2 Week Test

11/29/2014

My MAF Test progress has come to a halt over the last few weeks. While this drop in pace may be a product of the freezing Chicago temperatures, there is one major part of my training that might need improvement; my diet.

The Maffetone Method is a holistic approach to endurance training. Paying attention to your stress, diet, and fitness throughout training is the supposed key to making this ship float. My training has been more focused and intentional than ever. My stress levels are equivalent to laying in a hammock with crossed legs and a book about buddhism. But my diet could have some room for improvement.

Here is a basic summary of my diet in the recent past. The crossed out items will have to be removed and or replaced from my diet for the next two weeks.

breakfast
* eggs
* ketchup
* cheese
* coffee w/ added sugar or creamer
* milk
* kale
* oatmeal w/ added sugar
* raisins
* vegetable oil
lunch
* 2 x peanut butter and jelly sandwich
* more coffee
dinner
* rice
* beans
* onions
* eggs
* kale
* carrots
* fry ’em up

I think most of you would agree I can improve. Maffetone suggests a two-week test, to reset your body into a fat burning mode. This premise is accomplished basically by giving your body much less carbohydrates to use as fuel. http://www.philmaffetone.com/2-week-test

This is vain but I’m going to quote my last post, “A study contained in this post called Effects of Ultra-Endurance Exercise and Carbohydrate Restriction on Membrane Fatty Acids, Inflammation, and Insulin Sensitivity suggests that a period of 4 weeks is required to adapt to a newly acquired diet. And in this case, athletes changing to a no carb diet returned to their performance level after 4 weeks of a new diet BUT used about 90% of fat for fuel versus the 50% they used to. ”

Maybe this is just the reset my body needs to start burning fat and improve my aerobic fitness. If not, at least I will know that it’s not my diet that is slowing my progress. And along with the aforementioned post, I’m hoping to be able to continue this diet to meet that 4 week criteria, to allow my body to more completely adapt.

I plan to follow his modified two week diet, which allows low glycemic carbs. ie. my beans and rice. I’m a cheap ass hole and these are necessary staples in my kitchen, though I will limit them only as part of recovery meals.

In Maffetone’s book, he boasts about an athlete who improved their MAF time by 25 seconds in just two weeks by switching diet. I would be really encouraged to see that sort of progress in my MAF time. This type of increase adjusted for my ability could potentially mean a 1 minute increase in my 5k and a 10 minute increase in my marathon time.

But that’s not it; I have been some trouble with insomnia. A few nights a week, I will lay in bed for longer than an hour trying to fall asleep, thinking about running, ketchup, or pop-tarts. Maffetone suggests that this might be the product of a bad diet. For this reason alone, I’m willing to give the two week test a try. Every moment wasted trying to fall asleep, COULD BE SPENT MAFFIN.

For anyone who doesn’t know me personally but read this whole thing, you’re weird. This blog is really becoming more of a training diary that’s unnecessarily public.

Day 1 11/29/14 – Ran 14 miles, my longest run in over a year. Felt good to get to the half marathon distance but there was definitely a lack of energy/motivation that hit around 1 hour, 6 miles in or so. I think there’s a good chance this has to do with having no carbs before the run. I tried to eat a lot afterwards, after burning 1400 calories but still feel slightly hungry at 11pm writing this. I’m also trying not to eat after 8pm on this diet, to see if my sleep improves. Here is todays 3 mile maf test with 1 mile warm up.

Mile 1 9:05 148bpm

Mile 2 9:32 148bpm

Mile 3 9:47 149bpm

Total 28:24 09:28 min/mile

Day 2 11/30/2014 – After writing in this journal last night, I realized my recent slowing in MAF tests is probably not due to cold weather, diet, or wind. It was myself being over trained. I am sticking to the 2 week test but dramatically reducing my training volume. I plan on only doing a maf test later this week to see if there’s any improvement from my extra recovery time. Otherwise, no running. I’ve read that trouble sleeping can also be due to overtraining. At 30 miles a week, I thought I was getting enough rest.

I feel good on the second day of the two week test. I have been eating a lot to keep up on the calories but I’ve read about people being hungry. I’ve been feeling generally satisfied. I SLEPT WELL LAST NIGHT. I don’t know if I should attribute it to the 2 and half hours of running or the change in diet. Maybe both but I really hope it’s the diet.

Day 6 12/4/2014

Ran 3 miles today. Not faster or lighter at MAF but that’s not necessarily expected. I passed a BIG BM today. Cleaned out the reserves and the reserves reserves. If I had a scale there would have been some weight loss. BTW, I stepped on 5 scales at the thrift store yesterday and there was a range between the 150’s to 180’s. There was one scale that put me at 170, which seemed reasonable. I am confident that if when I go home to NJ, and the scale reads in the 160’s that I lost weight while on this two week test.

Now it’s 12/26/2014. I have undergone the two week test but did not continue for 4 weeks because of Christmas Carbs.

Here is my MAF test from 11/29/2014

Mile 1 9:05 148bpm

Mile 2 9:32 148bpm

Mile 3 9:47 149bpm

Total 28:24 09:28 min/mile

and this is my MAF test from 12/13/2014

Mile 1 8:31 151bpm

Mile 2 8:55 150bpm

Mile 3 9:15 151bpm

Total 26:41 08:54 min/mile

While I did have some rice before my second MAF test, it appears that my regression has corrected after 2 weeks of recovery and better diet. Just by feel, I don’t think the diet made much of a difference in performance. I attribute the performance correction much more to the recovery time. I might have lost some weight during the 2 week test but no more than maybe five pounds. And anyway, I have since probably put it back on from Christmas Carb Loading.

I am feeling confident that I’m set up nicely to start progressing again. I am stepping my running down to three days a week and more gradually working up the mileage. This will allow for more recovery time and also put me back to the routine I had in September, when progress was at it’s best.

Back in NJ for a Appalachian Trail run with JD, my ultra hero. Gonna be great.

Merry Christmas ya Jabroni.

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Over Training

This isn’t the first time I’ve over trained but here I am again, taking time off, re-evaluating where I stand.

So here’s how it all started. I had built up a fair amount of weekly mileage in June; 20+ miles per week. Then when I moved to Chicago IL, almost all of my running stopped because I didn’t have a routine to go running established. So July and August were very light running, only about 20 miles each month. Then September I started getting into the flow of things and my MAF test started improving as well. September averaged around 15-20 mpw.

That’s when the shit hit the fan. Come October, I have my routes established, I read a book on ultra running, I start volunteering at a farm that’s 20 miles away and commute by bike but the kicker is; my workplace is hosting a walk-a-thon to raise money for heart diseases. I can see the real-time results of the walk-a-thon every time I log an activity, so the first week or so, I was holding 2nd place real hard. Every time I logged an activity I thought maybe I’d be in 1st place but it just wasn’t happening. I figure this hot shot must be cheating or probably a much more serious runner than I am. I can’t break through. Hell, this guy might be 100’s of miles ahead of me at this point. I’m busting out 30 miles per week come October. For me, this is really over doing it but for an experienced runner 60 miles per week is not uncommon. I keep at it until the 3rd week of October where I have to take some extra time to recover.  The first two weeks of October I had either been biking or running every single day, leaving no time for recovery. During this period I drop in the ranks, and accept that I’m not catching up, though I still keep training at a 30 miles per week pace.

overtraining

(Here you can see the massive spike in training time for October)

To be honest, this is where I thought I should be; somewhere around 30mpw. That’s where I assumed my fitness level was, that my body could really handle it. This wasn’t the case but it took me a while to find out. I was just comparing myself to all the people on forums and articles suggesting higher weekly mileage but that’s just not my reality.

So in November I start to see plateau and regression in my MAF test times. I blame it on the cold and wind. I also started sleeping and eating worse. I was even cold indoors. But still, it didn’t hit me that I was overdoing myself. I could still feel good running, still feeling motivated and inspired. But there were definite side effects that I was unwilling to take seriously.

maf regression

(MAF test 7 @ 08:27 min/mile pace marks the middle of October, when my overtraining came to a point and regression began)

That attitude continued through November. It’s December now and I’ve come to terms with my over training. It’s time to re-evaluate my training plan. First I’m going to take 2 weeks very easily. Rest Rest Rest. Then I am going to go back to the 15-20 miles a week that I was doing in September to see if progress resumes.  If it does, I’ll be in a good position for long term progress. I am on the 4th day of the 2 Week Test, a diet plan thought up by Phil Maffetone to promote healthy fats and protein over carbohydrates, fueling your body with fat over carbs, essential for aerobic workouts. This restart may be just what I needed.

I am still keeping track of MAF tests during the diet and am hoping to be posting more about the results at the end of the test. Hopefully, resuming my progress where I left off in Mid October.

November MAF Regression

There’s something about taking a MAF test that really excites me. The ability to objectively measure my progress and evaluate how my training is or in this case, isn’t working.

I take a 5 mile bike ride to get to a track where I prefer to do my 3 Mile MAF Test. I wish I started doing this a little sooner so that I was collecting more scientifically valid data but I also wish that it was a little closer. The temperature was 27 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind was 18 mph. I had put the MAF test off already once this week because of temperatures in the teens. For the record, I don’t tolerate cold very well; my fingers lose bloodflow, toes follow suit, and my nose leaks like the basement faucet.

Well, lets get to problem solving. Things I did differently today.

  • wore minimalist shoes hoping to see the time drop because of lighter footwear.
  • ate a protein/fat based breakfast with no carbs as compared to last MAF test where I had oatmeal w/sugar
  • ran the first two laps of my MAF test with numb lower legs and feet from the cold.
  • didnt wear my wool socks like i tend to do in colder running
  • listened to a metronome, locking into a 177 bpm stride
  • ran my first below freezing MAF test

MAF Reflection.

  • I dont think the minimalist shoes changed anything but made my feet colder with their lightweight thin fabric. The difference was likely negligible.
  • The protein/fats based breakfast probably did slow me down a bit. I don’t think my body is primed to burn fats as efficiently as carbs yet so I think I didn’t fill the tank with premium, rather i gave it unleaded and it misfired. I imagine with some carbs, I would of been a few seconds faster.
  • If I wore my wool socks, I wouldn’t have ran with numb feet, and I would have been more comfortable. But again, the difference was likely negligible.
  • I would like to believe that the metronome helped but the difference here is probably negligible too.
  • Running in the freezing, windy cold probably also slowed me down a bit. But only by a few seconds.

Below I posted today’s MAF test and my prior MAF test. The difference I listed above shouldn’t total more than 10 seconds per mile. Therefore, today’s result in my estimation, does not improve compared to my last MAF test. The operative word here is improve. I am not trying to match my results from the last test, I’m not worried about maintaining fitness, I am steadfast on improving it as intelligently as I can.

Date                     Mile 1      Mile 2       Mile 3      3 Mile Total  AVG Pace HR

11/11/2014    0:08:19    0:08:33    0:08:52    0:25:44    0:08:35    150
11/20/2014    0:08:30    0:08:49    0:09:06    0:26:25    0:08:48    152

One thing that I didn’t list above is happening outside of MAF tests. I’ve been doing a lot of training below MAF, like way below MAF. So my recommended heart rate range is 139-149bpm. The past 2 or 3 weeks have been spent mostly at 120-125bpm. After reading much about Polarized training, I got to thinking that even my MAF pace was a little fast. And personally, me running MAF is NOT easy. A lot of people will complain about MAF feeling slow. I on the other hand think it requires a bit more exertion than my “easy” and long runs should need. That’s one reason why I started running at a lower bpm. For the coming weeks, I will be pushing my training runs back into the 139-149 bpm range, as I’m not confident that my even lower heart rate training was as beneficial as I was hoping. Hopefully the next MAF test will show some progress.

The protein/fat based diet needs to be constant for it to work. Switching between eating carbs and not eating carbs, doesn’t prep my body for burning either fat or carbs. It probably starts to adapt to one and then I shift my diet. I need to make an executive decision to either cut out carbs or to keep them. As for now, I’m thinking that I will maintain a diet primarily based on fat and protein but it WILL include carbs. If there comes a day that I sign up for an ultra, maybe I will consider tinkering with a consistently very low carb diet, evaluate the results over a period of time and see if it improves. A study contained in this post called Effects of Ultra-Endurance Exercise and Carbohydrate Restriction on Membrane Fatty Acids, Inflammation, and Insulin Sensitivity suggests that a period of 4 weeks is required to adapt to a newly acquired diet. And in this case, athletes changing to a no carb diet returned to their performance level after 4 weeks of a new diet BUT used about 90% of fat for fuel versus the 50% they used to. Food for thought.

I may have lost today’s battle but not tomorrows war.

Standing Desk Standing in the Way

Since moving to Chicago in July, I’ve advocated a different way to handle computer work; at a standing desk.

IMG_20141112_101354491

I took an existing computer desk and added PVC legs to extend the height, making it a comfortable height to work with a head forward, non-slouching, upright posture. I’ve read claims that standing desks activate hip muscles that are inactive when sitting, improve posture, and even help you live longer. Maybe some of these claims are true, maybe they’re not.

But I know one thing.

Working at a standing desk is screwing with my calves. Though I didn’t see the correlation right away, around the time when I started working at a standing desk, I had a calf strain which I attributed to running. This isn’t atypical for me. When adding mileage in the past, I’ve encountered more than one calf strain, especially times where I focused heavily on form and/or  wearing minimalist shoes. So, it happens.

But this time, after a few months, it just wasn’t going away. This time was a constant dull pain in my calves, alternating between which leg was worse. Then it came to me at the end of a long work day, when my calves were extra sore from standing all day. What if my standing desk, if it hadn’t caused the calf strain, has exacerbated the injury or at the least, not allowed it to heal?

I have spent a week now, mostly avoiding the standing desk, using a laptop in bed or on the couch, to see if there is a discernible difference in calf pain. It only took a few days and here I am writing this article; Calf pain free. I finally feel like I can sprint with some pop in my stride (though I will try to resist in respect to my low heart rate training).

Maybe there are some benefits to having a standing desk. I do think my posture may have improved slightly over the 4 month period and my productivity increased. But the extended time standing, with little movement, had impaired circulation and either didn’t allow my calf to heal or caused more swelling. I will be either limiting my time spent at the standing desk or returning it to it’s original height.

In the case that sitting at a desk can subtract years from your life and standing at a desk can add years; I’m willing to sit if it means I can log more miles.

One Step Closer to Bonking

There is something about running data that makes my gears turn. I enjoy going out on a run and all the other cliches that go along with it; enjoying nature, fresh air, hairier balls, badassity, increased appetite, meditative, and all the other bullshit. But.

There are two main reasons why I run.

1. Collecting and reflecting on data in hopes to construct the impossibly perfect training regimen.

2. My ego craves to get better at things that I’m not good at.

I am hardly a talented runner. I’m not sure about the statistics but I would put myself as a middle of the pack, average runner (okay, I just used the data from this site and I am above average but not by a wide margin). As the distance lengthens, my speed decreases. My ego isn’t ready to let this happen. I’m determined (at least for now) to crack the code and figure out how to run far, fast, even if it takes some time.

The last few months I have started (June 2014) heart rate training. It’s become a mild obsession. My weekly volume has greatly increased to where I think it should comfortably be and I’m now beginning to see some results and more diligently track my progress. My goal is to slowly progress, without injury by keeping baller data and making deliberate changes to my training as necessary. Slow and steady wins the race, or so my training program insists.

I will be publishing the data collected using the Maffetone method(here), a low heart rate, injury prevention endurance training. There seems to be a lack of reliable, long term data using the aforementioned strategy. I’m hoping to be able to train using these methods for at least a year to provide a more comprehensive data set for those interested in the program.

At least at the time of starting this blog, that was the main intent but it will be interesting to see if it evolves over time. Thanks for allowing me to indulge in myself.

P.S. I have never bonked. But bonkophobia has set in. While I’ve never truly BONKED before, it is my duty to reach a full-blown bonk.