It's been a while since I last posted about my running so this is going to be a long summary post covering my recent training and diet. I'll write another, probably shorter, post on racing after this post.
Training is going really well. I'm continuing to run using the maximum aerobic function (MAF) principals written about by Phil Maffetone which I questioned in September last year. Based on the results I'm seeing and the way I'm feeling, I'll continue to train using these principals. To recap, essentially I am doing all my training in a heart rate range of 148-153 BPM. This is based on Phil Maffetone's calculation of taking 180 - your age ± 5 depending on experience. This value would be the maximum heart rate you should train at. I use this as my upper limit (153) and then allow myself 5 BPM below this for most of my training and essentially means all of my training is taking place below 70% of my maximum heart rate. All runs are effectively long and slow. No speed work, no intervals, no threshold runs, no race pace runs, no any other kind of training used on conventional training programmes you'll find in the plethora of books and magazines out there. The closest to any of these traditional training sessions I get is racing and parkruns, which I race.
Once in a while I'll throw in an anaerobic training day in which I'll do 6 to 8 short sprints followed by a full body bodyweight weights workout. I'll document this in another post some time.
So far this is proving to be a very good idea. I'm clocking up more kilometers in training than I ever have and I don't feel knackered. I can easily, and generally do, run on average 10km a day, every day, without this having any negative impact on my racing or health. I also throw in the occasional rest day when I feel I need it. This last month of training seems to have seen me really get into my stride, so to speak. I clocked up my third highest training month at 249km and set a new best on the most kilometers run in a week this week with 81.69km. I'm also likely to pass 1000km for the year next week. All of this with no signs of overtraining and no signs of injury either, touch wood. I attribute this to this much more relaxed training pace and my change in diet, more on the diet below.
I've also introduced a change to the way I do my long runs after last week's and today's great runs. Instead of doing most of the run in the 148-153 BPM range, I'm running the first half with my heart range below 148 BPM and then the second half with it in the MAF range. This has had the effect that I don't find the long runs as stressful as I'm not fighting my watch (it beeps when I run outside the predefined HR range) for such a long time. It also results in a more consistent pace over the whole run as I tire.
I'm also experimenting with using compression socks/sleeves for post-race and post-long-run recovery. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of this, but I'll keep experimenting to see how it goes.
Sadly, most of this training has not been barefoot, but it has been in minimalist - in the traditional sense and not Runner's World's definition - shoes, namely a pair of Vibram Bikilas and a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves. Runner's World call these "barefoot" shoes (I really hate this misnomer). This is primarily because I'm wondering all over the show to try and get the mileage in so I don't know what kind of terrain I'm likely to encounter on a day-to-day basis. I also don't think the skin on my feet can handle running 10km and more day-in-day-out on tar. I do still however go out once in a while barefoot to keep things real 😉 .
Back in March I decided I'd start to follow a "paleo lite"
diet way of life to...
- see how this would affect my body, mood and general wellbeing,
- see if it would help my body cope with a skin condition I've got,
- see if it would help me lose a bit more weight - I'd stabilised at about 79kg, and
- because all the information I'd read into the reasons behind adopting this way of life just seemed to make sense.
For the curious, a paleo (short for paleolithic) diet is essentially a diet devoid of all grains (wheat, barley, rice, corn etc), legumes, potatoes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils. Instead concentrating on fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and nuts.
I've opted for a "lite" version as I'm not excluding salt, dairy products (in fact I've upped my consumption of high fat dairy products) and I regularly (normally no more than once or twice a week) include "if you must" items like sweet potatoes, high cocoa chocolate and olive oil in my diet for variety. I sometimes use honey as a sweetener when I fancy a bit of sweetness in my coffee. Beer and wine are also not banned on my version, but I don't drink that much anyway. I also stray away from the paleo diet before a race of 10km or longer to give myself a slight carbo-load, in which I'll eat a bit of bread, pasta or potatoes on the night or two before the race and a bowl of oats on the morning of the run. I also like a bowl of fruit and nut packed muesli before my long runs. Oh yes, and once in a while we'll go out for dinner in which case I'll try to keep a paleo as possible, but I don't beat myself up about it - this isn't a weekly event anyway so won't cause any damage. Otherwise day-to-day eating is pretty much consistent with the paleo diet.
The results? Well, I'm loving it. My training is not suffering one bit and in fact I think my ability to keep training as much as I am is partly due to the change in diet. The MAF training primarily relies on burning fat for energy so having it needs a big place in my diet. I've lost 4kg and am now at what I think is my ideal weight of 75kg (I'm 183cm/6 feet tall). My skin condition has definitely improved to the point I no longer need to use any creams as I don't get the flare-ups anymore. I no longer get grumpy and snappy when I haven't eaten for a while - this was a major problem when my wife and I would go out on a Saturday morning - and I no longer get that 4pm "I really fancy a choccie bar" slump. The grazing on high protein (and fat) meat, oily fish, lots of fruit, vegetables and nuts and high fat dairy has really stabilised my blood sugar levels and has definitely resulted in an overall improvement in my life. It's a little more expensive than the previous dependency on bulky carbs, but it's definitely worth it.
If you're interested in the "paleo lite" way of life, have a look at the mountains of information at Mark's Daily Apple.
So all in all from a training and diet perspective, I think I've found a perfect balance for me and it is working wonders. I don't think I'll ever go back to the traditional way of training with a high reliance on chronic cardio and anaerobic training programmes. I'll also try my damnedest to never go back to a high carb diet. The more I read the research on the negative impact of a low fat, high carb diet, the more I'm convinced society has been following the wrong guidelines for a long long time. Of course, I will change things if something starts to go wrong, but I don't think it will.