The Beginner’s Guide To The Maffetone Method

Looking to learn more about low heart rate training? Then you have come to the right place.

Low heart rate training, or what’s known as the Maffetone Method, is a training philosophy held by many to be one of the most effective.

In this article, I’ll share with you the full guide to the Maffetone Method. We’ll look at:

  • What is the Maffetone Method
  • The benefits of low heart training
  • How do you train using the Maffetone Method
  • What are the MAF tests
  • Should you try the Maffetone method
  • And so much more.

Sounds great?

Let’s get started.

What is The Maffetone Method?

Also known as the MAF Method, the Maffetone Method is a heart-rate training method designed to keep you within your aerobic zone.

How do you determine this aerobic maximum heart rate? By using the heart rate formula of 180 –  your age, then making a few adjustments for fitness, injury, health (more on this later).

Dr. Maffetone is a coach and doctor. Dr. Maffetone has worked with pro athletes from a wide variety of sports, including runners and triathletes.

This training strategy was developed and named after Dr. Phil Maffetone,  a nutrition and exercise and sports medicine expert, in the 1980s after four decades of research.

The principle behind the MAF method is to develop an aerobic base so that your body can adapt to running faster and faster at a lower heart rate.

This delays the time when your body switches to its anaerobic system. This, in turn, helps you run faster and longer.

The Pros and Cons of the Maffetone Method

Here are some of the benefits and downsides of the Maffetone method.

Improved Fat Burning

You just don’t want to burn a lot of calories while training. Ideally, you’d want to burn a lot of fat calories, especially during slow long distance running.

While logging the miles, your body relies on both carbs (in the form of glycogen) and fat for fuel.

Your body keeps jumping between these two energy sources depending on a host of variables such as:

  • Intensity and duration of your session
  • Your overall muscle mass
  • Your diet
  • Your training experience
  • Your calorie balance

In general, the human body can store up to two hours’ worth of glycogen—what carbohydrates turned into to be used as energy. After that, the body starts tapping into its fat stores—but only if it’s trained properly.

Here’s the good news. By training within your aerobic zone, you’ll teach your body how to better utilize fat as the primary source of fuel instead of glycogen.

Other Benefits

The method has other benefits as well. These include

  • Helping you build a stronger aerobic base which is something all runners need.
  • Teaches you how to stop using technology to figure out what is an easy run
  • Improving your recovery
  • Improving endurance
  • And so much more

The cons of the Maffetone Method

The method isn’t without drawbacks, as we’re going to see shortly.

Slow Is Boring

Getting started is the hardest part of the Maffetone method as it requires running at a dramatically slow pace to stay within your set heart rate.

This may make you feel like you’re going nowhere, which is really frustrating. To remain under your aerobic zone, you’ll have to jog, walk, then jog some more. You’ll move at a tediously slow pace.

You Still Can get Injured

Proponents of the Maffetone method claim that it was simply training aerobically; it’ll act like a magic charm for preventing running injuries. But that’s not actually the case.

Injuries won’t disappear simply because you slow down. Overuse injures tend to be more complex than that. Here’s how to help prevent them. LINK

Inflammation Is Not Necessarily Bad

One of the core principles of the Maffetone method is limiting inflammation. However, inflammation isn’t an inherently bad thing.

You shouldn’t constantly be striving to limit the impact of training. After all, inflammation is what triggers adaptation, which makes you faster and stronger.

What Heart Rate Should You be Training At?

The exact heart rate to train is determined using the MAF 180 Formula.

It’s easy to determine your MAF HR using Maffone’s 180 Formula.

Begin by subtracting your age from 180. To figure out your aerobic heart rate, do the following calculations.

Next, do some of the following calculations—when it applies, of course.

A. Dealing with serious illness or rehab from a medical procedure? Subtract another 10 points.

B. Recovering from an injury? Subtract an additional 10.

C. Dealing with allergies, or are you prone to the common cold? Subtract an additional five

D. New to exercise, or have you been training sporadically over the past year? Subtract an extra 5.

E. Have you been training consistently for up to two years without any major problems or injury at least four times per week? Keep the number (180 – Age) the same.

F. Have you trained regularly over the past two years without any serious injury? Add five.

G. Have you been competing for more than two years without any major problems and have improved in competition? Add 5.

When running, make sure to keep your heart rate within ten beats of the max HR, but never exceed it. For example, if your MAX HR is 130, you’ll want to keep your BMP between 120 to 130 during training.

This might be quite low for you and why the MAF training method requires a lot of patience.

Early on, logging the miles at such a low HR may feel more than slow.

Who Should Try The MAF Method

Let me get this one straight. The Maffetone Method isn’t for everyone.

If you’re looking to achieve any of the following, then the MAF method is for you:

  • Improving aerobic base
  • Improving fat burning during training which is key for endurance races
  • Learning how to pace by effort and feel better managing sugar cravings
  • Dealing with chronic fatigue, aches, or soreness during training
  • Improving recovery from training
  • Preventing overuse injuries

The MAF Method in Action

The Maffetone method is pretty simple—this is the main reason most runners feel they’ve missed something, but it’s not the case.

The method is pretty basic.

Let me explain.

  • All of your training should be performed blow your max calculated heart rate
  • Your first mile should be run at around ten beats per minute slower than your max. all aerobic training should be performed at or below this number.
  • Perform the MAF test once a month to keep track of your progress.
  • Opt for a high-fat, low-carb diet for better fuel.

The MAF tests Explained

The MAF test is an important ingredient in the MAF method, and it’s easy to perform.

You simply run five miles non-stop on track at near your aerobic heart rate.

Here’s how to perform the test.

Start by warming up for 10 to 15 minutes, keeping roughly beats below your max heart rate. Choose a five-mile course. Only do three miles if you cannot run longer than 60 mins on your long runs.

Log all five miles as close to your target heart rate as possible for the entire test. Remember that each mile should be slower than the previous one since your heart rate will increase, forcing you to slow down.

What’s more?

Perform the test under similar conditions, preferably on the same day of your training cycle under similar weather reconditions. Be precise. Leave nothing for chance.

Preferably, perform the test on a track as this helps eliminate variables such as hills, and lets train under the same conditions each time.

Perform this test at least once a month to see how you’re improving. In general, expect your average pace to increase month by month as you become more fit.

Not improving? You might be dealing with an oncoming injury.