Monday, May 9, 2011

Feeling Aerobically Strong

This is a FINAL reminder about the Sony W-Series Walkman giveaway.  The contest closes at midnight EST, so enter for your chance to win one of two music players!

This weekend's long run was mean to be a test of sorts to determine where I am in terms of fitness.  There are many ways to test yourself, but the key is keeping the conditions (course, temps, time, etc) as close to the same as possible.  Some tests, like the one we do inside MN, are a simple 5k (which, coincidentally is not so simple to execute if you have ever run a hard 5k solo).  You can do them elsewhere, but consistency in testing is the best way to determine progress.  Otherwise, you just start getting into too many variables making it impossible to accurately compare one test from the other. 

In the case of this week's, I was conducting a Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) test, which means running at a steady effort (HR) and keeping track of each split at that effort.  This was more of a personal test more so than part of any training plan, but it is a good method of determining my aerobic fitness.  I won't go into the details of it, but you can read more about it here.  Typically, it is done over a matter of 3-5 miles where each successive mile gets slower, as your body progressively works harder to maintain the same pace.  Since you're running by HR, your pace naturally slows.  However, an aerobically strong person can keep that same effort over a longer period of time.  Since I was trying to get my long run in, I set out to run 10 miles and just see where my MAF HR would take me.

For me, my MAF HR is right around 150 bpm and I sat on that level of effort over the course of 10 miles at just about 8:00/mile pace the whole time, without any fluctuation.  Typically, you'd want to continue MAF type workouts until you no longer show progress in your testing (done every 4 weeks).  And once you peak out, you can begin incorporating tempo and interval type training.  However, because this is the same pace/effort combo I had been able to maintain prior to the marathon, it tells me a few things:

1)  I am at the same aerobic level fitness as I was pre-marathon
2)  I am aerobically strong and likely ready to incorporate other stressors (ie intervals, tempos, etc)

Further, if I compare myself on this run (8:00/mile avg) versus the last one (8:18/mile avg), I can see that my aerobic strength has progressed.  It could be possible that I might be able to lower it further, but since it is right where I was while training for the marathon, I know it is close to where it should be.  And at this point, the only way to get to run faster!

The other interesting note is the correlation between MAF speed and 5k performance, which has been gathered from data of hundreds of runners.  Based on my MAF avg, my 5k performance should be right around 20:00.  It's pretty close to how I feel I am capable of right now.  I expect to be a bit closer to the 19:30 range, but I won't know that until I conduct a 5k baseline test (which is how each of our MN plans begin).

So with that said, it is time to start working toward adding in the good stuff...and doing one of those 5k tests.  Stay tuned for how close my MAF speed compares with my 5k test...

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