Posted by: johnswim | December 1, 2010

I’m opting for the Maffetone Two-Week Test

I’ve used Mark Hymen’s “Ultrametabolism” program in the past, but I think I’m going to do Philip Maffetone’s Two Week Test instead.  Since I’m using his physiology program and I’m using Mark Allen’s triathlon training program based on Maffetone’s principles, I should make it a clean sweep and use him for the nutrition program.  If I don’t start to see the results, I can always change.

In the Two Week Test, he pulls out foods that put the body into a sugar-burning zone and focused on foods that put the body into a fat-burning zone.  If you feel better and more energized at the end of the 14 days, you are carbohydrate-intolerant.  In other words, there are carbs in my diet that are pulling me into a sugar-burning, low energy zone. 

Here are the foods that I can eat during the two week test:

  • Eggs, unprocessed cheeses, heavy (whipping) cream, and sour cream
  • Unprocessed meats including beef, turkey, chicken, lamb, fish, shellfish, and others
  • Tomato, V-8 or other vegetable juices such as carrot juice
  • Water (Thank God!)
  • Cooked or raw vegetables except potatoes and corn
  • Nuts, seeds, nut butters
  • Oils, vinegar, mayonnaise, salsa, mustard, and spices
  • Sea salt
  • All coffee and tea (if I normally drink it and, oh yes, I do)

The foods that I am avoiding during the test are:

  • Bread, rolls, pasta, pancakes, cereal, muffins, chips, crackers, rice cakes, and similar carbohydrate foods
  • Sweets, including products that contain sugar such as ketchup, honey, and other prepared foods
  • Fruits and fruit juice
  • Highly processed meats such as cold cuts, which often contain sugar
  • Potatoes (all types), corn, rice, and beans
  • Milk, half-and-half, and yogurt
  • So called healthy snacks, including all energy bars and drinks
  • All soda, including so-called diet types

Alcohol falls into the okay and avoid categories, but I don’t drink, so that’s not an issue.  I also have a fundamental belief that if you want to lose weight, you should lay off the sauce.

When I describe the program to people, invariably I get the comment:  “Oh, you are doing Atkins.”  Please note that all cooked and raw vegetables are part of the program.  I will actually eat more salads during the program than off the program.  The hardest part of this seems to be the mid-day snacks.  So often I grab a piece of fruit which I can’t do under the program.

For those looking ahead, at the end of the two weeks, I slowly add back in different carbohydrate categories to see if I can identify those that start to affect my mood.  Should be fun, fun, fun!

Posted by: johnswim | November 30, 2010

I’m overweight again! Whoo-hoo!

I weighed myself last Friday and weighed 196.5 pounds.  That brought my Body-Mass Index down to 29.4.  I’m officially no longer obese but am in the overweight category again.  Phew!

Posted by: johnswim | November 26, 2010

My Personal Turkey Trot 5K — MAF Running Test

I want to run a similar test to the one I did on Monday with swimming, but monitor my running progress as well.  I would expect to see bigger gains in this area because my running is…how can I put it…not good.  I chose a 5K distance because it seemed to require a little bit more endurance but wasn’t too long that I couldn’t do it with tempo.  I thought it was funny that this test fell on Thanksgiving.  I was watching “The Biggest Loser” last night, and one of the former contestants suggested that we all get out and do something physical like a “Turkey Trot” today.  I guess I did.  I just did mine on a treadmill, so it would have less impact on my joints and would be more controlled.

So I completed it.  I was hoping I would since most of the triathletes and runners to whom I teach swimming always shrug and act like “it’s just a 5K” or “a 5K is a balls-out sprint.”  I did about 15 minutes of warm-up — 10 minutes of walking with a gradual increase of pace and 5 minutes at a 12 minute mile speed that got me into the upper part of my MAP heart zone.  The 5K took me 33:33 to finish which works out to about 11:06 per mile.  I averaged a 129 heart rate over the distance which is just slightly below my goal of 131.  Since it took me time to get up to the top of my MEP range, I would say that I was pretty close to dead-on.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the day.  I ate very well, even at Thanksgiving.  My menu contained only white turkey meat, sauteed greens, butternut squash, and green beans.  I had a couple of cups of decaf coffee at dinner.  The only glitch during the day was a caffeine-free Diet Coke that I hate late in the day.  Tomorrow, I go on my detox diet for 21 days, so no more of that.

Posted by: johnswim | November 23, 2010

Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Swim Test

Based on my reading of Maffetone, I constructed a test for aerobic improvements using swimming.  Wearing my heart rate monitor, I did 16 x 100 Freestyle with 10 seconds rest between each 100 yard swim.  I got the idea for the distance in the set from a triathlon coach named Steve Pyle.  It roughly matches the distance for an Olympic distance triathlon, which I thought would be relevant for me and for many of my swimmers.  10 seconds rest is a bit of an industry standard for aerobic swimming sets; it also is about the time that it took my heart rate monitor to re-establish the link and register a heart rate.

The goal of the set is to swim each swim as close to my Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate (MAHR), in my case 131.  For a description of MAHR, how to calculate it, and some important heart rate zones that develop out of that number see my other posts, Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate (MAHR) and Heart Rate Zones for Training.  If I was below the MAHR, I tried to speed up.  If my heart rate exceeded the MAHR, I backed off my pace and tried to get it at or lower than the MAHR.

I recorded the following data on the swims:  (1) the elapsed time including rest, (2) the heart rate that shows up on my heart rate monitor.  After deducting 150 seconds for rest, my average 100 yard pace turned out to be 1:29.125.  My average heart rate was 130.25.  For the most part, I kept under or near the MAHR.  Since I’m not in very good shape right now and I’m towing along 40-50 more pounds than I should, my pace felt a little bit slower than how I’ve done similar sets in the past.

I’ve never liked the swimming test sets that I’ve used for my team or myself in the past.  Most of the test sets that I’ve done describe the approach as “swimming as fast as you possibly can” for a given distance (10 x 100, 3000 yards) or time (15, 20, 30 minutes).  To swim a set like this takes a lot of experience in swimming and assumes that you know how to distribute this “fast pace” across 30 minutes, 1000 yards, or 3000 yards.  When I’ve given it to swimmers, they either sandbag the set or they swim it so hard that they die or finish with a stroke that looks like a crippled wildabeast.  If done right, you can take your average pace in this set and generate pacing ranges that map to heart rate zones and can create your intervals.   I’ve never gotten good data and pace is such a hard thing to generate out of a test set.  Again, it assumes that people show up, give it their all, can actually handle the set physiologically and biomechanically, and maintain consistency in their training to use that number going forward.  Steve Pyle suggests using an interval on the 16 x 100’s which is essentially the same thing; worse it assumes the outcome (pace) before the set is even done.

I am becoming a convert to using heart rate as a unifying data point.  When you swim at or below your MAHR, you aren’t going into a sugar burning, anaerobic range and therefore are not moving into the stroke breakdown range.  Yes, I was tired and more form wasn’t great on #14-16, but I wasn’t gasping for air and flailing.  I imagine if I would do the set with my swimmers, I might get a better turn out because the set is challenging but it doesn’t totally suck.  The set doesn’t presume that you use the output (100 pace) for anything other than comparisons across runs to judge improvement.  As I get more fit and improve my technique, I should be able to complete the distance more quickly at the same heart rate.

My test result seems pretty slow.  I need to figure out how to do a flip turn without having to tone down my push-off so the heart rate monitor strap doesn’t fall off.  But that’s for future runs and training.

Posted by: johnswim | November 23, 2010

Heart Rate Zones for Training

This post relies on understanding your Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate (MAHR) from a previous post.

The heart rates that I describe here are derived from Stu Mittleman’s book Slow Burn.

Mostly Aerobic Pace (MAP)

  • Low:  MAHR – 30
  • High:  MAHR – 10
  • Purpose:  Long runs, swims, bikes; technique-focused exercise

Most Efficient Pace (MEP)

  • Low:  MAHR – 10
  • High:  MAHR
  • Purpose:  Tempo runs, swims, bikes; should feel very rhythmic and smooth


  • Low:  MAHR – 40 (or lower)
  • High:  MAHR – 30
  • Purpose:  Warm-ups, cool-downs, technique drills
Posted by: johnswim | November 23, 2010

Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate (MAHR)

One of the keys for my training is the Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate (or MAHR) from Philip Maffetone’s body of work.  It represents the heart rate threshold where lower heart rates are aerobic (fat-burning) and higher heart rates are anaerobic (sugar-burning).  My training for the next 6 months will be at heart rates at or below MAHR as I work on burning fat and building my aerobic base.  The formula for calculating these heart rate ranges is often call the “180 – Age” formula.

To calculate the MAHR, use the following decision tree (taken from Maffetone’s Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing):

  • Subtract your age from 180
  • If you are 16 years of age or lower, subtract 15 beats.  If you are 65 or over, add 10 beats
  • Subtract 10 beats if (a) you are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospitalization, etc.) or (b) you are on any regular medication
  • Subtract 5 beats if (a) you are injured, (b) your have regressed in your training or competition, (c) you get more than two colds or bouts of flu in a year, or (d) you have allergies or asthma
  • Subtract 5 beats if (a) you train 3 or fewer days a week or if you haven’t been consistent or (b) you have been training at least 4 days a week but for less than 2 years and without any of the problems listed above
  • Add 5 beats if you have been training consistently (at least 4 times per week) for over 2 years and have made progress in competition without injury 
Posted by: johnswim | November 22, 2010

Health vs. Fitness

I got on this “healthy living” kick when I read the following definitions from Dr. Phillip Maffetone’s The Maffetone Method on page 18.

Health is a state in which all the body’s parts, including the muscles, nerves, bones, hormones, organs, and glands, are in balance, or what some would call ‘harmony.’  … Fitness is our ability to be physically active.  … But your fitness does not necessarily reflect your health.  And being helathy won’t necessarily make you a fit athlete.  Health and fitness are two different things.  What’s important is to balance the two, to become both as healthy and as fit as possible considering your potential, schedule, and desires.”

I would consider myself relatively fit.  In the last couple of months, I’ve worked off a triathlon training program and have been able to hang with pretty well — the running is tough on my knees with my posture off and my weight so high.  But all of the shoulder, knee, and back pain as well as the heavy weight indicate that I am simply not healthy.  I want to continue the training and exercise but add much more emphasis on the health side of the balance.

Posted by: johnswim | November 20, 2010

Am I overweight? Am I obese? How much should I weigh?

The way you tell if you are overweight is by calculating your body-mass index:

Body Mass Index (BMI) = Weight (in kg) / [ Height (in m) ] ^2

The sites I looked at also included age and gender as variables.

I used a couple of sites to calculate my BMI and to get an impression if I was overweight or obese and what my ideal weight range would be.  The Halls MD Body Mass Index Calculator was one source I used; the Halls MD Better Ideal Weight Body Calculations page was the other source.  There were a bunch of them out there, but these seemed pretty self explanatory.

A BMI over 25 indicates that you are overweight; a BMI over 30 indicates that you are obese.  The ideal range would be 19 to 25 for a man of my age.  Sadly, I’m at 30.4 right now.  I never considered myself obese, but I can welcome myself to the party.  Sigh.

Anyway, according the evidence, a healthy weight range would be around 150-160.  I am a little bit meatier than most men of my height, so I would probably fit into a higher part of the range.  So I’ve got about 45 pounds to lose.  Go!

Posted by: johnswim | November 20, 2010

Weight — Starting Point

I weighed myself this morning and took some simple body measurements.  I weighed in at 201 pounds.  I’m 5 feet and 8 inches tall.

Using a soft measuring tape, I determined that the circumferance of my hips at the widest point was 39.5 inches; the circumferance of my waist at my belly-button is 40.25 inches; the circumferance of my right (dominant) wrist between the wrist bones and my hand is 7 inches.  I took these measurements because they fed into some statistics from Dr. Phillip Maffetone’s book, The Maffetone Method, and Dr. Barry Sears’ book, The Zone.

Waist-Hip Ratio = 1.02 –> should be 0.9 or lower in men (0.8 in women); indicates that body fat is high due to dietary concerns (over use of poor carbohydrates)

Body Fat % = 27% –> using the charts in the Zone taking my weight, height, and the difference between my weight and wrist measurements

I’ll retake my weight every week mainly because I want to see if it’s going up or down.  I’ll do the waist-hip and body fat calculations once per month.

Posted by: johnswim | November 19, 2010

Team Healthy Fitz — My Expert Resources

I know that I can’t do this all alone.  Only a fool would try something so ambitious without some type of coaching.  I reserve the right to add more people to my coaching staff, but here’s who I have in mind for “Team Healthy Fitz:”

  • The Physiologist — Dr. Phillip Maffetone
  • The Coaches — Terry Laughlin, Mark Allen, Stu Mittleman
  • The Personal Trainer — Stephanie Lee
  • The Body Alignment Specialist — Brandon Snyder
  • The Chiropractor and Active Release Technique Specialist — Dr. Dylan Drynan
  • The Nutritionists — Mark Hyman, Phillip Maffetone
  • The Life Coach — Tony Robbins

I guess it will take a village to get me healthy.  I’ll have more to say about each of these folks in individual posts.

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