Coached’s Ben Pulham: A strong aerobic base is important for endurance runners

Last week, Coach Ben Pulham – founder of boutique fitness company Coached, introduced the MAF (maximum aerobic function) test to Coached members during a members’ session at the Kallang Practice Track.

Coached members at the first MAF testing session.

Coached members at the first MAF testing session.

An aerobic function test to check aerobic capacity

Explained Ben, “From what I understand, the MAF test is basically an aerobic function test to check your aerobic capacity.”

The MAF test had been developed in the 1970s by Dr Phil Maffetone, a world renowned health expert on fat loss and fitness for both competitive and leisure athletes.

According to Maffetone, training the body’s aerobic system will help an athlete’s performance in the long term. For instance, having a good aerobic base can lead to increased blood circulation and enhanced brain function. It can also strengthen the heart and lungs together with the joints, bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles. This in turn, will reduce an athlete’s risk of chronic pains and injuries.

Having a strong aerobic base is vital for endurance athletes.

Having a strong aerobic base is vital for endurance athletes.

Added the coach, “Having a strong aerobic base is vital for endurance runners – when you are running long distances like half marathon and full marathon, you are getting more than 99 per cent of energy from the aerobic system, so developing that is very important for this group of athletes.”

The MAF test is a heart rate test

Ben continued, “So as for the MAF test, this is a heart rate test. As many might know, I am an advocate of heart rate training. Thus, what we do in this test, is to determine everyone’s heart rate cap, which is equivalent to the tail end of the Easy heart rate zone.”

For runners who have not undergone any heart rate testing however, another  way to determine a rough gauge of their maximum aerobic heart rate would be to subtract their age from 180.

Continued the coach, “Then hold your heart rate at this cap as best as you can throughout the entire test; the figure will fluctuate by a few beats but that is normal.”

The MAF Test requires athletes to run at their heart rate cap.

The MAF Test requires athletes to run at their heart rate cap.

For the Coached MAF test that we performed, we ran continuous loops at the Kallang Practice Track to clock a total distance of 6km. This test had been performed after about 5 minutes of warm up, which is vital in order to get the heart rate stable.

Runners will get slower over time

Said Ben, “When doing the MAF test, what you would find is that over time, you will get slower and slower. If there is a big drop between the first and the final kilometre, then it is a sign that you have an underdeveloped aerobic system and if the pace is much slower than your usual running pace, then you also have some work to do.”

He added, “The faster that you can run at your aerobic heart rate cap, it means that you are more aerobically fit. For example, elite American marathoner Ryan Hall did a MAF test and he completed his first mile in four minutes. That is crazy fast but it shows that his aerobic conditioning is great. So it is not surprising that Hall can run a full marathon is 2 hours and 4 minutes.”

It is normal to get slower over time during a MAF test.

It is normal to get slower over time during a MAF test.

MAF testing should be done regularly 

The coach also pointed out that the MAF test should be done on a regular basis, in order to constantly monitor how your aerobic development is progressing.

Said Ben “There is no hard and fast rule at how regularly this test should be done, but every one to two months is a good gauge. If there is no improvement after a few tests, it is also a way to check if there is something that is hindering your aerobic development.”

Some common factors that may be affecting an athlete’s aerobic development includes lack of sleep, work stress and a poor diet.

Ben (centre) adds that MAF testing should be done regularly.

Ben (centre) adds that MAF testing should be done regularly.

Added Ben “And one you have figured out what the reason is, then see if it is possible to rectify it. For example, if you are stressed from work, then ask yourself what changes you can make at work to minimise this stress. However some things can’t be helped though, so do your best to cope with what you have. For example sticking as much as possible to the heart rate zones during training may help to counter any issues that you might have.”

Many runners can benefit from MAF testing and aerobic training 

But though the MAF test is useful and that runners should train in their aerobic zones, Ben points out that runners may not like doing so.

Said the coach, “It forces runners to slow down in the short term, which may not go down well with them. But plenty of runners can benefit from aerobic training and regular MAF testing.”

Most runners can benefit from aerobic training and regular MAF testing, says Ben (right).

Most runners can benefit from aerobic training and regular MAF testing, says Ben (extreme right in black).

If you are interested to join Coached, PrisChew.com readers can get a discount.

Just key in the discount code pris and you will get 20 per cent off your membership fees for the first three months.

To find out more about Coached, check out their website at http://www.coached.fitness 

Coached sessions such as the MAF testing or the Strength Run are at no extra charge for members, but chargeable at $30 for non members. Join the Coached Sessions Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/groups/1567085153581539/ for more details on the upcoming sessions.

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