MAF Training & How Long Does A Heart Rate Monitor Last?

By now, I think it’s safe to say that we are deep into the Lake Stevens 70.3 training. Week 7? Week 16?

Honestly, I’ve lost track as it’s been a blur of trying to balance work, training, traveling back and forth between Oregon and California to see my husband, and you know…life (and I’m just too lazy to go back and count the weeks).

From the library of…”Selfies to communicate with my husband and this ridiculous long distance relationship we have.”

What I can tell you is that the past few weeks have been a steady build of me trying to get all of my Training Peak boxes to turn green and 9, 13, 15 and now 18 hour training weeks.

But it hasn’t been without a fair share of hiccups.

This training cycle has been much different than the past as I am working with Sonja and focused on MAF training. MAF training is “Maximum Aerobic Function” training and focuses on developing your aerobic foundation, which is especially important in endurance events.

You do this by a variety of ways, but the first is by using the 180 formula to find your MAF number. Training and various workouts are then developed around your individual MAF number and let me tell you…it is frustrating.

In order to hit your MAF you have to slow down…I mean really slow down. According to Sonja, I was running around town with an extremely high heart-rate, and not taking the time to build a machine that would last.

Over the past three months, MAF has caused me a good share of self-imposed distress. Why weren’t my MAF times improving? Why do I feel like I’m getting slower? Why does it spike past the 200s and then back down? What the hell is wrong? Sonja maaaay have even received an email, complete with multiple F-bombs and me ready to throw MAF out the window.

Her response? I’ve been building a tall house, with a little foundation in San Francisco, but what I really need to do is build a one-story house, with a wide foundation in Texas.  Check. Got it. But why are my heart-rate numbers still not making sense?

Then Sonja finally asked me one overlooked question, “How old is your heart-rate monitor?”

“Uhhh, probably 5 or 6 years old. I got it with my 305,” I replied.

I can imagine Sonja’s jaw was either on the ground or her head was just shaking in her hands. Apparently, heart-rate monitors only last 1-2 years!

Why hasn’t anyone told me this?! It’s like the covert technology hardware industry secret that along with your computers, Blue-Ray players and cell phones, your heart-rate monitor kicks the bucket after a couple years.

Sure you can change the battery and do some of the maintenance tricks of the trade, but it was time to upgrade. So I headed over to Amazon and I bought the Garmin premium heart rate monitor (soft strap).

Waiting two days for Amazon Prime felt like an eternity (#firstworldproblems), but as soon as I got it and was able to head out for a run, it was like a heavy burden had been lifted off of my shoulders.

Finally, my numbers are starting to make sense. Not only were the spikes gone, but my perceived effort matched and my sanity is starting to come back. I still have much more hard work ahead of me, but at least I can take the worry and confusion off of my plate around the outlandish numbers. Control what you can, let go of the rest. I’m working on it…

So it’s time for another friendly PSA: fitness technology isn’t indestructible and sometimes, it isn’t you. Make sure you’ve updated the technology, replaced the batteries and taken care of your toys.

photo 2

Oh and another PSA: make sure your fix-a-flat kit actually has some tubes.

Happy Running!

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17 Responses to MAF Training & How Long Does A Heart Rate Monitor Last?

  1. Asia says:

    Totally appreciate this! Not only did my HR monitor stop functioning properly, so did my Timex watch! Apparently I should have replaced BOTH during Boston training, but instead I cursed and complained to my coach about it not working properly. Guess what happened on race day? No satellite reception on my watch, not to mention I didn’t even wear my HR monitor. (I also did MAF training!) Soooo now that I’m in the market for a new HR monitor AND gps watch, what do you recommend?

  2. I’ve started reading Maffetone’s book after I saw Katie talking about it. I’m so interested in trying it out but scared because I don’t want to slow down! My coach isn’t on the Maffetone train, so I’m not sure I’d be able to stick with him and try it out. I’m interested in following your journey with it!

  3. I have LOVED MAF training. however yes the times I run in the winter in FL and summer are vastly different, so I do have to take advantage of the treadmill to allow my legs some speed work practice without the humidity. It’s been interesting mostly to see that i just feel a million times better using it.

    Interested to see how you feel in another month

  4. Erin says:

    I’ve been doing MAF training for ~1.5 years now (with Michelle) and trust me, it gets better. In the beginning, its like you’re on the opposite-day version of Speed, with your HR alarm beeping loudly as your HR spikes and you having to slow waaaay down (ie walk) to make the noises stop. We are so trained for miles, speed, progress, numbers getting higher and higher, rather than lower. After a few months, something in my head switched and I discarded any thoughts about pace or miles and instead just went out and ran however long and however far at my MAF HR. It turned from frustration to simply enjoying the run (or run/walk). I was also really worried about losing speed but I am faster than I’ve ever been. Totally counter-intuitive, but I’ve got the PRs to prove it. The other great thing about MAF runs is that you don’t feel beat up afterwards. I’m now a huge fan.

    As for HR monitors, be aware that the new Garmin straps have a history of bonking on you. I went through 3 in 1 year and finally did the “semi-secret” fix. Use your Garmin HR pod but attach it to a Polar HR strap ($18 – just buy the strap, you won’t use the Polar HR sensor). A year of erratic HR readings are now fixed by using the polar strap. Just something to keep in mind if things get wonky on you again.

  5. Kelly says:

    Man, I wish my HR monitor was old and that would solve some of my exact same problems.

  6. Angela says:

    This is good to know, because I’ve been meaning to go back to using my heart rate monitor regularly (I also suspect I am doing my “easy” runs too fast), but I haven’t because the battery is dead & it’s one of those annoying-sized batteries that are a pain to get a new one of. It’s about 4 years old as well (also came with my 305), though, so maybe I can just ditch it & get a new one!

  7. I didn’t know you were using an heart rate monitor. I am French (but living in the USA) and, in France, lots of runners use heart rate numbers for their training. When you check a training plan is just numbers and it freaks me out. I love the “American approach” which seems (to me) more about the feeling than the numbers. ANYWAYS, I am not surprised you use one as you are a triathlete and you do really serious trainings. But, I am curious to know if you used it a lot when you were only running. Just curiosity :-) (Also, I am rude because I think I never left a comment here even if I read you for a long time now! Thanks for your blog which is a real inspiration. I don’t even know how you manage to do all of that!)

    • PageWilliams says:

      I just started training with it this season. And I think training by HR is more about being in tune with your body, rather than the typical American running by pace.

      And you’re not rude at all! Thanks for the comment and questions :)

  8. Jen says:

    I wouldn’t be able to run or cycle at all with that 180 method. I can walk with my hr under 140 (I’m 43) but usually am at 170-180 when running. I am also so slow because going faster makes my heart rate go too high. Hmmm, maybe I should try training this way but I’d never do anything other than walk.

    I hate my Garmin strap. I have to wear a massive bandaid under it because it cuts me.

    • PageWilliams says:

      That’s what I thought too and it IS difficult — trust me, I had quite the breakdown because of it. But I think that’s the whole purpose — build a foundation and then it gets better.

      And maybe you should get the new “soft” strap as it feels much better.

  9. Nelly says:

    So what you’re saying is that I should probably replace the HRM strap on that 305 that I bought from your 3 years ago? lol! Though I do think the readings are still accurate, but probably not a bad idea to replace it anyways.

  10. I love this Page! Ahhh! I’m not gonna lie, I was hoping that I was going to read that you might be like me, but I’m glad that it was just that your heart rate monitor is old! I sadly, even with the real deal heart rate monitors in testing labs have weird HR readings, and therefore MAF may work for me, but my heart rate is whack. I wonder if someday they will come up with another way to do MAF training not by heart rate…I’d be curious to know. Anyway! I love reading about how you are balancing work, life, long distance relationship, and training! It’s inspiring. :)

  11. erin says:

    So glad you figured it out and the numbers are now making sense! Also, I had NO idea HR straps only lasted a couple years. Thanks for that tip! Hope you’re having an awesome weekend, friend!

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