Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Modified MAF Test

I'm doing low HR training, as it is easy on my joints and muscles, allowing me to circumvent the potential fibromyalgia flare-up after a workout that is too hard.

My Zone

My preferred training zone is slightly under my calculated MAF zone.  I had not actually heard about the Maffletone Method when I bought my HRM, and developed my training zone by testing various zones and deciding if how I felt during and in the 24 hours after my workout was acceptable.  My goal was to pick an intensity that I could do every day.  I started with some formulas I poorly understood, and quickly realized I was not going to cut it at that intensity.  The bottom of my search zone was my heart rate while walking.

If you have to determine any number experimentally, it is worth learning the binary search algorithm.  It's commonly known among programmers, but there's a kids version that works just as well.  Try to guess a number I'm thinking of between 1 and 10, and I'll tell you if you're too high or too low.  If you're trying to make the fewest guesses, you're going to start by guessing the middle number, in this case 5.  I say "higher", then the middle number between 6 and 10 is 8, so that's your next guess.  Now no matter what my answer, you've narrowed it down to 1 or 2 numbers.  I say "lower", and you know the answer is 7 or 8.  Now in a guessing game you'd have to ask one more question to get your answer, but when determining my heart rate training zone, the lack of precision in my ability to stick to a zone, and the variability in my body's responses keeps us from getting a perfect final answer, and a zone will do.

145 was too hard, 125, too easy, so I try to train in the low 30s.  I hope to improve this over time as I get more fit, but I feel I am still in a recovery period where my muscles, joints, and tendons are still re-aligning and strengthening, and this nice easy pace works well for me.

According to the Maffletone 180 formula, my training zone should be close to but not over 180-34(my age)-10(recovering from a major illness  or are on regular medication) = 136.  That's just a bit over what I train at.  (Before I learned about the correction factor system, the calculated 180-34 was way too high for me.)

Ideally for maximum fat burning, I'd get a respiratory quotient test on a treadmill with a specialist to tell me what HR to train at, but formulas and experimentation by feel are reasonable methods to get reasonable (if not quite perfect) training zones.

The MAF Test

I've heard a lot about the MAF test, but everything I've heard previously focused on a five mile plus warm-up run, which is not yet very practical at my level of fitness.  This discouraged me from bothering to make any measurements other than the maximum number of laps I could do in a session.  But as I read the full article on the matter, I realize that any exercise and any standardized measurement will do, that relative progress is all that is measured, unless you're contemplating a 5k race and want to use those tables to estimate a good race pace for you.  So I'm thinking of creating a modified MAF test for myself.

The Couch Potato MAF Test

Start with an indoor track 200m, or a outdoor track (400m).  If running the outdoor track, divide the track in half.  Start with a warm-up, which for me is a little Tai Chi and a 200m walk.  Use the same lane every time you take the test as the curves are significant part of this short test.  Move up to the heart rate training zone as you approach your start mark, and start your lap timer when you cross it.  Time 5 200 m laps, or as many as you can do if that's less.  Try to stay in target HR zone.  Record the times and actual HR, they should be considerably lower than standard MAF test times, but show similar progression of slowing down with each lap.  If the pace does not slow down at that heart rate over time, then either the training zone is too low, the warm-up too short, or the distance is too short.

I think this could be adjusted for anyone at any level.  Maybe you run 20 miles a day, maybe your MAF test should be 5 2 mile segments instead of 5 1 mile segments?  Maybe you're still moving up to couch potato levels of fitness (like I was) and laps of the driveway is all you measure.

The only downside to this flexible standard is that when my fitness level improves to the point where I should be doing longer MAF tests, then all my old data will be fairly useless.  Even the five segments together of the short test are not up to a mile, so I can't even average the paces and compare them to mile 1 pace later.  However, I think some data at this point is better than waiting until I can regularly churn out the required 5 miles.