The last time I posted – ages ago – I mentioned doing something different (for me). After researching, hearing, and reading about the Maffetone method (MAF training) for the past year, I decided to take the plunge.
So what is MAF training and why am I doing it?
Training via the Maffetone method is running at or below your maximum aerobic heart rate. Maffetone defines this as 180 minus your age +/- a few factors. My MAF heart rate is 143. I wear a heart rate monitor on every run and I keep all runs between 133-143 bpm. Translation – pretty damn slow.
So why am I slogging around and walking up hills? To build a sufficient aerobic base and become a better fat burner (our most abundant fuel). Obviously both of these are crucial to marathoning, something I haven’t done since December 2012. In hindsight, I should have started with MAF training right after Fiona was born. I still think 2014 was a solid running year but I know my aerobic base needs some fine tuning. Translation – run slow to run fast.
At your maximum aerobic heart rate, Maffetone says, you can efficiently build an aerobic base. Training above this heart rate puts you in an anaerobic zone, which shifts more to sugar burning rather than fat burning. Over time, you can (hopefully) run faster at the same heart rate (it’s recommended that you do MAF training for 4-6 months).
I started MAF training the week after the Philly HM, so I’ve been doing it for about 5 weeks. When you begin you do a MAF test, as a baseline to assess your fitness. Each month thereafter you test again. For my MAF tests, I do an 8-mile run:
3 miles very slow, under my MAF heart rate to warm-up
4 miles at my MAF heart rate <– these are the miles I’m recording and concerned with
1 mile “cool down”
My baseline test – those key 4 miles I mentioned above – weren’t awfully slow…about 10:20 pace. (Sidenote: when I decided to do MAF I was so worried my MAF heart rate would translate to 13:00 pace, based on what I read. So I was pleasantly surprised with 10:20 pace.)
Four weeks later (right after Christmas), I tested again. Those 4 miles were around 10:10 pace. Not earth-shattering by any means but it was after 4 days of merriment (beer and sugar, sugar and beer). If you’ve ever done heart rate training, you know what crappy eating, alcohol, and late nights do to your heart rate. (Another sidenote: this past week I’ve consistently seen paces around 9:30-9:45. Progress?)
I’ve only scratched the surface here. How I feel about MAF training and my plans for it are all for another post!
And…an unrelated picture of Fiona (who is turning 1 on Friday)!
Awesome! I hope you come to love it–you’ll certainly love how good you feel all the time. One side note–my MAF pace seems blown to hell these last two days in the snow/cold. I actually emailed Mark C. about it and I”m waiting to hear his response. It is very frustrating to feel like I’ve done this for months and now the cruddy winter is going to yank it all away. We’ll see what it’s all about!
I trained for my first marathon with a modified version of this method! And I did the MAF thing for about 3 months before the marathon training. My runs for the first months were 11:00, 12:00 and even 13:00 minutes. Crazy slow! I’ll be interested to see how it works for you. The science behind it seems solid. There is also an elite iron man dude (I forget his name – maybe chris something?) who does the MAF training for 3 months solid after his iron man season. If it works for him . . .
Thank you for sharing! I’ve been doing heart rate training for several years and I’m always frustrated how slow my runs have to be to maintain zone one or two but if you trust the system it works like nothing else I’ve tried.
Curiosity piqued! I want to hear more.
Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen says
Interesting!!!! I was really curious about what you were doing. I’ve never done any heart rate training at all. I’d love to know how the transition was and how long you intend to do it. Also, this might be a stupid question and I have not read any of the research, but you mentioned this training helps you become a better fat burner – is one objective of this to train your body to use your own fat stores as fuel, is glycogen depleted runs a part of this? Just curious…but it could be totally unrelated!
And happy birthday to Fiona! It’s crazy how fast this time goes. I tell the boys all the time to stop growing and just stay the way they are a little longer. They don’t listen 🙂