We are going to be talking about Heart Rate Monitor Training and what different Heart Rate Zones to be training in, all inspired by Dr Phil Maffetone and the 180 formula.
Good morning, my name is Floris Gierman here in Seattle, Washington. This Heart Rate Monitor training is one of the fundamentals that helped significantly improve my running times.
Let’s take a step back here for a minute. A heart rate monitor measures how many times per minute your heart beats. During a heart beat your blood gets pumped throughout your body. When you exercise, you’re going to need much more oxygen throughout your body so your heart rate increases.
During exercise your energy comes from different sources, it comes partly from glucose that your body is burning and it comes from body fat that is being burned as well. A fit athlete who is very fat adopted, is able to use a significant higher part of body fat percentage for fuel than an unfit athlete. This comes in particularly handy during a later part of an endurance race. Many fit athletes are able to run for hours and hours on just body fat without having to fuel up.
A lot of athletes train at a heart rate that is much too high for them, so it teaches their body to use primarily glucose for energy source and use very limited body fat for energy.
If you want to run a marathon or beyond in distance and finish strong, you want to get as much of your energy out of body fat. This will significantly reduce your risk of bonking later on in the race.
One way to do this *** “HI DOG” *** is to train mostly at max aerobic heart rate. This heart rate is where your body uses 50 percent of your energy from body fat and 50% out of glucose. To calculate your Max Aerobic Heart Rate, you can use Phil Maffetone’s 180 formula.
This keeps into account not only your age, but several different health factors. You take your age and deducts it from 180, so for me, I’m 34 years old, it is 180 minus 34 is 146 beats per minute. From here there are several factors that come into play.
If you have any major illness or are recovering from any major illness, or you are on regular medication, subtract 10 beats from this number.
If you have regressed in training, or you are just getting back into training again, or you have two or more colds a year, you have asthma or any allergies, subtract 5 beats from this number.
If you have been training consistently for up to two years, at least 4 or 5 times a week, without any problems as described earlier, you leave this number the same, as 180 minus your age.
If you have been training consistently for more than two years and you’ve not had any injuries, and you have consistently progressed in your training, you can add 5 to this number.
Eventually you come to a number that is the max of your training zone, for me it is 180 minus my age 34 is 146 and I do not have any changes to this number. Then you deduct another 10 points, that is the bottom of your training zone. It is for me, 136 to 146 is the zone that I am training at for most of my runs.
This calculating of your Max Aerobic Heart Rate might sound a bit confusing at first, but I’ll add a transcript of this video on my website (you’re reading this right now, so you found it!) and I will also link to Dr. Phil Maffetone’s 180 formula article. He has written a really good article about this.
These hills are killing me to talk but it’s so nice out here though!
There are several other ways to calculate your max aerobic heart rate. One of the better ways is to take a Lactate Threshold test at a medical lab, so basically what you do is you run on a treadmill and you increase the pace and about every five minutes you take blood samples. They put this in the computer and they analyze at what point your lactate is increasing too far and too fast. That way they can calculate what your aerobic zones are. These tests are very accurate, there are also pretty pricey. I’ve done two of them and they are about $150 to $200. I like that the 180-formula takes into account, when you are injured, when you do have a sickness or cold, it adjusts your training Heart Rate. That’s not necessarily the case with the results from a LT test from a medical lab.
What most people will notice when they start off training with a heart rate monitor training at MAF pace is that they have to slow down significantly. I had the same thing, I used to train a lot on the road at pace before I had a HRM, and this was above my fitness level at the time.
When I started using the 180 formula, I had to slow down to a pace of 8:21 min / mile on road (5:11 min / km) and about 11 min / mile (6:50 min / km) on trials, so this felt like I was almost standing still at this point.
Once you train at Max Aerobic Heart Rate for a while, you actually become much more efficient and you use much less energy at the same heart rate. So after 1 month of training this way, I was able to drop my aerobic pace down to a 7:43 min / mile (4:47 min / km) , so I shaved off a total of 37 seconds per mile or 24 seconds per km. I started making a little bit of progress every month and after 18 months right before the Boston marathon, my aerobic pace dropped to 6:10 minute / miles (3:49 min / km) at a HR of 148. So if you calculate that over a marathon time, that makes a massive difference right there.
I was talking to Mark Allen, he is the 6 time world champ iron man and his coach Dr. Phil Maffetone. Mark used to train in the No Pain no gain mentality, he was hammering out a lot of 5:30 min / miles (3:25 min / km). When Dr Phil Maffetone first had Mark train with a Heart Rate Monitor, Mark had to slow down significantly to a pace of 8:30 min / mile (5:16 min / km). When he trained like that, over time he became faster. First it became an 8 min / mile (4:58 min / km) pace at the same Heart Rate, then a 7:30 min / mile (4:23 min / km) pace, eventually it dropped all the way down to 5:20 min / mile (3:18 min / km) at the same heart rate. This comes in very handy at the end of an endurance race, in both running and the triathlon, he has a significant advantage from that.
When I trained for the Boston marathon, I trained for several months only at maximum aerobic heart rate, zero speedwork. Eventually over time I started adding some speedwork. In total, 94% of my runs were at low heart rate and only 6% at a higher heart rate. If you’re going to be training for a Sub 3 Hour Marathon or Marathon PR, I can highly recommend you add 3 to 6 months of only aerobic base building to your training schedule. This is going to be hard for most people, especially when you go out running with friends, they are going to wonder why you are running so slow. You have to trust the system, over time you are going to become a much faster runner. Give it a try and see how much progress you are able to make, but I can tell you this, patience is absolutely key. That is why most people end up not being able to stick to this. Stick to it and see the improvements you’re going to be able to make over one, two, three months with only aerobic runs.
To measure your aerobic progress, you can do a MAF test on a monthly basis. What this means is you go to a running track and you warm up for about 15 minutes. After that you run 5 miles (8km) at max aerobic heart rate and you measure your time per mile or per kilometer. At the end you calculate what your average time per mile or km is, that is your max aerobic heart rate pace.
Over time your aerobic pace should improve, like on a monthly basis. Naturally if you’re healthy athlete and you’re training at max aerobic hr, you should progress for several months on end.
If for any reason you’re hitting a plateau or you are going back in your aerobic progress, you should take a deep dive on what is going on in your body. One thing that might be happening is that your cortisol levels are too high, you might not get enough sleep, you might not eat or drink correct, you might have a cold or sickness coming up.
Another reason for not progressing aerobically is if you miscalculated your MAF pace with the 180 formula. Whenever in doubt of your 180 calculation, pick the lowest number for your MAF pace.
If all of these things are under control and you are still not making any progress, it is time to start adding some intervals. My interval training is in line with Dr Phil Maffetone’s approach of 15 to 30 minutes intervals, 1 or 2 times a week for 3 to 4 weeks in a row, then back to all aerobic miles again. To train for a sub 3 hour marathon, I like 400 and 800 meter intervals, I do about 6 of the 800 meters or 8 to 12 of the 400 meters. That’s what works well for me, do whatever works best for you and what you feel most comfortable with. I’ll create a separate video about interview pace, rest between intervals, number of repeats etc.
These are the basics of Heart Rate training, you don’t have to kill yourself to become a faster runner. I have used this approach for a long time and it has kept me injury free and I hope it does the same for you. At the end of the day its important to have fun out there but also as part of this training approach to leave you ego at the door. You are going to have to slow down in training and that is not easy for a lot of people. Trust in the system and you’ll notice you become a healthier, faster runner.
Some people are only able to progress for a few months before hitting a plateau, while others are able to run many months or even more than a year at aerobic pace only and they still continue to improve. There are several runners who have won races with only aerobic races.
This video became much longer than I initially expected, but there is so much to talk about! I’m filming this while running so I can get my workout in and share some of my experiences. Hope you’re enjoying it. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I will do my best to reply as soon as I can.
Submit your email to learn the fundamentals for free:
- Weekly training and racing tips
- 30 page PDF “How to Run a Sub 3 Hour Marathon, Boston Qualifier or Marathon PR”