Guest Columnist Ajit Thandur talks about training cycles and how to efficiently train in your aerobic zone.
In my previous articles, I wrote about the principles behind the Maffetone Method (180 Formula as it is popularly known as) and another article that provided an insight into the Maximum Aerobic Function Test (or MAF Test for short).
There have been many questions or a fair bit of confusion among amateur runners, bicyclists, and swimmers about how long one continues to do aerobic training? I will list out the kind of typical questions I have been asked and answer them to the best of my ability and understanding.
I must mention here that it is important that one must always bear in mind that each one of us is different in terms of build, capability, body type, metabolism, strength, maximum heart rate, age, and such other factors. So, you must understand the principles behind the Maffetone Method, train, listen to your bodies and figure out what is best for yourself with respect to training, nutrition, hydration, rest and recovery.
These are primarily the typical questions I have been asked and I shall address them in that order.
My speed is too slow if I run at my Threshold Aerobic Heart Rate (TAHR). Is that normal?
Of course, it is. The whole idea is to improve your aerobic base which you have hitherto not done. Over a period of time at your aerobic heart rate, the pace which goes down to maybe even walking in uphill gradients will improve. It needs patience because it could take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to see significant improvement.
On uphill gradients, I literally have to walk!
Well, just allow your aerobic base to build up and your body to get fat adapted. Over time, when that happens your efficiency will go up and you will be able to run even inclines at your TAHR.
How long must I train at my TAHR? Can I do Interval Training and Strength Training?
Building your aerobic base can take 3 to 6 months. During this period it is best to do all runs/rides/swims at your TAHR. Avoid Intervals and Strength training during the base building period since it will be counterproductive.
When can I start Tempo runs, Interval training and Strength training?
After your aerobic base has developed ( which is indicated by your periodic MAF Tests) and reached a plateau it is a good time to do intervals, tempos or strength workouts. Also, time it according to when your planned race is coming up. Maybe 2 days a week is fine.
Must I do TAHR runs/rides all my life?
It is a very good question and most relevant. It is important to understand that building one’s aerobic base isn’t a one-time procedure. After having achieved an aerobic base and getting our aerobic muscles to efficiently burn fat for energy ( becoming Fat Adapted), it is time to start interval training and strength training and speed work. And then, of course, it is race time.
After the planned race or races are over, it is time for rest and recovery. Once done with rest and recovery, it is again time to build on the aerobic base since at pre-race and race time as a lot of anaerobic effort has been put in.
A word of caution is relevant at this point. Especially in a tropical country like India, all through the year, there are races happening every weekend in all major cities. Please do make your choices of races to provide sufficient time for aerobic base building, race, and recovery to get back to building your aerobic base. Too much racing will adversely affect you with overtraining and injury.
Training, aerobic base building, tempo, interval runs/rides/swims, strength training, race, rest and recovery. This is a repetitive cycle.
It is therefore vital to understand that it isn’t racing time always. Be patient, prepare for a race aerobically, then do tempos, fartleks or intervals and then your race.
After that get back and repeat the same cycle all over again to be a healthy, injury free and a happy athlete. Complete happiness will come from striking a healthy balance between work, career, family, children, socializing, aerobic training, speed, racing, personal bests, rest and recovery.