MAF. This may be the last time I write that acronym. You'd have to sit with me and let me explain why it's too much. PE is my new standardization. I think there's a certain amount of bullshit associated with EVERYMAN'S approach to Mark Allen's training regimen. Mark Allen.
PE will tell you A LOT. Fitness is a matter of common sense and consistency, not a strict adherence to numbers.
More reflection: I think the test done at a track is a great way to monitor fitness. I still believe HR can identify certain things good or bad happening with the body. I hope I can continue to progress (become more and more fit) and get my MAF pace down close to 7 min/mile or better. That's one of the main reasons I even started this journey: the idea of running fast with a low HR is very very compelling. But I think the test determines primarily how well one runs on a track (a little sarcasm, but not all). I believe that if one runs into the hills, his HR will act accordingly. It's not going to stay aerobic. Even MA's testimony refers primarily to a track. The MAF test is a measuring stick. That's it. It's not reality. A hot, hilly trail run with mountain lions, rattlesnakes and/or age-groupers - that's reality. If one's HR is nice and low in such a setting he or she is dying, not competing.
I also believe a huge base is quite significant. If one runs enough and wants to put-in a considerable amount of mileage (especially if it's at the beginning of a "season" or training period) then the effort is bound to be zone 1/slower/aerobic. Wearing a HR monitor at this point might be helpful in order to see where one is at. But PE could work hear, as well. Again, if one is trying to put in some longer efforts, I doubt he or she is capable of a 12 min tempo run.
I've even heard Lucho talk about how elite runners (he might have been talking about Allan Culpepper) do not use MAF methodology, but most likely resort to that. Their "easy" days are probably right around their MAF number but either way, it's a zone 1 run, an easy run. I think "easy" should suffice. PE is not Public Enemy. Those of us who train a lot have a fairly good read on our bodies; enough said. Even if one feels great but his HR is off, how "off" is it, and what else is happening in the environment that might contribute to that (heat, de-hydration, stress, elevation, etc.). And almost certainly, if something is "off," the runner will mostly likely feel that.
Then we have the numbers. 180 - your age is too nonspecific. Maybe a good place to start, but it's too restrictive. It's certainly injury preventative. One keeps his/her runs nice and easy. However, the typical zone 1 or "easy" run achieves the same result. It's safe. That's all there is too it. And as one is starting out, whether we're talking about a season, or a life-style, such a "cap" keeps one very self-conscious about training. I think such discipline exists in other training approaches that prescribe to zone training. So, MAF is another way of saying what others are saying. MAF doesn't own this low HR approach.
ChuckieV talks a lot about hiking. That's a great aerobic exercise; in fact he had a recent post about walking in particular. He said the leg and foot muscles don't necessarily recognize the difference between running and walking, so walking can be a very productive work-out. That's awesome. During a tempo run recently, I walked here and there, especially on an incline because my HR was going pretty high and I was feeling it. It still maintained a nice pace throughout. But MAF doesn't own hiking and walking.
Again, this blog is a journal. I am very much being as honest as I can about what's happening out there while I train/race.