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How and why should I apply Heart Rate Training to my Running Program?

Intervals, Fartleks, LSD Training. . .their are a lot of different methods that can be applied to a running program and many provide awesome benefits and results applied appropriately. But, many people do not apply these methods appropriately and the results are no fun!!!

I was one of those folks. Being an athlete and collegiate volleyball player, I yearned to still compete post college. That is when I took up running. At first, I hated it, but it was something I knew I could improve upon, so I was up for the challenge. It wasn't long that my best friend and I were signing up for a marathon in Tucson, Arizona. I googled a running plan and began my venture. Big mistake. I was diligent with the plan, putting in multiple long distance runs each week. I completed the Marathon and life was great. Then, shortly after, I gained about 10 lbs. For me, this had never happened and came as a surprise. I just ran 26.2 Miles...what the heck? I was still working out diligently, lifting weights, teaching spin and bootcamp, and eating clean (not keto, but not junk). I was tired all the time and exhausted. What was happening?

This is an all too common scenario for Runners and many gym goers. Chronic Cardio Syndrome, some may call it, is caused by working out for long periods of time in the "black zone". What is the black zone? The black zone is a Heart Rate Range, where we are not specifically aerobic or anaerobic. We are beating ourselves into the ground day in and day out, with ZERO results. Our hormones get wrecked, cortisol spikes, testosterone falls, we are exhausted, and we gain weight. So, what can we do about it???

Applying, a specific Heart Rate Protocol know as the MAF Method is the solution! This Protocol saved me and is what I apply to my own running plan and client's.

The MAF Method is a Protocol of never letting your Heart Rate exceed (180-your age) your entire run. This protocol of training at a sub maximal level has many benefits including:

1. Reduced risk of injury.

2. Increased Overall Aerobic Base. (This means you get FASTER!!!!)

3. Improved Hormone Profile.

4. Decreased Disease Risk.

5. Utilization of Fat for Fuel!

This method is amazing, but not easy. It takes monitoring with a Heart Rate Monitor and being diligent about slowing down when your HR is spiking. If you fail to do this, you start breaking into a different energy system and do not reap the benefits, so this is not a plan where we run steady and then do sprints. We run steady the entire time or run/walk steady the entire time.

How can you apply this?

If you are training for a specific race, I would make at least 2 of your runs each week MAF HR Runs. Start at a pace well below your MAF HR for the 1st 10 minutes, then gradually work up to your MAF HR and shoot to stay around there the remainder of the time. Do not be discouraged if you have to walk or stop. I found it best to do this individually to start out as I am competitive and would sometimes try to stay with others and then my HR would exceed my MAF HR. Humbling ;) This can be applied to running, any cardio machine, hiking, biking, walking the dog.

I'm not a runner. Can I utilize and benefit from MAF HR Training?

Any individual can benefit from MAF HR Training. Our heart is an aerobic muscle and loves this type of activity, not working in the "Black Zone". This can be a great addition to a Strength Program. I would encourage 1-2 days/week for 30 minutes. Do the things you love. . .hike, bike, go for a walk with your family, play frisbee, basketball, etc.

Happy Trails All ;)

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