Heart Rate Zone 2 Primer – Part Two
This is Part Two of a Three Part Series
In this part of the series I’m going to discuss the MAF Test. This is the test that I perform, and what is recommended by Dr. Maffetone so that you can track your progress as you are building your aerobic base or see that you’re not making any progress (in which case there may be other issues).
So the MAF test is a 3 to 5 mile test in which you run at in your heart rate zone. You will need to make sure that each mile is tracked so that you can not only track your individual miles and get your average, but you can also see your cardiac drift which is another indicator of a weak aerobic base.
Anyway, this is the way that you perform the MAF test. Warm up for 15 minutes in your Zone 1 and Zone 2 range. For me (180-50=130), that range is 110 – 130 beats per minute. After I have warmed up for 15 minutes, I do five 1 mile laps making sure that I know what the time is for each mile. I need that so that I can not only determine what my average pace, but mainly to see what my individual mile pace per mile is. I want to see my progress. Just like I said, in Part One, if you don’t see progress you won’t do the program. The first one that I do is the “base” MAF test. Then you will want to repeat the test every 6 to 8 weeks so that you can track your progress.
You may be wondering, what is “cardiac drift”? Well, cardiac (or cardiovascular) drift refers to the natural increase in heart rate that occurs when running with little or no change in pace. Many runners mistakenly assume that if they keep their runs at a consistent pace, their heart rate will remain relatively constant as well. However, exercise research has shown that it is common to see heart rate “drift” upward during an easy run or threshold run, even with no increase in pace or effort, sometimes by as much as 10-20 beats per minute over a 30-minute period. It is important to emphasize that cardiovascular drift results in an increased heart rate without a corresponding rise in effort, breathing rate, or calories burned. In the example of the long run pictured in above, the athlete reported no changes in breathing rate or effort.
I’m not making any progress, why? If you do the MAF test, and then 6 weeks later you do it again and you see no change, you are going to quit the program or wonder what went wrong. If you’re like me, then you will wonder what went wrong. If you are training, there is more than just exercise that is involved. You have to look at your diet. Have you started a diet? Any changes in your diet? Are you eating different foods? Are you not eating enough of the right foods? Are you getting more caffeine in your diet? Yes, caffeine can affect your MAF test. I always drink one cup of coffee before I go out to run. I need the stimulate in the morning to get me going. One morning I decided to drink 2 cups, and it really affected my heart rate. I had a really tough time keeping it in range. Caffeine can affect your range by 5 to 10 beats per minute. My recommendation is to still stay within your range.
How’s the weather? I started my program in January which is relatively comfortable. It was in the upper 50s and lower 60s for a majority of my runs. Needless to say, perfect weather for running. Then summer hit. And when I mean it, I mean all at once. The heat and the humidity affected me, and I had to slow down my pace to get my heart rate into the proper range. So yes, heat and humidity can affect your heart as well. And like the caffeine issue, I still recommend that you stay within your range.
Stress!! Yes, stress can also affect your heart rate. Do you have financial issues? Are you going through a breakup? Are you under pressure at work? All of these things can affect your heart rate. And like with the previous issues, I recommend that you stay within your range.
And the last reason that I can think of is that you didn’t exercise in your range. The pace was to slow and you let your mango (aka, male ego) get the best of you and you ran outside of your zone. If you do this, it’s just not going to work. You just need to keep your ego in check, and run in your zone. Soon enough you will be running faster than those people and you will be doing it with a heart rate that is in a more comfortable range.
I keep a pretty detailed training log because I like to see not only my progress, but I want to be able to go back and see what mistakes I may have made or I want to see what worked! So in my training log I keep track of my stress level (1 – 10), what foods I eat, what the weather is like, how did I sleep, etc. I know that it sounds like a lot, but there are a lot of factors that can affect your MAF test and your training.
And you may wonder why I recommend that you “stay within your range”? Well, I recommend this because part of this training aspect is making sure that you don’t injure yourself. Take it from someone who like to go from 0 to 100 as fast as possible, this is one of those in which it is better to slow down. You need to build your aerobic base, make sure that your ligaments and tendons are strong, and that you have have good strength in your muscles.
In Part 3 of this Heart Zone 2 Primer, I will put in my training plan. This is a full training plan that I have used in the past to train for a marathon. It includes my base, my build and my taper for the race.