Monday, March 5, 2012

Maffetone Method Update

I'm surprised.  As I wrote back in November:
"...I've been following most of the recommendations on diet and barefoot-style running for long enough (and before reading the book) that I'm a big fan. The one part the book added for me was a detailed explanation of Dr. Phil's 180-formula for training intensity. I'm now using this as my guide, and have definitely noticed benefits so far. It's not magic, but it's definitely improved my training in the few months I've been using it. I hope to continue through the winter, and start seeing the benefits of this approach come spring...."

I haven't followed his protocol diligently, except that I diligently did runs using his 180 formula. I also did some anaerobic mountain biking, one of which resulted in a pulled calf muscle that sidelined me for a couple of months. If I was diligent, I wouldn't have interspersed anaerobic activity in what I was hoping would be a base-building period. I never did a Maximum Aerobic Fitness test, as Maffetone suggests, for two reasons.  One, I find the notion of testing and tracking my fitness annoying.  Two, he suggests regular MAF tests to reassure you that you're making progress, since other evidence may be slim at first, and you may need some reassurance that you're improving.  Since I buy into his approach whole-heartedly (so to speak), I didn't need the reassurance.

I ran from 1 to 2 and back.
Well, I'm running again, and have done a few runs in Vermont up and down a mountain

I decided this past weekend to do a long, slow run with the heart-rate monitor, to get back in the protocol.  (Not up and down the mountain, this time.)  I haven't used the HRM since the fall, and the strap appeared to be dead at the beginning of the run.  Then I realized that I didn't really have enough time to do a long run.  (No, this was not incredibly well planned...)  So I decided to do a tempo run.  As I was running along I noticed that the HRM was in fact working, as it was telling me that I was exceeding my MAF heart rate.  Sigh; so I decided to continue at the tempo pace, and compare the results to the Paine to Pain (P2P) race I had done in October, since I had HR data from that race.

So here's the data, by mile:

Paine to Pain Tempo
Mile Pace HR Pace HR
1 8:08.2 170 8:57.9 183
2 9:23.2 181 9:51.3 166
3 8:53.9 182 7:52.6 168
4 9:49.4 178 9:21.2 163
5 8:35.6 179 8:05.9 166

Now, there are a few caveats.  First, the HRM was nonfunctional for some part of mile one, and seemed to start working by showing a rate of 199.  So the HR data for mile one is useless.  Second, I had my dog along on the tempo run, and he kept stopping to pee and other doggie business, which always messes up my pace, and causes my HR to rise.  Third, the Tempo course had much steeper hills than the P2P course did.  Mile 2 was partly a rough uphill trail section; mile 3 (I think) includes both a steep downhill and a 21% grade uphill that I ran at a heart rate of 180-181; and the end of mile 5 is also uphill.
But all those caveats should have made for a worse pace and HR, and for the most part, both were better.  Much better.  The usable HR data show an average improvement of 14 beats per minute.  The pace data isn't really comparable, since the P2P data is from the first few miles of a longer run, but I'm still happy with it.

As I said at the opening, I'm surprised.  I'd been under the impression, based on my runs in the fall prior to the injury, that Maffetone's protocol hadn't been working all that well for me.  But clearly it has.

Perhaps the long break allowed for the physiological changes to occur, or perhaps it was just that I stopped watching the pot?

At any rate, I'll clearly continue...

(I did the P2P wearing Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves, and the Tempo run wearing Vibram FiveFinger Speeds.)