Have you ever watched the movie Cars? There is a part in the movie where Doc Hudson tells Lightning McQueen he must go left to go right. I always thought that was a genius lesson in the movie. Sometimes we have to do something that seems so illogical, but really will get us to our goal in the long run. Heart rate based run training reminds me of this very lesson.  You must slow down to speed up. In order for your body to adapt and become more efficient it is imperative that you are mindfully training in your aerobic zone.

My approach with run coaching is focused on heart rate based training. I think the single most important tool aside from the correct shoes is your heart rate monitor. It’s like having a personal trainer right by your side. I believe that if you are mindful of your heart rate, you will see that you recover faster, have better performance, and less injuries in the long term. It’s so important to train a good aerobic base and not train according to your pace, but really focus on your heart rate.

I prefer the 180 Formula to find your aerobic training zone, developed Phil Maffetone (author of one of my favorite books, the Big Book of Endurance Training– if you haven’t read it, you should!).

Here is the 180 Formula to determine you aerobic training pace:

  1. 180 – your age 
  2. You will have to add or subject according to the following criteria to get the final MAF
    • If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.
    • If you are injured, regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5
    • If you’ve been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above & have improved in competition without injury, add 5.
    • If you’ve been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems listed above, keep the number (180–age) the same

The idea is by training in your aerobic zone, that over time your heart will become more efficient at doing the same work. For instance, let’s say Joe Runner is 35 and coming back from an minor injury. Joe’s MAF would be= 180-35 – 5= 140. Joe Runner starts out running at a 140 aerobic zone for training runs,which is a 12 min/mile. After 6 months of staying in this MAF paced zone, his pace has improved to a 11 min/mile at the 140 heart rate.

So, basically, Joe Runner’s heart is pumping at the same rate, but is able to pump more with each contraction, because it has gotten stronger more efficient over time.

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