My Journey With MAF So Far
I started on the MAF method because I was frequently getting ill and injured, and was frustrated that I couldn’t reach my potential with so much time on the sidelines. I’d been doing triathlon for a couple of years but had spent the first year out with an Achilles injury, unable to run for 9 months, and had spent much of the second year training for the London Marathon and representing the university basketball team. Entering my first triathlon a couple of months after the marathon where I ran 3h40, I would have considered myself to be in good shape. Although training had been inconsistent due to injury (I sat out 6 of the 10 weeks preceeding the marathon with a knee injury), I was confident I was ready for my first triathlon, an Olympic/standard distance race.
I thought the race went well and I finished in 2hr34 (on a slightly short course, probably would have been nearer 2hr40), 40 minutes behind the winner. I knew I needed to change my training as I couldn’t keep sitting out for weeks on end, undoing all the hard work in training. I found the MAF method and began to explore it, using myself as a human Guinea pig.
My first run at my MAF heart-rate was over 9min/mile, over 2minutes slower than what had been my typical training pace, and 40 seconds slower than my marathon pace. It was initially frustrating, but I soon made progress, reaching 7.45min/mile for a half-marathon at MAF heart-rate. Coming into my race-season, I competed in a couple of half-marathons to gauge my pre-MAF and post-MAF times. I completed the Coventry Half-Marathon in 1.30.52, a minute faster than I had done the previous year when in full marathon training. The next month I ran the Southampton Half-Marathon and shocked myself running 1.26.01. I had completed several months of base-training, and followed many of the MAF method nutrition tips, but I was shocked at the progress. After all, 90% of my training had been easier runs at my MAF heart-rate of 155bpm, and only completed 6 workouts above 155bpm, in just 4 weeks of training incorporating anaerobic efforts. From the tri-training I had been used to, smashing intervals several times a week, I couldn’t believe how quick I was running without doing many (almost any) at all. I raced at an Olympic distance triathlon that summer and I had improved my swim time by over 4minutes, my bike from 19.7mph average to 22.3mph, and my 10k from 7.34min/mile to 6.17min/mile, compared to my first triathlon the previous year.
I continued with the MAF method in my second full season in triathlon, working more on my diet and my training plan. Racing a half-marathon after 4months of base-training I had improved to a 1hr23 race time (I had tried to run sub 1hr20 so set off quickly but faded). Disappointed with my pacing strategy I entered another half-marathon, this time in the middle of my a big block of triathlon training, but improved to a 1hr21. In just over a year, going from 1hr30 to 1hr21 was a ridiculous performance improvement for me – from 6.55min/mile to 6.15. I was incredibly pleased.
My triathlon times improved so much that I managed to qualify for the Age-Group World Championships to represent Great Britain & Northern Ireland. From a 2.34 first triathlon to now, 2 years later, doing 2.08 on a much tougher course! When I started in triathlon, this had been beyond my wildest aspirations – I didn’t even know the Age-Group Worlds had existed. I improved my swim time down to consistently around 22mins, with a 20min 1500m time coming in one race, and I brought my bike speed up, averaging 24mph in one sprint distance race. My run times came on too, improving to below 37minutes for a 10k.
I’m so glad I pushed through those first few slow, frustrating months as I don’t believe I could have made it to the World Championships, or be able to race as quickly as I can now without converting to the MAF method. This training philosophy has allowed me to train consistently, without major injury or illness for two years now whereas I was taking days off almost monthly before. From 9min/mile at 155bpm, I’ve run 6.58min/mile over 8miles at the same heart rate, and managed a 17mile run at 7.08min/mile (before breakfast) at 155bpm too. It’s been a fun journey as I now feel able to reach my potential. I’m looking forward to where the next few seasons take me!