MAF Experiment- Week 25

We have reached the halfway point of this MAF training journey.  For this week’s blog, I am going to look at what I have done in previous years of training versus what I have been doing this year and my reasons for doing all of the workouts.  There will be no other highlights for a few weeks.

Here is a link to this week’s video

 September through NovemberDecember through February
Last YearMonday and Thursday were off days. Every other day were strength days based on this format: Strength Lift: (Deadlift, Bench Press, Squat, Row) Accessory Lifts: 5 lifts to work smaller muscle groups and the core Suspension Trainer Exercises: 3 exercises to use body weight to work smaller muscle groups Intense Finish: A set of exercises done with as many reps as possible in 10 minutesMonday and Thursday were off days. Tuesday: 30-40-minute intense bike with short strength after Wednesday: Murph for time Friday: Insanity Plyo video Saturday: Insanity Interval video plus bike ride (2 x 20 minutes at a heart rate of 145 beats) Sunday: Strength (Full body strength using formula from previous column)                      
This yearMonday and Thursday were off days. Morning were strength, afternoons were MAF runs. Strength Formula: 3 sets of 3 core exercises, 5 sets of bench or row, 10 minutes of as many reps as possible pushups or rows, 3 sets of a suspension trainer lift. finish with 3 sets of lift plus biceps/triceps
Tuesday: Push lifting, 2.5-mile run
Wednesday: Pull lifting, 5-mile run
Friday: Push lifting, 2.5-mile run Saturday: Pull lifting, 7.5-mile run Sunday: Leg lifting, 2.5-mile run  
Monday and Thursday were off days. All work done in the morning.   Strength: Formula- 6 sets of core, 5 sets of main lift.  Then 10 minutes of as many reps as possible pushups or rows.  Finish with 3 sets of lift plus biceps/triceps. Tuesday: 30 minute MAF ride, push lifting Wednesday: 30 minute MAF ride (4 min. in big gear, 1 min. easy spin), pull lifting. Friday: 30 minute MAF ride, push lifting Saturday: 60 minute MAF ride, pull lifting Sunday: 30 minute tabata ride (20 seconds all out, 10 seconds easy), leg lifting  

The reason behind the “old way”

We have all heard that adage, “no pain, no gain.”  That is how I handled my training in the past.  I listened to podcasts and read about how the “time-crunched triathlete” needed to do shorter workouts at high intensity to reap the same gains as someone who has more time to go long and slow.  That sure made sense to me.  I would suffer through intense bike sessions, the Insanity Max Interval Plyo video would have me gasping on the floor, and the MURPH workout would absolutely wreck me for a few days.  I got good at, and took pride in, suffering. 

While these workouts left me gassed, they did a lot of good.  I charted my times over the years and saw great improvements.  I went from being satisfied when I crossed the finish line in the middle of the pack to being on the podium (top 3) in my age group.  

Recently, over the past few years, I have noticed that my progress has slowed, and even regressed.  The intense training got me to a good place, but I felt like I may have reached a cap on how much better it would make me.  My bike times, especially, really bothered me because I could not get any better, no matter how hard I worked.

Another development has been injuries.  First off, I understand that I am getting older.  I was not able to recover as quickly from those intense workouts.  Then, adding another intense workout onto my still-recovering muscles, started to really take a toll.  It got to the point that I even had to take an entire summer off from running or biking because of a lower leg injury.  That drove my “no pain, no gain” brain nuts.  It was time for a change.

The results of the MAF Method

After the 2021 summer, in which I still had decent results, I decided to try a more science-based approach.  While I had been doing my training by feel, using rate of perceived exertion, I was not liking the results.  I believe I was spending too much time in the grey zone of training.  After hearing and reading about the MAF Method, I decided it was worth a try.

I usually take the September through November training block off of endurance work and just focus on strength.  This year, I spent it working on my running economy.  I did five running days each week.  After the first month, my MAF test showed great gains.  The next couple of months stayed about the same. 

December through February have been dedicated to the bike.  I have been on my bike trainer five days a week.  While the gains were not as noticeable right away as they were in the run block, they were there.  I just finished with a week full of personal best virtual distances.

While it took me a bit to get past my “no pain, no gain” mindset, I have been pleasantly surprised by the results.  As I stated in the previous two paragraphs, my times improved with this method, but that is not all I have noticed.  It could be argued that the time improvements could be from the fact that I spent more time running and biking then I ever have, and that could be true. 

However, there are other factors to consider.  I WAS able to bike and run more because I was less fatigued from these lower heart rate workouts.  Before, there would have been no way I could have trained the bike or the run on consecutive days without some serious drop in performance. Not now!  My legs may feel a bit tired after a ride or run but, by the next morning, they are ready to train at the same level.

Another big change I have noticed has been my heart rate.  My resting heart rate has dropped to crazy levels.  I used to have a resting heart rate that hovered around 50 beats per minute.  During my run block, it was in the mid-to upper 30s.  It has risen to the low 40s during my bike block.  This lower resting heart rate indicates that I have worked my heart well.  A high resting heart rate can be a sign of over training, and a low one can be a good sign of recovery.

A final change I have noticed is my body composition.  I DID NOT GO INTO THIS TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT OR FAT.  I was perfectly happy where I was.  My goal is about performance, not to lose weight.  What I have noticed is that, while maintaining my weight of about 170 pounds, I feel like I am leaner.  I have maintained my muscle mass through my weight training, but the MAF method of training has leaned me out.  This makes sense because the low heart rate training is designed to get your body to focus on using fat as fuel instead of tapping into sugars.  Fat is a better fuel for endurance exercise because it is consistent instead of having the spikes of sugar.

Final Thoughts:

All signs point to the switch to the MAF Method of base training to be a good one.  I feel better and am not injured as I go into the speed work block of training.  My endurance levels seem to be better than they have ever been.  I have trusted the process and the science behind it.  Unfortunately, I will have to wait until the races this summer to get my official results.  I am very excited to see if my race times will be better this year.  All I know is that I am feeling great and confident as I get ready to try to add some speed.  Stay tuned for next week when I share my workouts for my final block of training leading into the summer races.

There you have the MAF Method in my experience.  Have a great week.

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