My Maffetone Experiment - Part 2: The Results

In my last post I talked about my training using the Maffetone Method.  This past week was a recovery week where I did some testing so I thought I'd share those numbers as well as some thoughts on training by heart rate.

On Wednesday I did my last MAF ride and held 257 watts.  My first ride was 224 watts, and my best MAF ride was 2 hours at 264 watts, so I gained about 33-40 watts on my MAF power over 12 weeks.

Thursday was my last MAF run and I held a 7:12 pace.  My first MAF run was an 8:12 pace so I gained about a minute.

I had a pretty good idea what to expect with those workouts.  It was my FTP test that I was really curious about.  I did a test prior to my MAF training and my FTP was 280 watts.  I've never done a 3 month block of training without any threshold work so I had a tough time gauging where my threshold might be.

FTP Test

 I managed 295 watts for 60 minutes.  Physically I think I was strong, but mentally I was weak.  I was struggling already about 12 minutes in and was considering pulling the plug because I didn't think I'd make it the full 60 minutes.  I broke it down mentally into 6 minute chunks (10%) and just focused on getting to the next mark.  I was able to pick it up at the end so I think there was more physically but mentally this was brutal (central governor?).

One thing I found interesting is that my average HR was 156. Normally when I do a full hour at threshold my HR is between 165 and 168.  I don't know if this means I could have gone harder of if my threshold HR has changed. 

So my FTP went up 15 watts, but this isn't new territory for me.  My peak 60' power is 307 and it's pretty typical for my FTP to hover around 290-300. So the big change was that my MAF power went from 80% of FTP to 87%.  Probably not a bad thing for a triathlete focusing on long course.

One thing to remember about training is that the training you do now stands on the shoulders of the training you did in the past.  Now that I'm going to start introducing some threshold work, will I reach a higher peak after building a bigger aerobic base?  Or did I just lose out on 12 weeks of working on my FTP?  Time will tell.

What I'd like to do is hold my MAF power and raise my FTP, which will make my MAF a lower % of my threshold but I think that will work out because it will have me racing at a lower percentage my threshold - hopefully with a bigger aerobic base. 

Normally my training is a hard day/easy day style but for the past 3 months I've been Steady Eddie. Below you can see how that changed my average pace/power per week.

The break before 2015 was my back injury and you can see how my run pace took a hit.

I got another power meter in 2010 so nearly every ride since then has been with power.  Before that I usually only rode my key workouts with power so my weekly average is inflated.

 Sidenote - Average power/pace is cool to see general trends over time, but be careful with it.  Chasing averages makes you go too hard on your easy days.

If you use Training Peaks, maybe you've noticed a metric called Efficiency Factor (EF).  It compares your normalized power or pace to your HR.  I used that to help track my progress.  The only problem is that you can't graph it in Training Peaks so I had to track it in Excel.

You can see the trendline moving up as I was getting more efficient.

The trendline is a bit steeper for cycling.  Cycling has always been my strength so maybe that's the reason.

Some final thoughts on HR training.

What I liked - 

- The intensity felt about the same at ~140 bpm every time. All that changed was my power or pace.  I felt like I was controlling the input (HR) and measuring the output (power/pace).

- My power/pace increased gradually as I got fitter based on feedback from my body rather than a per-determined build and just forcing it.  It felt more natural.

- I was very focused on efficiency the whole time because I was limited in what I could input and I wanted the maximum output.  When I focus only on the output, I don't worry about how much energy it takes to get the desired output.

- I got to see my progress week after week without having to do a max effort (threshold) test.  Seeing steady progress is very encouraging.

- I learned a lot about HR training, which I think will make me a better coach, and it was fun to mix things up for a while.

What I didn't like - 

- My biggest complaint about Maffetone training is the 180 formula.  It put me in Friel's HR zone 2.  An athlete I coach has very similar heart rate numbers to me but he's 9 years older so his MAF range would have him in Friel's zone 1.  Another athlete I coach is 8 years older than me, but his heart rate tends to be about 10-15 beats higher so he'd be at an even lower intensity level. We could all do the same program, but we would be at very different intensity levels.

-  A lot of things can affect HR, such as heat, stress, caffeine, etc. so it's not the best measure of intensity.  All my riding was indoors so I had the same set up every time.  My running was mostly outdoors, but I never had to deal with any heat.  I think HR works best if you have a similar set up every time (and if you ride indoors get a good fan, and by good fan I mean one that was built for a construction site or barn).

Where to now?  I want to find a good mix of my old program and the program I just did.  I'm ready for some intensity, but I made good gains doing a lot of zone 2 so I want to keep that going.  I'd like to bring in some heart rate training as well as utilizing power and pace for more than just measuring progress.  Why use just one measure of intensity when you can use 2?  :)

Speaking of heart rate training, I'm in full on geek mode with my new Garmin swim HR strap.  I'll write up a post about that.  I just got it, but so far the numbers are not what I was expecting.

One final note:  For anyone new to endurance sports doing the Maffetone Method who finds this post, I want to point out an important detail - I got my first road bike and went for my first ride April 1, 2006.  I did my first triathlon in 2007.  I made good gains in this 12 week block, but preceding it is a decade of consistent training.  I got injured in 2007 and my PT made me start out with some really easy running in the winter of 07/08.  I dug through my old training log and discovered that my first run was at a 10 minute pace at an average HR of 148 (which would have fallen in my MAF range back then). Be patient.  Be consistent.  Enjoy the process.  

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