The 180 Formula: Heart-rate monitoring for real aerobic training.

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  • May 6, 2015
maf 180 formula

A heart-rate monitor is the most important tool for developing optimal endurance and better fat-burning. This simple device is a valuable tool that not only guides your training but is part of an important assessment process, and can even be used in some competitive situations. Unfortunately, most people use their heart-rate monitors only to see how high their heart rate gets during a workout, or evaluate resting heart rate in the morning.

In the 1970s, I first measured heart rates as a student in a biofeedback research project. Through this research, it became evident that using the heart rate to objectively measure body function was simple, accurate and useful, especially for athletes. I began using heart rate to evaluate all exercising patients, and by the early 1980s developed a formula that anyone could use with their heart monitor to help build an aerobic base.

This “180 Formula” enables athletes to find the ideal maximum aerobic heart rate in which to base all aerobic training. When exceeded, this number indicates a rapid transition towards anaerobic work.

A good aerobic base isn’t important only for endurance athletes. The system that controls the body’s stress response is functionally linked to the anaerobic system. In other words, if you depend too much on your anaerobic system, you’ll be more stressed, and therefore more likely to overtrain or become injured. I discuss these topics more in depth in The MAF Test and in The New Aerobic Revolution.

The 180 Formula

To find your maximum aerobic training heart rate, there are two important steps.

  1. Subtract your age from 180.
  2. Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:

a)  If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.

b)  If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.

c)  If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same

d)  If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are 30 years old and fit into category (b), you get the following: 180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm).

In this example, 145 must be the highest heart rate for all training. This allows you to most efficiently build an aerobic base. Training above this heart rate rapidly incorporates anaerobic function, exemplified by a shift to burning more sugar and less fat for fuel.

Initially, training at this relatively low rate may be difficult for some athletes. “I just can’t train that slowly!” is a common comment. But after a short time, you will feel better and your pace will quicken at that same heart rate. You will not be stuck training at that relatively slow pace for too long. Still, for many athletes it is difficult to change bad habits.

If it is difficult to decide which of two groups best fits you, choose the group or outcome that results in the lower heart rate. In athletes who are taking medication that may affect their heart rate, wear a pacemaker, or have special circumstances not discussed here, further consultation with a healthcare practitioner or specialist may be necessary, particularly one familiar with the 180 Formula.

Exemptions:

  • The 180 Formula may need to be further individualized for people over the age of 65. For some of these athletes, up to 10 beats may have to be added for those in category (d) in the 180 Formula, and depending on individual levels of fitness and health. This does not mean 10 should automatically be added, but that an honest self-assessment is important.
  • For athletes 16 years of age and under, the formula is not applicable; rather, a heart rate of 165 may be best.

Once a maximum aerobic heart rate is found, a training range from this heart rate to 10 beats below could be used. For example, if an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate is determined to be 155, that person’s aerobic training zone would be 145 to 155 bpm. However, the more training closer to the maximum 155, the quicker an optimal aerobic base will be developed.

The story behind the 180 Formula

The heart rate is a direct reflection of the body’s oxygen need. The relationship between one heartbeat and the next is associated with heart rate variability, which reflects parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) function. This is an important factor that professionals can use to assess heart health, and for athletes to evaluate recovery from training and racing.

The heart has a built-in mechanism of nerves that controls its own rhythm (to maintain a heart rate of around 70 to 80 beats per minute), but the brain, through the action of the autonomic nervous system and various hormones, can compel the heart to produce a wide range of heart rates based on the body’s needs. This rate can be as low as 30 to 40 in those with great aerobic function to as high as 220 or higher in young athletes during all-out efforts.

In the late 70s and early 80s I had in my office several bulky heart monitors, which I used for heart-rate evaluation. Whether the athlete was on a treadmill, on a stationary bike in the clinic, on the track, or at another location, I would record a number of pre- and post-workout features.

Training at various intensities affects both posture and gait: the greater the anaerobic work, the more distorted the body’s mechanics become. These changes are due, in part, to previously existing muscle imbalance and muscle problems that develop during the workout. By correlating this mechanical efficiency with heart rate at various points before, during and after workouts, I found an ideal training heart rate—one which promoted optimal aerobic function without triggering significant anaerobic activity, excess stress, muscle imbalance or other problems.

The heart rate I found to be ideal in my assessment was often significantly lower from the results of the commonly-used 220 Formula. However, it was becoming evident that athletes who used the 220 Formula to calculate their daily training heart rate showed poor gait, increased muscle imbalance, and other problems following a workout. Often, these athletes were overtrained.

It soon became evident that athletes needed more consistent training quality. Each athlete needed to have his or her own heart monitor and train with it every day. With Polar’s entry into the marketplace in 1982 came the advent of modern heart monitors, which sensed the heart rate directly from the chest wall and transmitted the information to a wristwatch. Athletes who wore heart-rate monitors during each workout felt better and improved in performance at a faster rate than others who trained without a monitor.

My new goal was to find a way that any athlete could determine an optimal training heart rate, using some simple formula—ideally one that resulted in a very similar or identical heart rate as my manual assessments.

Over time, I began piecing together a mathematical formula, using as a guide the optimal heart rates in athletes who had previously been assessed. Instead of the 220 Formula—220 minus the chronological age multiplied by some percentage—I used 180 minus a person’s chronological age, which is then adjusted to reflect their physiological age as indicated by fitness and health factors.

By comparing the new 180 Formula with my relatively lengthy process of one-on-one evaluations, it became clear that this new formula worked very well. In other words, my tedious assessment of an individual athlete and the 180 Formula resulted in a number that was the same or very close in most cases.

In the early 1980s, I settled on the final, most effective formula, which is the one in use today: 180 minus a person’s chronological age, which is then adjusted to reflect their physiological age as indicated by fitness and health factors. The use of the number 180 is not significant other than as a means to finding the end heart rate. Plus, 180 minus age itself is not a meaningful number; for example, it is not associated with VO2max, lactate threshold, or other traditional measurements. The end number is an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate. Thanks to the 180 Formula, all athletes can now obtain their ideal individual aerobic training rates.

Join the discussion 109 Comments

  • Brian G. Fay says:

    After reading Chris McDougall’s Natural Born Heroes and reviewing your site (which looked very different before today, nice update), I took myself out for a run with the HRM and the 180 rule. I have been running at what I call my all-day pace as I’m playing my way toward my first 50K. The running I have been doing has been great and I’ve felt like going longer and longer. I did the math 180 – 46 (my age) and set the HRM for a 124-134 zone thinking it would be great. Not so much. To get to 124 required a ton of effort. My body told me it was too hard but the formula and HRM told me the opposite.

    I remembered then my previous attempts with a HRM. I have a resting heart rate in the low forties even when I’m not in good shape and my HR drops ten within just a few moments of switching from running to walking. This is good, but it also means that I have consistently had to subtract about ten beats per minute from any calculation. I’ll go out today with the zone set for 114-124 and see how it _feels_. My guess is that the goal of your plan is for me to stay in a zone that feels lighter and allows me to go longer rather than pushing into a specific number that leaves me feeling wiped out and sore.

    If I get a chance, I’ll let you know how it goes. Thank you for the good stuff you’ve got going here on the site. Be well.

    • Ivan Rivera says:

      Brian:

      Thanks for your comment. I’m one of the moderators here on the site. I’m glad you’re using Dr. Maffetone’s 180-formula to figure out your heart rate. It’s interesting to me that the MAF heart rate was difficult to get to. Did you warm up for 10-15 minutes before trying to reach the heart rate?

      • Cary Stephens says:

        I am similar to Brian in that my Maf rate seems a bit high. I am an endurance runner (since childhood) who has competed in triathlon during the 80s and 90s and now does ultramarathon trail racing. I have a resting heart rate in the mid 30s when trained and a max heart rate rate of only 160. I am 46. I started using the Maff formula last year in an attempt to address chronic nausea while engaged in longer 3+ hour endurance sessions and found that the perceived effort was actually on the higher side of my all day pace. I had a Metabolic efficiency test done and found that my RER crossover point (50/50 fat and carb metabolism) was at 132 bpm. This was lower than my Maf rate of 135 (180 – age) and actually close to my 50k race pace. So, since I have the data, stated in terms RER, where does the Maf rate typically land? Does it approximate the crossover point where I am burning 50 percent fat or some lower rate with even higher fat burning? I settled on a training rate of 115-125 for several months, and combined with a switch to a high fat diet went from bonking in a 50k on 300 kcal/hour to finishing 30 minutes faster on 150 kcal/hour. My nausea after events has considerably improved and my performance/results have too. I think building the aerobic engine is the key. Thanks for any feedback you could give.

    • katie says:

      Would insulin (for type 1, NOT type 2 diabetes) count as a ‘regular medication?’

      • Katie:

        Absolutely. In fact, any kind of diabetes counts as a “major illness,” particularly since the goal of the 180-formula is to figure out at what heart rate the body is working fully aerobically. Since diabetes is essentially all about the body’s mismanagement of energy (carbohydrates and fats) you want to be especially conservative with the score when it comes to diabetes (and any other illness related to metabolic syndrome).

        I hope this answers your question.

  • Mona Minnie says:

    I think this may be the missing link for me. I have worked the last two years to address my muscle imbalances after years of being morbidly obese. Physical therapy and changing my way-of-eating has been life changing. I was just cleared for weight-lifting! I am going to invest in a heart-rate monitor now…any recommendations? Thank you for including my weight-loss transformation on your Success Page.

    • Ivan Rivera says:

      Mona:

      Hi, I’m moderating on the site. It’s great to read about your weightloss and fitness successes. Getting cleared for weightlifting is a great landmark!

      The 180-formula is a product of over a decade of research and clinical experience. If you figure out your MAF heart rate by following the formula and train accordingly you should continue to see huge health and performance benefits! Dr. Maffetone is a big fan of Polar heart rate monitors (www.polar.com). Chest-strap monitors tend to be the most accurate.

      You don’t have to run: hourly or half-hour stints on the exercise bike work wonders. Just remember to warm up and cool down appropriately for every workout. We’re coming out with an iOS app soon designed to help set and track health and fitness goals, based on the MAF method and the 180 formula. Stay tuned!

      • Mona Minnie says:

        Thank you. Oh good…I did get the Polar H7. For the 180-formula do you add 10 for each medicine taken? I take one medication regularly and another as needed. I have an Android phone so hopefully you’ll come out with an app for that. I could use the iOS app on my iPod Touch though. Also, how do we add an avatar? Thanks, Mona

  • Lee Michaels says:

    I am a fan of the Maffetone Method. I couldn’t believe how much fat I lost and how quickly my pace improved by training to a fixed heart rate and modifying my diet to paleo. Having 10-15 serves of fruit and veg has meant that i have stayed healthy while training for Ironman too. I’m in my mid 40s and on my 3-year journey from struggling to run 5 k’s to finishing in the top 5% in 2 Ironman events, a key to my results has been the Maffetone Method. However, I don’t use the methodology exclusively; if my improvement plateaus, i throw in speed work. Plus despite my increased aerobic fitness, when I cycle in the hills the effort becomes anaerobic. It is impossible for me to keep the heart rate below 140 BPM (I don’t even come close). Yet I see training in the hills as a key tenet of my success.

  • Heath says:

    Hi there,
    The first time I got onto Phil’s method was through a professional athlete I trained with a guy called Andrew Meikle when I was 14 odd. Andrew used to train all the time with a HRM and naturally I began asking questions. I think I had almost tried all formats of training and never worked at a very young age. Then he gave me one of Phil’s original books called ‘ everyone’s is an athlete’. I read this about a million times and applied the use of a HRM with his help and understanding. I still live and die by it now. Believe me, when you get that drop whilst running and your monitor tells you, hey mate, you now need to go faster at the same heart race pace…. Well,, that my friend is exactly when you realise Phil is a mastermind! What this training tells you is that your body is more efficient now and that means you can go faster because you went slower. Make sure you give it time, it really is amazing. I am a total convert for the last 25 years now and spread the word all the time. The new site is amazing and I think we all hope that Phil is still around shelling out his amazing guidance and wisdom. Would be great to meet him one day out here in Australia! we can only hope!

  • SteveL says:

    A number of years ago I found and adopted the MAF method of training. I went from like a 11:30 mile to a 9:50 over a period of about 9 months. But then i plateaued and then regressed all the way back without changing anything I can think of. The 180 method I believe works for most people but is there anyway to fine tune that aerobic heart rate number? One thing I noticed when I started with MAF is that I got nowhere with 180-age+5. It was only after adding an additional 3 beats that I then started making progress for at least nine months. I’m excited about the app and have signed up to be a beta tester.

  • Monika Bartalos says:

    Yesterday was the first time when I run using the 180 formula. I run for 10.5km at a 8:39 pace which was very slow comparing to my previous paces. First it was very challenging. There was an older woman over there doing some speed walking or nordic walking and she was faster than me :)) Nevermind, I kept continue on my slow pace having my HR on 150-155 ( I am 25 yers old). I felt very good during the whole run and finished full of energy. I can’t wait for the progression and better results! :)

    • Ivan Rivera says:

      Thanks for your comment, Monica! I’m an editor for Dr. Maffetone and I often help answer questions and comments on the blog. Sticking to the MAF heart rate takes a lot of conviction and willpower. Good for you that you’re managing. The benefits that you’ll see over time by following the MAF method will be nothing short of spectacular. Keep at it!

  • richard says:

    I don’t see what’s so revolutionary about this 180 formula. All it is doing is emphasizing base training at the proper zone 2 heart rate for endurance athletes, which puts you right in the fat burning zone. Not saying that your formula is wrong at all, but since we all have quite different max heart rates it seems no more accurate than the 212-age prediction for max HR.

    I’m 51, and have trained regularly for 3 years, so 180-51+5 gives 134.
    My max heart rate (based upon what I’ve hit in a bike race last year) is 186, so lets say my zone 2 endurance HR zone is 70% -75% that gives a range of 130 to 139.

    Did a 28k run and wore my HR monitor for 1st time in ages, just to monitor HR rather than running to a specific one, and was pleasantly surprised that HR stayed down in 130-140 range, even going up some significant hills it stayed down below 150. My usual endurance bike training zone would be in 130-140 range. Did 1st Iron man just over a year ago, kept my HR on bike at 140 +/-4 except for up hills where i kept it below 150. I did the ride in 5hrs 34, got off the bike and felt as like I’d not ridden I was so fresh, then amazed myself at doing a 3hr 44 marathon (1st marathon I’ve ever run).
    So I’m agreeing with you that base training works, train yourself so you can go faster at a lower heart rate.

    • Ivan Rivera says:

      Thanks for your comment, Richard!

      I’m an editor on the site.

      The revolutionary part about the 180-formula is that it takes into account your previous training and medical history to give you a better idea of what your aerobic heart rate zone really is. For example, since you subtract significant BPM if you’ve been overtrained or suffered chronic illnesses, or add BPM if you have been really athletic, it can potentially give you a number that’s quite different than what you would find with the 212-age or 220-age formulas. Since we all have a threshold heart rate after which we quickly climb into anaerobic work, even a few BPM can mark the difference between successful aerobic training and something else entirely.

      Since that threshold is tied to age as well as illness, stress, and overtraining, the 180-formula gives you a much more accurate vision of your particular aerobic zone than other formulas that don’t take health and fitness factors into account ever could.

  • SteveL says:

    When do you expect the app to be available for testing?

  • Lila Burnett says:

    Because this method is low intensity, how important is volume to continuing progress?

    • Ivan Rivera says:

      Lila:

      I’m an editor on the site.

      You need to do about as much as you would with any other training. If you’re just in it for the fitness, 1 hour 3 times a week (including 15 minutes for warm-up and cool-down), or if you’re competitive 1 hour 5 times a week. The more you do, you’ll see more benefits, but of course, if you do too much you’ll begin to see diminishing returns.

      There’s a bit of a misconception as regards athletic training: going at your max aerobic HR instead of a higher heart rate doesn’t mean that your training will be less effective, it just means that you’ll be training your aerobic system instead of your anaerobic system.

      In other words, the aerobic system–which is the most important energy system of the body–can’t be trained as effectively at higher heart rates. That’s why all elite athletes do 80% of their training at an easy speed or intensity: they (and their coaches) know the importance of aerobic development. It’s usually the non-elites that do 60 to 80% of their training more intensely in an effort to “catch up.” But the body’s just not built for that, so they get hurt.

      I hope I’ve answered your question.

      Ivan

  • Ryan P says:

    Phil/Ivan,
    I was pointed to the site by a colleague of mine. After perusing and reading what I thought was pretty revolutionary to me, since I had never been exposed to lower heart rate training before (no pain, no gain, right?), I bought a heart rate monitor and started training right.

    After 10 years of not being able to run between intermittent lower back pain and exercise-induced asthma issues, I had tried to run again, with miserably slow results and no improvement after 6 months. In the three months since I have started MAF training using Dr. Maffetone’s low heart rate techniques, coupled with some positive diet changes, not only have I improved significantly in my run time, but have also lost 20 pounds when I didn’t think I had much to lose. I am still base building, and will probably continue to do so for the next 6-10 months, as my time continues to improve.

    I ran my first 5k last weekend and (surprisingly enough to me), despite allowing my heart rate to rise above the MAF threshold for the first time (and by a considerable amount, even), I had no breathing difficulties at all, and even finished the 5k faster than I had anticipated. I’m continuing to train for longer races, and running about an hour per day, 5-6 days per week. The most important parts of all this are:

    I haven’t had any breathing difficulties while running for the last three months since starting low heart rate training using Dr. Maffetone’s guidance, and
    I haven’t had any lower back pain in the last three months

    Other health benefits include:
    My intermittent headaches are gone
    No more migraines
    Lost 20 pounds
    Better night vision
    No random leg aches and pains
    No sugar cravings
    No bowel irritability, thanks to cutting excess carbs
    No more insomnia
    Better stress management
    I actually enjoy running now, which has never been the case before
    I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been before!

    I’m hooked. I bought the Maffetone Method and the big book of endurance training and racing. I’m training up for some longer distance races now, but taking my time, of course. My first half marathon will be next February, though I think I’ll probably be ready for it before then. Thanks again for everything.

  • dmz says:

    According to the formula, at 51 (180-51) and taking medicine (-10) for asthma(-5), my MAF number is a whopping 114. This means I don’t get to run at all. Ever. My true VERY easy effort feel is 130’s-140’s. max HR 205, resting HR 44 & have 2 recent BQ’s, 22 ultras and marathons, 90+ races last 5 yrs, not at all injury-prone, plenty of success and improvement, only 9 consecutive days lost on 2 occasions (50+ mile ultra recoveries). I believe the formula is too inflexible for older, well-conditioned, but naturally high heart rate runners with strong aerobic bases from years of ultra and marathon training. My 50 miler are raced at 145-150 HRs, marathons are neg split, no wall, no fade averaging 168-170 and I get almost no drift upward in HR during 26.2+ races. If I could dedicate a time block to MAF, it would have to be something well beyond 114, 129-139 would be my guess.

    • Ivan Rivera says:

      Dmz:

      Thanks for your comment. I’m an editor on the site. The 180-formula gives you the maximum heart rate at which you’re likely to be functioning completely aerobically. Despite the fact that your perceived effort is minimum at the 130, most likely you’re using your anaerobic system. You may be extremely resilient and far from overtraining or injury as you train. That said, if you don’t go at your MAF heart rate, it’s likely that you won’t be developing your aerobic base at the fullest extent.

      If you do, however, you’ll most likely see your speed to climb quickly, particularly if you’re not injured or overtrained.

      I hope this helps. Please shoot back with any questions or comments.

      Ivan

      • SteveL says:

        Ivan: What I’m wondering based on what DMZ stated above is there a treadmill test or a track test that can be used to dial in the MAF a bit better than the 180 equation? I’m sure there are people who are outside the say 80% of people whom the 180 formula works really well but there may be those of us who are at either end. Is there a treadmill test that can help here and if so what should one look for in that testing? Thanks!

      • Ryan P says:

        Ivan, dmz,
        I just want to add that when computing the 180 formula, the directions listed above say:

        Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health

        The one factor that best matches is probably -10 if you use a daily corticosteroid such as Advair, or -5 for asthma if you only ever use a rescue inhaler as needed and not daily. Use that to amend the (180-age) total, which means dmz would be 180-51-10=119 if he uses a daily medication, or 180-51-5=124 if not. 5-10 bpm doesn’t seem like a lot of difference, but it is. And yes, even at 119 you would eventually be able to run at your current race pace after base building adequately.

        I personally only subtracted 5 instead of 10 from mine, 180-32-5=143, as I have exercise-induced asthma, but I have no need to take medication for it so long as I keep my heart rate down.

        Although with your training history, I don’t know. You can never out-train the fact that you have asthma, but there is obviously a bit of conditioning going into it too, and your physiological age may be younger than your chronological age in reality due to your training history and lack of injuries. I feel like if you fully understand the reasons behind the adding or subtracting to/from the 180 formula (which is to adjust for physiological vs chronological age), you may find that you would have to add a few or leave it at 129 after all.

  • Judith Kay says:

    I am 63 and am using your 180-HR rate; I had my aortic valve replaced with a turbo-charged, chrome-wheeled On-X mechanical valve 18 months ago. I don’t take any heart or BP meds, but am on other meds such as warfarin and synthroid. I find it very difficult to keep a controlled 107 HR without being on a treadmill. Outdoors, walking flat can leave my HR in the high 90’s; an uphill can easily zoom me into the 120s’. Is it okay to have this big a range or should I stick with the machine that can get my HR in a range closer to my target? I stop on the hills until my HR drops, but this involves alot of monitoring. I really appreciate Phil’s relaxed tone about walking being aerobic and having a training HR this low.

  • Kurt says:

    While listening to Dr. Maffetone on a podcast I heard him talking about watching athletes train after various types of meals. I have experienced his observations with my own n=1. If I’ve had too many carbs for the day before starting my workout, my heart rate jumps up too easily and I spend more time walking. With a good sensible meal plan throughout the day my workout is more enjoyable and feels easier even though I’m jogging more of the time. I even feel more relaxed!

  • SteveL says:

    So I used the beta version of the app the other night. Where do we report things as we use it? I already have one item for usability.

  • DDC says:

    Reading all of Dr. Maffetone’s writing as well as the above questions from Brian Fay, dmz, and SteveL…

    I’ve never heard Dr. Maffetone articulate why the 180 formula does not consider your maximum heart rate. Why doesn’t your max heart rate affect where your aerobic vs anaerobic crossover is?

  • Dan says:

    I’m a 74 years old male. My resting heart rate is around 70. Just walking around in my house my heart rate is in the 90’s. The route I walk is an up and down gentle sloop at a 20 minute/miles pace which starts off at 105bpm(down hill) then picks up and varies from 116 to 136. I find that raking the lawn will bring my heart up to the 130’s. Shoveling will bring it to the 140’s to 150’s. I’ve read that some people have a normal heart rate that can be much higher than what is considered normal. I’m I one of them?

    • Dan:

      Thanks for commenting. It’s very hard to know whether a high heart rate is “normal” for you without a very detailed medical examination and previous knowledge of all your medical history and activity background. Since most people old and young have severely underdeveloped aerobic systems, it’s more likely that the rapidly rising heartbeat is caused by a lack of aerobic ability.

  • pdiddy says:

    Found this through Natural Born Heroes, then bought the Maffetone Method and now reading the Guide. Great stuff.

    I’d really appreciate some feedback on my experience with the method (Ivan).

    Quick background: 46 years old and what would generally be considered in shape. Exercise pretty much every day, probably about 15% body fat. Paleo diet. Highly varied workout: martial arts, weights, bodyweight training and running is a part of that, but not huge. Also occasionally hike, kayak, play tennis, SUP — I’m active.

    I can pretty easily run 9 minute miles and last fall I did a 5k in 23:54.

    BUT, like so many people I can’t believe how slow I have to go to keep my hr between 124 and 134.

    Question 1: The difference between my comfortable anaerobic run speed and my time using the 180-age method seems huge. After 3 weeks I’m doing like 15 minute miles — as opposed to a 9.

    I heard Dr. Phil saying on the Primal Endurance podcast that “if you’re doing 8 minute miles, you might be upset to see your speed reduced to 9:30 under this method.” My differential is WAY bigger than that!

    Is it just that I am really THAT de-conditioned aerobically? I suspect the answer is a (sympathetic) “yes”, but would appreciate the feed back.

    Question 2: So I get that I’ve got to keep my hr under the MAF, in my case 134.

    The problem: my hr will go right from 132 to 142 in SECONDS! I mean I look at my Garmin Forerunner one second and say “cool – 132″ and literally 2 second later it says 142!

    Of course I immediately go down to a walk and my hr comes back down pretty quickly.

    But still, sometimes my hr continues to go up for a few seconds after I stop jogging — sometimes 150.

    (And I’m not running hard! I’m just barely out of a walk.)

    Is that a big deal? If so, how I can stop that from happening?

    And yes I warm up like he says (and cool down).

    If the answer is “just walk” I don’t think that is the answer because I can walk all day and never get about 124!

    I think I have a conditioned response where as soon as I go from a walk to a jog, my brain tells my heart “faster!” Anything to that?

    Much appreciate any feedback Ivan!

    • Pdiddy:

      Thanks for commenting.

      Some of us are conditioned awfully badly, I’m sorry to say. In my case, I’ve been training by the MAF method and I’m running 8:50 minute miles. My usual tempo pace is 6:45. So I understand how you feel. What I do is I train ~5 BPM below my MAF heart rate, in order to allow for any variability. And of course, sometimes my heart rate also jumps beyond my MAF limit. But you don’t have to worry too much about it. Just slow your pace a little bit, and in a few seconds you’ll see that it starts to come down.

      As to the question of why your heart rate jumps from walking to running, well the short answer to that is because running has a flight phase. When you’re walking, your body is using primarily your bones for support; your muscles are used primarily for movement. But when you’re running, your body has to contract all of your leg muscles powerfully in order to stabilize your knee as you land. In other words, even though your speed increase might be minimal, your muscle contractions are much more powerful just because there’s a flight phase and a landing phase involved in running, and your muscles have to provide support in addition to movement.

      (Your heart rate also jumps to make up for this sharp increase in muscle contractions).

      In other words, there’s really no way to avoid this leap.

      Hope this helps.

  • SteveL says:

    pdiddy: When I started this a number of years ago I had to slow way way down. It seemed stupid at the time and I would even get angry at how slow I had to run. I had a terrible time locking in my heart rate. I ended up increasing the MAF HR from 180-Age+5=MAF to +8 instead of +5 and I was able to lock in my HR even though I was still REALLY slow, but over a period of 9 months I got faster and faster. I did learn not to do a MAF check every week as that just lead to frustration and I started doing them every three to four weeks just like he um…said to do!

    • pdiddy says:

      Thanks both. Just the feedback I wanted.

      I tried going -5 on the 180-age formula this morning. It did stop me from going too far over my actual 180-age. I did a few times as a result of the lag time between when i stopped jogging and when my heart responded to that — but far less than before.

      Of course that meant that I am now doing 17-18 minute miles instead of the 9 minute miles I previously found comfortable!!

      Honestly, I counted it out and was able to take 7 strides at a slow jog before having to stop. If I took the 8th stride, my HR would still be in the 120’s, but after I stopped walking, it would go all the way up to 143 or something!

      7 strides jogging, and then maybe 10 walking is kind of frustrating. I’d run slower but I really cannot go slower without walking! Like I said, I’m doing 17-18 minute miles so honestly, I’m not moving fast at any time!!

      I’m still a little skeptical to be honest, but your advice will help me to continue with this experiment.

      I can see that, yes, notwithstanding my good conditioning in many ways, I am de-conditioned aerobically. In fact, today I admitted that even though I can run 4 miles in less than 36 minutes, walking up to my third floor office actually does wind me a little bit. It has for some time actually.

      I’m excited to correct this imbalance and always happy to have a new fitness challenge.

      Thanks again!

      • Pdiddy:

        Thanks for your continued involvement.

        One thing I recommend is that you do your MAF work on the exercise bike, as well as walking. Or, if you own a jump rope, try doing it while jump roping. That will help develop the aerobic system without the added shock of landing (jump-roping has very little shock as compared to running, since there is no forward motion “stopping” component), meaning that your heart rate won’t kick up as far. Jumping rope should kick it up a little more than cycling, however.

        The sad thing is that people’s aerobic system is just that underdeveloped. This is not just you—it’s the case with everyone, even elite athletes.

        Remember that your aerobic system is getting developed in relation to your heart rate, not your speed. As it develops, your speed will begin to rise naturally. It’s important to allow these gains to be made on their own time.

        • pdiddy says:

          Great suggestion Ivan!

          I tried the exercise bike this a.m.

          I might be an oddball!

          My perceived effort level in the runs I described before was like a 1-2. On the bike: like 7-8! I was sweating and breathing hard. There was no way I was going over 134 bpm, that would have required tremendous exertion.

          I’ve experienced this before, years back, where I would deliberately try to get into the anaerobic range on the bike and feel like it was trying to kill me. Meanwhile, I could do that on a run and feel fine!

          Most likely it is that I just haven’t really developed the leg muscles for cycling and so it is harder work.

          But it was good to break a sweat and breathe a little!

          I think what I will do for a while is just kind of alternate the exercise bike and “runs”.

          Obviously I’m very open to suggestions though!

          Thanks again.

          PS I also correlated my garmin hrm with the one on the bike — they’re pretty close, so that is good to know.

  • Jessica says:

    I’m just getting back into running after years of being mia, so I might as well be a beginner. I am 33 and on a thyroid medication. So my rate would be (180-33)-10 = 137?

    If I can’t keep between 132-137 by running/jogging, do I start with fast walking and then progress up? Also, I have an elliptigo that I would love to incorporate as part of my cross-training. Would I need to make any adjustments to my rate for those workouts? Also, jump roping was mentioned above. Is that something that should be incorporated for a beginner?

    Thanks!
    Jessica

    • Jessica:

      Staying at (or just below) the MAF heart rate is the most important thing. You don’t really have to make any adjustments sportswise. What you’ll notice, however, is that your heart rate rises a lot faster with running than it does with other sports, because of the flight and landing. So jumping rope is kind of a way to bridge the gap between cycling, elliptigo and running (it has a landing component, but is nowhere near as intense as running). Elliptigo is a great aerobic tool, and it also helps train a lot of the components of the running gait without the associated flight and impact.

      Your MAF heart rate would be 137.

    • pdiddy says:

      What I love about this system by the way is that it keeps the “how hard can I push myself” factor out of the equation.

      If my times are getting better, it is because I am getting fitter, not just because I’m grinding harder.

      And yes, I am someone who will run myself into the ground to do 10 seconds better on a training run, so this is important!

  • Natasha says:

    Hi, I am a runner who uses HR training. I am 40 yrs old. The question I have it, so it I want to incorporate low-key tempo intervals at 80%, what is my HR range for that? My Max according to your formula is 140 BPM. Thanks for your help!

    • Natasha:

      It’s important to remember that your MAF heart rate isn’t necessarily related to measures such as the anaerobic (lactate) threshold. So going by 80% of your maximum heart rate (220-age) is sufficient, unless you are an elite athlete and have access to your blood lactate info and so forth.

  • Mystery says:

    Hi, I play a variety of sports year-round, and change with the seasons. So I’m trying to figure out how I might be able to integrate this approach (if possible) without stopping my other sports. Typically I play a couple times a week a sport that will have mostly anaerobic demands (e.g. ultimate frisbee, ball hockey). Also, could I do something else other than running, but keep the target rate going -e.g. swimming?
    Thanks.

  • Robby says:

    I discovered MAF training in 2003 while preparing for my first half ironman, it was a breath of fresh air. Since then, I have looked at and used every method available but I continue to come back. I love it for several reasons. One, very low injury rate. Two, allows for individuality. Three, brings joy to training and four, it’s a self evaluating system; i.e. if you’re not making progress, something is off, eating, sleeping, Iron etc. Being a coach, this is the method I used for myself and endurance clients.

  • Natasha says:

    Thanks Ivan. I have been using the 205.8-.685 x age formula, then multiply it by .8 for 80%. Is this correct?

  • Sebastian says:

    Hello,

    Please let me start from thanking Dr. Phil for the MAF method and the Big book of endurance training and racing. This is truly an awesome book.

    I would like to ask you if the maximum aerobic heart rate can be established not following the 180 formula? I mean based on results from a real testing at physiology lab or even using Friel’s method.

    Thank you,
    Sebastian

    • Sebastian:

      Absolutely. In fact, the 180-Formula was derived in order to be able to reproduce observations about aerobic function made in the clinic/lab in an easier format. However, I’m not sure what other methods may be able to give accurate results, since a lot of observations from a lot of domains are needed to ascertain the MAF heart rate. We are currently working on designing other methods of figuring out the MAF heart rate.

  • Jonathan says:

    I have doing the 180 method for about 3 weeks now, my biggest question is regarding cadence. I am really finding it hard to keep my cadence up and my heart rate down. Do you have any advise about this, I know you are going to say I must say in HR range, but should I forget about cadence at this time or try to get both. I had a perfect 90 steps per minute cadence before starting, now I am around 78-84.

    Also a second question, when running up hills obviously your heart rate pick up, would you suggest staying away from hill or still use them and go very slow to keep the heart rate in zone?
    Thanks

    • Jonathan:

      Cadence typically lowers at lower speeds. There are theories that say that cadence must have an absolute minimum of 88 steps per minute. However, you’ll rarely see this cadence maintained above 8 minute miles.

      Just go slower on hills, or walk if you have to. If you’re able to maintain a running form, you’ll see your hill speed begin to rise in a couple of weeks.

  • Emily says:

    Hello! For the table with MAF, 5K race pace and 5K race time, I was wondering where the number on the left hand side is taken from? Is it the average split from all the recorded splits of the MAF test? Or the last split of the workout?
    Thank you!
    Emily

  • Jenny says:

    I wondered if the number changes at altitude. I live at 8700 feet, and everything is up from there, so I often run/walk at 9000 feet and above. Should I adjust my target rate? Thanks.

    • Jenny:

      Great question. The heart rate remains the same across altitude. A way to think about it is that what you want to do is make sure the aerobic system is functioning at 100 percent, with as little anaerobic work as possible. A higher heart rate is tied to greater stress, which means that the body is doing more anaerobic work. Because of that, the level of aerobic/anaerobic function is more dependent on heart rate than it is on any other variable.

  • Mike says:

    When base building, does anaerobic activity just forestall using predominately fat for fuel or completely inhibit it? My MAF heart rate is 122 and climbing stairs and mowing the lawn can put me over that quickly. Doesn’t seem reasonable to remove daily activities because they could be slightly anaerobic. Is there a compromise? I like the idea of developing an aerobic base, but not to the detriment of necessary daily work activity.

    • Mike:

      Thakns for your comment. Anaerobic activity doesn’t completely forestall base building. Don’t remove daily activities. Your base-building won’t be as fast as it could be, but it’s safe to say that you won’t be at risk for overtraining during that period. You’ll likely find that after a while, you’ll be doing all the activities you mention at your MAF heart rate.

  • Mike says:

    Is it still possible to build an aerobic base when daily activities like climbing stairs and mowing the lawn push up heart rate with moderate exertion? My MAF heart rate is 122 and it easily jumps into anaerobic zone with these activities. Interest in developing an aerobic base that burns more fat. Thanks.

    • Mike:

      Thanks for your comment.

      Daily activities, even if they go slightly above the MAF HR, will still strongly develop an aerobic base. The reason that we stress the MAF heart rate so much is that many people ONLY train at a heart rate that is 20 heart beats above that heart rate. So, if you’re doing housework or yard work, don’t worry about it. You’ll be getting many of the same benefits.

  • Alex M says:

    Hi,

    I am just starting out with MAF training (gosh it is slow!)

    How long do I have to keep training with my HR <145? Am I just supposed to continue indefinitely training at this HR and hope for my speed to pick up while maintaining this HR?

    The article says you will not be stuck training at this pace for too long. Is that because my speed will improve or because there is an end point to training at this HR? Hope that made sense.

    Thanks,
    Alex

    • Alex:

      You won’t be at that training pace because your speed will improve. For example, in a 12-month period, people have seen improvements of 8-10 minutes in their 5k pace, while remaining at the same heart rate. That said, once you have a few months of exclusive training at the MAF heart rate, it’s ok for your training to be 20% anaerobic.

      It really doesn’t take more than 20% to gain the maximum benefits from anaerobic work, and it doesn’t take more than 30% of anaerobic work for your risk of injury or overtraining to begin to climb steeply.

  • […] uses the 180 formula developed by Dr. Phil […]

  • Olivier says:

    Hi everyone,
    I’d like to bump pdiddy’s post as I am exactly in the same situation, same age, same perceived level of fitness, even same Garmin HRM!
    My heart rate has been jumping up and down exactly the same way, and at the moment, I can’t even run (or like pdiddy, a few running strides, then walk …etc).
    Now, I know my aerobic level is not great, although my running times are ok (23mins on 5k, 50 on 10k …etc).
    I want to add the following: I started the MAF test 1 week ago, with 0 carbs 0 sugar at all. During my first 1h run 1 week ago, I was able to run about 75% of the time and stay in the MAF zone (124-134), then the next run, 50%; then the next one (1h30mins), 33% run and the rest walk, and finally this morning, I’m probably 10% run and the rest is walking (and when I say run, it’s mostly slooooo jog for a few strides).
    I’m wondering if the 2-weeks MAF test also affects my heart rate so drastically. I have 1 week to go so I won’t worry too much if that’s really the case, but moving forward, if I can’t run, how will I keep my running “muscles” working if I actually can’t run?
    I will try the bike as pdiddy mentioned but running keeps me sane :-)
    Please share any advice!

    • Olivier:

      You can try jump-roping; that will help you keep the running gait movements. But since the two-week test cuts back so drastically on your carbs, it’s very difficult to stay running at the same heart rate without a very powerful aerobic system. Once you start experimenting with carbs again after the test, you should see your speed pick back up.

      • SteveL says:

        Ivan I also wonder once Oliver’s body flips to burning fat for fuel if his run time will start to rise again? He may be a heavy sugar burner. Thoughts?

        • Steve:

          Absolutely. The more powerful a fatburner you are, the faster you will go aerobically. The problem is that when you take away carbs from someone who is currently a sugar-burner, they will see that drop in their speed. That should be less and less so for a fat-burner (unless, of course, you are asking for anaerobic speeds from them).

          • Olivier says:

            Thanks so much all for your response. I was starting to wonder if my HRM was getting interferences … I tried the bike this morning and was able to get a good sweat so this is reassuring. I will try the rope. I was expecting my speed to be slow, but not that bad though, along with the test, that’s definitely harder so I guess I will see after the test; however, I kind of feel good so I want to keep my carbs intake very low even after the test. Thank you again for reassuring me, this is such a shock that I’m having a hard time understanding what’s going on so I question everything. I will update this post when I’m back to some carbs next week in case that may help other people.

  • Garret Adkins says:

    What kind of adjustments if any should be made for smokers?

  • James Lavin says:

    Being repetitious of the other comments, I still wonder if this truly translates to older athletes. At 60 the base formula brings me to 120. I’ve been running for 48 years. I can sustain an average heart rate of 160 for 6 hours during a race and slowly drop thereafter, but still can average 150 for 10+ hours without feeling stressed (except my quads) so I can’t see how that isn’t aerobic. I have done LSD training in the past, and I can agree that limiting to 135 would be good training for the next few months, but 120??……

    • James:

      The 180-formula has been extensively corroborated clinically (with more than a decade of research). It works in virtually every case that has been studied.

      Going at 150 may be aerobic, but it may not be fullyaerobic in the sense that it may not be sustainable. In other words, you may still be substantially using your anaerobic system to maintain that pace. In other words, the stress will begin to add up if you do this every day.

      That said, there are certain caveats if you are over 65 years of age: You can add 10 BPM if you’re in good health.

  • Jay says:

    Thank you Phil,
    I will be 80 years old in September. Was a pretty successful competitive runner for over 40 years. Started having a lot of leg muscle soreness, especially around hips. Thought I might need hip replacements or some other fool thing. Began studying the 180 formula and am starting out slow and will keep the aerobic level from now on. Will post my successes and failures over the next year. Have been riding 25-50 miles on my bike three days a week since cutting out the running over the last year. Have missed the runs. Going back to the LSD practice now and hope be back to long trail running by 2016. Smiles out to all of you folks who are ageing strong.

  • Alex M says:

    Thanks for your previous reply & great work on replying to everyone in such a timely manner- cudos.

    I have just started training for an Iron Man. How do I integrate the speed sessions in? For example in my swimming there might be 4x25m fast pace sprints or in the running some 30sec pace increases. Would you advise I leave these out? Or until later in the program when my pace/HR has improved after some exclusive MAF only training?

    Thanks,
    Alex

    • Alex:

      If you’re not overtrained (or feeling like you’re constantly on the redline), or haven’t been injured in a while, I’d say that your anaerobic training volume should be 20% of your total training volume. That said, your aerobic base won’t develop as fast unless you do a period of exclusive aerobic training. If you don’t have any health or fitness issues, what I would do is wait for the off-season to do exclusive aerobic base building. That said, Mark Allen did near-exclusive aerobic training for a long time.

  • Michael says:

    Im 42 years old this year, in the maffetone 180 formula my max hr should be at 138.
    My question is if i turn 43 next year should i adjust my max hr? Should i change it yearly? Thanks

  • Olivier says:

    Hi MAF community,
    I wanted to update my previous post regarding my hrm yoyo-ing in a funny way. As I’m just completing my two week test, during which I thought that was kind of normal that my heart rate would just jump from 120 to 152 in 2 secs; this combined with what I thought was a bad aerobic base, I left it and resigned to the fact that I could not run at all, just walk. A few days ago, as I was warming up inside before going out, I was just slowly walking up and down stairs, then simulating rope jumping. Stairs were fine but then jumping would make the hrm jump as well up to 170 in a matter of second. Something was wrong obviously. Tried different things, including re-adjusting the strap (to the tightest), humidifying the electrodes, replaced the battery … until I just push the left electrode to my chest with my right hand, boom, the hr would go down instantly to a more reasonable number.
    Long story short … don’t always trust your hrm. Now, I’ve been out 3 times, and after warm up, the hrm is more stable although I still need to press the left electrode with my hand when it jumps too fast (then it goes back down instantly) but at least I can now run and the numbers make more sense now. I can sustain a run to a reasonable pace, still slow but that’s expected as I’m slowly rebuilding my aerobic base. Phew. I’m now looking for a new hrm as it’s quite frustrating to have to readjust the strap and press it every 10mins … any suggestions for a new STRAPLESS hrm? (forerunner 225 looks neat).
    Thanks for maintaining this website; this is so helpful!

  • Ken D says:

    Just had a question about heart monitors in general. Does Dr. Maffetone have a preference of heart monitors? One that might be better than the others. I ask this because I have a Tom Tom and at times my heart rate will be right in the aerobic zone at a pace I might have been holding 10-15 minutes. All of a sudden it will jump from 130 or so to 160 something 180 sometimes as high as 216. I get a little frustrated because I don’t know what caused the major elevation. I start walking it comes down well below my max and I start running sometimes it will take off again. Other times my normal aerobic pace will be reflected correctly on watch. Long question. Is my watch being glitchy or is my body enduring a stress? At those high heart rates it would seem like I’m sprinting but I’m actually running slow pace. Anyway, need some guidance. Thanks

  • Gerald says:

    While I completely agree with the concept of training in a particular heart rate and thus improve the aerobic base, i am of the understanding that aerobic and anaerobic cannot be compartmentalised. I believe that running at threshold most of the times improves your aerobic fitness also and viceversa because without an adequate aerobic base running at threshold for about an hour may not be possible. One more aspect is the recovery between intervals. Doesnt quick recovery between repetitions indicate good aerobic endurance. My point is by doing threshold and anaerobic doesnt the aerobic capacity also improve simultaneously.

  • […] Maffetone Method defines a simple way to ensure you are training at your maximum aerobic function. The formula […]

  • Shardul says:

    Hi,

    I just started with MAF a week back, my age is 40 , and have been running consistently for 2 years , did 2 half marathons , so my Ideal HR zone should it fall between 135 to 145 or 145 to 155 .

    As of currently i can comfortably run 10 K at 6.3 to 6 pace , completing in 1 hour to 63 minutes

    I am a newbie in MAF , so needed little advice

    • Shardul:

      Start by doing the 180-formula. Run 5 times a week. I recommend starting by doing 1h15min workouts: 15 minute warm up at 20 BPM below MAF HR, run 45 minutes at MAF HR, and cool down 15 minutes 20 BPM below MAF HR.

  • Paul says:

    Am 68 most likely have been over training my entire life. I enjoy running trails and longer distances. Unfortunately in the last couple of years I’ve been unable to maintain a good base mileage. I’d love to be in the 35-60 mileage range. I do Pilates about 6 times a month with a personal trainer and TRX 3 times a month also with a personal trainer. I also do Elliptical with Ifit trails and alsohave an elliptical which I can take on the streets. I’m very excited about this new training method and look forward to many more years of great trail running and racing.
    Thank you for renewed life

  • Mike says:

    Hi

    I have a body composition monitor which tells me I have a metabolic age of 42 versus my chronological age of 48. Which is the better ‘age’ to use when applying the 180 formula?

    Thanks very much.

    Mike

      • Sean Rodgers says:

        How can I determine my metabolic age? I’ve trained with HR for over a year now (returning from a stress fracture for 3 months now). I’m down to running a 5K at <140 @ 9:35/mi average pace. I started back @ 10:15/mi.
        I'm 48 and I've been running for 9 years including marathons and Ultra's.

  • Kathie says:

    Hi! I just started Barefoot running and came across this method via Natural Born Heroes. Any particular advice for a new runner? (age 57, female.)

    Thanks!

  • Does your resting heart-rate matter at all in using the formula? I have a resting heart rate in low 50’s. Intuitively, it would seem like someone with a very low resting heart rate should therefore have a correspondingly lower MAF rate compared to someone with a resting heart rate in the high 70’s, for example. Yet unless I’ve missed it, the formula doesn’t take baseline HR into account at all. But perhaps I misunderstand the logic/physiology behind the formula.

    • I wouldn’t call RHR “baseline.” Resting heart rate fluctuates very easily: for example, it changes depending on how stressed someone is. For example someone with chronic stress may even have a resting heart rate close to the 90s. This is because they are using a lot of anaerobic activity to keep their body going. The same goes for someone with a poor aerobic system: when the aerobic system can’t sustain the body with fats alone, it appeals to the anaerobic system.

      Conversely, an elite endurance athlete may have a RHR in the mid-30s because they have highly developed their aerobic systems. In other words, their aerobic development means that they have a much wider aerobic range, than say an identical athlete whose RHR is in the mid-40s. If both athletes have a MAF HR of 155, one athlete would have an aerobic range of 120, while the other would have an aerobic range of 110. In other words, by virtue of aerobic training, the more trained athlete added 10 BPM to her aerobic range.

      This means that a high resting heart rate doesn’t mean that your MAF heart rate should be correspondingly higher, but rather that you have more work to do in order to either bring your RHR down or increase your speed at your MAF heart rate (or both).

      • Thank you for this reply. I think what puzzles me is that my low resting heart rate tells me (perhaps erroneously) that I’m pretty fit, yet the pace at which I have to run (>11 min./mile) is WAY slower than the target pace I need at my age to qualify for Boston Marathon (9 min./mile). That suggests I am way less fit than I infer from my heart rate. I infer from reading at this site that even very fit athletes can have underdeveloped aerobic capacity, so perhaps that’s all that’s going on.

        However, I see that on June 30, you replied to Mike’s question that metabolic, not chronological age should be used in determining MAF. But you didn’t reply to Sean Rodger’s follow-up question about how to determine metabolic age. I went to this site https://www.worldfitnesslevel.org and determined that my fitness level (44 years) is 20 years less than my chronological age. So is 44 equivalent to my metabolic age (or at least a reasonable approximation?). If so, that suggests I need to add 20 BPM to my MAF heart rate, at which point my training pace would come much closer to my target marathon time; this would make much more intuitive sense to me.

        I’ve been training for this marathon since last November, but only been using the heart monitor/MAF target for the last 10 days. Obviously I could keep training at the much slower pace to see if my time improves, but I’d hate to discover too late that I’d inadvertently de-conditioned myself by running too slowly etc. But I’m also mindful from the many comments here that many athletes “feel” as if their MAF-driven training pace is too slow, when in fact they’ve been training too long at too fast a pace.

        • I actually should go back and revise my answer to Mike (as it’s not specific enough). Use your chronological age, unless you get a full array of clinical tests to determine your metabolic age. But let me answer this way: your MAF pace is NOT your marathon race pace. Your MAF pace is strictly for developing your aerobic system. Racing is a different thing altogether. Usually, you want to be racing a marathon some 10-15 BPM above your MAF heart rate.

          You can’t really de-condition yourself by running too slowly: training intensity is a function of heart rate, not speed. If, for example, the temperature where you live suddenly rose to 104 Fahrenheit, you’d be doing a brisk walk and you’d probably already be at your MAF heart rate. Even though you’re going at a lower speed, the metabolic cost of going at that speed in those conditions is actually the same as going at a higher speed in milder weather. If your heart rate remains the same, so does the training effect.

          Also, it’s all but impossible to lose conditioning for a marathon (of all races) by training for it at your MAF pace. Over 99% of the fuel that you use for a marathon should be coming from the aerobic system, and training at your MAF pace is the best way to make sure that happens. By running faster, even though you feel you’re training more, that’s not really what’s happening, particularly when it’s a marathon you’re training for. By going beyond your aerobic threshold (beyond MAF pace) you’re going to be predominantly developing the anaerobic system (but neglecting the aerobic one). In other words, you’ll be training a lot – but you’ll be training the wrong engine. Even though your speed will rise quickly, your endurance (which is a function of the aerobic system and the burning of fats) won’t.

  • […] What intrigued me most about his training approach was the emphasis on heart-rate monitoring, which I am a big fan of already, as you can tell from my workouts above. However, rather than having a variety of heart training workouts like I show above, Dr. Maffetone recommends a simple training method known as the 180 formula. […]

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