By Rob Shaul, Founder
One of the frustrations I’ve had over the years with conventional endurance coaches and programming is their emphasis on aerobic base training, but inability to clearly define a specific and simple assessment of aerobic base.
Conventional endurance programming begins with aerobic base programming – primarily long, slow efforts in the Zone 1 or 2 Heart Rate Zones. And only as the programming nears competition are hard, threshold efforts programmed in.
Over the years of reading endurance programming books, I’ve found just two coaches clearly identify when an athlete has an adequate aerobic base. Joe Friel’s measure is the ability to go for 4 hours, at your Zone 2 Heart Rate in the endurance mode being assessed – i.e. running – so the ability to run for 4 hours at your Zone 2 Heart Rate.
Mountaineering Coach Scott Johnson’s assessment of adequate aerobic base is when an athletes Aerobic Threshold or AeT (the upper most intensity of exercise where the projecting of ATP begins to be dominated by glycolysis rather than by the oxidation of fats. At this point, blood lactate begins to rise above the resting level) is within 10 percent of his Lactate Threshold LT (the lowest intensity of exercise at which the production of lactate excess the muscles ability tot take up and utilize that lactate as a fuel in aerobic metabolism) as measured by heart rate or pace. The problem with Coach Johnson’s assessment is that it requires a metabolic VO2 max test to establish AeT, followed by a blood lactate test to establish LT … so it’s laboratory intensive.
One pioneer in endurance programming, Phil Maffetone, developed the concept of “Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF)” which emphasizes the importance of building a strong aerobic base for endurance, performance. Maffetone’s MAF Test invloves running 3 miles at your “MAF Heart Rate” which is 180 minus your age. The MAF Heart Rate calculation is a rough estimate of the heart at which you can train while primarily burning fat for energy – which is the foundational aspect of aerobic base. Under the Maffetone Method, the idea is to train primarily at or below your MAF Heart Rate, and periodically conduct the MAF Test, with the goal to be to increase your average pace during this 3-mile assessment while still moving at or below your MAF Heart Rate.
Run 400m at an Easy Pace, then immediately …
Run 60 minutes at a pace within 5 beats per minute on either side of your MAF Heart Rate (180 minus your age). Record your sex, age and total distance completed in 60 minutes.
For example, if you are 35 years old, 180 – 35 = 145. After the 400m Warm Up, run exactly 60 minutes at a heart rate between 140 and 150 beats per minute. At the end of the 60 minutes (exactly) record the distance traveled plus your age and sex.
For those of you who have never done aerobic base training, this could feel really slow.
Our goal with this assessment is to establish “Poor,” “Good,” and “Excellent” distance ranges for this assessment by age and sex, and ultimately test this assessment as a specific measure of Aerobic Base development.
To complete this assessment you’ll need a heart rate monitor and a gps watch or smartphone to measure run distance, and/or you’ll need a HR monitor and run a known distance – such as a running track.
Please post your results to the MTI Aerobic Base Assessment Category on the MTI Forum. You’ll need to sign up on the forum to do this (no charge) – but you’ll also be able to see other’s results.
I’ve conducted this assessment a couple times over the past month – most recently on May 31 … and scored 4.37 miles, or a dismal 13:42 mile pace (I need to build my aerobic base!).
Unlike all other MTI assessments, this one should be and feel easy.
With enough Lab Rats, we’ll hopefully we’ll identify Poor, Good and Excellent Scores …. and thus levels of Aerobic Base.
Next will be developing the programming needed to efficiently increase Aerobic Base.
Please post your results to the MTI Forum. Thanks for your help!