“At 142 heart rate I was ‘running’ 13:21 min / mile (8:04 min / km) and had a lot of emotional discomfort.” – Jennifer Geyer
Jennifer Geyer (Strava) and Kathryn Geyer (Strava) have experienced their fair share of challenges and frustrations with MAF low heart rate training. On their first MAF test, they had to slow down significantly, to a pace much slower than their previous running pace.
The frustration levels were high at times, yet gradually small improvements and positive change became noticeable as they trained for their first marathon…
In our recent conversation, Jennifer and Kathryn share:
- their varied experiences of MAF training, leading to improvement and increased belief that this method could work.
- relocation, climate adjustment and Covid-19 impact on their stress levels, mindset and their first marathon.
- differing experiences in their marathon and looking ahead to future races.
- an evolution in their running, staying with the process, reaping the benefits of that investment and experiencing running on a more sustainable and joyful level.
Hope you enjoy this conversation with Kathryn and Jennifer!
Kathryn and Jennifer are both part of the Marathon PR Training Program. For more info and to join the program, check it out here.
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What was your favorite quote or takeaway from this episode? I would love to hear from you in the comments on YouTube.
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Links and tools mentioned:
- Workability Facebook Group (by Kathryn and Jennifer)
- Jennifer Geyer (Strava) and Kathryn Geyer (Strava)
- MAF test
- Marathon in Antigua
- Born To Run (book)
- Article – Overcoming Frustrations with MAF Low Heart Rate Training
- Marathon PR Training Program
- Kathryn speaks about a bad relationship with running at school and beyond, but eventually how the MAF method engendered a feeling of love for the activity of running; for slowing down, being present and concentrating on form. [4:50]
- Jennifer talks about going from a conventional background of running fast all the time, through a ‘surprisingly torturous’ change with MAF training, to an evolution in becoming a sustainable runner. [6:50]
- Jennifer’s first MAF test showed a 12:29 min/mile (4.5mins slower than previous average running pace) and at 138-142 bpm. [8:15]
- Kathryn talks on sticking with the MAF method of training, as an act of faith and knowing it had worked for other people. It was a fun experiment for her she says, despite still dealing with what other people’s perceptions of her running might be. [9:45]
- Jennifer reflects, “I think she had more fun than I did” and shares her going off-track with MAF, on running Kathryn’s pace rather than her own and how she felt she wasn’t progressing, while Kathryn had improved. These factors helped Jennifer to re-center her efforts and run to her own low HR max, despite the real change in her experience of running, such as having to walk. [11:10]
- Jennifer talks about physical improvements around bodily wear and tear, with her older way of training being an unsustainable “push & go” effort. Between the support of Floris, the Facebook group and listening to her body, Jennifer was able to see a future with MAF. [12:05]
- Kathryn on feeling like the Energizer Bunny, tapping into that feeling of energy via MAF training. [13:00]
- Jennifer answers on the period of time between experiencing frustration in training to feeling some benefits, by comparing monthly MAF tests. The first mile in her first MAF test was 12:29 and in the second test, 11:25. Jennifer felt this wasn’t a victory because the pace was so slow in comparison to her normal running. However, she resolved to not focus so much on pace, but process. [13:35]
- Kathryn on switching from her base building period to Marathon training, including more speed work. It was evident that faster runs were feeding back into the MAF work. [14:40]
- Floris comments that in two months Jennifer shaved off one minute in MAF tests, which may not seem much in and of itself, but if you apply to a half or full marathon, we see significant progress. People want to progress really quickly, by maybe taking weekly MAF tests. However, you may regress before you progress. Floris advises thinking in months, rather than weeks, ahead. Once you get over initial humps and start to see positive improvements, this is when you start believing more that this can work for you (as well as other people). [15:30]
- Jennifer, Kathryn and Floris discuss how MAF training like can feel counter-intuitive and how improvements have to be felt to be believed. Also, about how there are many factors day-to-day, such as nutrition and stress, which can affect performance or training outcomes. [16:30]
- Kathryn and Jennifer’s first marathon was due on May 24th 2020 in Antigua. It was cancelled due to COVID-19. They decided to run their own marathon, regardless. [18:15]
- Kathryn and Jennifer answer on the difference in climate, from living in New York to now, near Antigua. They trained in snow in New York and for their 3am marathon start in Antiqua, it was hot just on the walk to the start. Indeed, they had to run slower at the same heart rate to acclimatize, prior to race day. Floris reflects on the locations of Extramilest listeners regarding climate conditions. [19:05]
- Jennifer and Kathryn talk more on training after relocating early this year. Jennifer found that her form and technique in speed work fed back into low HR runs. Having done the base building, Jennifer reflects on an 18-week training block of great running. Kathryn remembers experimenting with nutrition and working with visualization, towards race day. [21:00]
- Jennifer talks about stress, using the Coronavirus pandemic as an example, where uncertainty can affect heart rate. Floris continues by noting how the unconscious can affect heart rate and how this has been flagged by many people doing low heart rate training. [23:00]
- Dealing with a cancelled event: Kathryn and Jennifer resolve to run their own marathon. They ran a familiar loop and Kathryn talks about her plan to put “just one foot in front of the next until my watch says 26.3. I didn’t want to stop it at 26.2 because I didn’t want any risk”. [24:45]
- The race plan was for the first half marathon, to run no slower than 11 min/mile pace with heart rate around 150. Then, to work on feel and if possible, push the last six miles a bit faster and also, to finish and “not end up completely debilitated for the next week”. Conditions for the run were 80 Fahrenheit, 26 Celcius and 91% humidity, with almost 1000 feet elevation gain. [27:30]
- How did race day actually unfold? Kathryn says her heart rate went up in mile 13 and she noticed some changes with the breath and began to feel faint. This increased the feeling of effort greatly and she had to walk to reset. She got going again, which still resulted in a slog. Her determination got her through, as well as resolving to listen to her body and not make the experience so miserable that she was never going to want to run again. [29:00]
- Floris recalls Kathryn’s increasing heart-rate during the event, but that she was able to maintain the same pace. A friend also joined in on race day and while they talked and enjoyed each other’s company, it may have disrupted the flow of running the race and resulted in breathing changes. Kathryn says how this will be a note for the future; to stay in the zone and stay calm. [31:15]
- Floris notes that we often have to experience these things ourselves before we apply changes, often despite what we read as good advice. Kathryn agrees that by experience and with each run, we learn more about our bodies and mentality, about external circumstances and so on. [32:45]
- Floris is impressed how Jennifer and Kathryn ran their own event and responded to less-than-ideal circumstances, to complete their first marathon. Jen shares her admiration for Kathryn’s finishing, in the face of additional physical challenges. [34:10]
- Kathryn had confidence as a result of her training, though it was an instinct to keep putting one foot in front of the other which helped complete the race. [36:35]
- Conversely, Jennifer had a more nurturing marathon and it made her reflect on what her next marathon might be like. [38:35]
- At the finish, what did they do? Of course, they floated in the water! [39:30]
- Floris notes their quick recovery. Kathryn responds that, as a result of MAF training, the aches and pains she used to associated with long-distance running had abated significantly. Similarly, Jennifer took two days to recover and says that following their training plan, set them up knowing they’d trained properly for a marathon and in a manner that avoided injury. [40:10]
- As a result of their marathon, what would they seek to change in future? Firstly, no talking on race day! Kathryn would throw in some longer (than half marathon/14 mile) runs in training. Jennifer plans to review hydration and fueling, with a particular focus on the latter parts of a race. [42:10]
- On recommendations for listeners, Jennifer praises MAF training as sustainable running and advises patience and persistence in carrying out the training. She reflects on really listening to your body and not just saying ‘I’m listening to my body’. Once pretty far into training, she could see how the mind and body can interact. She found the Marathon PR Program Facebook group reassuring and supportive, where ‘faster’ people would be going through similar things to her. [44:00]
- Kathryn concurs and suggests we look at why we’re running the way we are running. She talks about social pressures and messages of “push and harder and more” and where we can calibrate that for ourselves, examining how much of how we run is based on common (though not necessarily sustainable) perceptions of fitness. She adds that a hatred of running can come from an unhealthy approach, how there’s much joy to be had from the movement of your body and that we can rip ourselves off by denying that experience. [45:25]
- Floris and Jennifer discuss the desire to let other people to know you’re doing low heart rate training and that you can go faster. This is where the ego comes into play. Also, to get away from that is a mind-shift that doesn’t come overnight. Kathryn adds, without moving away from the “push as hard as you possibly can” mentality, she probably would not be experiencing running the way she is. [47:10]
- Jennifer and Kathryn talk about their Workability business. Workability looks to help people connect with their voice and separate that from what we’ve been trained by parents, culture, etc. where they can deliver what is unique and distinct to them. [48:40]