Metabolic Efficiency Training

I have been running by the Dr. Maffetone methods for quite a while. It was not until I changed my nutritional input that I really began to see major changes in my performance. In this time I have seen my MAF pace drop by over 1:30 per mile. I have also become very fat adapted to where I can run for 3+ hours with nothing but water. I do not know how this will translate to race day, but I believe there is no way that it can hurt my efforts.

Recently I was listening to a podcast with Ultra Nutritionist Sunny Blende where she went into detail on how to become a better fat burner. She also did a prior podcast on this subject and has written an article on Metabolic Efficiency Training.  She goes into enough detail to get you started down the path to become a better fat burner.

If you dive into Sunny’s material you will quickly find that you need to determine what your crossover point is. You can either be tested in a lab or you can use the well established MAF formula presented by Dr. Maffetone in this article.  He also defines how to test if you are improving here.  For some people this formula may be off, especially for those who have trained for many years. Here is a different view on the formula. This lines up better with where I am at right now based on my personal experimentation while running. Keep in mind these are based on a heart rate and will varying effects once Cardiac drift begins to occur. Here is another method described by Zach Bitter to determine a pace associated with the crossover point. This likely will need to be adapted to a shorter version unless you are running high mileage like Zach does.

Dr. Maffetone has also published some books on his training methods. I highly recommend the Yellow book as it goes into great detail on MAF running and nutrition. He has a newer Red book, but I have yet to read it. I believe it goes more into nutrition than the Yellow book.  Dr. Maffetone has also appeared on many podcasts that are all worth your time if you are interested in his training methods. To start I would check out the archives of Trail Runner Nation, Ultra Runner Podcast, and Endurance Planet.

At the core Metabolic Efficiency Training (MET) and MAF are very similar. The both prescribe running at a sub Aerobic pace where you are burning mainly fat as fuel. They both prescribe a lower carb diet where you cut out processed foods and limit grains. One difference is that MET  theorizes that your crossover point, or MAF HR will go up with training. Maffetone does not appear to prescribe to this.  I do believe that this crossover point does go up as I have experienced this.  Another difference is the duration of training. MAF states that you can continue to train this way until you hit a plateau with your performance. MET is prescribed for a period of time in your base training.  During this period you must really watch your carb intake to maximize fat adaptation. Once the period is over you can go back to eating some grain carbs.


UPDATE: My N=1 Experience

After my period of MET training I was on travel for a week and off of that kind of nutrition. It is always hard for me to eat this way when away from home and eating out every meal with co-workers and in this case my wife. Upon returning home I continued on a low card, moderate protein, high fat diet. My focus has been on not eating inflammatory foods. So far this has been a success, but I must admit that I have a hard time on the weekends fully staying on point. I also have a theory that I run a little better when I add in one carb meal per day. What I do not know is how to maximize performance on race day. I think there are 2 options:

1) Train on very low carbs and race with moderate carbs

2) Train on some carbs and race with moderate carbs

I also have been experimenting with some intensity over the last 2 weeks and have been having a 3 carb to 1 protein recovery shake after the intense sessions. I believe this is good carb timing and allows for proper recovery on days I clearly go over the crossover point and into the glycogen stores. It may not be necessary as I am not doing these harder sessions every day and I think the science shows that recovery nutrition only speeds up recovery (need to cite this). I do not see the harm in feeding the muscles when they are most ready to be fed carbs.

Performance Journal

2014-03-25 13.59.11I enjoy listening to Podcasts while I run. Lately I have gotten a lot of miles out of Trail Runner Nation. The banter back and forth between the two male hosts (Don Freeman and Scott Warr) is always fresh and funny. They also bring on some high quality guests that deliver very practical knowledge that anyone can apply. Recently they had on Lanny Bassham. Lanny is not a runner, but does know a plethora about competing and winning. He has Olympic Gold and Sliver medals in International Rifle Shooting and many other achievements. He also is a consultant to PGA pros, the Navy Seals, and many more high performing people. He was discussing the idea of mental management and how this effects performance. They go into detail about why someone does well in practice and not well in the actual event as well as always thinking positive and only think about the negative when coming up with a way to solve the issue that brought on the negative. The podcast is worth a listen. The one point that really hit home is the idea of a performance journal.

I enjoy writing things down, but until recently I did not have a good way to capture all the things I wanted to remember. Like most runners I keep an online log. Almost all of my running data is contained in attackpoint. Over the last year I have started to use Strava. There is something about the look and feel of it that draws me to it. I also enjoy looking at segments to see how my running has improved or declined over time. I think an online log is a valuable tool for anyone, especially those using a Garmin to track their runs. I personally have always been searching for something more. I wanted to track more data and do it more conveniently. I have tried many online and/or computer based systems including evernote and simplenote, but nothing stuck. I finally went back to the old school and started to just write things down with a pen and paper. This quickly evolved into a pencil, highlighters, and a nice Moleskine notebook. The act of writing helps me to remember and it does not require anything to consume or produce information. There is something wonderful aboperut flipping through a notebook of hand written data. Around the beginning of this year I found a system called the Bullet Journal. This has become the basis of my performance journal. One major item in the Bullet Journal System is an index or TOC where you record were you wrote items. This makes it quicker to find what you are looking for. This is what works for me. You must find your own solution and it must be something you will stick with in the long run.

My performance journal consists of everything that is important to me. This includes my long term running plans, performances on certain trails or courses I run numerous times in a year, nutrition ideas, sleep, weight, how I feel each day, daily tasks that need completed, what I completed each day, events, projects that need done, notes from sermons, ideas that just pop in my head, knowledge that comes from reading or listening, part numbers and maintenance for my vehicles, and so much more. There is a daily entry that lists each task that I need to do that day, the foods I ate that day, how much sleep I got the night before, how I feel, and notes from the day. I also have 4 week tables where I list the quick details about my run plans, actual runs, and how I feel. This is the quick look section that will be helpful in the future.
The fun part is looking back at the data I have collected and seeing how it impacted me. For example this morning I was feeling pretty bloated and a little blah. A quick look showed me what I ate over the weekend and gave me some insight into how eating that way makes me feel. I also just found a longer term use case. My online training log showed a few very minimal weeks leading up to Old Dominion in 2012. I did not note any long term patterns, just the runs. That was 2 years ago and I cannot fully remember why I had those low mileage/time weeks. Had I been keeping a performance journal and not just an online running log I could have easily looked at the trend of how I was feeling, what I was eating, how I was sleeping, and what I was thinking and gotten some major insight into the situation. This is where the performance journal will pay dividends. We should never forget our past mistakes, but remember them and learn from them so we do not repeat them. When we encounter an issue or a problem and we solve it we must record this solution. This way if the problem arises again we already have a good understanding of why it happened and how to solve it. Every competitor who wants to get better should keep some form of a performance journal.

Mountain Masochist 2013 – Close Calls

2013-11-02 18.02.32The race that almost wasn’t. That is how I can describe MMTR this year. I had signed up quite a while ago but due to a soccer tournament my daughter was playing in and I was coaching in I almost did not go. As it turned out the tournament was downsized to one game and the forecast called for a lot of rain. I jumped on the idea the game would be canceled due to the rain knowing that if it was not the head coach was going to be there, so coaching was covered. On Wednesday I decided to go. Earlier in the week I had asked a good running friend Jon if he wanted to tag along and crew for me. As always he said yes. Race On!

We left on Friday afternoon for the drive to Staunton, VA. All the hotels in Lynchburg were booked or overpriced due to Liberty homecoming. Staunton was less than an hour from the start. It would mean skipping the pre race festivities, but that was ok with me. After a stop at REI and some Chipotle for dinner we arrived at the hotel and I got organized and was in bed by 10. Continue reading

Why You Should Use A Treadmill

treadmillTreadmills have been around for a long time. There is nothing polarizing about them. The “I hate treadmills” camp is strong, but I have a hard time finding anyone in the “I love treadmills” camp. There is also a strong opinion that running on treadmills is easier than running outside on pavement. I am not here to argue this point one way or the other. I for one am on the opposite side of this and think running on a treadmill can certainly be harder than running on pavement outside (given the conditions outside are similar). It is fine if you disagree and I will not say you are wrong or right. What may be harder for may certainly may be easier for you.

There are some major advantages to treadmill running:

1. Uphill Training – Unless you live in the mountains you probably do not have access to a hill that theoretically never ends. A treadmill gives you this. If you do have access to long hills you will have to run down after getting up. This may not always be ideal if you are going for just an uphill workout. I am an ultra runner and love mountainous races. I live in an area with 0 hills. The treadmill is essential to prepare me for the long 1000+ feet climbs of most of the races I run.

2. Speed / Temp Training – A treadmill allows you to hit a pace and stay there. You can turn your brain off a bit and just focus on pushing through the workout. You can easily measure your effort and improvement over a time period based on the same or similar workouts.

3. Mental Toughness – Most people will agree that running on the treadmill takes some mental toughness due to the boredom it brings. With no change in scenery you can quickly get bored. In my opinion (at least in ultras) being mentally tough is just as important as being trained properly. Hanging in on those tough treadmill workouts when your mind is bored and you can easily quit without having to walk 3 miles back to your house or car builds that toughness. Ultras that consist of loops are tough because of this car factor. A few years ago I dropped out of the Umstead 100 miler after 87 miles. I was at my car and a warm fire. If I was feeling that bad at a different point in the race I still would have had to walk it in and who knows, maybe I would of felt better. It is always easier to quit when you can quickly have the creature comforts we are accustomed to.

4. Race Simulation – Treadmills allow you to simulate a race course and reduce its length. A coach I had a few years back put me onto this idea. Break down your race into %incline of every segment and then simulate those climbs and flats/declines on the treadmill. This has really caught on as some treadmills now have a capability to upload a gps track and they will automatically change the incline based on real world data. I am going to write a post on this sometime soon and go into more detail about my manual way of doing this.

5. Time Saving – Unless you live near the hills or track you want to train on a treadmill can save you time (especially if it is in your home or at your work). I have a treadmill at my house and my office complex has one in its workout room. I can easily do a run at lunch or anytime at home. This gives me more time due to less driving, money savings on gas, and more time with my family.

6. Climate – Sometimes the weather is not cooperative even for experienced mountain runners. My former coach had a top of the line treadmill because he lives at high altitude in Colorado. The winters are snowed in, but he still had a need to get in quality workouts. This guy is no slouch as he has won the Vermont 100 and Leadville 100 twice. In my case the summers are hot and humid. This weekend the low is 80 with a “real feel” of 90. The high is 100 with a “real feel” of 115. I am sure I could go out and hit my long run in this weather if I ran at night and went really slow. I am choosing the treadmill instead. I know I will get a better workout this way and not be exposed to the heat and all the possible ailments it brings. I am not training for a hot race so why should I expose myself to this extreme heat when I can run a Race Simulation instead?

I hope you will consider the treadmill as just another tool to help you reach your goals. It can hold a key place in most runners training and can be very helpful in reaching your goals. In the following months I am going to continue to expand on each of the above points and hopefully give some more insight into how the treadmill can be a useful training tool. So what do you think, are treadmills useful to you or are they nothing more than “dreadmills”?