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Working Your Heart The secret of training smart Updated Summer 2009 During my 15 years of racing in the sport of triathlons I searched for those few golden tools that would allow me to maximize my training time and come up with the race results I envisioned. At the top of that list was heart rate training. It was and still is the single most potent tool an endurance athlete can use to set the intensity levels of workouts in a way that will allow for long-term athletic performance. Yes, there are other options like lactate testing, power output and pace, but all of these have certain shortcomings that make them less universally applicable than heart rate. In our sport there are three key areas of fitness that you will be developing. These are speed, strength and endurance. Strength is fairly straightforward to do. Two days per week in the gym focusing on an overall body- strengthening program is what will do the trick. More time for a triathlete usually ends up giving diminished returns on any additional strength workout. These two key days are the ones that will give you the strength in your races to push a high power output on the bike, to accelerate when needed on the run and to sustain a high speed in the water. Next are the focused workouts that will give you raw speed. This is perhaps the most well known part to anyone’s training. These are your interval or speed sessions where you focus on a approaching a maximal output or your top speed at some point in each of these key sessions. But again, developing speed in and of itself is a fairly simple process. It just requires putting the pain sensors in neutral and going for it for short periods of time. A total of 15-20 minutes each week in each sport of high intensity work is all it takes. Now for the tougher part…the endurance. This is where heart rate training becomes king. Endurance is THE most important piece of a triathlete’s fitness. Why is it tough to develop? Simply put, it is challenging because it usually means an athlete will have to slow things down from their normal group training pace to effectively develop their aerobic engine and being guided by what is going on with your heart rate rather than your will to the champion of the daily training sessions with your training partners! It means swimming, cycling and running with the ego checked at the door. But for those patient enough to do just that, once the aerobic engine is built the speedwork will have a profound positive effect their fitness and allow for a longer-lasting improvement in performance than for those who blast away from the first day of training each year. What is the solution to maximizing your endurance engine? It’s called a heart rate monitor. Whether your goal is to win a race or just live a long healthy life, using a heart rate monitor is the single most valuable tool you can have in your training equipment arsenal. And using one in the way I am going to describe will not only help you shed those last few pounds, but will enable you to do it without either killing yourself in training or starving yourself at the dinner table. I came from a swimming background, which in the 70’s and 80’s when I competed was a sport that lived by the “No Pain, No Gain” motto. My coach would give us workouts that were designed to push us to our limit every single day. I would go home dead, sleep as much as I could, then come back the next day for another round of punishing interval sets. It was all I knew. So, when I entered the sport of triathlon in the early 1980’s, my mentality was to go as hard as I could at some point in every single workout I did. And to gauge how fast that might have to be, I looked at how fast the best triathletes were running at the end of the short distance races. Guys like Dave Scott, Scott Tinley and Scott Molina were able to hold close to 5 minute miles for their 10ks after swimming and biking! So that’s what I did. Every run, even the slow ones, for at least one mile, I would try to get close to 5 minute pace. And it worked…sort of. I had some good races the first year or two, but I also suffered from minor injuries and was always feeling one run away from being too burned out to want to continue with my training. Then came the heart rate monitor. A man named Phil Maffetone, who had done a lot of research with the monitors, contacted me. He had me try one out according to a very specific protocol. Phil said that I was doing too much anaerobic training, too much speed work, too many high end/high heart rate sessions. I was forcing my body into a chemistry that only burns carbohydrates for fuel by elevating my heart rate so high each time I went out and ran. So he told me to go to the track, strap on the heart rate monitor, and keep my heart rate below 155 beats per minute. Maffetone told me that below this number that my body would be able to take in enough oxygen to burn fat as the main
source of fuel for my muscle to move. I was going to develop my aerobic/fat burning system. What I discovered was a shock. To keep my heart rate below 155 beats/minute, I had to slow my pace down to an 8:15 mile. That’s three minutes/mile SLOWER than I had been trying to hit in every single workout I did! My body just couldn’t utilize fat for fuel. So, for the next four months, I did exclusively aerobic training keeping my heart rate at or below my maximum aerobic heart rate, using the monitor every single workout. And at the end of that period, my pace at the same heart rate of 155 beats/minute had improved by over a minute. And after nearly a year of doing mostly aerobic training, which by the way was much more comfortable and less taxing than the anaerobic style that I was used to, my pace at 155 beats/minute had improved to a blistering 5:20 mile. That means that I was now able to burn fat for fuel efficiently enough to hold a pace that a year before was redlining my effort at a maximum heart rate of about 190. I had become an aerobic machine! On top of the speed benefit at lower heart rates, I was no longer feeling like I was ready for an injury the next run I went on, and I was feeling fresh after my workouts instead of being totally wasted from them. So let’s figure out what heart rate will give you this kind of benefit and improvement. There is a formula that will determine your Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate, which is the maximum heart rate you can go and still burn fat as the main source of energy in your muscles. It is the heart rate that will enable you to recover day to day from your training. It’s the maximum heart rate that will help you burn those last few pounds of fat. It is the heart that will build the size of your internal engine so that you have more power to give when you do want to maximize your heart rate in a race situation. Here is the formula: 1. Take 180 2. Subtract your age 3. Take this number and correct it by the following: -If you do not workout, subtract another 5 beats. -If you workout only 1-2 days a week, only subtract 2 or 3 beats. -If you workout 3-4 times a week keep the number where it is. -If you workout 5-6 times a week keep the number where it is. -If you workout 7 or more times a week and have done so for over a year, add 5 beats to the number. -If you are over about 55 years old or younger than about 25 years old, add another 5 beats to whatever number you now have. -If you are about 60 years old or older OR if you are about 20 years old or younger, add an additional 5 beats to the corrected number you now have. You now have your maximum aerobic heart rate, which again is the maximum heart rate that you can workout at and still burn mostly fat for fuel. Now go out and do ALL of your cardiovascular training at or below this heart rate and see how your pace improves. After just a few weeks you should start to see a dramatic improvement in the speed you can go at these lower heart rates. Over time, however, you will get the maximum benefit possible from doing just aerobic training. At that point, after several months of seeing your pace get faster at your maximum aerobic heart rate, you will begin to slow down. This is the sign that if you want to continue to improve on your speed, it is time to go back to the high end interval anaerobic training one or two days/week. So, you will have to go back to the “NO Pain, NO Gain” credo once again. But this time your body will be able to handle it. Keep at the intervals and you will see your pace improve once again for a period. But just like the aerobic training, there is a limit to the benefit you will receive from anaerobic/carbohydrate training. At that point, you will see your speed start to slow down again. And that is the signal that it is time to switch back to a strict diet of aerobic/fat burning training.
At the point of the year you are in right now, probably most of you are ready for this phase of speed work. Keep your interval sessions to around 15-30 minutes of hard high heart rate effort total. This means that if you are going to the track to do intervals do about 5k worth of speed during the entire workout. Less than that and the physiological effect is not as great. More than that and you just can’t maintain a high enough effort during the workout to maximize our benefit. You want to push your intervals, making each one a higher level of intensity and effort than the previous one. If you reach a point where you cannot maintain your form any longer, back off the effort or even call it a day. That is all your body has to give. This is what I did to keep improving for nearly 15 years as a triathlete and it is the basis for the coaching methodology at my coaching web site markallenonline.com where since 2001 Luis Vargas and I have coached hundred of triathletes to great results. It is certainly a challenging methodology for many but the rewards are huge. I invite you to become one of our athletes. Luis and I will personally answer any questions you may have about this methodology and how to overcome many of its challenges. See you at the races. Mark Allen 6 Time Ironman World Champion Mark Allen coaching services are available at www.markallenonline.com Below: Mark Allen Photo by Tony Svenson
Your Brain Might be Telling You One Thing, but Your Body is Saying Something Different Dr. Phil Maffetone Most people think they know what aerobic means, or so they say. When asked, many associate it with breathing, air, or oxygen. Or they confuse it with “cardio” at the gym, where you can also find aerobic dance classes and pool aerobics. In fact, aerobics is a relatively recent form of exercise. It’s not even 50 years old, although humans have been doing it for millions of years. In the late sixties, Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, an exercise physiologist for the San Antonio Air Force Hospital, Texas, coined the term 'aerobics' to describe the system of exercise that he devised to help prevent coronary artery disease. Dr. Cooper originally formulated aerobic exercises specifically for astronauts, but soon realized that the same set of exercises such jogging, running, walking and biking are useful for the general public as well, especially those suffering from being overweight, who are more likely to develop various heart diseases. He put together all of the aspects and methods he founded in his book Aerobics, which came out in 1968 and became an immediate national bestseller. And what about anaerobic? What does this term mean? Being out of breath after short, intense and hard activity? Sprinting 100 yards on the track, going full‐speed across the length of the pool, doing pushups until your arms and shoulders ache, or for many, climbing several, or sometimes even one, flights of stairs? Once you see the difference between aerobic and anaerobic, this knowledge can help you build better health and fitness. So let’s start with a bit of history.
Dutch scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek was the first to describe the microscopic components of muscle fibers in the middle of the seventeenth century. (He also was the first to observe and describe bacteria.) By the early 1800s, it was clear that two different types of human muscle fibers existed. Through the microscope, one showed a red color, and the other white. In humans, muscles are made different than in other animals such as birds. In chickens, for example, whole muscles are either red or white. The red muscles—the “meat”—are found in legs and thighs, while the white make up the breast. In humans, however, most muscles contain both red and white fibers (the exceptions are jaw muscles, which are predominantly anaerobic). In 1863, French scientist Louis Pasteur coined the words aerobic and anaerobic. He was studying bacteria—and those that live only in the presence of oxygen he called aérobie. Aerobic comes from the Greek word “aero,” meaning air and “bios” refers to life. Some bacteria could not live with oxygen or air, and Pasteur called these anaérobie—anaerobic. Around the same time in human physiology, the terms aerobic and anaerobic were used in relation to how the body obtained energy. They referred to two different complex energy transfer processes in cells—one that required oxygen (aerobic) and one that did not (anaerobic). More importantly, the source of energy produced in each muscle fiber was different. The red, aerobic fiber used fat as its source of energy. In order to convert fat to energy, this required oxygen—a reason for the large amount of blood vessels in the human body and in these muscle fibers—and for the cell components that aided this process which are called mitochondria. These iron‐containing enzymes have a reddish protein called myoglobin. In the white anaerobic fibers, none of these structures are needed. Energy is quickly generated through a process that uses sugar (glucose) as fuel that does not need oxygen.
As a result of further scientific research, these red and white muscle fibers in humans were also called type I, and type II, respectively. The red, type I aerobic fibers contract relatively slowly, and these would be called slow twitch. Their slow contraction would enable them to function for long periods—hours and days— without fatigue. This also allows them to support the body’s structures, especially the joints, bones, and arches of the feet. The white, type II anaerobic fibers contract two to three times faster, and these were called fast twitch. They provide speed and power. But these attributes come with a price—they fatigue very quickly as their energy lasts only a very short time— a few seconds to about a minute (coincidentally, about as long as you can hold your breath). In time, it was discovered that there was more than one type II muscle fiber, and these would be considered subdivisions of type II. Some of these fibers are pure fast twitch while others have a combination of both fiber qualities. Today, there are seven different fiber types, and as microscopic techniques improve, more may be discovered. But there are still two main types in humans—aerobic and anaerobic. The list below is an overview of the function of each muscle fiber. Aerobic Muscle Fibers Red iron‐containing cells, and packed with blood vessels Slow‐twitch sustains long‐term activity Resistant to fatigue Uses (burns) fat for long ‐term energy Supports the joints, bones, and overall posture and gait Anaerobic muscle fibers White cells with limited supply of blood vessels
Fast‐twitch for short‐term power and speed Easily fatigued Burns sugar for short‐term energy Exercise physiologists in particular refer to the aerobic system when discussing the red, slow twitch fatigue‐resistant fat burning muscle fibers, and the anaerobic system referring to the white, fast twitch power and speed, sugar burning fibers. So which system—aerobic or anaerobic—is working in you right now as you’re reading these words? The surprising answer is both. It’s easy to see that aerobic activity is important all the time—to maintain various functions such as posture and movement, long‐term, consistent energy, and circulation. But even though we’re not sprinting or lifting heavy objects, the anaerobic system is always performing some basic tasks such as burning sugar. In fact, within the complex metabolic pathways of energy production, burning some sugar helps maintain fat burning. In addition, the anaerobic system is always prepared to take action if necessary—humans have a “fight or flight” mechanism waiting to act should the need arise. The real question is which system is predominating—which are you relying on? Is your body burning mostly sugar and less fat? If this is so, your anaerobic system is the one turned on more than your aerobic body. While you may not notice this, especially if it’s an ongoing problem, but your energy and endurance is not what it should be, you are vulnerable to aches and pains, body fat content is too high, and you’re under too much stress as the anaerobic system is connected with our fight or flight stress mechanism. In short, your health is compromised. Instead, you want long‐term energy to be free of fatigue, maximum support for your joints and bones, injury‐free muscles, good circulation, and increased fat burning to slim down. You want both optimal health and great fitness.
Aerobic vs. anaerobic exercises Certain types of exercise will provide benefits that will build the aerobic system long term. I refer to these simply as aerobic workouts, meaning they will provide the stimulus to improve fat burning for more energy, continuous physical support, improved blood flow throughout the brain and body, and reductions in body fat. Easy activities, such as walking, running, biking, swimming, and the many types of aerobics classes can accomplish this if the intensity of these workouts is not too high. Your heart rate is an accurate indicator—lower heart rate exercise is aerobic while performing the same workout with a higher heart rate would be anaerobic. This is where the issues get more complicated. In the short term, any activity can help build the aerobic system, even very hard efforts. But continue these kinds of exercise routines for too long and your body will break down from injury, fatigue and ill health. You’ll become a casualty of the fit but unhealthy crowd. The one important feature that differentiates aerobic exercises from anaerobic type—in addition to lower versus higher heart rate—is time. Just because a workout stimulates the aerobic system to burn more fat doesn’t necessarily means you should keep doing it. If maintaining such a workout regularly for, let’s say two or three months, it could suddenly turn on you, reducing aerobic function, lowering fat burning, suppressing the immune system, and causing physical stress with a reduction in aerobic muscle function. Whether it takes two months, two weeks, six months or a longer time frame, this type of workout program would be an anaerobic one. Anaerobic workouts performed for weeks can temporarily build the aerobic system, but at a cost. For a workout to be truly aerobic, you should be able to exercise the same way for many weeks and months with continued benefits. And, when you’re finished each workout, you should feel great—not tired or sore, and certainly not ready to collapse on your couch. Nor should you have cravings for sugar or other
carbohydrates—your workout should program your body to burn more fat, not sugar. Burning too much sugar during a workout means it’s anaerobic, using up stored sugar (glycogen). It can even lower blood sugar. The result is that you crave sweets. This is a key to differentiating an aerobic exercise program from an anaerobic one. While even a hard weight‐lifting session can produce some of these benefits short term, it does not in the long term. Eventually, even moderately anaerobic workouts soon can reduce fat burning and even lower the number of aerobic fibers your muscles contain. Scientists have demonstrated this fact. They have measured this decline. It’s not something based on anecdotal evidence. I have measured it too, in couch potatoes, aerobic dancers, walkers, and professional athletes. In a laboratory or clinical setting, the process of fat burning can easily be measured with a gas analyzer—a device that assesses the air you breath. By comparing the amount of oxygen you consume from the air, and the carbon dioxide your body expires, one can determine quite accurately the amount of fat and sugar you burn. As exercise improves fat burning long term, it reflects improvements in the aerobic system. Not so with anaerobic exercise. For most individuals, the best way to determine whether an exercise is truly building your aerobic system is to check your heart rate—following the 180‐ formula. As the heart rate rises too high, it causes your body to switch from being aerobic to anaerobic. So these same workouts can be anaerobic if you do them too fast or too hard. In addition to heart rate, another key aspect of a truly aerobic workout is that, when you’re done, you should almost feel like you haven’t worked out—you should
feel great, full of energy and vigor. You should almost feel like you could do it again with ease. An anaerobic workout, on the other hand, will make you feel fatigued. Sometimes mildly so, other times quite exhausted. This is not only unnecessary, but counterproductive if your goal is to build the aerobic system. In fact, too much anaerobic exercise can impair the aerobic system. For more information on aerobic and anaerobic workouts, the relationship to food intake, and other factors, including stress, see In Fitness and In Health or The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing.
EXCERPT: From “The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing” by Dr. Phil Maffetone
An important training companion to assist you in developing optimal endurance and better fat burning is a heart‐rate monitor. This simple device is a valuable tool that not only guides your training but is part of an important assessment process, and can even be used in some competitive situations. A heart monitor is really a simple biofeedback device. Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines biofeedback as “the process of providing visual or auditory evidence to a person of the status of body function so that you may exert control over that function.” Unfortunately, most people use their heart‐rate monitors only to see how high their heart rate gets during a workout, or evaluate the morning, resting heart rate. In the 1970s, I first measured heart rates as a student involved in a biofeedback research project. I observed and jotted down responses in human subjects to various physiological inputs, such as sounds, visual effects, and other physical stimulation, including exercise. The subjects’ reactions were evaluated by measuring temperature, perspiration, and heart rate. Through this research, it became evident that using the heart rate to objectively measure body function was simple, accurate, and useful, especially for athletes. I began using the heart rate to evaluate all exercising patients, and by the early 1980s developed a formula that anyone could use with their heart monitor to help build an aerobic base. This “180 Formula” enables athletes to find the ideal maximum aerobic heart rate in which to base all aerobic training. The heart rate is directly related to, and a reflection of, the body’s oxygen need. The heartbeat, the outcome of the heart’s muscular contraction to help pump oxygen‐rich blood through the body, is also associated with systolic blood pressure, while diastolic blood pressure reflects relaxation of the heart as measured between beats. The relationship between two heartbeats is associated with heart rate variability, reflecting our parasympathetic aspect of brain and nervous system function—this being an important factor for professionals to assess heart health and for athletes to evaluate recovery from training and racing. The heart itself has a built‐in mechanism of nerves that controls its own rhythm (to maintain a heart rate of around 70 to 80 beats per minute), but the brain, through the action of the autonomic nervous system and various hormones, controls the wide range of heart rates based on the body’s needs. This rate can be as low as 30 to 40 in those with great aerobic function to as high as 220 or higher in young athletes during all‐out efforts. Abnormal heart rates also fall within this range, sometimes making heart rates inaccurate. For example, in the later stages of the overtraining syndrome, the resting
heart rate is abnormally low; and those who are too stressed can have abnormally high resting and training heart rates. In my continued attempt to individualize training heart rates, in the late 70s and early 80s I had several bulky heart monitors in my office, used for accurate heart rate evaluation. Whether the athlete was on a treadmill or stationary bike in the clinic, on the track, or at other locations, I would record a number of pre‐ and post‐workout features. These would include the athlete’s gait—their moving posture during the workout—along with standing posture and muscle balance, and I would correlate this mechanical efficiency with heart rate at various points before, during, and after workouts. It was obvious that training at various intensities affected both posture and gait: the more anaerobic, the more distortion of the body’s mechanics. These changes are due, in part, to previously existing muscle imbalance and muscle problems that develop during the workout. This is sometimes very subtle and other times more obvious. All this information was correlated, and ultimately, an ideal training heart rate was found that promoted optimal aerobic function without triggering significant anaerobic activity, excess stress, muscle imbalance, or other problems. It soon became evident that the athletes needed more consistent training quality, rather than relying on the feel of the workout on the day they used the heart monitor. It became necessary for each athlete to have his or her own heart monitor and train with it every day. The advent of modern heart monitors, which sensed the heart rate directly from the chest wall and transmitted the information to a wristwatch, was a great benefit in this regard, with Polar’s entry into the marketplace in 1982. One of the most significant observations I made during this period was that athletes who wore heart‐rate monitors during each workout felt better and improved in performance at a faster rate than others who trained without a monitor. It was now possible to find an ideal training heart rate for athletes building their aerobic system; however, it was a relatively lengthy process of one‐on‐one assessment. My goal now was to find a way that any athlete could determine an optimal training heart rate, using some simple formula. As I began lecturing and writing more about endurance training, it was difficult to explain the details of all this information on assessment without some simple and specific guidelines. The idea of a formula that would be accurate for an individual and result in a very similar or identical heart rate as my manual assessments seemed ideal. While the 220 Formula was commonly used, the number I found to be ideal in my assessment was often very different from the 220 Formula; it was usually significantly lower. In addition, it was becoming evident that athletes who used the 220 Formula for a daily training heart rate showed poor gait, increased muscle imbalance, and other problems following a workout at that heart rate, and that these athletes were more often overtrained.
There are two ways to define age. Chronological age is measured by calendar years, but this may not be a good reflection of fitness and health. We all know athletes who appear much younger—or older—than their chronological age. Some maintain better levels of physical, chemical, and mental function throughout life, reflecting a truer physiological age, while others who are the same chronological age do not. We can evaluate these differences by measuring heart and muscle function, blood sugar, and hormone levels, and by performing other clinical tests. An appropriate questionnaire that asks about fitness and health history is also very useful to assess physiological age, and would better represent “age” in a new and more accurate formula. Over time, I began piecing together a mathematical formula, taking the optimal heart rates in athletes who had previously been assessed as a guide. Instead of 220 minus the chronological age multiplied by some percentage, I used 180 minus a person’s chronological age, which is then adjusted to reflect their physiological age as indicated by fitness and health factors. By comparing the new 180 Formula with my relatively lengthy process of one‐on‐one evaluations, it became clear that this new formula matched very well—in other words, my tedious assessment of an athlete and the 180 Formula resulted in a number that was the same or very close in most cases. Early in this process, I made number of relatively minor changes to the formula. By the early 1980s, I settled on the final, most effective formula and this is the one in use today: 180 minus a person’s chronological age, which is then adjusted to reflect their physiological age as indicated by fitness and health factors. The use of the number 180 was and is not significant other than as a means to finding the end number. Plus, 180 minus age itself is not a meaningful number; for example, it is not associated with VO2max, lactate threshold, or other traditional measurements. The end number is an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate. This is the training heart rate that reflects optimal aerobic training, and a number which, when exceeded, indicates a rapid transition to more anaerobic training. Through the use of this 180 Formula, all athletes can obtain their ideal individual aerobic training rates. Calculate Your Own Maximum Aerobic Training Heart Rate To find your maximum aerobic training heart rate, there are two important steps. First, subtract your age from 180. Next, find the best category for your present state of fitness and health, and make the appropriate adjustments: 1. Subtract your age from 180. 2. Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:
If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10. If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5. If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same. If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.
For example, if you are thirty years old and fit into category (b), you get the following: 180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm). In this example, 145 will be the highest heart rate for all training. This is highly aerobic, allowing you to most efficiently build an aerobic base. Training above this heart rate rapidly incorporates anaerobic function, exemplified by a shift to burning more sugar and less fat for fuel. If it is difficult to decide which of two groups best fits you, choose the group or outcome that results in the lower heart rate. In athletes who are taking medication that may affect their heart rate, those who wear a pacemaker, or those who have special circumstances not discussed here, further individualization with the help of a healthcare practitioner or other specialist familiar with your circumstance and knowledgeable in endurance sports may be necessary. Two situations may be exceptions to the above calculations: • The 180 Formula may need to be further individualized for people over the age of sixty‐five. For some of these athletes, up to 10 beats may have to be added for those in category (d) in the 180 Formula, and depending on individual levels of fitness and health. This does not mean 10 should automatically be added, but that an honest self‐assessment is important. For athletes sixteen years of age and under, the formula is not applicable; rather, a heart rate of 165 may be best.
Once a maximum aerobic heart rate is found, a training range from this heart rate to 10 beats below could be used as a training range. For example, if an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate is determined to be 155, that person’s aerobic training zone would be
145 to 155 bpm. However, the more training at 155, the quicker an optimal aerobic base will be developed. Initially, training at this relatively low rate may be stressful for many athletes. “I just can’t train that slowly!” is a common comment. But after a short time, you will feel better and your pace will quicken at that same heart rate. You will not be stuck training at that relatively slow pace for too long. Still, for many athletes it is difficult to change bad habits. Case history One of my patients by the name of Don was a good runner who usually placed in the top of his thirty to thirty‐nine age‐group. When he came to my clinic with chronic injuries, fatigue, and recurrent colds, one of the first things we did was test him on the track with a heart monitor. At his maximum aerobic heart rate, Don was only able to run at an 8:40 pace—almost two minutes slower than his usual training pace! I recommended that Don train at this slower pace with a monitor for a three‐month base period. But two weeks later he called me and said it was impossible to run that slow. I again explained the whole process and how he would get faster. A week later he faxed a letter saying he could not train by my recommendations. But several months later, with worsening fitness and health, and almost unable to race, Don came back to the clinic. Now he was ready to train aerobically. It took several months of dedicated base building, beginning with a slower pace, for Don to increase his aerobic pace until finally he was running his “normal” 6:45 training pace—but this time at a heart rate that was twenty‐five beats lower than our previous evaluation. *** The accuracy, usefulness, and importance of the formula have been time‐tested throughout the years. But by the early 1990s, many of the athletes I’d worked with for a decade or more taught me another important lesson about the 180 Formula. Seeing the changes they made, including some longer than normal plateaus, helped me come to an important conclusion: Those using the 180 Formula successfully for more than five years needed to adjust their maximum aerobic heart rates down by about two to three beats. They could not keep using the same maximum aerobic heart rate they’d determined years earlier, despite healthier aging. While we age over time chronologically, building fitness and health during the same period results in a slower physiological aging. So in five years of proper (successful) training and improving health, your training heart rate does not need to be lowered by five beats; instead, because you’re physiologically not as “old,” decrease only by two to three beats. When in doubt, always choose a lower maximum aerobic heart rate. This assumes the factors in the 180 Formula that pertain to medication, illness, and competitive improvements are the same. Otherwise, further reductions in the training heart rate may be necessary. Read more about “The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing.”