MAF and Me

      2 Comments on MAF and Me


So after last week’s 4 pound Easter gain, I was ready to get back on track.  And I did! I was mindful of what I was eating, and worked really hard not to go over my total calorie allotment.I mentioned that I’ve been doing the MAF heart-rate training plan at the suggestion of my friend Katie. The plan says right up front that you “may” have to walk at the beginning, to keep your heart-rate below the maximum threshold. For me, it was more like “you MAY get to run jog a couple of times in the hour and ten minutes it takes you to cover 3 miles.” Yeah, that’s no joke.

My calculated maximum heart rate according to the MAF formula is 141. As it turns out, in order for me to even come close to staying under that heart rate, I was walking instead of running. And I wasn’t walking fast. I discovered that I can walk and still have a heart rate above 170 at times. Seriously?!  I know that probably means that I have pretty low “aerobic” fitness, but WTF?! I’m not a sloth!

My first day on the program, I ended up with about an 18-minute mile, simply because I got sick of walking at the end, and started running for the last half-mile. After that, when I was trying to be more regimented about it, my paces were 21, 22, and then, on a very exciting day, 18! Unfortunately, my Friday MAF training from last week was absolutely horrific: I just could not keep my heart rate down, and somehow, I ended up with a 24-minute mile. OMFG.

Friday afternoon, I finally had a break from kids and sports, so I took the opportunity to go to my chiropractor. I love getting adjustments, but trying to find the time to get there is challenging during hockey season. My chiropractor is also an experienced marathon runner. In fact, he’s one of those guys that likes to travel for marathons. Last year, while I was being adjusted, I would ask him about his upcoming races, and he would offhandedly reply with such things as, “Oh, I’m headed to Great Britain this weekend to run a marathon in Ireland.” Or, my favorite: “I leave tomorrow morning for China, where I’ll be running a marathon along the Great Wall.” :p You know, I like running, but I just can’t see myself making a trip like that into a marathon experience. LOL!

Anyway, since he’s both a runner and a medical professional, I discussed my training with him. I told him what my calculated max was according to the formula, and then I told him that I have been known to hit the 170s while walking. (Usually in wind, but not always.) He expressed surprise at that, and then was really stunned when I told him some of my actual maximum heart rate data. (I have gotten as high as 250 before, but the 230s aren’t uncommon for me.) Then I explained my experience with the MAF program and what average pace was required to keep me anywhere close to the necessary range, ending with that morning’s 24-minute pace. He actually laughed out loud when I admitted that, asking, “Did you just lay down on the grass at some point?!” I was not amused. Ok, maybe a little. 😉

His opinion was that the MAF heart rate wasn’t working for me. He admitted that I DO need to try to get my heart rate down, but added that shooting for 141 is probably infeasible for me right out of the gate. He was insistent that while I should definitely be going slower than normal with heart-rate training, 20-24 minute miles weren’t doing me any good, either. He also suggested I might want to talk to my primary doctor about my heart-rate, because it seemed to him that it was abnormally high. He asked me what my resting heart-rate was, and I admitted I had no idea, but that when I’m just laying on the couch, it’s in the low to mid 70s. He told me to check it first thing in the miring before getting out of bed and see what I get.

I did try to get my resting heart-rate Saturday morning. I wore my HRM all night, and then when my alarm went off at 5:30, I grabbed the watch and checked…only to discover it was 89 because my heart was jolted by the alarm going off. :p I rested for another minute or so, and then it got down to about 67-70. I don’t know how you’re really supposed to calculate it, but 68 seems  like a good number. And from what I gather, it’s pretty average.

After that, I went out for a (blessedly) “normal” run with my friends Ann, Toddra, and Jennifer. It was pretty cold for April (30 degrees), but we did 5 miles around Ann’s neighborhood, and it was a great time. Todd hasn’t run in a while, so we kept it easy and took plenty of walk breaks.

When it was done, I went home and ran another mile with JJ. He didn’t want to run in the cold, but I badgered him into doing it.


I was proud of him for sticking with his 8k training!

Speaking of proud…I am super proud of Jamie. I’ve mentioned that he’s doing lacrosse, and his dad has been very insistent that he run on his non-practice days to get conditioned. (Lacrosse is a lot of running, dude!!) His dad has even been so hard as to make him run in full gear…and carrying the stick. 😮 Friday night, he did just that…for almost 3 miles!

Now that’s hard core!

So, with all my MAF training (i.e., walking) last week, I found that it was a lot harder to burn the calories I’m used to. Because I really wanted to keep my calorie burn the same, I would get up extra early and walk as long as I had to in order to earn the calories needed while doing the lower-intensity exercise. With all the running I’ve been doing over the winter, I’ve gotten used to earning about 260-285 extra calories per day, four days a week, and then anywhere from 500 to 800 on my long run days. That, unfortunately, translates to a LOT of walking. :/  But I was trying to lose the Easter weight, so I did it!

When I woke up Sunday morning, the day we were celebrating Easter with my in-laws, I did something I almost never do: I jumped on the scale on a day that WASN’T my normal weigh-in day. I just wanted to confirm that I had dropped at least some of that holiday weight, so I could enjoy Easter dinner. Well, guess what! I was actually up ANOTHER 1.4 pounds, to 123.8!! WTF!? I was so upset. 🙁 So much so that I ate NOTHING at my inlaws’, and then ate very little for dinner.

Monday morning, I did a “real” run (though not my usual speedy run, thanks to the 15-20 mph sustained winds), and then weighed myself.

Argh. Down .4 from the previous day, but still up a full pound from Easter. 🙁 You might call it a fluke, but I honestly, I even FELT heavier. My pants were tight, even. Water weight? I don’t know, but I do feel that the calories I supposedly burned on my walks weren’t  as accurate as my heart rate monitor would have me believe. Honestly, I exerted way less energy after an hour-long walk than I did during a 30-minute run, and yet, the calories were the same, or even sometimes more! The fact that I didn’t even feel the need to wash my workout clothes after my walks (or my hair!) is kind of telling, too.

I tracked all my food and exercise in Weight Watchers for the last two weeks, to see how it compared. It’s been close to two months since I’ve done that, and I thought it was a good time to do a side-by-side. Here are the charts for the past two weeks.


The blue lines are representative of calories used each day, and the red bars are representative of Weight Watchers points. I did a true comparison, subtracting out both Fit Points and calories burned, to get a final daily total. Thus, if I burned 279 cal in a day, I subtracted that 279 from my total calories for the day. Since I always aim to eat the calories I burned, my daily calorie goal remains at 1300.

Conversely, if I earned six fit points in a day, I subtracted those from my total daily points used. Thus, my daily point goal remains at 30.

You can see that in the first graph, which includes Easter, some days I was below my calories, and some days I was way above. However, every single day, I was above my Smart Point goal. That actually doesn’t bother me now, because I know that my diet is pretty heavily weighted toward sugar, and I have just accepted that, since I’ve proven over the last six months that I can still lose weight with my overall food and exercise choices. Still, it should come as no surprise that I gained almost 4 pounds that week.  God, I love Easter food. 😉

In the second week, you can see that I worked really hard to keep under my calorie goal for the week. I even had one day where I was below my Smart Point goal for the day!  I think that’s a first. 😉 And yet, I not only didn’t lose weight, I gained a pound. :/

But here’s something interesting: when I was entering my exercise data into the Weight Watchers calculator, I tried to be honest about it. Weight Watchers has a “fitness level” method of calculation, whereby you determine if your exercise was easy, moderate, or hard. While doing the MAF training, I didn’t have a single “hard” day, and in fact, I felt it only right to categorize those workouts is “easy walks.”  What I discovered is that, although my calories burned would show the same or about the same number for 70-75 minutes worth of walking as I normally earned for 30 minutes of running, Weight Watchers didn’t agree. I would earn 1 to 3 Fit Points less for the walking then I did for the same “calories” of running. And you know what…that actually sounded about right to me. Although I took great pains to earn as many calories as I was used to earning each day, I didn’t “feel” like I was working as hard at all.

I honestly feel like that may have been a factor in why I gained weight instead of losing it this week.  I was eating the same amount of food as I normally do, but I wasn’t burning as much energy, and I think it simply caught up with me on the scale.

So…for that reason and a host of other factors, I have decided to no longer do the MAF training.  Although the lower calories burned and the time commitment certainly made the program less than desirable to me, another major factor is just that I was really miserable. This morning, I got up and ran my first hard run in two weeks. I ran at a 9:35 average pace for 3 miles, and although it was difficult, it wasn’t exhausting. Yes, my heart rate was high, and got up to 200 BPM at one point, but when I was done, I felt so good! I really missed that feeling.

That’s not to say that this MAF training hasn’t had an impact on me. I’ve been wearing a heart rate monitor for a good three years now, and yet, I’ve never actually looked at the data. I know more about my heart rate after just 10 days on this MAF training then I ever did before, and I definitely plan to continue to monitor it, and try to understand how I can improve my heart rate, so that it doesn’t get so high. I may try to do some runs during the week at a slower pace, with the intent to keep my heart rate down. Am I going to get it down to 141? Not likely! I just don’t think it’s realistic for me, considering that my normal max heart rates are much, much higher. But that doesn’t mean I can’t shoot for a higher target number, one that is still lower than my current max rate. I’m not sure what that is yet, but I figure it has to be somewhere between 141 and 250. :p

Thanks to everyone for reading, and thank you to my friend Katie, for putting up with all my whiny texts in the last couple of weeks. 😉

2 thoughts on “MAF and Me

  1. Jen

    I have been following Katie’s heart rate training and while I never calculated mine, I know what my Garmin tells me. . . and I think I’d be in the same boat as you in terms of having to walk SLOW. My max isn’t in the 200’s but it can be in the high 170’s or in the hot humid summer, it can be in the mid-180’s. I’m also one of those people that don’t do well talking and running. . . they say you should be able to hold a conversation, but I’d have to walk. . . slow. . . that’s just life. Thanks for sharing your heart rate training experience!

  2. Meg B

    Hey, you gave it a shot, realized it doesn’t work for you and moved on. Good for you!

    We will have to meet up for a long run this summer, maybe halfway between us. It’ll be slow for you, but you’re an excellent running partner!


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