sugar and syrups. The key is small quantities frequently (every 30 minutes from 60 onwards), coupled with water, squash or electrolyte solution, but no energy in drink.

The great gel quandary

Gels were invented for a specific purpose. When you felt low on energy and you were about to ‘bonk’ or ‘hit the wall’, you took a gel and it gave you instant energy. They gave you a rapid sugar spike at times when a rapid sugar spike was required. Then at some point the rules changed, gels were no longer a rapid source of energy for low periods, they are now to be taken every 20 minutes to provide a constant flow of energy. Simultaneously we are advised that we need a constant drip feed of carbohydrate and to avoid sugar spikes. Maintaining a steady blood sugar level is key to efficient metabolism. I’m not sure if I’m the only one confused, but I’m not sure how taking a product designed to spike your sugar levels every 20 minutes can be described as ‘drip feeding carbohydrate’ and maintaining a steady supply. In fact, gels sold based on their ‘fast acting’ properties, would surely be the worst things to take? That of course depends upon how you’re using it, if you’re taking it every 20 minutes to top up energy through a long race, the statement is correct. If you’ve bonked and you need an instant hit, then a gel is perfect, as that’s what they were designed for. It’s interesting how the purpose of a product can change, but I guess if you only took gels when you ‘bonked’ compared to buying 18 of them for a 6 hours ride, the gel economy would take a hit. Just saying.

What next?

As a start point, go out and ride or run and try the strategy. Don’t panic eat or over-eat either before or during. Choose low sugar foods in small quantities at frequent intervals and don’t be afraid of ‘bonking’ during this process. It may take your body a while to become accustomed to utilising fat so give it some time.

Pacing is key

Pacing is the missing jigsaw piece for this strategy. Riding or running at the correct intensity is critical during training sessions if you wish to maintain glycogen stores for the full duration of the workout. We’ll discuss pacing in next week’s blog and how intensity impacts upon fuel usage during endurance training and racing.

– Marc Laithwaite

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

CYCLING for RUNNERS – Article 7 March On!

HEADER_Suunto_ScottMarch is upon us and with it a new series of training sessions. In February we gave you a series of targets. Four sessions that ideally would be undertaken indoors on a turbo-trainer.

In summary, the sessions were as follows HERE

Catch up on previous articles HERE

In addition to the above four sessions you hopefully maintained your weekly runs and used cycling (very easy) as an alternative to a ‘recovery run.’

In March we are Marching On with our training and we want to step up once again and provide additional stimulus to progress your fitness and strength. You may be wondering, how do I fit all these sessions in?

Here is a template for a typical training week in March:

  1. Monday – Indoor cycling session of 20-40 minutes (based on fitness and experience.) Keep gearing very light and ‘spin’ your legs thinking about a 90+ cadence and maintaining souplesse.
  2. Tuesday – Running at 75% of max HR. Distance or time based on experience and targets.
  3. Wednesday – Indoor cycling session as per article 7 training plan. This will progress in effort for week 1, week 2, week 3 and week 4.
  4. Thursday – As Tuesday.
  5. Friday – Rest day.
  6. Saturday – Long outdoor bike session using ‘MAFF’ formula for 90 to 180-minutes. This will progress as outlined in this article 7 plan for week 1, week 2, week 3 and week 4.
  7. Sunday – Long run based on experience and target race distance.

MARCH TRAINING SESSIONS

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March sessions fall into three distinct categories:

Recovery, Intensity and Endurance.

For simplicity, we have scheduled the sessions to take place on a Monday (recovery), Wednesday (intensity) and Saturday (endurance). Of course it is possible to move these sessions around to suit your available time but please aim to keep to the structure we have provided here.

The week explained:

  • Monday follows a busy weekend of training and therefore is ideally a rest day or recovery day. As we have stated on many occasions, does a recovery run really exist? We use cycling for recovery as it is a non-weight bearing exercise and therefore you are able to spin your legs, elevate your heart rate a little and all without the impact of running. Monday’s session will ideally be on the road or an indoor trainer. You will use light gears, ‘spin’ your legs and look for a cadence of 90+. Time will vary based on your fitness and target goals. However, we recommend anything between 20 to 40-minutes.
  • Wednesday provides intensity and is an alternative to a faster running session. Over 4-weeks the sessions will build on February’s session and progress your fitness and strength.
  • Saturday is a long run equivalent and is ideally placed to provide two back-to-back sessions in March. You will cycle long on Saturday (outdoors) and then run long on Sunday. This provides a great endurance stimulus and reduces the impact that would come from two back-to-back run sessions. We are introducing the ‘MAFF’ formula for this session.

Hints ‘n’ Tips

  • Use a heart rate monitor. It’s great to get the feedback and monitor your training.
  • Have water handy – you will need it.
  • If training indoors use a fan or train near an open window.
  • Keep your pedalling technique smooth, don’t fight the bike.

WEEK 1

Monday : 20 to 40-minutes recovery 

Wednesday : 1-hour session turbo trainer

1-hour set and intervals

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 warm up * please see blow for a refresher on 5,4,3,2,1

Move up 1 additional gear, for me this would be 52×16 and maintain a 90 cadence for 4-minutes and then step up 1-gear (for me this is 52×15) and work hard for 1-minute. At the end of 1-minute drop back down one gear, for me 52×16 and repeat 4min/ 1min for seven more times (total 8 repetitions)

Cool down with 5 x 1-minutes dropping down a gear for each minute.

Saturday : 60-minute session

©iancorless.com_TCC2015_ScottBike-

This session will ideally be outdoors. You will use the MAFF formula to build base level fitness at any easy pace with a low heart rate and cadence ideally on or around 90 cadence. Make sure you use a quality HRM/ GPS for this session.

For example, the below session is 1-hour working on a MAFF of 130-140 bpm with warm up and cool down.

1-hour set

MAFF is based on the ‘Maffetone’ Formula. You can read two articles, HERE and HERE about Maffetone.

Maffetone formula is calculated as follows:

Subtract your age from 180.

Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile: 

A: If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.

B: If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.

C: If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same. 

D: If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are thirty years old and fit into category (B), you get the following: 

180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm).

If it is difficult to decide which of two groups best fits you, choose the group or outcome that results in the lower heart rate. In athletes who are taking medication that may affect their heart rate, those who wear a pacemaker, or those who have special circumstances not discussed here, further individualization with the help of a healthcare practitioner or other specialist familiar with your circumstance and knowledgeable in endurance sports may be necessary.

Two situations may be exceptions to the above calculations:

The 180 Formula may need to be further individualized for people over the age of sixty-five. For some of these athletes, up to 10 beats may have to be added for those in category (d) in the 180 Formula, and depending on individual levels of fitness and health. This does not mean 10 should automatically be added, but that an honest self-assessment is important.

For athletes sixteen years of age and under, the formula is not applicable; rather, a heart rate of 165 may be best. 

Once a maximum aerobic heart rate is found, a training range from this heart rate to 10 beats below could be used as a training range. For example, if an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate were determined to be 155, that person’s aerobic training zone would be 145 to 155 bpm. However, the more training at 155, the quicker an optimal aerobic base will be developed.

WEEK 2

Monday : 20 to 40-minutes recovery

Wednesday : 1-hour session turbo trainer

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 warm up *

Move up 1 additional gear, for me this would be 52×16 and maintain a 90 cadence for 3-minutes and then step up 1-gear (for me this is 52×15) and work hard for 2-minutes. At the end of 2-minutes drop back down one gear, for me 52×16 and repeat 3min/ 2min for five more times (total 6 repetitions)

Cool down with a reverse 5,4,3,2,1

Saturday : 90-minute session

This session will ideally be outdoors. You will use the MAFF formula to build base level fitness at any easy pace with a low heart rate and cadence ideally on or around 90 cadence.

WEEK 3

Monday : 20 to 40-minutes recovery

Wednesday : 1-hour session turbo trainer

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 warm up *

Move up 1 additional gear, for me this would be 52×16 and maintain a 90 cadence for 3-minutes and then step up 1-gear (for me this is 52×15) and work hard for 2-minutes. At the end of 2-minutes drop back down one gear, for me 52×16 and repeat 3min/ 2min for seven more times (total 8 repetitions)

Cool down with 5 x 1-minutes dropping down a gear for each minute.

Saturday : 2-hour session

This session will ideally be outdoors. You will use the MAFF formula to build base level fitness at any easy pace with a low heart rate and cadence ideally on or around 90 cadence.

WEEK 4

Monday : 20 to 40-minutes recovery

Wednesday : 1-hour session turbo trainer

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 warm up *

40-minutes at 75% of maximum heart rate with a 90-cadence

Cool down with 5 x 1-minutes dropping down a gear for each minute.

Saturday : 2-hour 30-minute session 

This session will ideally be outdoors. You will use the MAFF formula to build base level fitness at any easy pace with a low heart rate and cadence ideally on or around 90 cadence.

©iancorless.com©iancorless.com_cyclingforrunners-4115

NOTES:

March is designed to enhance your fitness in multiple ways and maximize your fitness. Combining three key sessions on a bike: recovery, intensity and endurance you will have a great fitness base for April when we take training to the next level.

It’s important that running and cycling work hand-in-hand with each other during March. So don’t try to push the envelope with running too hard or too long. If in doubt, use the MAFF formula for your running.

MAFF will require discipline and you will almost certainly feel that training is too easy. It’s a common feeling for many that are new the formula but stick with it and see how you progress.

It’s imperative that you use a heart rate monitor (we recommend Suunto) for the sessions in March. You need to work hard for the intensity sessions but you also need to ensure that the recovery and MAFF sessions are easy. Most people don’t do hard sessions hard enough and make easy sessions too hard. What you end up with is the middle ground and a lack of progression.

As April and May arrive, you need to build on the above and balance them. You may find that a faster cycling session will start to be replaced with a faster run session. If so, that’s fine. Incorporate cycling as recovery. However, we encourage that you still use long bike rides in conjunction with long and eventually longer runs.

At the end of May we will be back with a plan for June. Things will all change in as running takes a greater importance. You will incorporate one faster run session (Tuesday), one hill session (Thursday) and maintain a long bike. Until then, good luck!

Make easy – easy!

And make hard – hard!

Enjoy Marching On…

Glossary:

*5,4,3,2,1

If you are not used to cycle gearing, the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 will help you. Depending on your experience, strength, fitness and experience. You may do this session on your ‘small’ cog at the front of the bike or the ‘large’ cog. I do my sessions on the ‘52’ cog.

Start as follows:

52×25 for 5 minutes aiming for 90+ cadence

52×23 for 4 minutes aiming for 90+ cadence

52×21 for 3 minutes aiming for 90+ cadence

52×19 for 2 minutes aiming for 90 cadence

52×17 for 1 minute aiming for 90 cadence

By the time you reach the final minute you will be completely warm, your hear rate will have slowly elevated and the gearing will be ‘challenging’ but sustainable. Your heart rate will be in the 70-75% zone of max hear rate.

Join us on STRAVA

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Thanks to SCOTT SPORTS and SUUNTO for the support and backing

Check out SCOTT HERE

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Check out SUUNTO HERE

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Maffetone Formula for better endurance performance by Marc Laithwaite

Marc Laithwaite at Lakeland 100/ 50 2014

Marc Laithwaite at Lakeland 100/ 50 2014

In a new series of articles, Marc Laithwaite (The Endurance Store), endurance coach and regular contributor to Talk Ultra podcast will provide insight in how you can become a better endurance athlete by training smart and eating for performance.

In the first article, we look at the Maffetone Formula also known as ‘MAFF.’

 

The term ‘aerobic base’ is used widely in endurance sports but what exactly does it mean? To build aerobic base athletes will generally do long and slow distance to gain specific benefits, we consider those 2 key benefits to be as follows:

  1. Conditioning – Your legs deal with a great amount of impact every time they hit the ground, which causes muscle damage. In turn, this muscle damage will slow you down. The only way to prevent this muscle damage is to become accustomed to ‘time on your feet’. Hence, by slowing down and running long distances at a slower pace, you will ‘harden your legs’ and prevent damage. If you run too hard during your ‘base training runs’ you will not be able to run far enough to get the required ‘time on feet’ so slowing to the correct intensity is critical. It’s important to note that this applies to cycling also, whilst the impact isn’t the same, the repeated action of pedalling means that your muscles will break down, your hips will become tight and your back will ache!
  2. Metabolic Adaptation – Your muscle fibres will adapt and more closely resemble the ‘slow twitch variety’. One of the key changes is the ability to use fat as a fuel source and also to use less energy overall. These combined changes mean that you are less likely to run out of fuel during longer distance exercise. If you can change your muscle fibres so running out of fuel is unlikely, combined with your ‘hardened legs’ which don’t become damaged easily, you are ready for some serious endurance action.

So how slow should I run?

It’s very common for endurance athletes to get the ‘training zone’ thing very wrong. The key thing to remember is that variation is critical, so easy sessions to develop base should be easy and high intensity sessions to develop power should be extremely hard. Many athletes tend to drift into the middle ground where no training is really easy, no training is really hard, but pretty much everything is ‘moderately hard’.

What is the Maffetone Formula?

Made famous by Mark Allen who won the famous Iron War with Dave Scott in 1989. Allen had repeatedly failed to beat Dave Scott, always running out of fuel in the marathon stage. He turned to Maffetone who revolutionised his training, with the principal aim of enhancing fat burning to make him a more effective runner. Maffetone employs a maximum aerobic heart rate above, which you cannot exercise. Initially, athletes find it very frustrating as they will be running very slowly, but over time there are large benefits to be had as the base aerobic system improves.

What’s the Formula?

Subtract your age from 180.

Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:

If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.

If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.

If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same.

If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are thirty years old and fit into category (b), you get the following:

180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm).

If it is difficult to decide which of two groups best fits you, choose the group or outcome that results in the lower heart rate. In athletes who are taking medication that may affect their heart rate, those who wear a pacemaker, or those who have special circumstances not discussed here, further individualization with the help of a healthcare practitioner or other specialist familiar with your circumstance and knowledgeable in endurance sports may be necessary.

Two situations may be exceptions to the above calculations:

  • The 180 Formula may need to be further individualized for people over the age of sixty-five. For some of these athletes, up to 10 beats may have to be added for those in category (d) in the 180 Formula, and depending on individual levels of fitness and health. This does not mean 10 should automatically be added, but that an honest self-assessment is important.
  • For athletes sixteen years of age and under, the formula is not applicable; rather, a heart rate of 165 may be best.

Once a maximum aerobic heart rate is found, a training range from this heart rate to 10 beats below could be used as a training range. For example, if an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate were determined to be 155, that person’s aerobic training zone would be 145 to 155 bpm. However, the more training at 155, the quicker an optimal aerobic base will be developed.

Completing the Test:

Completing the test is simple, for running find a flat 3 miles course or complete 20 minutes. The simplest way is to find a running track as this makes distance measuring easier. Warm up for 15 minutes within the Maffetone Training Zone and then run 3 miles within the Maffetone Training Zone and record your time. You could use a flat circuit on road and use a GPS but variations in GPS accuracy mean that a running track is more accurate. Record your time for the 3 miles and preferably record your time for each of the mile splits. For the bike, it’s best done on a calibrated turbo training or riding to power. Warm up for 15 minutes in Maffetone Training Zone, then ride 30 minutes within the Maffetone Training Zone and measure average power or distance completed. Remember that the turbo and power meter needs to be calibrated or the accuracy is poor.

Practicalities:

You may find the run pace very slow and frustrating, if so, then you should take this as a positive, your base is very poor and you therefore have plenty of improvement to make for the 2015 season!! All of your easy mileage running should be done in the Maff Training Zone and the test can be repeated every 4-8 weeks. You should see an increase in speed and distance for the same heart rate as your base fitness improves. If you keep getting quicker, then don’t worry about speed work until the Maffetone training reaches a plateau. Develop your base as much as possible at the start of the year for maximum gains later.

On the bike, heart rate is generally lower than it is during running, so you’ll find the test a little less frustrating. In reality, the Maffetone Training Zone for cycling should be adjusted by reducing it between 5-10 beats (my opinion – you might want to incorporate it). This test is based on 180 minus age and we all know that maximum heart rate varies from person to person (220 minus age to calculate maximum has been widely criticised), but just go with it and try the formula, nothing is perfect!

We’d be keen to hear your feedback, go and give the test a try and let us know your progress. If you found this article useful, please share with your friends and re-post on Facebook or Twitter!

– Marc Laithwaite

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

 

Paleo, Maffetone & the Method

Have you ever asked yourself?

  • Why can’t I lose weight?
  • What can I do to reach my potential as an ultra runner?
  • Why do I sometimes have pain and discomfort?

Dr Phil Maffetone says he can’t tell you the answers to such questions but what he does say is that he can help you find out.

He has a mantra that ‘everyone can succeed’. I agree, we are all capable of so much more than we think. But often, we need to think outside the box or we need to think in a very different way. We all become programed; we conform to the general consensus when actually finding our own path may very well be the best decision we could make.

Forget easy fixes. They don’t really exist. If you want something, you are going to need to work at it. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will need to make sacrifices but it may mean that you will need to adjust your thought process and look at things from a completely different angle.

Dr Maffetone has evolved and developed his ‘method’. We are all individual but certain patterns exist within all of us when we are not balanced in a perfect way.

As Dr Maffetone says, “These were physical, biochemical and mental-emotional imbalances, complete with various signs and symptoms. These patterns provided vital information, which helped lead to quicker and more accurate evaluations, and faster therapeutic outcomes.”

The ‘method’ leads to specific questions such as “Do you get pain?”

  • How do you get the pain?
  • When does the pain start?
  • What makes it better or worse?
  • How long does the pain last?

“These questions are a vital part of my style, and important tools anyone can use to find and fix physical ailments, metabolic imbalances and other problems.” Says Dr Maffetone.

Ultimately we all need our own personal program that will allow us to progress and function to the best of our ability. We need to self-test.

“By testing the body by adding or avoiding certain foods or specific workouts, for example, one can obtain valuable information to begin piecing together the details of an individualized program.”

There are many different facets of health and fitness that also must work together to create optimum human potential for an ultra runner, we are primarily looking at the bodies efficiency at using fat as a fuel and the physical activity that we undertake in training to make us stronger and fitter for the challenges ahead.

Burning body fat helps any athlete to perform at high levels, particularly ultra runners. The benefits are incredible, lets face it, and we all have plenty to call on. If we are using the fat within our bodies effectively not only can we perform better but we also prevent the accumulation of excess stored fat and weight.

Most of the body’s energy for daily living comes from the conversion of both sugar (glucose) and fat to energy (in the form of ATP).” Says Dr Maffetone “Some people rely on larger amounts of fat, with the result of high physical and mental vigor, improved health, and better all-around performance.“

If you are not able to burn fat and rely mostly on sugar for energy, then you will burn less fat in day-to-day life but more importantly you are neglecting one of the primary fuel sources that will enhance your training and race experiences. In addition, you will have the highs and lows that are associated with the ‘spikes’ from a high sugar diet, you will gain body fat and weight and you may very well feel sluggish with less consistent energy to perform daily tasks.

Is a Paleo lifestyle something that you now feel will enhance your life?

But Paleo is only one aspect of the Maffetone Method. If you want to switch on the fat burning mechanism within your body and enhance it, then we need to look at how we undertake our physical activity. Dr Maffetone pioneered this process way back in the 80’s with Mark Allen (now a highly respected champion Ironman Triathlete).

We need to train our Aerobic system.

“By stimulating the full spectrum of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which rely on fat for fuel, improvements in the heart and lungs with increased circulation and better brain function also occur.”

If we don’t train our fat burning system we are missing a really key component that will enable us to function at the best of our ability, we actually run the risk of becoming aerobically deficient.

Dr Maffetone explains, “Being aerobically deficient is a common syndrome associated with fatigue, increased weight and body fat, reduced immune function, physical disability, and hormonal imbalance.”

The Maffetone Method also covers so many other aspects such controlling chronic inflammation and stress management, which you may like to follow up on in one of his many publications.

  • “In Health & Fitness” by Dr Phil Maffetone HERE
  • “The Maffetone Method” by Dr Phil Maffetone HERE

I caught up with Dr Maffetone for episode 32 of Talk Ultra and we discussed the Aerobic system and Paleo diet. You can listen to the full interview HERE

Aerobic Training

How do you calculate your own maximum aerobic training heart rate?

To find your maximum aerobic training heart rate, there are two important steps to the Maffetone Method:

1. Subtract your age from 180.

2. Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:

a. If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.

b. If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.

c. If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same.

d. If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are thirty years old and fit into category (b), you get the following:
180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm). 

In this example, 145 will be the highest heart rate for all training. This is highly aerobic, allowing you to most efficiently build an aerobic base. Training above this heart rate rapidly incorporates anaerobic function, exemplified by a shift to burning more sugar and less fat for fuel.

If it is difficult to decide which of two groups best fits you, choose the group or outcome that results in the lower heart rate. In athletes who are taking medication that may affect their heart rate, those who wear a pacemaker, or those who have special circumstances not discussed here, further individualization with the help of a healthcare practitioner or other specialist familiar with your circumstance and knowledgeable in endurance sports may be necessary.

Two situations may be exceptions to the above calculations:

• The 180 Formula may need to be further individualized for people over the age of sixty-five. For some of these athletes, up to 10 beats may have to be added for those in category (d) in the 180 Formula, and depending on individual levels of fitness and health. This does not mean 10 should automatically be added, but that an honest self-assessment is important.

• For athletes sixteen years of age and under, the formula is not applicable; rather, a heart rate of 165 may be best.

Once a maximum aerobic heart rate is found, a training range from this heart rate to 10 beats below could be used as a training range.

For example, if an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate is determined to be 155, that person’s aerobic training zone would be 145 to 155 bpm. However, the more training at 155, the quicker an optimal aerobic base will be developed.

Initially, training at this relatively low rate may be stressful for many athletes. “I just can’t train that slowly!” is a common comment. But after a short time, you will feel better and your pace will quicken at that same heart rate. You will not be stuck training at that relatively slow pace for too long. Still, for many athletes it is difficult to change bad habits.

CASE STUDY taken and edited from markallenonline.com

Mark Allen says:

During my 15 years of racing in the sport of triathlons I searched for those few golden tools that would allow me to maximize my training time and come up with the race results I envisioned. At the top of that list was heart rate training. It was and still is the single most potent tool an endurance athlete can use to set the intensity levels of workouts in a way that will allow for long-term athletic performance. Yes, there are other options like lactate testing, power output and pace, but all of these have certain shortcomings that make them less universally applicable than heart rate.

In our sport there are three key areas of fitness that you will be developing. These are speed, strength and endurance. Strength is fairly straightforward to do. Two days per week in the gym focusing on an overall body-strengthening program is what will do the trick.

Next are the focused workouts that will give you raw speed. This is perhaps the most well known part to anyone’s training. These are your interval or speed sessions where you focus on a approaching a maximal output or your top speed at some point in each of these key sessions. But again, developing speed in and of itself is a fairly simple process. It just requires putting the pain sensors in neutral and going for it for short periods of time.

Now for the tougher part…the endurance. This is where heart rate training becomes king. Endurance is THE most important piece of a triathlete’s fitness (or ultra runner). Why is it tough to develop? Simply put, it is challenging because it usually means an athlete will have to slow things down from their normal group training pace to effectively develop their aerobic engine and being guided by what is going on with your heart rate rather than your will to the champion of the daily training sessions with your training partners!

For those patient enough to do just that, once the aerobic engine is built the speed work will have a profound positive effect their fitness and allow for a longer-lasting improvement in performance than for those who blast away from the first day of training each year.

What is the solution to maximizing your endurance engine? It’s called a heart rate monitor. And using one in the way I am going to describe will not only help you shed those last few pounds, but will enable you to do it without either killing yourself in training or starving yourself at the dinner table.

I lived by the motto “No Pain, No Gain” motto. And it worked…sort of. I had some good races the first year or two, but I also suffered from minor injuries and was always feeling one run away from being too burned out to want to continue with my training.

Then came the heart rate monitor. A man named Phil Maffetone, who had done a lot of research with the monitors, contacted me. He had me try one out according to a very specific protocol. Phil said that I was doing too much anaerobic training, too much speed work, too many high end/high heart rate sessions. I was forcing my body into a chemistry that only burns carbohydrates for fuel by elevating my heart rate so high each time I went out and ran.

So he told me to go to the track, strap on the heart rate monitor, and keep my heart rate below 155 beats per minute.

Maffetone told me that below this number that my body would be able to take in enough oxygen to burn fat as the main source of fuel for my muscle to move. I was going to develop my aerobic/fat burning system. What I discovered was a shock.

To keep my heart rate below 155 beats/minute, I had to slow my pace down to an 8:15 mile. That’s three minutes/mile SLOWER than I had been trying to hit in every single workout I did!

My body just couldn’t utilize fat for fuel.

So, for the next four months, I did exclusively aerobic training keeping my heart rate at or below my maximum aerobic heart rate, using the monitor every single workout. And at the end of that period, my pace at the same heart rate of 155 beats/minute had improved by over a minute. And after nearly a year of doing mostly aerobic training, which by the way was much more comfortable and less taxing than the anaerobic style that I was used to, my pace at 155 beats/minute had improved to a blistering 5:20 mile.

That means that I was now able to burn fat for fuel efficiently enough to hold a pace that a year before was redlining my effort at a maximum heart rate of about 190. I had become an aerobic machine!

On top of the speed benefit at lower heart rates, I was no longer feeling like I was ready for an injury the next run I went on, and I was feeling fresh after my workouts instead of being totally wasted from them.

Now use the 180 Formula as outlined above and….

Go out and do ALL of your cardiovascular training at or below this heart rate and see how your pace improves. After just a few weeks you should start to see a dramatic improvement in the speed you can go at these lower heart rates.

Over time, however, you will get the maximum benefit possible from doing just aerobic training. At that point, after several months of seeing your pace get faster at your maximum aerobic heart rate, you will begin to slow down. This is the sign that if you want to continue to improve on your speed, it is time to go back to the high end interval anaerobic training one or two days/week. So, you will have to go back to the “NO Pain, NO Gain” credo once again. But this time your body will be able to handle it. Keep at the intervals and you will see your pace improve once again for a period.

But just like the aerobic training, there is a limit to the benefit you will receive from anaerobic/carbohydrate training. At that point, you will see your speed start to slow down again. And that is the signal that it is time to switch back to a strict diet of aerobic/fat burning training.

Who is Mark Allen?

Mark Allen was born January 12, 1958 and is the six-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion. He graduated from Diego, where he was an All-American swimmer, with a degree in biology. After competing and losing in the Ironman Triathlon Championships six times, Mark Allen emerged victorious in 1989, winning one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. It would be the first of six Ironman victories for Allen, the last coming in 1995 at age 37.

Web Site markallenonline.com

What is Paleo?

We have had some excellent discussions on Talk Ultra in the ‘Talk Training’ element of the show and I recommend that you go back and listen to them. In particular, my discussion with Barry Murray in episode 19 available HERE

The Paleolithic (‘Paleo’) lifestyle has been gaining a lot of interest lately. It has gained increased momentum recently with such notable figures as Prof Tim Noakes and Comrades legend, Bruce Fordyce changing to this way of eating and reaping the benefits. So much so, that Prof Tim Noakes is re writing the nutrition section of his iconic book “The Lore of Running’.

Followers of a Paleo lifestyle are finding that they loose weight quickly as well as generally feel better once their bodies adjust to it.

Paleo is a call to old food values for millions of years ago before a relatively recent event, ‘The Agricultural Revolution’, completely changed the way humans eat.

But what does Paleo mean for you and your running lifestyle?

Well, it will mean a complete change for many… A daily diet of rice, pasta or potatoes will go. No grains, no bread, and especially no sugar or processed carbs, nothing that comes out of a box or a carton and no vegetable oils.

Nothing labeled “low fat” or “light”. Low or light usually means fat is removed and replaced with processed sugar.

I can hear you now, but that is what I eat. I live on rice, pasta and bread.

Paleo is high fat, medium protein, and low carb. It is about eating plenty of meat, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits and nuts. The emphasis of this diet is based around eating fats of all kinds such as the ones found in Canola oil. Ideally when cooking, you will use coconut oil or butter.

Paleo and exercise work well together and as we have explored with Dr Phil Maffetone and the case study of Mark Allen, if you are patient the rewards can be reaped. Many ultra runners (amongst other athletes) are switching to a Paleo approach, 2012 Western States winner; Timothy Olson is a classic example.

You may find this article taken from ‘Me & My Diabetes’ of interest.

Earlier this summer, Steve Phinney and Jeff Volek, authors of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, headed to the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run, to study how runners in this grueling race fared, literally, for they were checking how the athletes performed, AND how they ate.

Link HERE

Ultimately, and I love this quote, this article is ‘Food for Thought’. Paleo has been around for years and recently its prominence has grown. Just like barefoot running became the next best thing after the book ‘Born to Run’, Paleo may very well be the next best diet. I however feel that having investigated it for months that a Paleo approach, or should I say, a reduction in carbohydrate is certainly a direction that can reap rewards and benefits.

But it’s all about the individual and finding out what works for you!

I’d love to get your feedback and stories both for and against all that has been mentioned above.