Monday, June 04, 2007

The Feedback Loop

As a runner how do you evaluate if your training is effective? Mark Has collected some interesting running data over the past year with a series of test that are based on a lengthy post by Coach Hadd. The test Mark is using is probably based on the Faraggiana - Gigliotti - Fiorella lactate test (if you Google the names you'll see they are highly regarded Italian marathon coaches) and has been adapted for use with a heart rate monitor. A few points that should be noted; the original test was based on a series of long intervals (2000 meters) that started slower than marathon pace and decreased 4 seconds per mile until the pace was about 3% faster (10 seconds per mile) than marathon pace. The second point is that the test Mark is running is based on the article's selection of heart rates which was OK for the athlete involved (max HR 193+) but is far too stressful for Mark (max HR 176-180?) A better range for Mark would be 125,135, 145, 155 and 165. A third point is any workout or time trial can be use as an evaluation test as long as you standardize it (control as many variables as possible and record a constant observable feature(heart rate, lactate level, or running speed))

Let's look at some other test and see how they match up with some of Mark's data. Perhaps the best single circulatory parameter for predicting distance running performance is a test mentioned in David Costill's "A Scientific Approach to Distance Running"; the percentage of the runner's maximum heart rate recorded while running at 6 minutes per mile. Using that formula let's see what we get. Predicted 10 mile times base on percent max HR (176 bpm; May 2006 (66:50), July 2006 (64:40), November 2006 (61:30) and May 2007 (58:00). If we look at how this matches up with Mark's performances; in February 2007 he ran 62:03 for ten miles and in March 2007 78:08 for a half marathon (equivalent to a 58:45 10 mile). The formula is close for Mark, in fact by tweaking it a bit for himself (maybe adding 30 seconds to the formula's results) he would have a near perfect correlation with his abilities by knowing what percentage of his maximum heart rate when running a single 2400 meter test.

Another test that has a good track record is the "Maximum Aerobic Function" test developed by Dr. Philip Maffetone. By running at a steady sub maximum heart rate (180 - your age (in Mark's case about 140)) the pace will have a good relationship to your 5K race times. Without reproducing his whole chart here if you took the 140 HR pace and divided it by 6 the multiplied it by 5 you would have a good indication of 5K race pace (for Mark 6:55 divided by 6 time 5 is about 5:45 (Maffetone's chart would have him at 5:30 pace)). Mark has run at 5:38 pace recently so now we have a single test of running at a lower HR and getting a good indication of improvement and capability.

As you can see from these two test it is not necessary to run a maximum pace to judge your fitness (or your improvement). Just by having a consistent test you'll be able to see improvement (or stalled improvement which will require some adjustment). Try a few of these test (you may like one better than another) and repeat it every 4-6 weeks, note how you are running/racing and what you are doing for training, in this way you won't have to guess when you are in peak shape the numbers will tell you that you are ready.


Mark said...

Spot on! Thanks for this most informative post.

The fifth 2400m (180AHR) was never achieved, only peaked; and very gut wrenching getting there. I like the relaxed 125-165 AHR range and will give it a go next.

I'll read the second paragraph over later to better digest the correlation mentioned.

Third paragraph: I think 6:44 versus 6:55 is the value to use resulting in a pace 5:36. My 5K race at 5:38 was immediately after a six mile w\u.

Your Maffetone's chart puts me at a 17:05 5K, last week I predicted breaking 17:00 at this Sunday's race.

Once again, spot on!

M. Tate said...

As a numbers/science geek I am for sure going to strap on my HR monitor for something like this. Great post!

Mystery Coach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mystery Coach said...

I should have posted the formula for the 6 minute per mile test. If you use Excel you could put this formula in cell B1 =(A1-15.01)/1.271 then if you put in the percentage(in whole numbers) in cell A1 the predicted time in minutes will be calculated. For example 100 in cell A1 will yield 66.87 minutes (66minutes 52 seconds).

eric said...

Excellent post, Mystery Coach. As one with a maxHR around 178-180, the HR test intervals got so hard toward the end, that it was like maxing out every time you did the test. It makes a lot more sense to test just beyond the 'threshold'. A person can recover from that workout in a day or two and continue on with training.

Mystery Coach said...

Eric, When it comes to testing sub-max testing is just as good as max testing. The best test results come from the middle area 10 seconds faster and slower than marathon race pace. At most a heart rate test around 90% +- 3% is a very good indicator of condition. I would rather see a very stable test ( the heart rate remains steady (does not stack) during a workout or test ( look at your last 8X1000 work out) a rock solid recovery and peak heart rate.