MAF training – Going slower to go faster… 


I was struggling in January with my commuting.  I was trying to ride hard, but was basically just knackered.
I had a bit of an epiphany at the start of February.  I was just trying to ride harder and faster on each commute, racing everyone, so getting more and more tired.

I went back to basics, reread Phil Maffetone’s Big Book of Endurance Racing, and started commuting again at a steady pace.  This meant a (max) hr of 130.  I am a little loose with the max, but when the HR heads into the 140s I back off immediately.

I need to build the biggest aerobic engine I can in the 22 (oops, now 18) weeks before the start of tcr, and that means steady training, with the odd bit of intensity thrown in.
It’s the principles I followed when I got so fit and strong on the bike  a few years ago.   All my long rides were at a HR of 130, and all my running below a HR of 135 -140ish.  It really worked, (until my knee broke).  Its also an approach that ties into all the reading I did when starting out doing ironman – Gordo’s 4 pillars

So now I need to get the training volume in, but with most of it at a steady pace to build the heart, lungs, capillaries, muscle fibres, and the mitochondria I need.  I also need to be fresh enough to actually get out at the weekends.

I am using a MAF test to quantify any changes in how fit I am.  This is a 10 min warmup, then a 30 min ride at a HR of 130.  I take lap power readings of each 10 minutes.

Over time,

  • the average power I can produce at that HR should be increasing
  • The fall off in power from the first to last 10 minutes will become less.

So how am I doing?

Date App Overall Result HR / 10 mins power / 10 mins
09/01/2017 trainer road 30 min @ MAF 150w @ 131 129
04/11/2017 Zwift 30 min @ MAF 178@131 130
10/02/2018 Zwift 30 min @ MAF 182@131 131
08/03/2018 Zwift 30 min @ MAF 180@130 130
05/04/2018 Zwift 30 min @ MAF 185@132 132

So I’ve seen a small but steady improvement in the power at a hr of 130.  Not as much as it feels, (I feel stronger), but data does not lie.  What is better is the consistency – ie the last 10 mins is as good as the first.  That’s been a big improvement over my first reliable test, (191 -> 168), which shows something is happening.  I’ve had some big weeks of intensity, so I am looking forward to getting back to some steady riding for a month or two.

So, does the MAF method work?

At its heart its just base training – which, if you have the time, is the traditional way to get fit on the bike – if its done easy enough, (which is the major problem).  Being able to ride for 12 hours is more important than riding really hard for 1.

The major issue when base training is doing it too hard, (sort of hard) – ie hr of 140-150. That means you get tired so stop.  The idea of base training is its not hard, so you keep going and do lots and lots of it, at a steady, (not easy) pace.

I just need to get out and do more long rides 🙂

I should also be doing FTP  tests to quantify my increases, or decreases? in FTP.  I’ve always found these really hard, as its essentially a 20 minute full on effort.  I’ve always got bigger numbers in actual real riding, normally in Lanza in March.  True enough, I saw great numbers this year, (ftp – 230 -> 290) over the week.  I may do more ftp tests every couple of months.

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