I’ve been reading more and more on how to qualify for Boston. I’ve been nervous about going at it too hard and overtraining. Everywhere it talks about having a good “base” before starting your 12-18 week marathon training cycle, but I had a hard time narrowing down how to actually build a base.
In the past I’ve started every marathon training cycle with running about 15 miles per week, being able to run about 8 miles easily. Yes.. my idea of base building was so off… Most books, websites and podcasts say to have a mileage of at least 35-40 mpw before even starting training. I never even got up to this kind of mileage during my training for any of my marathons.
There has been a lot of conflicting information about building base, some people still incorporate speed and tempo workouts, but from the research I’ve done it mostly says to run in an aerobic zone for 12 weeks or so. This means to not get your heart rate up too high, because this will put you in the anaerobic zone, which you won’t need to train until the marathon training actually starts.
I won’t bore you with more details, long story short for the next few months I’m having to run slow and a lot! I’m gonna try to work up to about 40-50 miles per week.
I read that with the MAF (maximum aerobic function) test you can test your aerobic progress in this cycle. Below is the formula and test explained from the Phill maffetone website.
Basically you run 5 miles at 150 heart rate and with building my aerobic system I should be able to run faster at the same heart rate by the end of this base building phase. This is my first test and I will post the next one in a month to see my progress.
- Mile 1: 8:12
- Mile 2: 8:31
- Mile 3: 8:46
- Mile 4: 8:47
- Mile 5: 9:08
The 180 Formula
To find the maximum aerobic heart rate:
- Subtract your age from 180 (180 – age).
- Modify this number by selecting a category below that best matches your health profile:
a. If you have, or are recovering from, a major illness (heart disease, high blood pressure, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or you are taking medication, subtract an additional 10.
b. If you have not exercised before or have been training inconsistently or injured, have not recently progressed in training or competition, or if you get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, or have allergies, subtract an additional 5.
c. If you’ve been exercising regularly (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems listed in a or b, keep the number (180 – age) the same.
d. If you have been competing for more than two years duration without any of the problems listed above, and have improved in competition without injury, add 5.
For example, if you are 30 years old and fit into category b: 180 – 30 = 150, then 150 – 5 = 145.
During training, create a range of 10 beats below the maximum aerobic heart rate; in the example above, train between 135 and 145 staying as close to 145 as possible. To develop the aerobic system most effectively, all training should be at or below this level during base building. As the aerobic system develops, you will be able to run faster at the same maximum aerobic heart rate.
Once a great aerobic base is developed, an athlete can develop anaerobic function, if desired. In some cases this may not be necessary or the time and energy is not available for such endeavors. (Successful anaerobic training can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time, a topic discussed in my book, Training for Endurance.)
One other significant benefit of applying the 180 Formula is the biochemical response: production of free radicals is minimal at this training level compared to training at higher heart rates. Free radicals contribute to degenerative problems, inflammation, heart disease, cancer and rapid aging.
As important as finding the correct aerobic training heart rate is the process of self-assessment.
Self-Assessment: The MAF Test
A significant benefit of aerobic base building is the ability to run faster at the same effort, that is, at the same heart rate. A heart monitor can help objectively measure these improvements using a test I developed in the mid 1980s called the maximum aerobic function (MAF) test.
Perform the MAF Test on a track, running at the maximum aerobic heart rate. A one- to five-mile test, with each one-mile interval recorded, provides good data. The test should be done following an easy 12–15 minute warm up, and be performed about every month throughout the year. Below is a 5-mile MAF Test of a runner training at a heart rate of 150: