MAF 2: Slowly Getting Faster!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

4 weeks in to my low heartrate training, I did another Maximum Aerobic Fitness (MAF) test to figure out if all this slow jogging is actually doing anything. Despite my inconsistent schedule and up to a week between runs, my MAF pace definitely seems to be increasing.

The first time I did an MAF test was also the first time I tried to run at a heart rate of 149 bpm. While I reported 14:36 minutes per mile, I technically should have taken the average of my two mile test, which would be 14:39 per mile (every second counts, right?). That's extremely slow - a whole 9:10 minutes per kilometre, or an hour and a half 10K! I was a little unsure how I'd go about doing any kind of useful training at that pace, as it took forever to get any sort of reasonable distance. As a reminder, here's my previous MAF pace and heart rate plot:

First MAF Test

Fast forward 4 weeks to Thanksgiving weekend, and things are looking up. My average pace over a 3 mile run has come down to 13 minutes per mile, or 8:08 minutes per kilometre. A full minute faster, after only 60 kilometres of running and a couple of bike rides, is really quite encouraging. I finally feel like I'm actually running a little bit, as I'm definitely passing all the walkers on the path, but it's still an easy, comfortable pace that I feel I could sustain for quite some time.

Taking a look at the Garmin data gives me a few hints as to how this improvement is possible. As much as I'd like to think it's just development of my aerobic system, it seems like I'm just getting better at sticking to the right pace. During MAF 1, my average heart rate was only 146, suggesting that I erred on the side of caution when it came to staying below 149. MAF 2 has my average heart rate at 148 for each of my three 1-mile splits, so it seems that I'm getting better at being consistent and learning just how much I can push the threshold. You can also see from the graph below that I'm getting a bit better at maintaining a consistent pace, rather than speeding up and slowing down in response to a fluctuating heart rate.

Second MAF Test

With this apparent adaptation masquerading as improvement in aerobic fitness, I'm guessing that future MAF tests won't show quite such a dramatic improvement, and I've put up a little graph on the sidebar of this blog that will probably turn into a decaying exponential before long. However, I'm planning to stick with it, as it's fun and easy, and I can do it without coughing too hard. In fact, I'd like to declare a lofty goal:

By next summer, my MAF pace will be 6 minutes per kilometre (9:36 per mile).

"Will" is perhaps too strong of a word, but there it is, published on the interwebs for all to see. 6 minutes is about my maximum 10K pace, so if I could reach that at a nice easy 149 bpm heart rate, I'd be laughing. Now, all I need to do is make the time for enough running to bring about that kind of improvement.

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