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.

NOTE: Before you ask a question, search the comment threads for answers. As they are quite long, the answer is probably already in there!

Join the discussion 221 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.

        • Mike says:

          Hello,

          Thank you for all of the helpful information. Do medicines like Fluoxetine (Prozac) count in determining your heart rate with the 180 formula?

          Thanks!

          • Yes, absolutely. Prozac is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Serotonin fluctuations drive large-scale changes in the nervous system, as well as affecting the hypothalamus, which controls the stress response. (Long story short). This means that they alter your stress levels, your heart rate, and consequently the ratio of aerobic-to-anaerobic function. Whenever this is happening, you want to be conservative with the 180-Formula.

  • 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!

    • Amanda says:

      I will try the bike too! I can’t walk fast enough to get my HR to 140 but I also can’t run slowly enough to keep it there. About 10-20 strides into a very slow jog and my HR begins to climb quickly. Then I go back to walking and it drops quickly to 120.
      Thanks for the advice!

    • Pdiddy says:

      Just a quick progress update if you’re interested.

      I (stupidly) pulled a calf and was out of commission for most of a month in terms of running. Still ran. (I stepped on a very pointy large rock running in VFFs, foot didn’t hurt TOO bad, so I kept running — with an altered gait. That was the stupid part!)

      Got a new HRM and that has made a HUGE difference!! The old one was ok one day, whacky the next. Finally just chucked it in the bushes when I got home from a run.

      But I’m cruising now! Thanks.

  • 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.

      • Melissa says:

        I read a lot of and searched through the comments, so I hope I’m not asking the exact same thing as someone else…. I’m just hoping to ensure that I’ve got this completely straight!

        It doesn’t matter how far you’re running on any given day or what distance (race) you might be training for. You just do ALL of your runs as at your calculated heart rate for several months. That is, the ONLY limit” is your heart rate, not amount of time running, distance covered, etc….?
        Also, could you define “several months”? I totally DIG the idea of slowing down to get faster and doing that nearly all the time. But I do enjoy the occasional track workout just to make it interesting.

        THANKS!

        • Melissa:

          Basically. And several months typically means “no less than 3″ and “maybe more than 6.” However, if your MAF speed happens to be at around the 7 minute mile mark, you don’t really need to worry about building an aerobic base: its’ already well-developed. That said, 80% of your workouts still need to be at your MAF heart rate.

          If you want to make it interesting, one of the things you can do is shake the MAF runs themselves up by sprinting only for 10 yards and then quickly scale back to your MAF heart rate. However, do this as sparingly as possible.

          • Melissa says:

            Thanks a million!

            I’m nowhere near that 7 minute thing. I’m thinking that puts me in “maybe more than 6″ range.

            Thanks for the tips. I’m excited about this!

  • […] 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.

          • This is an EXTREMELY helpful reply. I’m realizing that at least part of what’s going on relates to the fact that I’m training in NC in temps that typically are in high 70’s or 80’s. I have definitely noticed that when I run early in AM when it’s relatively cooler, I’m able to run at a much faster pace without exceeding MAF heart rate. So I will stick with MAF training and see where that leads. Thanks so much for your help.

  • […] 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. […]

  • Mike says:

    For power athletes, is the MAF base building process more difficult to adapt to, given that the anaerobic fibers are more developed? I alpine ski race and weight training and intervals are a good portion of training for that, and I’ve neglected base. I find on the bike, gentle grades stimulate leg muscle tension, which puts me over MAF. Are the FT fibers responding anaerobically at that point? Or aerobically? I can ride comfortably at MAF with spurts of +10-15 on upgrades then back to MAF over 2+ hours with no problems. I’m 8 weeks into MAF base, does it work for everyone… eventually?

    • Mike:

      Yes to both questions, except that I would rephrase and say that the MAF process isn’t more difficult to adapt to, but rather that it takes longer, and not because anaerobic fibers are more developed, but because less time has been given to aerobic fibers. And strictly (but very importantly) speaking, the aerobic system isn’t just the aerobic fibers. The aerobic system is the combination of fibers, sweating system, water management system (blood volume regulation), capillary networks, diaphragm and deep abdominal muscles, alveoli, mucous membranes, sinuses, etc. The reason I cite all of these components is to say that by training the aerobic system, you are rounding out the body and the body’s capabilities to a much higher degree than a lot of people think.

      (What I mean to say is that you’re getting much more bang for you buck than developing fibers).

      There are a couple of issues with your approach. One of the points of MAF training is to reduce the generation of lactate as much as possible, in order to reduce the amount of wear and tear on the body, and to develop the aerobic system as much as possible. The more your training looks like intervals (alternations of aerobic and anaerobic), the more you’ll be training your capability to recover from the anaerobic workload, rather than developing the rest of the aerobic infrastructure. Insofar as you want to develop your aerobic base, stay away from that. What’s the golden rule for base building? Zero anaerobic.

      MAF base building works great for a lot of people. There’s been studies on cross-country athletes: when they reduce their overall anaerobic training volume from 35% to 20%, race performance increases. Keep in mind that these are power athletes. The same thing happened to the Dutch Olympic speed skating team: they reduced their anaerobic workload, and they raked in the medals. Even for power athletes, a high volume of anaerobic training just doesn’t do what we’d like to think it does.

      • Mike says:

        Thank you for the added detail, just what I needed.

        • You’re welcome. MAF is about principles more than anything else. Once you really catch on to what those principles do (and why they’re there), you can apply them to just about anything.

          Everything said, anaerobic training is definitely important, and it definitely has its place, just not at all in base building, and not in the volume we think it does.

  • […] and eventually realized my HR was way too high on easy days.) I’ve been basing my aerobic HR on Dr. Phil Maffetone’s formula of 180 minus your age (ends up being 150-155bpm for me). It’s been pretty eye opening. On my […]

  • Andrew says:

    My max would be about 145, but it’s too difficult to run slowly enough to keep it that low. The lowest I can get while running is about 160.

    I would probably need to walk instead (but then it would drop to almost a resting rate! And walking doesn’t feel like it’s doing a whole lot).

  • Lee says:

    I’ve finally started in on MAF heart rate training. I was going to three years ago but hooked up with a Bowerman disciple as coach. That training may have had something to do with my declining performance in 2013 working towards a second marathon that year, fatigue, pneumonia, other health problems surfacing, etc. Finally close to normal and weird issues off and on for decades are all being sorted now by a guy who’s not only an MD but does osteopathic and Chinese medicine. You know, an MD that understands nutrition, cracks your back and sticks pins in you in a single visit. (What, all don’t know that stuff?! They should.)

    Anyway, I’m not an Apple cultist. I’m an Android atheist. Any hope for salvation with an Android app? I mean, geez, we do make up half of the world’s smartphone users.

    Thanks.

    • Lee:

      We here at MAF are disciples of The Church of Jobs.

      Just kidding. There’s been a lot of requests for an android app, and we’ll get to it as soon as we’re big enough.

      Sorry you’ve had training setbacks. Glad you’re with us now.

  • Lanny says:

    Hi there

    I am really looking forward to giving the Maffetone Method a try. But I do have some reservations! I am what is considered a high beater, with a current max HR of 202. If I use some of the other current methods to calculate my HR zones I find it to be consistent with the training and effort. Now, if I apply the Maffetone Method (I am 52) I get a crazy low number for my zone. I was wondering if there is any consideration for people that have a higher heart rate?

    • Lanny:

      Max heart rate is a measure of cardiovascular power. It doesn’t say a lot about aerobic function. A lot of people want to put these two measures together, but they’re actually pretty unrelated.

      • Gail says:

        I also have a very high heart rate, The maximum I’ve reach on my chest strap heart rate monitor is 208 when most formulas for Max HR say that my max should be around 186 (I’m 34). My heart rate reaches 140’s on a walk. Using the 180 formula (I have Asthma and take regular medication) my MAF is 131. It just seems unlikely that I would have any gains from this when my heart rate on a very easy run is around 176. I expected to slow down but that seems like an awful lot. Is there any instance where the 180 method is scaled?

        • Gail:

          Yes, but not in these cases. MAX Heart rate and MAF heart rate measure two different things, as I said before: MAX heart rate is a cardiovascular measure—how fast your heart can pump without blowing up. MAF heart rate is a metabolic measure—how much power output you can manage before your metabolism has to utilize anaerobic channels. The likeliest reason that it seems very easy is because your aerobic system is very undeveloped.

          Also, note that perceived exertion (what you describe as “very easy”) is largely unrelated to exercise intensity. For example, the reason why cyclists perceive that their MAF heart rate is very difficult to get to, while runners (typically) perceive the opposite, is because runners use a lot more muscle groups for stability. Cyclists are supported on 5 different points at any given time (handlebars, pedals, and seat), while runners have only one. This means that the runner’s metabolism has to be feeding all of these muscle groups, while the cyclist’s metabolism can put a lot more power into fewer muscle groups. So, even though both metabolisms are going at the same rate, the cyclist’s metabolism is focused on feeding a few muscles, while the runner’s metabolism is spread relatively thin.

          Perceived exertion has to do with the brain. Specifically, perceived exertion has to do with peak neurological function—the amount of “voltage,” so to speak, that is being sent down the spinal cord to any given muscle. The cyclist’s peak neurological function is greater than the runner’s, for any given level of metabolic output. And that’s why running at 176 BPM seems “easy” to you, while it would probably seem damn near impossible if you get on the bike.

  • Al Ciampa says:

    Ivan/Phil,

    I train Airmen as part of my job as health promotions director for the Air Force. I am whole-heartedly sold into this type of training, and am trying to do it with different modalities. One in particular is using KB swing intervals to spike the HR to their aerobic max, then rest long enough to let HR drop sufficiently so that the next set does not exceed their aerobic max. It works very well, but I do not have enough data yet to show how it effects their MAF test.

    I do have some questions:
    – as has been mentioned here, a formula is just that; if you know your HR @ lactate threshold, is there a recommended aerobic HR max, based on these values? 20 BPM less, or something?
    – it seems like this method prefers not only to avoid anaerobic glycolysis, but also aerobic glycolysis. Is there a blood lactate value that lines up with this “lower threshold”?
    – lastly, as has been mentioned, so many elements affect HR other than the activity. Is there a reason that, once you have learned PER and ventilation rate as related to HR during exercise, that you can’t use a combination of the three to drive your session? Some days, my HR is just out of control (no extra wind, hills, external elements, etc) but my ventilation rate and PER is the same as any other run. Thoughts?

    Lydiard had a lot of success using nasal breathing/talk test while running. Same thing, or no? I know that when I run on an indoor track in the a/c, my pace is much quicker for much longer than when I run outside on the same day in the heat and direct sunlight. Are we to assume that these elements (heat/sunlight) are kicking up lactate, and so H+, production (avoiding which is one of the points of running slower), or should we be able to subtract the difference out, ie. run to a higher HR?

    You mentioned that HR is a measure for overall, systemic stress… if the stress is not contributing to H+ production, should it “count”. Or does all stress increase acidity?

    I hope that my questions make some sense, and I thank you in advance for your time.

    -Al

    • Al:

      Thanks for your comment. Excellent questions.

      Even though a formula is “just that,” trying to ascertain where the aerobic threshold is for a variety of different age groups works much better with the 180-Formula than with just about any other method, which is why we go by the 180-Formula instead of any other of the many suggested methods on various of these comment threads.

      One of the big problems is that the amount of aerobic function fluctuates due to stress. In other words, if you hit a certain exercise intensity (the anaerobic threshold) you know that your lactate levels are climbing. However, if you reduce that exercise intensity, you have no guarantee that your aerobic function is substantial enough that your lactate levels begin to drop (that you are developing the aerobic system instead of the anaerobic one). The only way to guarantee that is to hit a certain heart rate (or to measure exercise intensity in function of heart rate).

      I believe that a lot of the suggestions of alternate methods made in these comment threads is almost a form of negotiation with the inevitable: we want to have the opportunity to train at a high intensity because we still believe that training at a high intensity is where the magic happens. However, there’s been studies, and examples, that show that the diminishing returns of high intensity exercise start at a 20% of training volume, rather than the 50% or 60% that we’d like.

      Furthermore, it has been shown that a reduction in anaerobic training volume from 35% to 20% (while keeping total training volume intact) actually increased race performance in track and field athletes. Note that these are power athletes, not endurance athletes. Similarly, the Dutch speed skating team had massive successes at the 2014 Olympics due to a reduction in the overall percentage of anaerobic work from 40% to 30%: the most substantive change made to their training was anaerobic/aerobic ratio.

      Simply stated, there are many, many advantages to training a lot slower than we’d like. Negotiating and inventing our way towards justifying a higher training intensity just isn’t going to give us the advantages we think it will.

      To answer your question about aerobic glycolysis, it’s impossible to eliminate it. Glucose goes through glycolysis, period. It must, in order to get to the citric acid cycle. Our options are for it to transform into lactate, or into pyruvate.

      If heart rate is out of control, then it means that your stress levels are putting it out of control. If heart rate is tough to bring down, that means that your body is having a tough time functioning aerobically rather than anaerobically. There is a 1:1 correspondence between heart rate and ratio of aerobic/anaerobic function.

      In regards to your question about Lydiard. Increases in heart rate are tied to increases in anaerobic function because of the stress response. The stress response is designed to make the animal survive: run fast, fight hard. In order to do this, it recruits the short-term, high-octane fuel supply: the ATP-PC system and the anaerobic system. And it gets the heart to pump blood as hard as possible, to bring blood to the muscles. This three-way connection runs so deep in our physiology, and is so hardwired into every living being, that it is literally impossible to divorce an increase in stress from an increase in anaerobic function, or from an increase in heart rate.

      If you increase any one of the three, the other two will follow.

      In survival terms, it makes all of the sense in the world for the connection between stress, heart rate, and anaerobic function to be as tightly wired as possible, and to have the capacity to overload, bypass, and overcome literally every other last bit of the organism’s wiring. If it doesn’t have that capability, that organism may be destroyed in the next 30 seconds.

      This ties into your question about lactate production. It’s not that the sun is kicking up lactate production directly. It is that using the sweating system increases the energy demands of the body. Heart rate rises in order to increase blood supply, and anaerobic channels are recruited to run the sweating system at a high rate.

      Until the aerobic system develops further to meet those demands (and heart rate lowers in function of that), you’ll be using the anaerobic system.

      The depth of the stress-anaerobic connection accounts for why chronic stress leads to chronic illness: if there is a constant stress response, there is a constant recruitment of the anaerobic system (and a high resting heart rate, hypertension, etc.). Lactate is being produced, and not being properly expelled, and the body is acidifying as a result of that.

      There is no way around this. We’ve been trying to find it, and trying to negotiate with it, and as a result so so many of our athletes remain unhealthy and overtrained.

  • JeffM says:

    I’m really glad that I found this site as I have just started using the 180 Method and my experience so far mimics paid day and others. I’m currently training for a marathon in October. My plan was to use the 180 Method exclusively for the next 6 weeks and then add in 20% anaerobic work for the final 6 weeks. However, a concern has cropped up for me based on some answers to other people’s comments. It looks like you recommend a maximum of 5 75-90 minute sessions per week. If I try to use a typical marathon training plan I will exceed that to get in the recommended mileage. Is that acceptable or do you have a recommendation on altering the marathon training plan for use with the 180 Method?

    • Jeff:

      So, those 75-90 minute sessions include 15 minutes of warm-up 20 BPM below MAF, and 15 minutes of cooldown at the same MAF. So you’re really getting 45-60 minutes of MAF training (which isn’t very intense). So you should be fine. That said, your body is the best judge. Listen to your body. Tired that day? Feeling like you shouldn’t get off the couch? Take another day of rest. Remember: adaptation happens in recovery, not in training. You’re not “losing” anything in being generous with your recovery.

      Another thing to consider is that the marathon is 99% aerobic. This means that you don’t really need any anaerobic training to run the marathon, except for your ability to maintain a good level of power in your legs. So do this: for those last 6 weeks, do a little bit of power training on a track (but don’t focus on it being anaerobic). Do 7-second intervals where you get up to your maximal speed. As soon as you hit that speed, taper off and jog around the rest of the track. You can do that for 1/2 hour 2 times a week, with a good warm-up and cool-down before that. Do your regular MAF training the other 5 or 6 days.

      “Power” isn’t in the muscles. It’s in the brain’s capability to send more voltage down the nerves into those muscles. (Of course, in order for them to accomodate that voltage, they have to grow). But with this exercise, you’re training the brain’s capability. That’s what you want, especially for an endurance event like the marathon. If you train the brain, the muscles will follow. And the benefit is that your muscles won’t be NEARLY as exhausted afterward.

      Finally, TAPER TAPER TAPER TAPER. I can’t stress this enough. Take a good week to really tone down the training. Let your body recover. It will need its strength for the marathon. I usually do 80-70-60-50-40-20-10 (in terms of percentages of usual training volume). In this period, your body will be insisting that you train: it’s got energy to spare. You don’t need to train. Nothing that you do a week before the marathon will improve your race time. At that point, it’s time to let your body rest.

  • JeffM says:

    Ivan,
    Thank you for your response. I ran 4:02 in my first marathon earlier this year. I’m hoping to break the 4 hour barrier in October. Right now my 180 method runs are in the 13-14 minute per mile range. I’m optimistic that will improve before October but probably not into the 9 minute per mile pace that I will need to break 4 hours so I will still be mostly using my anaerobic system for this marathon unless I am misunderstanding how this works. Of course, that wouldn’t surprise me since this is all new to me.
    Thanks,
    jeff

    • Jeff:

      I understand what you’re saying. The MAF heart rate isn’t your marathon race pace. Your marathon pace should be 10-15 BPM above MAF. That said, you need to develop aerobic power for the marathon, not anaerobic power. If you go more than 10-15 BPM above MAF, you’ll end up hitting the wall. That’s what the wall is: premature depletion of stored liver and muscle glycogen. What I mean by this is to say that you can’t use more than a little of your anaerobic system (10-15 BPM) anyway, since your target pace will plummet as soon as your glycogen gets depleted. The less trained your aerobic system is, the faster your glycogen will be depleted, and the faster you’ll hit the wall.

      (You don’t really need classical anaerobic training to race 10-15 BPM above MAF. All you need is a few short runs at that pace, just to get used to the feel of it). But to train for a marathon as a beginner, every athletic activity that you would classify as “training” should be done at MAF pace.

      In order to reach your target marathon pace, you really don’t have any choice in the matter but to continue developing the aerobic system, and to ensure that’s primarily the one you’re using during the marathon. When you’re able to hit that target pace and maintain it throughout the course of a marathon will be due to the development of the aerobic system, not the anaerobic one.

      Only at the advanced level, when you’re trying to break the 3 hour mark, do you really need to juggle anaerobic development with aerobic development. The aerobic system should really be the one responsible for taking 90% of people down to the 7 minute mile mark, and 9% of people down to the 6 minute mile mark.

  • Stacey says:

    I have had an Active Metabolic Assessment and had my HR Zones identified. I”m a female and 50 yrs old. My resting HR is about 46 and my Max is 206. I try to keep my runs in Zone 3 which for me would be below 175. The beginning of Zone 1 for me is 150 but your calculation has my running at 135. My HR climbs fast and runs high but it also recovers very quickly. Do you think that 135 is still the correct number for me to try to hold? I’m a Group Fitness Instructor so I have spent many many years training in a very high HR Zone with lots of Interval Training. Have I taught my HR to run that high?

    • Stacey:

      The MAF heart rate was the one that Mark Allen needed to hold, even after he had been an elite triathlete for a long period of time. What I mean to say is that despite his cardiovascular power, Mark Allen had a pretty compromised aerobic system. The maximum aerobic heart rate (MAF) is a measure of aerobic function, rather than cardiovascular function (which MAX is a measure of). Judging by your resting heart rate, you are either in the late stages of parasympathetic overtraining (unlikely), or, as your history suggests, quite aerobically developed.

      You may not need to train exclusively at the MAF pace, since there is a high likelihood that your aerobic base is far more developed than most. That said, if you DO want to train the aerobic system at the exclusion of the anaerobic one (base-building), the MAF heart rate is the one that you should be sticking to. That is pretty much certain across the board. We at MAF stress training at an aerobic heart rate so much because such an overwhelmingly large part of the population is aerobically underdeveloped. But let me reiterate: you may not be one of those people, which is a reasonable conclusion given the history and heart rate metrics you present.

      That said, if you do find yourself flirting with overtraining in the future, training near-100% of your volume at the MAF heart rate is the way to go.

  • JeffM says:

    Ivan,
    Perfect response.
    Thank you,
    Jeff

  • Sebastian says:

    Ivan,

    Thank’s a lot your input. I find your messages very useful even though I’ve read both of the Phil’s books.

    Cheers,
    Sebastian

  • Kerry says:

    I find it immensely enjoyable to trail run (jog, really) at heart rates below MAF, and often only get in to my MAF zone of 125-135 on hills. I do some of my runs and bikes in the MAF zone, and very little over. I rarely race. When I do, I’m usually competitive in my age group.

    Am I slowing my aerobic development by running much of my volume below my MAF zone, often around 118bpm? My MAF pace is improving, but very slowly.

    Any thoughts?

  • Nicole Chauvet says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I’m glad I found these comments! I have a few questions. I’m 45, so 180-45=135. I’ve been trying to do this for three months now, the first month I struggled with slowing down and following the MAF test correctly and I had some serious HR monitor strap issues. I have a Garmin watch and HR strap that basically, sucks. I switched over to Polar for the strap and found I was probably running too high for the first month. Now I’m fairly stable in HR. I too am struggling with having my running pace drop from 9-10 pace to initially 14-15 minute pace, if I was running at all! I am still in the jog/walk mode for most of my training but I’m now in the 13-14 minute pace. Will there reach a point when I can actually run again!? This has been a Huge challenge for me because I was one that almost never walked when I went running. I would say I’m still walking 50-60% of my runs with that number increasing as the miles/time goes add up. Is that normal? Finally, it was just now that I read that I should be running about 5 times a week. This is considered normal and beneficial for the speed of adaption? I use a Heart Rate Variability app to judge my fitness level everyday and if I should train. It was great reading about adding jumping rope! I had added that instinctively a month ago and I make sure to keep my HR under my max. But that being said, I would be happy to add in a run instead of jumping rope twice a week. Also, I saw on the app to double up on workouts on one day. Would that be a good idea while establishing the aerobic base or later?

    • Nicole:

      All joking aside, the real answers to all of your questions is “it depends.” Generally, people run for the entirety of their runs about 2 months after they started, supposing that they are walking more than 50% at the beginning. But it’s very hard to say, as people’s biomechanical and physiological circumstances are very different. Generally 1h-1h30min 5 times per week is the best for exercise adaptation. The reason that doubling up on workouts works so well is not that you do double the amount of exercise, but rather that your body gets reminded that it needs to adapt twice a day instead of one. In other words, the exact same training volume split in the morning and the afternoon would yield greater results than if it is put together. (Also, think about the fact that you have the opportunity to recover between periods of exercise). Is that a good idea as you’re developing the aerobic base? Sure.

  • Rudy says:

    Hello,
    Like Nicole I am mostly walking during my workouts.

    I am 46 yrs of age
    With the formula my MAHR is 134 bpm
    My resting heart rate is 72 (want to lower this number)
    I use a Garmin FR610 and Fenix3 with a heart rate monitor strap.
    I follow the (FIRST) program, with the “3 plus 2″ program for running
    I also throw in some odd trainings, as I like to run in OCRs

    At times, there are long/slow runs that I may do on the weekends for duration at a slow pace, anywhere from 1 to 3 hrs to increase my endurance.

    My recent 2hr run was this:
    15:33 min/mi Avg Pace
    14:24 min/mi Avg Moving Pace
    953 ft elevation gain
    151 bpm Average HR
    168 bpm Max HR

    It is all I can do to keep my heart rate 146 – 155 bpm, as this is what I have programmed in the watch from Garmin Connect.

    Are there any recommended MAHR workouts to lower my resting heart rate and allow me to run during my runs, instead of walking them?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Rudy:

      Not really. There is no real way to develop the aerobic system at maximum speed except to exercise at the MAF heart rate. The problem you’re experiencing (wanting to be able to run faster) really begins with the fitness community’s overemphasis on high-intensity training. Simply speaking, most of us never developed the aerobic system. Your speed at the MAF heart rate accurately portrays the status of your aerobic system. Really the only thing you can do is to acknowledge where your aerobic system is at, and go from there.

  • Matt says:

    I can’t wait for the new app. In the mean time I have a polar h7 heart rate monitor. I’m looking for an iPhone app that will give me audio feed back when I’m above a specified heart rate so I don’t have to check my phone (which lives on my shoulder during the run)

    • Rudy says:

      Ivan,
      Thank you for the detailed response.

      As the (FIRST) program, with the “3 plus 2″ program for running, is high-intensity training, as you stated.

      Are there any training programs that leverage the 180 Formula?

      Thank you,
      Rudy

      • Rudy:

        Let me begin to answer that by saying that we’re about to start training people in-house. That said, there are no programs as such that leverage the 180-Formula. The reason is that the body is continually changing and adapting to an innumerable amount and variety of stressors, and what worked a week ago may not work now. Giving you a six-month program (or whatever) really means that we are betting that you are a person of type X exposed to stressors of type Y. That is irresponsible.

        However, we do use the MAF test as a diagnostic tool: if your MAF speed (at the heart rate given by the 180-Formula) has been rising steadily for 3-6 months, it’s time to incorporate sports-specific strength and power training (80% of your total training should still be MAF, 10% of your training should be between MAF and your lactate threshold, and 10% should be beyond). During this time, do MAF tests every week to see if your speed begins to plateau or drop. If it does, scale back on your strength training for a week or two until your speed starts rising again, and return with 84-8-8% instead of 80-10-10, etc. That way, you’ll know for sure whether you are training correctly, and you’ll have much more freedom to invent a training program than you ever could if we gave one to you.

        (Our coaching model is designed to mentor people in the understanding of these principles, and how to modify their own workout routines so that they can ultimately achieve athletic independence).

        I hope this helps. And please shoot back with more general or specific questions. I’m always happy to answer.

  • Gunter Woytowitz says:

    Hello Ivan,
    I’m 50 years old and struggling with the “I think the MAF heart rate is too low” just like everyone else.
    I won’t try convince you to allow me to add 5,10, please maybe please 15 beats to my 130 number because I’m a special super fit nice guy :-)
    I’m on board and will keep training low and slow for the NYC marathon in November.
    However, I would like to know if there are any theories as to why our aerobic capacity has a linear decline with age?
    My engineering brain would be happier thinking about these theories during my current sluggish 11 minute pace :-)

    • Gunter:

      It’s actually quite non-linear. I can’t cite you any sources off the top of my head, but to give you an idea, aerobic capacity peaks at around 45, and then starts to slowly decline. By the time that you’re 65 or 70, you’ll have about as much aerobic capacity of yourself at 18. However, there are quite a few old Tarahumara runners whose sheer running skill would beg to differ.

      That would be an interesting article, though. You may see it up on the site before long.

      • Gunter Woytowitz says:

        Hello Ivan,
        That would be an interesting article and look forward to reading it!! but… it was not exactly what I meant. To be more precise, I was referring to the linear component of age in the MAF 180-age heart rate formula. Also reading about the Tarahumara in Born to Run and that endurance can last well into old age, it seems counter intuitive that the the MAF target heart rate decreases linearly with age, but the aerobic capacity is non-linear as you have described. Just curious if there is some “logical” theory/explanation for how/why the MAF formula works.
        Gunter

        • Gunter:

          I see. About the Tarahumara, what you’d probably find is that the elders’ MAF heart rates are actually as low as you would expect with the 180-Formula. Their aerobic power relative to heart rate should be incredible. (That’s why people can run 9 minute miles at MAF on day 1 and 7 minute miles on day 180). The Tarahumara elders are examples of what you get when you’re at day 18,250 of running aerobic miles. These guys just have huge aerobic bases that they’ve developed throughout a lifetime of constant running, so their heart doesn’t need to go up very far. But what we would expect is that if their heart does get beyond their expected MAF zone, they would start using anaerobic channels just like anyone else.

          (Of course, with an aerobic base that powerful, the elders wouldn’t really have a problem with a bit of anaerobic work).

          But MAF heart rate does not decrease linearly. For simplicity’s sake, we tell people over 65 to add 10 BPM to their heart rate if they’re healthy. On average, the fact that aerobic function does NOT decrease linearly with age (while cardiovascular power does) starts showing at around 60-65 years of age.

  • Thomas says:

    Hi,love the site,i am new to the 180 formula and i carried out a MAF test afew days ago,i am 34 years old and i have being off training for the last 8 months with fatigue so this gave me 180-34-10 = 136bpm,when i did my first run using this i did 15 mins walk warm up,30 mins run at 136bpm,15 mins walk cool down but what i found was about 1 min into my cool down my heart rate shot up to 156bpm,as i am new to heart rate training i didnt know if this was normal

    • Thomas:

      How long did it stay like that?

      • Thomas says:

        Hi,it stayed like that for for about 1 min,i stopped walking for a few mins and my heart rate went down,after that it was fine,i have gone on another run since and this did not happen,everything went perfectly,it was my 1st time using the heart rate monitor so maybe something went wrong,i will keep an eye on it,thank you for your reply

  • Buzz says:

    Hi Ivan

    Thanks for all your answers to questions above, I have learnt a lot.

    I am very keen to get your advice regarding my situation. I’m a 40 yr old male who has run my first 3 marathons over the past year – all at around the 4 hour mark.

    I have been running for about 4 years but have only upped the km’s over the last 18 months. I have been injury free over the entire period and don’t take any medications. My MAF number is therefore 140.

    My question is this: My HR seems to consistently be 10 to 20 beats higher than anyone I run with. My max HR is around 200bpm and when running at a very comfortable, conversational pace my HR is around 155-160. I can very comfortably run at this pace for 25-28km (15-17 miles) while chatting throughout. My resting HR is 70-80bpm.

    It is possible due to my naturally higher HR that my MAF number is actually higher than 140bpm?

    Thanking you in advance.

    • Buzz:

      If I were you, I would refrain from calling your higher heart rate “natural” until you’ve done a battery of clinical tests to ensure that. Self-diagnosing in that way may be preventing you from realizing that you may (or indeed, may not be) slowly wearing down your physiology until you get overtrained “out of the blue” a few years down the line.

      Your MAF number could be higher than 140. But training conservatively has many benefits. Before you make a decision to run at a higher heart rate, I recommend that you listen to this exchange between Richard Diaz and Phil Maffetone on the topic of submaximal training. Simply stated, running at a low intensity has many benefits, and we lose those benefits (and don’t gain others) by reducing the amount of true low-intensity training that we do.

      Don’t get me wrong here: you could be completely right about your body. What I’m trying to say is that until that battery of clinical tests have corroborated your hunch, you don’t really know if you are. I would stick with the 180-Formula. The phenomenon of training juuust a little too hard for juust too long is what has put legendary runners like Anton Krupicka and Geoff Roes out of competitive form for good. Don’t make that same mistake.

  • Adrienne says:

    Hi guys, I’m reading and listening to podcasts about the Maffetone method for the first time. I had a question that I’m guessing is probably a common one: I want to use this method, but in the 90 degree heat and all the humidity right now, I find it really difficult to keep my heart rate under 142 during a long effort. Today I tried deep breathing and slowing down without stopping during my run and was unable to keep under it. Is there any allowance given for training on hot days?

    • Adrienne:

      Absolutely not. The reason your heart rate spikes when it’s hot is that the body has to increase its power output in order to drive the sweating (cooling) system, which may well be the most costly system in the body besides the brain. That heart rate spike is a direct indicator that your aerobic system isn’t powerful enough to drive the cooling system, meaning that your body is using anaerobic energy channels to be able to sweat at the rate it needs to. If you need to walk, walk.

      However, remember this: because the ratio of aerobic-anaerobic function is based on heart rate, so is exercise intensity. So, even if you’re going slower because it’s hotter, at the same heart rate you’re still training the body’s systems at the same intensity. Know that the sweating system and the metabolism are much greater contributors to a higher athletic output than muscles are. By training them, you are expanding your athletic potential much more surely than by running faster.

      • Tom.M says:

        Is there anyway to do hill sprints while following MAF guidelines? Also, I’ve read that doing nothing but LSD training, makes you exactly that, slow. Not unless your name happens to be Ed Whitlock ))..

        I can see this being great for maintaining longterm health and preventing overtraining syndrome. However, what about folks who want to “race” the marathon?

        Does always having to stop jogging just walk to keep your HR down have any effect on development of your leg (running) muscles and on your running economy?

        • Tom:

          Training exclusively at MAF is for building an aerobic base, recovering from an illness, an injury, or overtraining. At any other time, 15-20% of your total training volume should be anaerobic. As long as hill sprints fall into that 20%, that is within MAF guidelines.

          Your “running” muscles are really your metabolism, not your leg muscles, particularly if you’re a distance runner. A very important component of being fast at the marathon is to be able to run that speed without depleting your liver glycogen. Regardless of how powerful your leg muscles get, if your liver glycogen goes, so will your speed.

          Walking more and running less will mean less muscle development. But if you’re having to walk to keep your heart rate at MAF, the problem isn’t your muscles, it’s that your fat (aerobic) metabolism can’t fuel your muscles at the rate at which you’re asking it to, so your body has to rely on your anaerobic system. For the length of the marathon, that is unsustainable. In other words, what’s keeping you slow isn’t your muscular development, but your metabolic development. Once you solve that problem (by developing your fat metabolism), the issue will become one of muscular power. Not before.

  • Fred says:

    Hello, What an interesting site. I surf all the time for inspiration and I’ve found it with the 180 method. Former career soldier, always had to train so as to lead from the front. (With difficulty sometimes). Ran 6 marathons since 2010 and into my last 9 weeks of a 20 week training program for the Berlin in September. I run at a snails pace compared to Paula Radcliffe.. My fastest marathon is 4 : 47 : 58. (Albeit run/walk method because of my RA). I’m now 66 and my aim is to go sub 4:30, (4:29:59) would be just great.(I’m now able to run all my training days because my medication has finally kicked in and my super liners help too). Resting HR 48-50, MHR about 180 at super fast speed at the end of a 5k Park Run. My PB 5k is 26:47 last Saturday morning. My MAF HR is 180-66-10 for Rheumatoid Arthritis in my feet and hands. Should I continue to run at 104 BPM throughout my last 9 week program. My plan calls for some speed work and some Tempo runs. I’m nervous to the point of not testing myself before the Berlin. Clear as mud, I know. Thanks!

    • Fred:

      Keep running at the MAF heart rate. That said, your marathon heart rate should be some 10 BPM above your MAF heart rate. What I would do is run one or two short runs at this pace, just so you know what it feels like. But unless you are trying to bring your speed down from a 3 hour pace, tempo runs and speed work are really not going to help your marathon results. The marathon is an overwhelmingly aerobic event, and the fact that most training plans don’t treat it this way is to the detriment of athletes.

  • Jess says:

    Thanks for all of the helpful information – I’m excited to begin. My concern is that I’ve always had a relatively fast “resting” heart rate and so I had trouble staying below target during a VERY slow walk. I’m 40 years-old but am fairly out of shape and have a complicated medical history so I did 180-40-10 to come up with 130. The problem was that my average heart rate during a 40-minute walk was 135 – I slowed down to a crawl and couldn’t get it to go below 130. I’m assuming that my aerobic base is just that bad, but I’m trying to figure out if I can still expect to see improvement even when I’m technically training over target to start. I hope that question makes sense.

    • Jess:

      You can, but do your best to go under target. Your intuitions about why your resting heart rate (RHR) are high and speed is so slow are likely spot on. In other words, try to get under target as fast as possible. And in terms of whether you can expect improvement, it’s when you’ve hit bottom (or are close to it) that there’s nowhere to go but up. People with a very atrophied aerobic base are people with a great need for aerobic development—and with a body that is desperate to build an aerobic system. If you stick by the principles, and work diligently, you’ll see improvements (first in health, and then in speed) come surprisingly quickly.

  • Shardul says:

    Hi,

    Need to know for a new runner who is trying out MAF , how much is the maximum distance to start with .

    • Shardul:

      Don’t think in terms of distance. Think in terms of time. What I would do is start 1 week with 5 consecutive days of running. Do 15 minutes at MAF heart rate, with 15 minutes of warm-up (20 BPM below MAF) and 15 minutes of cool-down also 20 BPM below. If that works for 5 consecutive days, after the two days of rest, bump it up to 30. Starting with a low training volume and increasing if you can handle it will benefit you a lot more than overreaching at first.

  • Adam says:

    Hi Ivan,

    Similar to the poster Buzz above, I have a question on the MAF heart rate for my case. For background, I am (like Buzz) also 40 years old, and therefore, according to the 180 formula, my MAF HR is 140. (No deductions or additions apply, but I am a fit, healthy guy).

    I am keen to exercise optimally – that is, develop my aerobic base at the MAF intensity – just before the point where you start to burn too much sugar. Not too fast, not too slow.

    Thing is, I had my maximum heart rate tested under full laboratory conditions. It came out at 200. Now, 140 as a percentage of 200 is (only) 70%. Whereas for most people my age. maximum heart rate would be about 180 (220-40). Thus, for most people my age, their MAF of 140 is 77% of their maximum HR (140/180.

    So my question is: if I exercised at 140 bpm, will this be TOO easy? Like I said, I want to apply Maffetone principles, but I am wondering if I can uplift my MAF heart rate a little? For example, if I increased it to 155, then (in my case), that would be 77% of my maximum heart rate. By Maffetone’s own logic, that would still seem optimal to my mind? That is, I would be working at the same intensity as those my age with the usual maximum heart rate (180).

    Thanks
    Adam

    • Adam:

      Maximum heart rate is a measure of cardiovascular function, meaning how hard your heart can pump before blowing up. On the other hand, MAF heart rate is a measure of how much stress it takes the entire body to start using anaerobic channels. In other words, MAF is a measure of general stress/metabolic activity, whereas MAX is a measure of the heart’s sheer ability to pump. Although maximum heart rate and MAF heart rate start becoming intertwined when your MAX heart rate is uncommonly low, relative to your age, for most people MAF heart rate and MAX heart rate are unrelated.

      I hope this helps.

  • Bill says:

    I have questions about how to apply this to me at my current stage, but before I do let me tell you about my success with this 14 years ago. I had completed my first marathon but had all the markers of overtraining and came to the conclusion that just because I could run as fast as I was running didn’t mean I should have been running that fast. I started exploring effort-based training, ran into the Maffetone Method, tried it – and was stunned I couldn’t do it at all. I was supposed to keep my heart rate below 120, but couldn’t get it to be there. It would go 80, 90, and then zoom straight to 150! I’d have to stop and walk until the hr came back down again, and those first few days took almost 20 minutes before I could get the hr to finally progress from 90 to 100 to 110 and then 120. It was very frustrating, and slowed me down almost 4 minutes a mile. I didn’t like it, was embarrassed to be running that slowly, but did it anyhow. 3 months later, at that same hr I had regained 3.5 minutes of the speed I had lost. 3 years later I was nationally ranked at some stupidly long runs (more than 100 miles). So, I have evidence that it works.

    However, now I’m coming back after some time not entirely off. I haven’t been sick but had some knee issues that are gone now. My question mostly centers around my just fixing an irregular heart beat – I’m not sure how to treat it in the formula. For now, I am more than willing to pretend it was a major operation to make sure I ease back into it slowly, but I’m wondering at what point the procedure is now so far in the past I don’t have to subtract for it anymore. Can you help me out here? It’s hard to imagine that an hr of 98 is enough to do anything more than walk or shuffle, and I want to run again. .

  • […] in 4 short years. I am intrigued to learn more about her approach to training which is called the Maffetone Method, a heart rate training method developed by Phil Maffetone author of “The Big Book of […]

  • tj says:

    I understand this is really good for long distance training and racing. My question is this a good method of training for someone who runs only 5 and 10 k’s. and only worried about going full tilt.

    • Here’s what I answered to another commenter:

      “The idea of training submaximally (at MAF heart rate) holds for just about any sport. Think about what happens when you develop your power (a.k.a. speed) without increasing heart rate. When you do, you can be much more powerful at a higher heart rate. Why? Because if you have a powerful aerobic system, it takes a lot more lactate production (from anaerobic work) before you reach the anaerobic threshold, which is where lactate starts to accumulate in the bloodstream.”

      In other words, being “only” worried about going full tilt is enough for you to want to train submaximally, since it will benefit your ability to go all out. (Already, when you are running a 5-k, over 90% of your energy use comes from the aerobic system).

  • Carl says:

    Hi there. I have had great results with the 180 formula so far but my wife is struggling. She is new to this kind of training, as was I, but she is not seeing any results with fat burning or in aerobic improvement so far. Her upper threshold is reached with very little effort. She’s been at it now for around a month. By the one month point I had seen significant progress in both categories. Any ideas?

  • […] MAHR? Dr. Phil Maffetone does a good job of explaining how to find your MAHR and why it’s a good idea to train in this […]

  • […] “Being fit doesn’t mean you’re healthy.” He’s also the founder of the 180 Formula, used to improve aerobic fitness via heart rate training rather than constantly doing interval […]

  • Black Elvis says:

    Couple of questions:

    How much total time per day/week should an athlete be putting in at MAF efforts? Are there more gains to be made 2-3 hours of biking per day rather than keeping it to 1 hour sessions? What about 5+ hours in a day? Should we be scheduling rest days every other day or is 5-7 days a week just fine at these low efforts?

    Is it better to warm up, go for an hour, cool down and then come back later in the day for a repeat or to warm up and settle in for two hours?

    Perceived effort: during warm up and cool down (120bpm, MAF of 140) I literally don’t even break a sweat. Long slow breaths. It takes me about 5 minutes to edge up to this, where I hang for 15 minutes (should the first 5 be counted towards the warmup?). Then I pick up speed to 135-140bpm and stay there for an hour: I do (lightly) break a sweat there but the breathing is basically still excessively relaxed…is this normal? Sign that my lungs are that far ahead of the rest of me? Sign my MAF is calculated too low?

    Cool down: another 15 minutes, though it takes 3-5 for my heart rate to recover back down to 120. To do so I’m barely pedaling. Will this recover faster once I’m better trained? And should the 5 coming down be counted toward the 15?

    Just to confirm: occasionally heading out for a fastest mile will damage my progress, right? What about hitting the weights, which is likely also anaerobic?

    • Black Elvis:

      Great questions. Typically, the diminishing returns in training time start after 2 hours of training. In other words, if you do 15 minute warm-ups and 15 minute cool downs, and run at MAF 2 hours in between, you’ll get 90% of the benefit than if you ran 3. Typically, training for 5 consecutive days a week with 2 days of rest in between is best. Remember: more training volume doesn’t beget more adaptation past a certain point. A lot of endurance athletes blew past that point a long time ago. What really matters is the ratio of rest to training.

      The benefit of working out twice a day isn’t so much about increasing volume, but that your nervous system has more reasons to adapt. One 2 hour long event is still “one event” as far as the nervous system is concerned. 2 hour-long events are “2 events.” So, even if you keep your training volume steady, you’ll see lots of improvements if you train twice a day.

      MAF training is NOT—let me reiterate: NOT—about perceived effort. Remember, MAF training is all about remaining at a point where you aren’t producing (let alone accumulating) any lactate in your bloodstream. In other words, you should be very, very relaxed. As you train at MAF and develop your aerobic system, you’ll find that your perceived effort at the same heart rate begins increasing. Don’t worry about it. There are huge health and fitness benefits to training at a LOW intensity. Trying to ramp up the intensity because it “feels too low” won’t get us the benefits that we think it will.

      In 80% of our training volume we should actively be looking for that low intensity.

      Yeah. The 15 minutes before and after should help your heart rate get up there (and back down) naturally. It’s so that the heart rate doesn’t spike or drop. But you don’t need to be going at that heart rate for the full 15.

      Occasionally heading out for that fastest mile, not really. However, it might slow down your progress a little. How much is relative to how much anaerobic work you do. If you do sprints to “stretch your legs,” you know, just to feel the wind blow your hair back, that’s perfectly fine. But as soon as it turns into anything you’d describe as “training,” you’re probably hurting your aerobic base.

      For example, even when I’m base building, if my legs get stiff I’ll do a quick 10-meter sprint, or zigzag down the sidewalk for a few meters. Also, what you can do is, every week or so, do 15 minutes of intervals where you get to your maximum speed and immediately come back down to a warm-up heart rate (20-25 BPM below MAF). If you can only do 1 interval the whole 15 minutes, that’s all you get.

      The only situation where I would say absolutely no anaerobic work ever is if you’re trying to recover from overtraining.

      If you hit the weights at or below your MAF heart rate, you’re doing aerobic training.

  • mehmet says:

    Hello there,

    I am 33 years old. I have been exercising (run,bike,row,some weights) for a couple months, mostly aerobic but not fully compatible. My resting heart rate is 56bpm. Max heart rate I have measured with my heart rate monitor is 209bpm (I think there still may be extra 3-5bpm). Is 180-formula still applicable for me? What modification(s) should I make in 180-formula? Thanks…

    • Mehmet:

      Thanks for your comment. Remember that your MAX HR is a measure of how hard your heart can pump. Your MAF heart rate is a metabolic measure: how much power your metabolism can put out before you have to switch from the aerobic to the anaerobic system. In other words, these two measures are unrelated unless you have an uncommonly low max heart rate. You can have an extremely powerful heart but a very weak aerobic system.

      Don’t modify the 180-Formula unless you have run a battery of medical tests looking at the aerobic threshold (the onset of lactate production), NOT the anaerobic threshold (the onset of blood lactate accumulation).

  • Stu Duffy says:

    I have started following the 180-formula, having also changed my diet after completing the 2 week test. I am loving running to a heart rate – keeping training super relaxed. I have been running for many years and have completed many marathons, but at the moment I feel a bit like Neo in the Matrix – I feel like I’m only now finding out the truth about running. It’s very exciting and I can’t wait to feel the benefits.

  • Phillip says:

    Hi. This just a quick overview that I have done in the passed 5 months since I descovered the 180 formula. I am a keen cyclist I have been racing criterium races for the last 7 years. Each year in the off season I train differently to get some improvement for the following season. This year I have done all my training at the 180 formula. I am 53 so my max aerobic HR is 132. My test is on rollers in my shed on a 50/12 tooth after a 15 min warm up I set 30 min for the test and see how far I would travel in that 15 min. The first test 5 months ago I travelled 20.2km I did my last test 3 weeks ago and now I travelled 22.8 km. this is a great improvement. I have 1-1/2 months to go before the criterium season starts again. I am now only doing one anaerobic training session a week. I am looking forward to the racing coming up. Thanks for the formula.

  • Lila Burnett says:

    I have been using this method for close to a year. It is getting harder and harder to get my heart rate up to my MAF HR. So what used to feel like relaxed, low intensity exercise now feels like really hard work — at the same heart rate. I’m assuming this is progress but it feels much less enjoyable. Any suggestions?

    • Lila:

      It’s because you’re doing a greater volume of work at the same heart rate (assuming that your speed is increasing). What that means is that you’re getting closer to your aerobic physiological limit. That’s good. As long as your MAF tests show improvement, it’s time to incorporate a little bit of anaerobic work.

  • Jim says:

    I’m 76 and been running for 40 years steadily 4-7 days/week. RHR 48 bpm, I’ve always had trouble staying below my 180-age+ heart rate. My solution is to plan to run/walk from the outset. I have a dual timer from galloway that i set for a 30sec walk and a 1.5-2 min run segment. These are nominal settings which I adjust to keep my average HR at or below my 114 bpm limit. (My HR ranges from a low of 100 to a high of 118) I just started this routine a couple of week ago and so far it enables me to keep my average HR under control and I can do a 4-6mi run with no problem.
    My question is this cyclic HR training with the mean HR at the correct limit qualify for aerobic training the Maffetone way?
    Great blog lots of good ideas
    Jim Stanton

    • Jim:

      Generally speaking, try to keep all of your heart rate at or under your MAF heart rate. For example, my MAF heart rate is 149. In a typical run, my average heart rate will be 144. The reason being that, if I would run for 20 minutes at 169 BPM and 20 minutes at 129 BPM, my heart rate would still average out at 149 BPM. But I’m not really doing aerobic base training. I’m doing intervals.

      So, although a high of 118 isn’t bad, I’d still try to get it under MAF.

  • Maurine Lee says:

    I’ve been training using the MAF method since April, 2015. While I am seeing some improvements in my monthly MAF tests, it still seems extremely slow with the improvements. I did battle foot injuries for three years prior to getting back into consistent training. I’m wondering if I should try applying the slower maximum (I currently use 126) but after 4+ months of trying to run slower than 15 minute miles most of the time I am starting to get frustrated. I can walk significantly faster, but really want to run and have to intersperse walk breaks almost all of the time still and don’t know where to go from here. MAF tests are improving – but at this rate I will get back to 12 minute miles in about 5 years (frustration speaking). No medications and I am currently 54. 50+ miles per week consistently. Thanks for any input.

    • Maurine:

      What do you mean by “slower maximum?”

      • Maurine Lee says:

        Where he recommends subtracting 5 points from the 180-age calculation. There are still many days where I cannot even run more than a half mile at very slow speeds before I am maxing out my HR – after all this time I would expect that to be improving.

        • Maurine:

          In Girl Gone Tri I made few comments explaining why some people develop faster than others. Let me recap that here for you:

          Genetics aside (which you can’t change), most people are encumbered with a lot of negatives inhibiting their athletic performance: too much stress, bad biomechanics, bad nutrition, etc. The more stress, the more your body works anaerobically (which is why chronics stress is so damaging). So, when you’re running at MAF and you’re not improving well, it’s not because the method “doesn’t work for you” but because there is one (or ten) negatives to your lifestyle, upping your stress, and not letting your aerobic system develop, because you don’t even get a chance to use it.

          So, your MAF test diagnoses more than just increases in aerobic function. It diagnoses when there’s some important factor preventing aerobic development. Find it, change it, and if it’s the right one, you will see that your MAF speed rises.

  • Mikko says:

    I’ve been using the formula for the past three weeks and I seem to be going over the limit all the time. I’m 37 years old and I’ve used 145, which was automatically set by my Polar-HR-monitor. However I seem to be going over as soon as I start running and I have to get back walking again. This happens especially on roads.
    Today I manually set it on 150 and I managed to get it below that limit almost all the time on trails. My average heart rate was on a one hour run 136 and max rate was 154.
    I have been running continuously for about 3,5 years and completed few self supported ultras during the time. I’ve never been a fast runner, but I’m continuously trying to expand my range as an ultrarunner. My current best time for 50-miles is 10h and 25 minutes.
    Is it okay to “cheat” and have the monitor on higher limit and TRY to keep it under 143. Or do you think it would be wiser to set it manually down to 143 to get the maximum benefits in the long run?
    Thanks!

    • Mikko:

      The most important part of all this is that your aerobic base does actually improve. I would go by your monthly MAF test. If your MAF test is improving, keep doing what you’re doing. If not, then you shouldn’t be “cheating.” 150 isn’t that much higher than 143. That said, another question you should ask your monthly MAF test is whether you are improving faster by running at 150 or 143.

  • Andrew Rae says:

    Will this technique of training at a lower intensity still be beneficial if I reintroduce some carbs back into my diet after the two week test? If I go on holiday will I need to detox again?

    • Andrew:

      Yes. The point of the two-week test is not to eat that way forever, but to be more sensitive to the amount of carbs (or type of carbs) that works for you. What you shouldn’t reintroduce are foods such as refined flour, processed foods, or high-glycemic foods. Most people that take the two-week test take it because they experience symptoms of carbohydrate intolerance (headaches, fatigue, drowsiness after meals, energy swings, etc.). Those symptoms typically disappear during the test. So, if you go on holiday, look for whether those symptoms reappear and recur. That will tell you if you need to detox again.

  • Mark R says:

    Hello,
    I have just started using your 180 method. I am 47 with coronary bypass 6 months ago. I have enjoyed the pace of the workout but and curious about transient heart rates. I easily get to 133 but tend to over shoot to 138-142 on the high side and dip to 125 on the low. How important is to maintain 133 and do the temporary overshoots hurt my workout?

    Thank you

    • Mark R:

      Don’t overthink it. However, it’s important to be on top of your heart rate to bring down your heart rate below MAF as soon as it spikes. Going over MAF means exercising anaerobically. So think of it in terms of degrees: the more time you spend over MAF, and the higher the intensity, the more your exercise becomes anaerobic. What a lot of people do (including myself) is train 5-10 BPM below MAF, to allow for fluctuations in the heart rate.

      • Mark R says:

        Thank you. I have been able to achieve faster runs with a higher heart rate, but at the expense of a long recovery. I’ve noticed a very good workout with your method and a much quicker recovery

  • I’m curious about relationship between MAF heart rate and the exercise zones implied by Fox and Haskell chart shown here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaerobic_exercise. For example for 65 y-o, MAF heart rate is 125, i.e., 115 plus 10 points for being 65. F&H show 124 bpm as being the threshold between anaerobic and aerobic training. I’ve always understood MAF heart rate to represent precisely this threshold–i.e., don’t go above it else you’ll be training your anaerobic engine rather than building up capacity for distance races such as marathons. The fact that MAF heart rate is nearly identical to F&H threshold seems consistent with that understanding.

    Here’s the puzzle. The MAF method also says you can add 15 bpm as your target HR while racing. That makes me think that the MAF heart rate is perhaps intended to correspond with the LOWER boundary of the aerobic training range, which F&H table says is 109 bpm. If so, one could still safely add 15 bpm and still be at the top of the aerobic zone instead of spilling into anaerobic zone etc. My puzzle is that everything I’ve read about MAF heart rate treats it as an absolute ceiling rather than a floor. But if one trained even 1-3 bpm below the MAF heart rate (to avoid even the possibility of exceeding the ceiling), then F&H chart says you’d no longer be in aerobic training zone, but instead would have entered fitness/fat burn zone. That makes me think MAF heart rate must truly be a ceiling, i.e., the upper boundary between anaerobic/aerobic. But if that interpretation is correct, I don’t see how one could add 15 bpm to the training target since that would clearly put someone into the anaerobic range. If they tried this in a marathon, wouldn’t they then quickly build up lactate to the point of being fatigued?

    Note that my confusion arises even if you think F&H chart is bogus. That is, if MAF training heart rate target truly represents the upper boundary between aerobic an anaerobic training, then I don’t see how one can safely add 15 bpm on race day. Thanks for the excellent feedback you provide to queries on this site.

    • Christopher:

      Thanks for your comment. It’s a very good one, by the way. Let me back up a little bit and discuss the aerobic and the anaerobic threshold. The aerobic threshold, when usefully defined, refers to the onset of lactate production, meaning that anaerobic channels are being used but the aerobic system can very easily buffer lactate production, and so lactate doesn’t accumulate. On the other hand, the anaerobic threshold is the onset of blood lactate accumulation, meaning that enough lactate is being produced that the aerobic system can no longer buffer it.

      The idea of the MAF heart rate is for it to coincide roughly with the onset of lactate production, in other words, the onset of usage of anaerobic channels. The reason that the 180-Formula adds or subtracts from your age, depending on your health and fitness status, is that stressors (such as an illness, or exercise itself if you’re sedentary) can often put you into an anaerobic state. For example, if I would sneak up behind you and startle you, your body would start burning energy anaerobically in anticipation of running away. The problem with the Fox and Haskell chart is that it doesn’t account for these factors. Although it is very useful when describing populations of individuals and population means, it’s not as useful when trying to establish where an individual’s particular aerobic zone lies.

      I think that one of the problems with the Fox and Haskell chart is that it doesn’t usefully define the terms “aerobic” and “anaerobic,” as I did above. Strictly speaking, everything up to the anaerobic threshold is aerobic, and everything up from the aerobic threshold is anaerobic (no, no typos here). Between the aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, you get a blend of aerobic and anaerobic function. What the MAF heart rate describes is the maximum point where you are functioning purely aerobically.

      So, when you add 15 BPM on race day (if you’re talking about a marathon) you are putting yourself between thresholds, blending aerobic and anaerobic function. For example, my MAF heart rate is 149, and I can run at it for hours without hitting the wall. Why is this important? Because hitting the wall means that you’ve been using enough anaerobic function that your liver glycogen got depleted, and now your brain and your muscles are in competition for blood sugar. If this hasn’t happened at mile 30, I know that I have been burning energy overwhelmingly aerobically. That is the experience of most other people, and incidentally, that is one of the observations that Dr. Maffetone used to develop the formula. In that sense, it’s not that I think that the Fox and Haskell table is bogus, but rather that the terminology used for each zone is misleading.

  • BJ says:

    Just wanted to add my experience here. I started following the program in late June, after continuously running into struggles with cramps, fatigue and nutrition on long runs & races. After reading about the MAF 180 method, it made sense to me. I looked back at my effort over the past couple years. I was training too hard, too fast, too often! I was on the path to OTS and it didn’t look good. I looked into MAF a bit further and found out about the difference between slow & fast twitch muscles, what they use for energy and which is best suited for which type of activity. i finally had something to work with going forward. I was willing to give it a shot because my approach needed a change.

    I started out very slow, sure… but was (still am) adamant about staying at/under my MAF heart rate (I’m 40 but have been training for several years without injury, luckily) which I find between 140-145. long runs, short runs, big vertical and flats it didn’t matter. i hiked and walked if I had to and focused on 15 min warm-up with at least the last mile in cool down. everything slowed way down, but I started feeling *tremendous* after each run. I even started getting Runner’s High again!

    this past weekend was a great reminder, after 8 weeks of consistent MAF training. I went for a 30-mile run up in the Colorado high country (9k-12.5k altitude) but forgot my HRM. I focused on staying steady and hiking where I needed to based on my perceived heart rate. I ended up finishing the run feeling fantastic! I was immediately able to eat a hearty meal afterwards, I didn’t suffer from any cramps, no puking or nausea and I actually ended up with with lots of leftover energy afterwards to devote to my 2 little ones at home.

    This is a big breakthrough for me as a mid-pack competitor more focused on finishing well/feeling great than placing. I do believe that by following the MAF approach these past 8 weeks, I’ve slowly-but-surely built more endurance and have more overall energy. I think this is another key to longevity in my running and adventures. May not work for everyone but I am seeing the difference and plan to continue on the path.

    Thanks so much for sharing this method and increasing the discussion!

  • Sebastian says:

    Hi Ivan,

    Could you please advice on what (if any) to eat before my runs. The only time I can train is in the morning so I get up early (5AM) drink a glass of water and do my 1 hour training. It usually take me another hour before breakfast. I’m raising this question because on one hand you advice to eat breakfast within an hour after wake up. On the other hand, Dr Phil recommends in his books not to eat anything (especially carbs) before training. Thank you.

    • Sebastian:

      A great way to start the day is by drinking a cup of coffee with some heavy cream (organic and unpasteurized, ideally) in it. That’s a great ketogenic meal, and a great way to kickstart your metabolism. That amount of cream shouldn’t be heavy enough that it interferes with your training. Try it. Let me know what happens.

      • Sebastian says:

        Ivan,

        Thank you for your response. Important message for me is that it’s better not to exercise on empty stomach and it’s fat that I should eat. However, could you please confirm coffee is good just before exercise? I vaguely remember from the Big Book of Fitness that Dr. Phil suggests not doing so as it may raise heart rate. Can the coffee be replaced with tea without the risk of raising my heart rate.

        Cheers,
        Sebastian

        • Sebastian:

          Sure, it does that. The reason I mentioned it is because caffeine is pretty good at elevating your fat-burning ability (thanks to the fact that it unleashes a convenient cocktail of hormones). Phil drinks that in the morning but I guess I didn’t consider the exercise factor. You should try a herbal blend tea without caffeine, and see if that works.

  • Michelle Keene says:

    Hi there,

    I am training for the Marathon des Sables in April 2016. I too am struggling to get my HR down to what is suggested when I do the formula. My plan for the MDS is just to finish it which will mean a mixture of walk/jog. I have about 7 months to get myself fit and ready for this event and am worried that by sticking to this formula the training is not intense enough. I am already a fairly fit person, ex marathoner etc. I also need to train with my back pack on so that I get used to carrying the weight in the desert. This also affects my heart rate so again I’m not sure if this formula is the right thing to do for this sort of event. Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated.

    • Michelle:

      Thanks for your comment. The Marathon Des Sables is an event of phenomenal endurance. Your best bet is to train your aerobic base. Although your heart rate will go up above your MAF heart rate for the race, thanks to the pack, the more aerobic your training, the better chances you will have in the race. Your anaerobic workouts, for example, could be running with the pack to get used to it.

  • Bill says:

    I have some questions about how to apply the formulas to my case since I seem to fall in almost all the grey areas.

    My background is that I used to be nationally ranked in super-long ultramarathons (more than 100 miles) but haven’t trained rigorously for 6 years. While I haven’t entirely quit training, I also can’t say that I’ve been regular in the interim. I am in great health, take no drugs, medicinal or otherwise, and never get sick. I should also probably tell you I bought Phil’s The High Performance Heart back in 2000 and used it to develop my aerobic efficiency.

    Here is the math for me:

    Step 1: I’m 67, so 180-67 = 113.
    A. I wrote a month ago (July 29) that I just fixed that irregular heartbeat, said I was perfectly willing to pretend it was major surgery (it’s not. It’s an out-patient procedure), but at some point it would be far in the past, asked when it was OK to ignore it. The answer I got was to check with my cardiologist. I did. He’s OK with my exercising at a fairly high level now. The restriction I’m putting on my HR level is coming from me, not him. Since I am temporarily: 113-10 = 103.
    B. My workout routine has been inconsistent for a while, though, and I am just getting back into regular training. So 103 – 5 = 98.
    C. On the web site you say if you’ve been working out consistently up to 2 years, then keep the heart rate at 180 – age, but the key phrase is “up to 2 years.” In the book, he wrote it as, “If for the past year if you have worked out consistently…” but the book was written 21 years ago according to the copyright. The website is more current and doesn’t have that 1 year minimum. That begs the question: After how much time of regular training can one (in general) or I (in specific) go back to 180 – age? It’s no longer specified. Nevertheless, no effect yet. Still 98.
    D. I don’t fall into this bracket yet, so again, no effect. Still 98.
    That gives me a training range of 88 – 98.

    However, I am 67. That means I theoretically have another 10 points I can add back.

    My conundrum is that based on all the grey areas, I have a huge range of possible training zones:

    We just figured my low end as 88-98.

    Without my lowering the HR by 10 (as Ivan said was OK as long as it was OK with the cardiologist), that would be 98 – 108.

    At some unspecified period of time I will have been training regularly long enough to no longer have the 5 beat reduction of B, so that takes me up to 103 – 113.

    And then there are the additional 10 beats I have available to add because of my age. That would take me potentially up to 113 – 123.

    See my problem? I don’t want to over-train but I also don’t want to grossly undertrain either. I want to train in the right zone. If my MAF Max (I don’t want to call it ‘my maximum heart rate’ because I have noticed way too many people’s comments center around a simple confusion of terms, thinking when you say, “maximum heart rate”, you mean what the words mean – the maximum rate your heart can beat, whereas what you actually mean is the maximum heart rate allowed by the MAF formula. For our discussion, how about if I call it my MAF Max?) … so if my MAF Max should be around 120, keeping it below 100 is not doing me that much good.

    So, what do you think my range should be? Remember, I’m the one being cautious regarding A and Ivan’s earlier response said that when my cardiologist is OK with it, it is OK to add those 10 beats back and he’s OK with it now. My plan was to continue being overly cautious for a month and then over the next few months slowly starting adding back. But to what level? What would you advise? I’m not clear on what my MAF Max should be since I fall into all of the grey areas. I could use some help figuring out the right training zone.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Bill:

      Your range is probably 103-113. You don’t need to go below that, and you can play with going above it if in a couple of weeks of training you don’t seem to be improving.

      That said, remember that the MAF heart rate isn’t a “training” heart rate. It’s the best heart rate for aerobic development. There’s no such thing as a “training” heart rate—at different heart rates you train different energy systems. You only want to train exclusively at your MAF heart rate IF:

      • You are ill, injured, or overtrained.
      • You are recovering from injury, illness, or overtraining.
      • You are building your aerobic base.

      This is important because of the indoctrination we’ve received in contemporary workout philosophy: more volume, more intense, is better. It’s not. So, when you’re attempting to train your aerobic system (because you fall into one of these categories) it’s important to make sure that you are training at a heart rate that is sufficiently low that you are actually doing that. That’s what the MAF heart rate is. With this in mind, let’s look at your case:

      • Your cardiologist cleared those 10 heartbeats. You’re sure about that.
      • You’re unsure whether you should add 10 more heartbeats

      Because training the aerobic system is about being conservative with your heartbeats, then be conservative. Since you’re sure about what your cardiologist said, you don’t need to be conservative there. But because you’re unsure about the other 10 BPM, don’t add them. You’re not going to “undertrain” in any real sense of the word; by being conservative you’re just going to ensure that you’re training what you (presumably) need to be training at this point—the aerobic system. When you’re ready to train the anaerobic system (which on average you’re ready for after 6 months of improving MAF test scores after being overtrained, or 3 months of improving MAF test scores during aerobic base building), 15-20% of your total athletic activity should be done anaerobically, and the rest should remain aerobic.

      While you’re training the aerobic base, you want to go actively low. When you’re training anaerobically, you go actively high.

  • Katie LeSauvage says:

    I am working with a renowned PT and he is a proponent of the Maffetone Method. I am going into my second week using the 180 formula. For me, that is 180-36(+5)=149. Where most people are saying the find themselves running so slow, I am finding this to be effortful. Although I start out at 9:30 pace, within a few miles I am running closer to 8:00 and have to push myself to keep my heart around 140. I’m not exactly sure what this means. I also attempted the 2 week test last week, but only made it 4 days. I have continued to keep my starches/sugars relatively low, so don’t know if the effort felt is the result of my body not being effective at burning fat yet. Still, I am quite confused as I don’t know why it feels so hard, which seems to be the opposite of most others experiences. I typically race around 6:30-6:40 pace for 5K/10K, so 8:00 really isn’t slow. I’d appreciate any thoughts!

    • Katie:

      Thanks for your question. The reason that you perceive running at MAF to be difficult is because you already have a pretty developed aerobic base, particularly when it’s difficult at that speed. Perceived exertion refers to how much “voltage,” so to speak, your brain has to send down the nerves to your muscles in order for them to contract at a particular rate. In your case, this means that your aerobic metabolism is powerful enough that your brain needs to send a whole lot of voltage to your muscles to keep them working at the MAF heart rate.

      The reason that most people perceive MAF to be very easy is because they have a very undeveloped aerobic system: their aerobic metabolism is so weak that their brain can send relatively little voltage to their muscles before they have to start using anaerobic channels.

      I’m not sure if this metaphor is illustrative. Please comment back if this makes no sense.

  • cori says:

    Hi, I have been struggling to build cardio endurance while maintaining muscular strength for a very long time. I have been successful at building and maintaining strength, but completely unsuccessful with cardio end of it. I am 63 years old, have diabetes 2 and asthma. I take daily drugs for both. If it matters, my resting HR is presently 38. I am currently in the worst shape of the last 15 years, frustrated, but am very serious about making improvements. From what I have read and the little I know about training, the Mafftone formula seems solid. I get a sense that the idea is to build a solid zone 1 and 2 base. I am very much looking forward to getting started on a good program consisting of 3 days strength and 3 days cardio, however, I’m not sure how to combine the two. When weight training my HR generally reaches mid to high 130’s. Although I challenge myself a bit, I don’t go overboard with the strength training. The purpose is simply to maintain some muscle to ward off osteoporosis. When trying to maintain 102 for cardio, I am walking briskly. A very slight rise in the grade (not necessarily a hill) will put me into 125+ very quickly, then it will drop again. Fairly normal I think. I am estimating my Maff settings at 150 – 63 = 117. Then minus 10 for regular drugs , and another 5 for chronic asthma. The bottom line = 102. Is that correct? My questions are: Have I calculated the Maff zone correctly? How do I manage some strength training while trying to maintain the 102 HR. I would appreciate your suggestions. Cori

  • Katie says:

    Individuals seem to be commenting that their pace is quite slow when running at their MAF heart rate. I am guessing this is not the case as someone improves their aerobic fitness. My MAF heart rate is 149 (180-36+5). I usually start on at 9:30 and today got down to 7:45/mile with my heart rate still under 150. I tend to think that sub-8 minutes is fast for base work, but I guess I should go with the heart rate which indicates it is not? It is effortful, but I feel like I could run at that pace for a long while. Ideas?

    • Katie:

      Intensity is a measure of heart rate, not of perceived exertion. For example, an elite marathoner would be doing base-building at 6:30 minute miles, at a heart rate probably lower than yours. In other words, “fast for base work” may be sending you down the wrong path. If you’re at the right heart rate, you’re at the right intensity, and that’s where you should be training.

      Incidentally, the reason that perceived effort rises is not because you are training any more anaerobically, but because your aerobic metabolism is powerful enough that the brain needs to send very powerful signals for the muscles to contract at the rate that your aerobic metabolism can handle. In other words, perceived exertion doesn’t have to do with whether you are training aerobically, anaerobically, or at any given heart rate, but rather how much “voltage” your brain is sending down your nerves, relative to its total available “voltage.”

      What this means is that metabolic output, which is what you’re wondering about, is actually unrelated to perceived exertion: more perceived exertion does not necessarily mean more metabolic output.

      Does this make sense?

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