What is the MAF Method? The idea behind this way of training is that you are building a better aerobic system by using your optimal heart rate as determined by the 180 Method. Yikes, that sounds like a coll
ege biology paper. In normal people terms, you’ll be able to run faster with a lower heart rate.
After my typical over-researching of the MAF Method, and starting it, I realized there are some questions runners should ask themselves before deciding to start training using MAF. (Note: The MAF Method can be used for a number of endurance sports, but since this is a running blog, I’ll focus on how MAF applies to run training.) Okay, here we go:
Do I want to make a long-term commitment to running?
Are you running a one-and-done race? Or are you committed to a lifetime of running and/or racing? Do you just want to cross a race off your bucket list? If so, the MAF Method may not be for you. Sure, it might be more beneficial for you, especially if you are just starting out as a runner, but the time commitment could be overwhelming causing you to give up.
Am I injured?
Injury plays into your max heart rate equation in the MAF Method, as I was reminded by a Facebook friend recently. Your heart rate may be so low that most of your runs will actually be walks. Clearly, if you are injured, you shouldn’t be running. Just remember to be honest with yourself when you are using the MAF heart rate equation. And know that the whole idea is that you are building your aerobic system so that, hopefully, you’ll soon be running (or running faster) at this lower heart rate.
Do I have enough time to do this?
It can take 3-6 months, according to MAF Method coach Phil Maffetone, for your heart-rate training to pay off. Besides that, the MAF Method also means more time running because you need to go slower and still get your desired mileage. For example, I can run 6 miles in an hour at what I consider a comfortable pace, but if I’m following my recommended MAF heart rate (of 137), then I can only run 5 miles in an hour.
Do I have enough patience for MAF training?
Slower running can be boring. Be honest with yourself about this one. I recognize that I’m not a patient person (just ask my husband), but I am committed to the challenge. You will also have to resist the temptation to run with friends, whose heart rates are not the same as yours, and be willing to let people blow by you on the trail (without chasing them down).
Will I follow the MAF Method closely or loosely? (And am I willing to live with the consequences?)
In Phil Maffetone’s books, not only does he give guidelines for MAF heart rate training, but he also recommends a specific way of eating: more veggies, more fat, adequate protein and lower carbs. All whole foods, of course. Cut out processed sugar and wheat especially. If you follow the training methods closely, you will have to be willing to give up bread and sugar completely. I am not willing to do that. Now, I eat according to Metabolic Effect plate, which is similar, but I also practice moderation, and sometimes I eat processed foods, including bread and white sugar.
I tried the diet Mr. Maffetone recommends, and it is not for me. I recognize this and I am willing to live with the consequences of continuing to eat my way while training using MAF heart rate recommendations.
Also, as I’ve mentioned before, Mr. Maffetone discourages specific strength work (i.e. weights) during the initial 3-6 months of MAF training. He recommends just chopping some wood in the back yard. Dude, I have a gas fireplace. I get what he’s saying, though, but I refuse to give up my weights workouts. They are only twice a week and I enjoy them. Also, I like having definition in my arms.
Again, I am willing to live with whatever consequences are caused by heart rate training while doing weights twice a week, as well as eating the occasional whole wheat tortilla. You can pry my tacos from my cold, dead hands.
Hope these questions help you decide whether MAF training is right for you!
Did I miss anything? Have you used the MAF Method for run training?
Resources for you:
How to figure out your MAF training heart rate with Phil Maffetone’s 180 Formula.
Find out how to do the MAF Test.
Read about Miss Zippy’s experience with MAF training.
Why there’s no specific MAF training program.
Read more about my Metabolic Effect way of eating. (I’m a Sugar Burner.)
Learn more about a few weights workouts I like: