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

By May 6, 2015 September 21st, 2017 Exercise, Top 10 Most Read
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 in (a) and (b), keep the number (180–age) the same.

d)  If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems in (a) and (b), 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.

1,036 Comments

  • Sergey Ivanov says:

    Hi, I have an idea. I know some ‘biohackers’ and ‘life-extenders’ are using metformin for improving their help even without any symptoms of diabetes. As I understand, this drug is depressing carbohydrate metabolism starting from digestion, storing in both glycogen form and converting to fat, and utilizing as an energy source. Athletes are reporting muscle weakness and fatigue until adapting to metformin, which takes a few weeks. And after the full adaptation, their endurance level is still decreased compared to the pre-metformin period by a few percents. Does not it feet perfectly into fat adaptation goal? If a person stops using metformin, a few weeks he is still “protected” from glucose level spikes in his blood and his carbohydrate metabolism is still suppressed. Ok, then it is a perfect drug for the aerobic base building period, is not it? The only data we need is a precise length of this post-metformin period of suppressed metabolism. Any comments?

  • Anil says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I’ve been running on and off for past 20 months. I started running after getting inspired by friends and without any goal. I was never looking at my HR and progressed to run longer (up to 18 miles distance, 3 hour duration) within in a year. Finally injuries (ITB, Shin splints) caught up with me. I am slowly getting back at running after 3 months of injury lay off. I was suggested by few of my friends to work on controlling the heart rate while running and came across MAF forumula.

    I am trying to run (180-35 (age)) at 145 bpm for about 2 weeks. Ran about 5 runs with this goal. I am having real tough time controlling the heart rate at this mark. My HR reached 160s after 1 mile or so and doesn’t come down till i start walking. I have cut down my pace from 8 min/mile to about 12 min/mile. Do I need to follow any running form/ breathing techniques while I am continuing to practice. I warm up with dynamical stretches and cool down with static stretches.

    Thanks,
    Anil

  • Eugene says:

    There is some extension of Maffetone method to training with kettlebells. The idea is the same, to keep heart rate below MAF number while doing ballistic kettlebell lifts: snatches, jerks, swings etc. Kills two birds with one stone: you get stronger and get cardio workout. Obviously HR cannot be as consistent as with cyclical activities, but it’s close. For me (56 year old) it means doing 5 kettlebell snatches on the minute for as long as the form stays crisp.

    You can more on this at http://www.strongfirst.com

  • Raspa says:

    Hello, i was looking online for a watch to give me a live reading of my heart rate but found the options limiting even more so when i looked for a beeping alert system feature. My question is which watch do you recommend say if my budget is low or even not so low.

  • Fareed says:

    Hi..I just downloaded your 33 Pages tutorial on Aerobic HR Training and finisihed reading it. Thank you for the sharing and i would surely follow his training concept.

  • KERRY MEACHAM says:

    Hello,

    I’ve recently chosen to live a healthier lifestyle, and I ran across Dr. Maffetone’s books through Brian Johnson’s Optimize website. I’ve ran on and off for the last 6-8 years, off mainly due to a meniscus tear that has now been repaired and I can run with zero pain. But until I started again most recently, it had been over a year since I had ran regularly. I’m 60 years old, and started using the Maffetone Method on 11.17.18 at a pace of 15’39” per mile. I quickly progressed to under 15’/mile in a couple of weeks but stalled there. At the beginning of the year I chose to change my diet, and I’ve lost almost 20 pounds in 5 weeks. That’s been great. However, My times are still in the high 14’ range. I’ll admit that it’s very difficult to stop jogging at an embarrassing slow pace so that I can walk to get my HR back down under 120 (180-60). Any suggestions on how to get past this, or am I just being too impatient?

    Kerry

  • Els says:

    Hello MAF team!

    I am by no means an elite athlete, but instead a recovering chronic fatigue patient. For years I have searched for information about improving my health and in many aspects I succeeded, especially with dietary changes, stress management, mindfulness. But the whole training aspect has so far eluded me. Coaches, doctors and physiotherapists trying to help me were not able to guide me and in hindsight pushing me too hard. Trying things on my own, walks, bike rides, some strength training. It all helped, but mostly resulted in crash and burn. Reading about MAF was quite an eye-opener for me. What if I applied these very sensible rules to my recovery. Considering myself as an ‘athlete’ that keeps hitting rock bottom and treating my training as fitting that situation, I’ve now started the MAF-path. I use a stationary bike at home (and found I had to slow down!), downloaded the app and ordered the Polar H7 heart rate monitor. I thought my MAF would be 121 (I’m a 54 years old woman), but according to the app it’s 116, so there I’ll stay. My aim: to steadily improve my fitness without the huge crashes from the past. And then being able to do longer walks (10k) and bike rides without fear of burning up.
    Anyone with experience in this specific field of chronic fatigue? The n=1 world is amazing, but it’s always nice to compare notes!

    Cheers, Els

  • zanskar says:

    Hello,
    I am a 52 years old woman, and if I calculate my MAF heart rate following your method, I get 123 as number.
    That correponds for me to a moderate walk. If I walk fast or run, I am rather 135-40.
    Does it mean that I should keep on walking until I am able to run keeping a heart rate of 123 ? My max heart frequency is 185, got it at the end of a trail 2 years ago.
    Thanks a lot for your help

  • Mustang says:

    I tested myself on treadmill at a threshold speed which I can maintain either jogging or fast walking for me it is about 4.5mph. My heart rate for jogging strides is much higher compared to same speed but with fast walking, what is the reason for that? and how much difference should be normal? does those small leaps while jogging count for that much? Even though jogging felt more relaxed and easy on legs and body from stress point of view.

    What should be strategy for us slow runners? I found that ever since I am ‘trying’ to obey your formula, I have end up doing very little or nothing as going out and running with groups and keep heart rate low has almost become impossible. Otherwise effort and feeling wise I have no problem running for a long time at 90%+ effort based on 220-age formula.

    Appreciate your response – 52 year male

    • Hi Mustang,

      That’s a great question – it’s because jogging engages a muscular system called the “stretch shortening cycle” which walking does not engage – it’s what lets your legs have that stiffness that lets you bounce on them, as per when you are jumping rope. This stretch shortening cycle is one of the things that allows running to be much faster than walking – at lower speeds it is “inefficient” but only because it engages in order to allow you to go much faster. In the context of MAF training, it is important to let yourself engage the stretch-shortening cycle (i.e. run even when walking at the same speed would make you slower) so that you can train your legs in that context and eventually get faster as you train more.

      The strategy that I would recommend is take it easy; run with groups every now and then–running is supposed to be fun!–but try to run at MAF by yourself (or with slower groups) for a majority of the time.

      Does this help?

      • Mustang says:

        So you are suggesting that I should still run? problem is that even at that low speed the heart rate is much higher than what you suggest. My personal natural and relaxed stride and run produces speed of 6.3+mph (around 9:30 pace). My half marathon race pace is typically around 9:00 to 9:40 depending on how well I am trained. But all of that is done at much higher BPM (160-170) even though I don’t feel it that much and can carry conversation during most of it.

        So to summarize your suggestion: For MAF training do bike/elliptical rather than treadmill (would doing treadmill much slower than my normal mess up my stride?)
        For other days run at relaxed pace and enjoy! and don’t worry much about BPM

        Did I understood it right?

        • Hi Mustang,

          Sorry for responding so late. Yes, it would be better to do bike/elliptical for the time being, and yes, for the other days just run relaxed! And don’t discount the health benefits of walking, which may not be “training” per se but can boost your resilience to training and life.

  • […] regulate intensity. You can find the training heart rate that best matches your personal needs here. High intensity also is often called anaerobic exercise. Those wanting to reduce excess body fat […]

  • […] cardio coaching, a bunch we will be able to figure out by means of subtracting our age from 180 (there are some changes to this that you’ll examine right here) For numerous folks this may imply slowing their runs down significantly, which may now not […]

  • […] all over our cardio coaching, a bunch we will figure out by way of subtracting our age from 180 (there are some changes to this that you’ll examine right here) For numerous folks this may imply slowing their runs down significantly, which would possibly now […]

  • […] around, most of which are terrible and many others that are complex. We use a modified version of Phil Maffetone’s 180 Formula as the foundation for our heart rate zones in our online training programme. We use this formula […]

  • […] Before you can do a MAF test, you’ll need to know your MAF heart rate. I like to establish this number during a lactate test but for those who haven’t done one or don’t have access to this form of testing, you can use Phil’s 180 formula. […]

  • […] like you have been hit by a semi-truck.  The key is to adapt is to have patience, train in your MAF Heart Rate zone and not skimp on the […]

  • Jas says:

    Hi,

    I’m a 48 yr old male, and run approximately 2-4miles, 1-3 times a week. I’m trying to run using the MAF method, at the same time, I’m improving my running form. I used to be a heel striker ( with wider gait), and am transitioning to mid/forefoot runner (I’m finding the latter much more enjoyable).

    However, I find when I try to keep to my MAF heart rate, my running form suffers, alongside this my cadence drops significantly. I don’t mind my cadence dropping, however, I’m finding as a result I’m spending more time on the ground, and so feeling the extra strain in my hips and knees.

    To improve my running form, I generally run a couple hundred yards or until tired, walk\rest, then run again. I find this helps keep my running form in check. However, this also raises my heart rate significantly. I’m not sure whether I should focus on my running form, and come back to the MAF method, once I’m a little more conditioned and am able to manage my gait better. Or if there is a way of incorporating MAF method in my training, without compromising my running form.

    Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated. I’ve been following the MAF method for a while, and have found this website to have been very helpful.

  • MG says:

    I’m intrigued by the 180 Formula, but am concerned that the calculations may be too generalize and come up with a number that doesn’t work for me. I’m a 45 yr old petite woman with a max HR of approximately 200 and a resting HR of about 45. I’ve been training +/- 5-6 days a week (cycling, running, nordic skiing and weightlifting) for more than 25 years without any of the negative issues noted in (a) or (b), and have been fortunate to have always lead a very healthy/fit lifestyle (now vegan). As I build my base to race a half marathon next spring, is 180-45+5 really the range I should be training in??

  • Andrew Collins says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I have issues with wear & tear in lower back and right knee and I want to use your method. Im 57, so by your 180- hb, its 123 then minus 5 .So a range of 108-118 beats per minute.
    Im training at a gym concentrating on strengthening; especially my core and various machines, ie. chest press, front pulldowns, lunges, leg extensions and curls, dumb-bell lat raises. I do small 5 minute ‘cameos’ on treadmill, elliptical and stationary bike and I also go for a 35 minute walk (uphill where I live) and my heart rate can peak at between 126 – 134 if I go for it! But that’s only at the top of the hill, I guess im averaging between 84-108 bpm the rest of the time!
    Im wondering how I would structure a workout using your system; im thinking 10 minute warm up, 20 minute at my target rate, then 5-10 minute cool down. And going off your 80%-20% analogy for aerobic: anaerobic, a 4:1 of Monday, Wednesday, Friday and sunday for my aerobic workout and another day in between for strengthening? Or could I do a bit of strengthening on one of my aerobic days? I have tried jogging on the treadmill but my back gets sore the following morning.

  • Joe says:

    I’m doing heart rate training but i’m confused what do to come race day. Should you still try to stay within your target range (180-age) or can you go fasters?

  • TJ says:

    I love this idea that the accepted dogma of aerobic training is way off base. This formula gives me a target that’s a lot closer to what’s realistic for me. I have a mild to moderate case chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and my first flare-up happened, in part, because of overtraining. I wish I’d know about this idea back in 2000. I might have saved myself a lot of suffering over the past 18 years.

    A little background here first: in CFS, the cardinal symptom is post-exertional malaise (PEM). The term “malaise” can be something of an understatement: for some CFS patients, a single bout of exertion that puts them into anaerobic respiration can leave them bed-bound for days or even weeks, presumably because our dysfunctional mitochondria are unable to quickly replace the ATP molecules that were consumed. In short, too much exertion or other stress can send us into a tailspin. If I get into anaerobic respiration for more than a few minutes, I suffer for it; I’m usually recovered in 2 to 4 days, but I’d prefer to avoid getting there to start with, unless I’m carrying something heavy.

    The problem I’m facing is that even my MAF target of 180 minus Age minus 10 (for A) minus 5 (for B) still feels a bit too high. Currently, I’m coming out of a year-long CFS flare-up, so I’m seriously deconditioned. As such, I might be finding my MAF target challenging simply because of that deconditioning, but I want to be careful to avoid a relapse!

    What do you recommend? Also, are there subjective signs for which I can watch to indicate that I’m venturing into my anaerobic zone? I want to rebuild as much aerobic capacity I can without setting myself back by overdoing it.

    • Hi TJ,

      If your breathing rate goes up it’s a sure sign that you are entering into the anaerobic zone. Also, your mind should be able to wander; you should be able to think freely about whatever you want as you run; if you find that you are finding yourself overly focused on the run (because it feels difficult) it is also a sign. Yet another one is if you get a runner’s high early on — the runner’s high is caused due to endorphins, which the body releases to mask the pain of physical damage. So while you are not necessarily anaerobic if you get a runner’s high, you are almost certainly running faster than is sustainable for you at that time. Does this make sense?

      • TJ says:

        Thanks, Ivan! That’s good to know. I’m definitely not running yet. With CFS, I might not ever get to the point of being able to run and stay in aerobic respiration. I’ll just do what I can now and see if I ever get there.

        Are you familiar with Polar’s EnergyPointer (EP) feature of their Beats app? Basically, it uses HRV to determine when if you are in the fat-burning zone (i.e. below EP) or if you’re “improving fitness” (at or above EP). I have one of their HR monitors and their app, and on my walk today my EP HR was 15 BPM below my MAF target HR. Honestly, I felt like I was pushing a bit too hard when I got above the EP HR. I wasn’t even close to my MAF rate.

        The EP rate changes from one session to another, presumably because of differences in stress level, recovery, and fitness. Judging by some readings I took on EliteHRV, I think the EP is the lowest HR at which your HRV is down around 15 or less. Would you say that the EP rate is a good estimate of anaerobic threshold at that time, or is it a whole different animal? Thanks again for your help!

  • John says:

    Hi Ivan, I love your responses. Very informative and helpful. You clearly spend a lot of time crafting them. Thank you.
    My question relates to 100km trail races. What should be my target HR relative to my MAF HR? I see for marathons you say +10-15bmp. My MAF HR is 132. Presumably the lower the MAF HR the lower end of the range should be applied?
    Thanks, John

    • Hi John,

      That’s really tough — for a decently flat road marathon, we’re now saying 15 seconds faster than 1st mile MAF pace. For a 100k on trails, all bets are off since the relative effort would be so specific to the race, and you’ll be seeing very variable HRs since you’ll need to be climbing and descending repeatedly. I’d say aim for MAF on the flats and walk on any climb longer than 5 minutes. However, it’ll come down to race topography and how you’ve trained to fit your body to it.

  • Mike says:

    If my training program calls for 20 miles this week… a 3 mile, 5 mile, 3 mile, 9 mile. How many of those miles should I run using the maffetone method or 180 formula? I’m used to doing interval training or tempo running so this is new to me. Can I still do those types of runs doing the maffetone method?

  • Fajr says:

    Hallo, I want to start the training after 2 years off. Which should I choose between 180-age or 180- age (-5)?…

    *I try maf apllication, take a survey and the result 152 but when i read the method, it has category a, b, c etc

    Regards, fajr

  • Lance Silverman says:

    Thank you for this post. Excellent information and clearly popular given the pages and pages of comments.
    My question: How does this training HR number vary based upon the type of aerobic activity?
    Ex. I swim and row. Each activity seems has a different HR:effort ratio than running. Several sites add 12 to Swimming measured HR, and 8 to rowing. If these conversion factors where added, the MAF number would change to compensate and be even lower than 180-age. (180-8-age and 180-12-age). I look forward to your reply; Thank you.

  • Scott Urista says:

    As an athlete that is new to running, but has been cycling for a while – if I wanted to try the MAF Method to build an aerobic base for my running, does this mean that during that base building phase I should stay under my MAF heart rate when cycling as well?

    Or can I treat the two sports separately?

  • BillMac says:

    I am 51 and getting back to running. So i did the 180-51 = 129-5 leaves me with 124
    With all the math finished I cant get 1 block without hitting the 124. I did a really about a month back that I trained for about 3 weeks in advance and did 2 legs of 5 miles. Other than that I haven’t been running a lot lately but do ride a bike in nyc from train to office and throughout day to see clients.
    Not sure what to do I am starting training for an ultra which is 48 weeks away so I have time but cant imagine having to train initially without getting over 124
    Any thoughts

  • Scott Urista says:

    Hi Phil, very interested in learning more about this method. I do have one question: I’m very new to running, but have been cycling for a while.
    If I was interested in using the MAF Method to build an aerobic base for my running, does that mean I should also not go over my MAF heart rate during my cycling workouts as well during that aerobic base-building phase? Or are the two sports treated differently?

    Curious how it would work with athletes at different levels of fitness with different sports.

    Thank you!

  • Dr Ram says:

    Hi
    I am 57 years and running seriously for last 4 years.Previously I used to run on treadmills for a speed of 10 min per km. As a curious runner ,reading soo much blogs ,I came across this formula.I have started this from last month. Since last one year suffering from sore legs and meniscal tear in rt knee,fed up with the running.Thinking the running is not in my plate.
    I have some questions
    1.Should I run fast attaining the Maf MAX HR (180-57+5=129) ?Or I should run slowly to reach my MAF MAX HR?
    2. I am following Galloway Run Walk ,so I am running fast and reach beyond the MAX HR soon. So Should I change the run walk into run only?with slow speed?
    3.When You start running ,the effort level ,though it is more ,HR does not go higher and when you run about 3-4 kms,the effort level is not much but the HR goes high due to your adrenaline secretion. What should be effort level?
    4.Shall I run long runs of the week on non MAF principle?
    Thanks

  • Allan says:

    Hi Ivan, I’ve just come off a marathon training cycle that led to Chicago on October 7th, I need to make a change and am ready to embrace the ‘burn fat as fuel’ idea. I’ve also just finished reading Natural Born Heroes where I encountered the 180 formula for the first time. My resting heart rate is in the normal range but my running rate always seems higher than that of the other guys I run with, even those much younger than me. I’m 53 and, for example, my avg bpm over 3:28 in Chicago was 175; max bpm was 190. On a 21K trail run a week later avg was 173; max was 202 (we stopped a couple of times). These rates are consistent for me in races and trail runs since I started wearing a Garmin in June. By comparison, on a sample 32K, 3h Sunday LSD run in July it was avg 145 and max 177. My question is, are these seemingly high (yet consistent) heart rates plausible? If so, would the 180-53=127 (or 180-53+5=132) rate still apply; if not plausible do I need to get a chest strap monitor rather than measuring with the watch only? Thanks for your help! Allan.

  • sonja adcock says:

    hi… i am finding all of the information posted very interesting. I have recently switched over to a low carb, high fat diet and I feel really great. I do a lot of running and am planning on doing a 5 day 250km stage rage in july 2019. I am 58 and I am wondering which heart rate to use for training. If i use my actual age, it seems that based on the formula i would train at aruond 132 bpm. I did a couple of biological age quzes which put me at 35 which means i would train at about 145 – 150 bpm.

    Which heart rate should i be aiming for?

    thank you

    • Hello Sonia,

      We would go with your biological age unless you go get tested for your aerobic threshold (NOT your anaerobic threshold) at a sports lab. The aerobic threshold is your actual physiological MAF HR, so if you have lab data you should go with that. But I would caution you from trying to “negotiate” a higher HR unless you have lab data to corroborate, since running your habitual runs too fast has a lot of disadvantages but very few advantages.

  • Eric Bulwer says:

    Hi
    I am very interested in trying your training methods. I’m 47 and run half marathons but am constantly suffering injuries recently and my times are inconsistent. I often find myself fading too quickly mid race and am hopeful that strengthening my aerobic base may be the key. I also tend to find my legs are sore and full of trigger points before race day due to overtraining. My PB is a modest 1:37 and I’m currently cruising at 9:30 pace when keeping to 128 so I’ve a way to go! I have 2 questions if I may:
    1. I live in Yorkshire, England and can’t run a mile before encountering a significant hill. I’m finding it hard to keep my 128 target on the hills, should I avoid them to start with until I see some improvement or just slow down to almost walking pace?
    2. What kind of distances should I be aiming at for half marathon race training? I run approx 3 times a week 4 if I can squeeze an extra in.
    Thanks in anticipation, Eric

  • Floridian J says:

    Hi Ivan,
    You mention that the diminishing returns in training time start after 2 hours of training – is there a minimum training time? During the working week I run 2-3 times at lunchtime (the distance is 5k) and this supplements all the other running I do after work and the long run at the weekend. For the lunchtime runs, if, say I warmed up for 15 mins, ran at MAF for 20 mins and cooled down for 15 mins, would this have any effect?

    • Hi Floridian,

      It certainly would have an effect. When you are fully sedentary, any training has an effect – so there is no minimum in that regard. But for someone who is relatively active, 20-30 minutes of aerobic training is enough for your aerobic speed to continue increasing until you hit a genetic limit or biomechanic barrier. You can also extend the distance that you run, but your speed will increase more slowly, as your body is focusing on an endurance-specific aerobic adaptation.

      Ivan

  • Conrad DiDiodato says:

    Hi,
    I’m a 63-year-old runner who’s been running pretty regularly for over 30 years. I’ve taken about a 12-year hiatus from racing but have never stopped running. I’ve begun serious training for 10km this past year but have not had success with other training plans. I’d like to use the Maffettone method.

    My maximum aerobic training pace is 122. I also read that “The 180 Formula may need to be further individualized for people over the age of 65”. My question is: does my 122 need to be readjusted upwards as a 63-year-old runner?

    Thank you very much!

  • john b says:

    Why would i use a formula when I can determine my own Max HR?

  • Mustang says:

    I am 52 yr old male running for 14 years seriously to casually to never let my conditioning down. Never got injury. Feeling wise over exert only in races, but my heart rate does go up to 150s 160s later in the runs even though I remain conversational and have no problems maintaining or even increasing the speed.
    Starting to try your formula to see it can improve the conditioning and eventually increase my racing speeds. Not easy to maintain these heart rates even at slow jogs but I definitely have done a significant mean shift in my training HR.
    Questions:
    1. Should we consider the mean HR during training runs to see if we are following your formula in letter and spirits? or should I never let HR go above the limit (again not easy, as your gap to your training partners increased!)
    2. Should we maintain this formula limits in all of our training runs? can we do other faster runs (tempo, intervals) on some days. We need to have fun too right?

  • Mike Storey says:

    My wife and I are in our mid-50s and we have run marathons. We became frustrated by persistent injury after our runs would reach somewhere in the ten mile range every season. We decided to start over with MAF system. We are very frustrated with the formula and our maximum heart rate of 125. We decided to add 5 for our overall conditioning, but training at 120-130 is excruciating. Our main problem is that we have to run a short distance every so often because walking will not keep the heart rate high enough and running pushes us up in the 140s if we are not paying attention to the monitor. Our current compromise is 5 days HR based running and one day of distance based running (still monitoring HR just to see what it does). We are in our third month of this and we need encouragement that it will work. We want to run marathons again, but this reboot is so incredibly slow.

  • Jonathan says:

    Hi, I’m a 42 year old soccer player that can get my heart rate up very easily and during a stress test maxed out at around 190 bpm. I can get up to 130 bpm with a fast walk. The doctor has not suggested that I take anything to reduce my heart rate. My resting HR is about 55. If I’m training for health and longevity (not soccer sprints) should I be training in the 140 range? That feels pretty low for me and I’m not sure I’ll be breaking much of a sweat, but perhaps that’s not the point. Additionally if I DO want to also stay sharp for soccer does that break the model and require me to do sprints in addition? Any guidance would be helpful.

  • Jack says:

    Hi,
    I am 55, 6’0 / 155pnd, recently ran a sub 3.30 marathon – flat scheme – HR high 150’s low 160’s. Improved my PR 20 minutes this year.
    On shorter distances, like half marathon or 10k, I run with HR 170 – 180, with only from 182+ really ‘in the red’ and 190+ all out max. Rest HR is between 46 and 50. So basically – low rest HR and high HR during workout, but able to maintain that for (very) long.
    So should I really do the long runs at a HR 125? Or 130? Or is this a value that is more individual than the 180 formula suggests?

  • David Moore says:

    Amazing how popular this one article is! It’s such a simple concept but a really powerful one. If you have enough patience it really works whether you are after health or performance

  • I currently weight train for two hours twice a week and would like to begin to add in MAF endurance training on the other 5 days. Is this likely feasible, considering that I’m usually recovering from those strength training workouts on those off days? Those two a week workouts I do with a Polar heart monitor and usually see peak HR’s over 180 bpm and will average for those two hours 135-145 bpm. At 63 yrs old I’m clearly deep into anerobic zone for those two hour sessions, so my recovery time is later dealing with those anerobic stressors. Any chance I can add in MAF to my days off without curtailing my weight training?

    • Hello Shane –

      Thanks for your comment. What you decide should be all about your training goals. Even if you don’t change anything about your weight training, MAF training on your off days will not only help you recover from your weight training, but also give you an endurance boost. If you don’t curtail your weight training, what will happen is that you won’t develop your aerobic base as fast as you possibly could, but that doesn’t mean you won’t make gains across the board—you will. So while your training is “business as usual,” this hybridized training you propose is just fine. But if your goal becomes to “develop your aerobic base,” that’s when curtailing your weight training would work the most towards your goal.

  • […] method is simple to follow and outlined on Dr. Maffetone’s website.  Basically, subtract your age from 180 (with a few adjustments for injury history, illness, […]

  • Debora Cahill says:

    Hi I am 56 female and just started Maf training I am not an overly fast runner more a social runner so staying in the zone was not a real challenge. I am just wondering how long i can continue this for ? I try to run 1 hour 3 to 4 times a week but I am unsure about long races in the future. Does this method continue to work in the long term ? Or do I then move into the same training in Zone 3. Do you have any suggestions how I can mix my training up a little and maybe add to it.
    Sorry if this is all over the place but I am enjoying what Im doing and just need a little direction.

  • Salina says:

    I have tachycardia and my heart rate is usually anywhere between 120 and will get as high as 160. Not too often in that high area but it will if my anxiety is creeping in. What is a good heart rate for this 40 year old woman when exercising.

  • Kellie says:

    Hi Ian

    I find thus MAF method interesting – I Harvard heard of it before. I have tried using a HR monitor but I have a high HR which seems to exceed all guidelines, even though I’m not working hard. For example, it’s standard for my HR to be in the 160’s for what I think is an aerobic run for me.
    I’m 45 and have done triathlons for 18 years, am healthy and in good shape. So, my aerobic rate using the MAF method would be 135. I would have to pretty much walk to keep it here. In the past I became frustrated at going to go so slow and I just accepted that my HR was higher so I gave away training to HR, and went on perceived effort instead. What are your thoughts on this??

  • Henry Lundy says:

    In need of help. I’m 45 pretty healthy. I run 2 marathons a year. My Maffetone score is 135. I started today with my 5 mile test and either my watch is wrong or I’m doing something wrong. In ATTEMPTING to keep my heart rate at or close to 135 here are the results:
    mile 1 14:26
    Mile 2 13:33
    Mile 3 14:00
    Mile 4 15:00
    Mile 5 15:19
    I can walk a mile in 14:30. Am I doing something wrong? Should I tweak anything? My marathons times are around 5 hours avg. my PB was 4:40 several years ago. Please help!!! Thx

  • Maarten says:

    Hi,

    I have a question about adjusting the best maximum heartrate to train.
    I was born with Tetralogy of Fallot and when i was 1 year old i went into surgery to fix it.
    One of my heart valves still leaks a little bit but its not problematic.
    The cardiologist is happy with the way my heart functions and i only have to go to a check up once every three years.
    I only have a problem when i workout very intensive because my heart cant pump 100% of the blood beacause of the small leak. i dont do that too much.
    I train martial arts(wing chun) once a week and a part of it is anaerobic and i run with a maximum heartrate of 148bpm because im 32 years old. I have no problem running at this rate and i feel great when i finnish a run. Also the wing chun training goes well

    My question is: when i run, do i have to adjust the 180 formula and if i do, do i have to adjust the formula by subtracting 10

  • Katie says:

    Hi, I asked a question, it posted at first but it has since disappeared =) No big deal, is it being reviewed for an answer? If it’s lost, I can ask again. Thank you!

  • Katie says:

    Hi, I am 49 and have been training for many years (specifically 4 marathons in the past 4 years, and many half-marathons and 5k/10k’s over the past 20 yrs). Several of my friends have mentioned this tool and so I am giving it a try, as my next full is not for another year. 180-49=131 +5= 136. When I’m running flat roads, I can keep it ~136 at about 10:30 min/mi, but when I run bridges it goes up to 145-155. I slow down but it is SO hard to keep it below 140. Should I walk? I want to run BigSur, and that’s lots of hills =) . I understand they have a 6 hour limit, so I don’t think walking will be a choice in that race. =)
    Does one apply this principal during a race, or only during training?
    I am new at watching my HR- I am used to watching my pace, to reach my time goals (my PR is a 3:57 Full, okay for 40+ yr old average runner) =).
    Thank you, Katie H

  • John m says:

    I am 76 and my max heart rate (tested with a chest strap) using a heart rate monitor is 172. I run 3 1/2 marathons a year and try to stay fit year round. There is no way I can break into even the slowest run without going over the MAF MAX rate for me of 180 – 76 +10 = 114.
    I too cannot understand how a rigid number of 180 applies when there is such a huge range of maximum heart rates for individuals of the same age. Please explain why another 76 year old who has a lower (say 152 Max heart rate) and myself who has a Max heart rate 20 beats higher should both be restricted to the same formula ?

  • NEK says:

    Ivan, you’ve kept this thread going on strong for 3+ years now, congrats!
    I’m looking forward to dedicating the next 6 months exclusively to MAF HR training, very interested in improving my aerobic base and building a bigger engine. My question is pretty straight forward, regarding the ‘progress in competition’ part as read below;
    “If you are a competitive athlete training for more than a year without any of the problems in (a) and (b), and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.”
    So far I’ve completed 3 marathons with no injuries during the same period; Jan 17′; 4:15, Oct 17′; 3:50, and Feb 18′; 3:28. Would this be considered ‘progress’ enough to add 5 to my MAF HR?

    Thanks in advance-!

  • Drew says:

    Another question on a different topic. How does this training effect multisport athletes? It seems that this type of training specifically trains your body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates. This sounds good for endurance sports, but not for others. If you participate in a power sport that relies primarily on carbohydrates as it’s fuel source, will this reduce your performance in that type of sport? I do alot of rock climbing where the moves are near my absolute strength limit, and rely on the anaerobic alactic and anaerobic lactic engergy systems. It’s my understanding that these energy systems rely primarily on carbohydrates. Rock climbing is actually my main sport, but I’d like to improve my endurance, because sometimes you have to hike straight up a mountain for 5 hours just to get to the climb.

  • Drew says:

    I saw alot of comments on hear questioning the -10 bpm for medication and you’re answer was the same to everyone, but none of those comments specifically addressed ADHD medication. It looks like the main reason for reducing -10 bpm was for hormonal imbalance which reduces fat metabolism. From my “extensive” google research, it sounds like stimulants actually increase your metabolism, so why would subtracting -10 bpm be appropriate? Even on this site I found that caffeine can increase fat metabolism. If the -10 bpm should subtracted, how come the formula doesn’t address daily caffeine users? Also, why would it be a flat -10 bpm across the board? Wouldn’t lower dosages have a reduced effect, while higher dosages of medication have a greater effect?

    In my particular case I take a low dosage (10-15mg per day) of Adderall for ADHD.

    • Hi Drew,

      Thanks for your comment. Stimulants increase your metabolism by increasing your stress response, which is one of the things that the MAF HR tries to control. So if you are chronically using stimulants, your body actually adapts to those stimulants by reducing its ability to stimulate itself (similar to how it adapts to any other crutch). It becomes less robust and less resilient, so the “same” stress actually takes a bigger toll. Not only that, but when you use stimulants, all the body gets out of whack because the metabolism responds more to the stimulant than it does to the ebb and flow of activity—which is the core reason the metabolism should rise and fall. The phenomenon is the same, but opposite, for depressants. Crucially, getting out of whack is a stressor in itself, which also impacts your fat metabolism.

      In terms of less or more, the 180-formula is intended to be a conservative catch-all formula to guarantee as much as possible that an individual is working below their aerobic threshold (with no anaerobic function at all). Because the aerobic threshold is a threshold and not a gradient, training a few BPM higher can be a fundamentally different experience for the body (with totally different training outcomes) if those few BPM difference are across the aerobic threshold.

      In other words, the 180-formula is the best way that we know of to be able to ballpark your aerobic threshold with minimum work. If we open the box of specific medications, it translates into much more work and much more variability (consider how medications may interact with each other). At that point it’s simply better to to go to a laboratory where you can test your aerobic threshold to a much greater degree of certainty.

  • sue sykes says:

    I have a pacemaker fitted which is set to max 145bpm as I have 2nd degree heart block type 2. At the moment when I run my HR can be all over the place and if it is high at say 180 and I experience heart block that is when the pacemaker kicks in but only at 145, so my heart goes from 180 in the top chambers to 145 in the bottom which causes all sorts of symptoms where I am breathless, can’t move, feel like my heart is bouncing. It does pass but I am interested in following the MAF HR to see if I can stop my HR from rising too high in the first place. I am 52, take 3 lots of medications. I’ve tried zone training before but gave up as I could never get out of a walk! How do I go about MAF training with a pacemaker fitted?

  • Mary Ann Hanlon says:

    I just wanted to say that 2 years ago I started this training and to keep my HR at 70% required a 12:30 min mile, two years later I am at 10:30 (and just celebrated my 52 birthday). I’ve PR’d a few trail races since starting this too!

  • Marlon says:

    I think the 180-formula is working!

    My background: Male, 5′ 8″, 167lbs, ran 5K PR at 21:06 at the age of 49 (that was 3 years ago).

    After bouts with calf and knee injuries, training was very erratic. Started MAF almost 4 weeks ago with target HR at 135 max. Started at 17 min/mi walk/jog (yeah, I tossed my ego aside) doing 45-60 min. Over the course of the 4 weeks, yesterday, I run 14.2 min/mi for 30 min with max HR at 135, then dropped to fluctuated between 15-14:30 min/mi for a total 90 min session. My typical days vary between 45 to 90 min -> 7 days a week since I do not get sore or any pain. Damn, running this slow is really tough.

    I’d like to start doubling up. Is this a good idea? I looked at the Hadd paper and I’ve started varying runs between 135 and 150 bpm. Recovery is definitely kept at 135 bpm. Am I on the right track?

    My goal is run another 5K sub 20. Thanks.

  • I am a littel confused about the calculation.

    Age 63 yrs, Have been running since I was 56 years. Have done over 50 Half Marathons and 3 Full Marathons and a cumulative running of over 7000 Kms. All my running has been strictly with nose breathing only. At 180 steps per minute my running is mostly 5 steps out, 4 steps in (on hills this may be 3 out, 2 in) All without running related injury except in November 2017 when I developed a 3rd metatarsal stress fracture and took a 3 month break from running. Have started running since last 3 weeks. I often suffer from allergic rhinitis but I manage it without anti-histamines – through Ayrvedic \ Homeopathic medication and Pranayam. My calculations:

    180- 63 =117 BPM
    Do I subtract 5 for 3 months post-injury break?
    Do I also subtract 5 for allergic rhinitis?
    Do I add some BPM for my 0ver 60 age?
    Do I add anything for 7 years \ 7000 km running (nose breathing only) ?

    Recently I tried 110 \ 120 BPM zone for 90 minutes and I could run most of the times at much lower cadence compared to 180 or usual cadence but with frequent walking breaks ( I could run 30% time with 180 spm).

    What should be my training heart rate?

    Thanks for your help.

    • Hello Hemant,

      You only subtract once – whichever category you find yourself in that requires the biggest subtraction, that’s how much you subtract.

      • Hemant says:

        Thank you Ivan. Much appreciate you taking time out to answer questions here.
        Just to clarify subtraction and addition:

        1. It has been two months since have been running without difficulty after I resumed post injury. Do I subtract 5?
        2. Last one month I did not suffer allergy after my Ayurvedic detox program started showing results. Do I still subtract 5?

        I get it that I subtract 5 if anyone or both of the above apply.

        3. My age is 63 ( I shall complete thsi October). and I have been running for over 7 years, 3 to 4 times a week . Shouldn’t I add somethings?

        • Hi Hemant,

          Thanks for commenting again. It’s really at your discretion whether you add anything. For example, it really pays to be conservative: even though I haven’t been injured in over 3 years, I still subtract 5 BPM from my MAF because I have a significant muscle imbalance in my hips and lower back—I treat it as an injury even though it isn’t technically that. The reason I bring it up is because in your position I wouldn’t add anything — we really only recommend people add 5 BPM when they are around the age of 65 but are exceptionally healthy and athletic.

  • Greg says:

    Hi Ivan,
    Gil said:
    [I am almost 66 years old and an active athlete. I strength train a couple of times a week. I ride the indoor bicycle a couple of times a week for 40 minutes or so. I do a road ride once a week that averages 30 miles or so. I will walk three miles if I skip an indoor bicycle workout. I can keep my heart rate down at 114-115 bpm when I walk or do the indoor bicycle. But the road rides, which are relatively flat, I tend to average about 130 bpm. I am not sure of my heart rate when I do strength training but I bet it is way above 114 bpm.

    Strength training is important to me because I have lost muscle mass over the years and I want to regain some of it. Next year I would like to ride several metric century rides and I want to be able to ride them comfortably.

    Three questions: One, can I strength train and effectively do endurance training at the same time? Two, I would like to train in my MAF zone over the winter to build endurance. I read somewhere that I need to ride about four times a week – – – but for how long on each ride? Third, since I can’t keep my heart rate down while riding on the road, are my rides out on the road counter productive while I am building my endurance base?]
    Everything Gil said applies to me, but I didn’t see your response-I’m also the same age.
    Thanks,
    Greg

    • Hi Greg –

      It’s important to do make sure any strength training you do is under the MAF HR. Training doesn’t have to do with time OR frequency—even though those factors are critical, different people require different times and frequencies based on how long they’ve been training: for an elite athlete, 4 times a week for 1 hour means nothing, but a sedentary person can destroy themselves. So the benchmark for you is whether the amount of training that you’re doing is sufficiently stimulating: if at the end of it you feel like your body went for a run and got challenged a little bit, then it’s good enough to create improvement. And yes – if your heart rate stays up for quite a while, then your body is going to prioritize developing its anaerobic systems over its aerobic system.

  • Don Barrett says:

    I am 65 and have Palpitations and am taking 25 MG of Metoprolol to help control my rhythm. My cardio guy wants me to exercise as he says that it’s the best thing for me. How do my Palpitations and Metoprolol impact the 180 formula? I am not asking for medical advice, but just general thinking about these issues!!!! -Don

  • niklas says:

    Hello, I am a cyclist, 32yr old Cat 2 road racer and I have a pretty low heart rate both when resting (~40bpm) and at threshold (~160bpm) . How do I apply this formula when I train with both HR and power? Also, I have noticed that my cadence has a big effect on my HR, as does my position on the bike such as if I am in a TT position, standing, or relaxed on the hoods, how should I address cadence and positions issues as they relate to changes in HR for my training? Thanks in advance and I greatly appreciate the feedback.

  • Sergey Ivanov says:

    I want to have a test in the lab to determine my MAF HR. I was confused with these additions (-10 or -5 or +5 or +10), tried, I think, each of these numbers for a few months or even a year, and saw no convincing results. I was confused because I had no traumas, had improvement over 100-mile races, but degradation of performance in short races. Ok, can somebody recommend a lab with gas analyzer to get this test done? I have found only one which proposed VO2max, but I heard they use protocol not giving enough time to warm-up. But, can it be worked around if I warm-up during an hour or two before getting into the test lab?

    • Sergey:

      That might work. Make sure they test your fat max (heart rate at the maximum rate of fat-burning). That is what the MAF HR purports to point to.

      • Sergey Ivanov says:

        Thank you, Ivan!
        I have another question. Can you explain, how 15-minutes warm-up helps for MAF training? I saw a graphs of the rate of oxidation of free fatty acids and
        tryglicerides in the book “Berne & Levy Physiology”, and it increases gradually and almost linearly during 2 hours. It seems that warm-up should give at least an hour and a half for aerobic system to engage.

        • Hello Sergey,

          I go into the matter in detail in this FAQ.

          Please let me know if it answers your question,

          Ivan

          • Sergey Ivanov says:

            Ivan, you wrote in this FAQ that warm-up is just a gradual change in the blood flow to redirect it from inner organs to the muscles without causing stress to inner organs. Ok, but how can you explain common knowledge that a drift to anaerobic zone even for 2 minutes results in lower maximum fat oxidation rate for this exercise. Or after first 15 minutes, such drift does not matter?

          • Hello Sergey,

            The warm-up also allows the aerobic system to engage fully.

            That drift has the same effect whether it occurs during warm-up or exercise. If you elevate the intensity beyond the aerobic threshold, the body will change its hormonal mixture to include many more stress hormones. But that stress hormone cocktail has a lot of inertia: it takes a long time to get rid of it. Throughout this time, the body will be burning more sugar. But the body also uses sugar to supplement its fat-burning at all times. So by the time those stress hormones have been cycled out and the body starts burning more fats, the body’s sugar stores are relatively depleted. So even though the hormones are now the same as before, the body is now tired (from the stress) and at half-tank. In other words, a workout where you start out with fat-burning hormones and keep them throughout is a very different workout than one where you switch from fat-burning hormones to sugar-burning hormones and eventually back again.

            Ivan

          • Sergey Ivanov says:

            Thank you Ivan!
            I’d like you to explain me one additional case. I have a school track approximately 2 miles from home. My MAF pace is 15 minutes per mile or more. I use these 2 miles as a warm-up for MAF tests, so I am warming up for the test during more than half an hour. Then, on the track, I see pretty often my times are getting faster and faster during the test. I remember I was told that this means that warm-up was not long enough.
            If I correctly understand, it is a wrong conclusion. You stated that heart rate pretty accurately reflects oxygen intake. With fatty acids oxidation raising gradually during 2 hours of aerobic exercise at the same heart rate, I should see increase in the energy production: because at the same rate of oxygen consumption RQ lowers. So lowers the ratio of oxydated carbs/fats. Thus, energy production should increase at the same rate of oxygen consumption. It should be expected to see pace increasing during at least first 2 hours of MAF test, shouldn’t it?

  • atul tuli says:

    Hello,

    Just wanted to check is it max HR or average HR, for example I am 44.. so for me 136BPM(180-44).. should 136 be my max BPM or i can have that as an average?

  • Jane Kocan-Payne says:

    Hi Ivan,
    Firstly I would like to say a huge thank you for all the help you give out here!
    A little history about me – I have been running for 4 years and started running as part of a larger program to lose weight (which was very successful). I worked my way up through the distances, until I ran my first marathon (carb-fuelled) in 2016, and then a second (keto-adapted) 6 months later. I managed to cut 32 minutes from my time with keto-adaption, so my fastest time is 4:45:46. Unfortunately I injured my hamstring whilst training for my 3rd marathon last January, but successfully ran/walked the Berlin Marathon in October.
    I came across the MAF method by way of a ketogenic podcast, and want to use it to train for my next marathon later this year. Am I right in thinking that the way to apply the method is to simply run at my MAF (134) for whatever time/distance as dictated by my training plan (for example, if I am scheduled to do a 3 mile training run, I do 15 minutes warm up, 3 miles at MAF, then 15 minutes cool down)? And that all of my training runs should be done in this way?
    I have read some of the comments above and plan to add some marathon pace work in the last 6 weeks of training or so, and am not forgetting about the taper period.
    Thanks in advance!

    • Hello Jane,

      Sorry for the late reply.

      Yes – that’s a pretty good way to go about it. However, the “method” as a whole goes beyond just exercise, and incorporates good nutrition, as well as reducing your stress levels and maintaining a stress-free lifestyle.

      Ultimately, the most important thing—what MAF is really really about—is that whatever you do, your MAF Test speed continues to increase. So you might find one or two months into your training that including a few speed or power workouts every week or every other week actually improves your MAF speed. Finding that balance, and measuring it objectively through the MAF Test, is what the method is really about.

      Does this help?

  • Carlos Castaneda says:

    Hi Ivan,
    I am planning to get into endurance sports. I do not consider myself as an athlete, although I am planning to join some endurance events once I get to see improvements in my aerobic capacity. One of the things I wanted to ask since I am a beginner in endurance sports especially with running, would it be beneficial for me to start out with a walking program then gradually get into a run-walk program (Galloway method) and reach 30 mins of non stop running or dive right into the MAF method? Or to combine the two methods by incorporating the MAF method into the run-walk program?

  • Jeremy says:

    Hi There!
    I first want to say that I love using the MAF method. I’m currently running at MAF and doing strength training/high-intensity work based on the 80/20 rule. My current MAF heart rate is 143; however, I’m curious to know if I should include option “d” into the calculation of the MAF heart rate. I’ve been training for obstacle course racing for more than two years and I seen significant improvement since starting, but I haven’t been able to compete in that amount of time due family etc. My training schedule is very consistent and has been for a over two years. So, seeing improvement in “competition” is a cloudy one for me. Should I take that term very literally, or can I view the progress seen in my training over the last few years as meeting that particular criterion? Conservatively, I should stay where I am. HELP!!!!

    • Hi Jeremy:

      By all means, try it out. Remember, the boss is really the MAF Test. If your MAF Test speed keeps improving over time, then you know that the heart rate/intensity you train at is working for you. It’s always better to experiment.

  • Hi Ivan,

    I am planning to get into endurance sports. I do not consider myself as an athlete, although I am planning to join some endurance events once I get to see improvements in my aerobic capacity. One of the things I wanted to ask since I am a beginner in endurance sports especially with running, would it be beneficial for me to start out with a walking program then gradually get into a run-walk program (Galloway method) and reach 30 mins of non stop running or dive right into the MAF method? Or to combine the two methods by incorporating the MAF method into the run-walk program?

  • peter josefsson says:

    Great, thank you Ivan. I’ll share my experiences – when it’s the right time to share them 🙂

  • peter josefsson says:

    Dear Ivan,
    I’ve been running with the 180-formula for more than two years with great progress and feeling great. I’ve judged myself as fit and healthy until mid November. I’m 51 years old and during an early morning jog, slow paced between 119-129 I had some ache in my under arm and over the chest. I kept on running (it wasn’t any problem) but back home, the pressure was still there so eventually I went to the hospital where they found out that I’ve had a myocardial infarction. Through my heritage one of the coronary artery had an innate dysfunction that they found and made a dilation and put a stent in the artery. I’ve actually been feeling very well since it happened and today I made a sub max test at the hospital. Everything looked more than good and it’s ok for me to start running again less than three weeks after the ‘operation’. This is probably due to my solid fitness from + two years of running in the 180-formula (and a lot of years running before the last two years but faster 🙂
    Now I’ll subtract 10 more according to the Formula: ‘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.’
    My question to you is and I know that you can’t answer specifically to me but it would be good to get your general advice: For how long shall I subtract those 10? When is it ok to go back to ‘normal’ state with 180 minus age? Thank you very much in advance and thanks for great inspiration.
    Peter from Sweden
    PS. The doctor said that I shall be happy that I ran as slow as I did so everything has turned out as positive as it has.

    • Hello Peter,

      It’s really a judgment call. The best way I can say it is that you can add back 10 BPM once you can say in good faith that the reasons you took 10 BPM off in the first place are no longer ongoing. Ask the question–am I “fully” recovered—from several different angles. If the answer that keeps coming back is “yes” then you’re good with adding back 10 BPM.

      A solid, legitimate “yes” answer is much more important than whether it’s been 2 months or 4 months since your operation.

  • Chris says:

    Hey Ivan,

    I’m having difficulty applying the modifications to the 180-Formula here and would love some help.

    I’m a cyclist and have been training/racing for years, riding/training 4-5 days a week.

    I’m trying the MAF Method because I haven’t been making a lot of progress in my training/performance the past couple of seasons and have both seasons over trained.

    I’ve been able to train without injury in the past, with the exception of sore/tight muscles and myofascial issues that have gone away with rest/myofascial release/massage.

    Looking at the modifications:
    a) Nothing in modification a) applies to me.
    b) Nothing in modification b) applies to me other than not making progress in my performance due to over training.
    c) Modification c) seems to apply to me other than not making progress in my performance in b) due to over training.
    d) Modification d) seems to apply to me other than not making progress in my performance in b) due to over training.

    Based on the advice in the article to use the lower number, I think I want to use modification c) and keep the number the same.

    It’s difficult for me to choose a modification since I haven’t been making progress the past couple of seasons and that’s listed in b), c) and d).

    Can you help me select the correct modification?

    Thanks,
    Chris

    • Hi Chris,

      I answered over email but I’ll repeat here just in case:

      Modification B sounds like it might be the best option in your case.

      How long have you been training? Usually it takes a 1-2 months for people to start showing improvement. If you’ve been ill, injured, or overtrained within the last couple of months, it might take longer: the body needs to heal and recuperate before it can start adding strength.

      Does this make sense?

  • Paul says:

    I hope that someone on this thread might know of an app for iOS (and Apple watch) that will provide a notification (haptic and/or sound) for selected heartrates (that can be set by the user)? I’d like to get notification of going over certain heartrates (depending on training).

    Thanks in advance, Paul

  • paul says:

    I have read somewhere that if you are over 55 years of age, then you add 5 beats to your MAF heart rate, is this correct.

  • Don N says:

    Hello,

    During the aerobic base phase, would adding 4x100m strides twice a week be helpful or not?

  • Andreas says:

    Hi,
    I want to start with the 180-formula and the MAF-method. According to the formula I have a MAF HR of 140 (I am 40 years old) but my max HR is quite high, around 205 (my resting HR is 45). Do you think that 140 still is the MAF HR I should use?

    /Andreas

  • Gil says:

    I am almost 66 years old and an active athlete. I strength train a couple of times a week. I ride the indoor bicycle a couple of times a week for 40 minutes or so. I do a road ride once a week that averages 30 miles or so. I will walk three miles if I skip an indoor bicycle workout. I can keep my heart rate down at 114-115 bpm when I walk or do the indoor bicycle. But the road rides, which are relatively flat, I tend to average about 130 bpm. I am not sure of my heart rate when I do strength training but I bet it is way above 114 bpm.

    Strength training is important to me because I have lost muscle mass over the years and I want to regain some of it. Next year I would like to ride several metric century rides and I want to be able to ride them comfortably.

    Three questions: One, can I strength train and effectively do endurance training at the same time? Two, I would like to train in my MAF zone over the winter to build endurance. I read somewhere that I need to ride about four times a week – – – but for how long on each ride? Third, since I can’t keep my heart rate down while riding on the road, are my rides out on the road counter productive while I am building my endurance base?

    Your thoughts are appreciated.

  • t says:

    I started daily interval running 2 months ago.
    I started out with 1 mile walking then 1.5 mile walking/jogging then a 5k run after the first month
    I am on zero meds and weigh in at 160

    I am 62 and used the 220 – 62 to get to my 158 which I try to keep my average at 85 % for a 30 minute 5 k run
    I am averaging a 10:30 mile and feel good after the run
    My question is I seem to do more small intervals of walking now then I did during the first few weeks. I feel good throughout the run
    my heart rate stays fairly consistent at 128 – 138 most of the time except hills where it will gain.
    again my average for the 31-32 minute mile is 132 bpm
    My goals for this is not to run competitively rather just get back in good heart health
    I have lost weight doing this, feel very good, and try to eat very healthy as well.
    My question to you is what do you have for thoughts to better improve my goals.
    Great blog here
    Thanks

  • Phil says:

    Sorry, I can see that my data doesn’t look very organized after I submitted it! I re-posted it below:

    Last years MET:

    RER = 0.76
    Heart rate = 134 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 587
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 129

    RER = 0.76
    Heart rate = 141 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 614
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 154

    RER = 0.78
    Heart rate = 149 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 617
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 228

    RER = 0.79 (max fat burn rate)
    Heart rate = 156 bpm
    FAT BURNED (kcal/hr) = 628
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 244

    RER = 0.83
    Heart rate = 162 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 545
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 411

    RER = 0.84
    Heart rate = 169 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 614
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 154

    RER = 0.88
    Heart rate = 176 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 462
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 666

    RER = 0.90
    Heart rate = 183 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 388
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 824

    Most recent MET (last week):

    RER = 0.77
    Heart rate = 148 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 569
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 199

    RER = 0.79
    Heart rate = 155 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 579
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 248

    RER = 0.81
    Heart rate = 161 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 583
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 314

    RER = 0.82
    Heart rate = 168 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 565
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 377

    RER = 0.82 (max fat burn rate)
    Heart rate = 172 bpm
    FAT BURNED (kcal/hr) = 603
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 419

    RER = 0.85 (Crossover point)
    Heart rate = 178 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 588
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 588

    RER = 0.90
    Heart rate = 181 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 401
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 745

  • Phil says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I’m 25 years old and therefore have been using 155 bpm as my calculated MAF heart rate (180-25=155). Aside from this, I’ve complimented / solidified the accuracy of the 180 formula with two metabolic efficiency tests (first was a year ago, second was last week).

    For the first test I did last year, here are my results showing that my calculated MAF heart rate with the 180 formula was identical at 156 bpm, just 1 bpm over the formula:

    RER = 0.76 RER = 0.76 RER = 0.78
    Heart rate = 134 bpm Heart rate = 141 bpm Heart rate = 149 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 587 Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 614 Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 617
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 129 Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 154 Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 228

    RER = 0.79 (Highest fat burn rate) RER = 0.83 RER = 0.84
    Heart rate = 156 bpm Heart rate = 162 bpm Heart rate = 169 bpm
    FAT BURNED (kcal/hr) = 628 Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 545 Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 564
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 244 Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 411 Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 461

    RER = 0.88 RER = 0.90
    Heart rate = 176 bpm Heart rate = 183 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 462 Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 388
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 666 Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 824

    After using 155 as MAF for a year, I got myself tested again just last week. Now here’s where it gets interesting: after just 1 year of MAF at 155 bpm, I tested did the same MET test again in preparation for my marathon this coming weekend. What’s now my MAF according to the test is high… like very high…

    RER = 0.77 RER = 0.79 RER = 0.81
    Heart rate = 148 bpm Heart rate = 155 bpm Heart rate = 161 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 596 Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 579 Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 583
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 199 Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 248 Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 314

    RER = 0.82 RER = 0.82 (highest fat burn rate) RER = 0.85 (crossover point)
    Heart rate = 168 bpm Heart rate = 172 bpm Heart rate = 178 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 565 FAT BURNED (kcal/hr) = 603 Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 558
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 377 Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 419 Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 558

    RER = 0.90
    Heart rate = 181 bpm
    Fat burned (kcal/hr) = 401
    Carbs burned (kcal/hr) = 745

    As you can see, the new results claim that I’m burning the most amount of fat now at 172 bpm (vs. 156 bpm after last year). I’m aware that MAF can improve to higher heart rates when healthy and consistent with training, but not by THIS much. At 155 bpm I’m running at about 7:15 min/mile. At 172, about 6:30 min/mile (though I haven’t done much training at this effort since I thought I was going well above MAF).

    So now here’s my question:

    If marathon effort should be 10-15 bpm higher than MAF, that is just about at my max heart rate around 190 bpm. I raced a 5k at this effort and trust me, that was definitely my 5k effort with how tired I was at the end. I averaged 5:45 min/mile at that effort (17:53 was my time).

    What are your thoughts on what my marathon effort should be now that my new MAF is 172 bpm according to the recent MET? Not sure how to handle it since I find the new MAF heart rate to be very high (which is a good thing!). Was I so exhausted at the end because I haven’t trained myself for the 5k? I want to make sure I don’t overshoot or undershoot my capabilities for the marathon coming up. Hope to hear from you soon, and thanks in advance!

    Cheers,
    Phil

  • Johanna says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I recently got my fat_max testet following Bob Seebohar’s testing regimen. I am trying to stay below 20 g of carbs per day (LCHF) and I am running 6 to 7 times a week somewhere between 132 bpm and 145 bpm. My MAF HR (calculated) equals to 132 bpm, my MAF HR (measured during a lab test in Oct. 2016) equaled to 147 bpm.

    My most recent lab test as of Oct. 2017 delivered a FAT_max at 157 bpm and a VT1 at 159 bpm.

    Now, when I am running at 157 bpm for an hour (as I did daily before my most recent lab test in Oct. 2017) my legs get sore. So I think, I cannot run for 6 or 7 days a week where the 7th run is my long run on sundays.

    Now my question is:

    With respect to a halfmarathon due by the end of april 2018:

    Would you run every other day, meaning 3 or 4 times a week, but at 157 bpm (FAT_max) and switching to daily runs later
    or
    would you run every day, meaning 6 or 7 times a week, but at 137 to 147 bpm switching to daily runs at 157 bpm later?

    What do you think?

    By the way: I ran a halfmarathon in Oct. 2017 at an average heartrate of 168 bpm only on water (without carb intake before and during the race) and I did not bonk thanks to MAF-training — but my legs went sore at about km 9 or so and it was really difficult for me to reach the finish line because of my powerless legs.

    What does that mean to you? I am really curious.

    Thanks for reading until here.

    Johanna

    PS: Had to duplicate my reply because special signs did something to the text, i am sorry.

    • Hi, Johanna:

      Your MAF HR is your Fat Max. The confirmation of this your VT1, which should occur a few BPM above your MAF HR (which it does).
      What specific lab tests did you use to confirm your MAF HR in 2016?

      What I would do is run daily runs, with half of them at say 147 BPM and half at 132 BPM. And then once you get used to that, increase the heart rate again up to fat max so that you are running half at fat max and half at some lower heart rate (147 or maybe even 132) that allows you to recover better.

      Does this make sense?

      • Johanna says:

        Hi Ivan,

        thanks for your thoughtful reply.

        You are right. The labtest regimens are different:

        My first lab test in 2016 followed a so called ramptest-protocol meaning treadmill-speed was continously increased second by second summing up to 0.4 km per minute. The treadmill-gradient was 0.0%.

        My second lab test (2017) followed Bob Seebohar’s test regimen meaning treadmill-speed was increased by 0.5 km per minute every 4 minutes with constant speed from increment to increment. The treadmill-gradient was 1.0%.

        My Fat_ox[sic!] as of Oct. 2016 were

        fat_ox(132 bpm) = 0,76 g/min
        fat_max(147 bpm) = 0,77 g/min
        fat_ox(153 bpm == end of test) = 0,68 g/min.

        My Fat_ox as of Oct. 2017 are as follows

        fat_ox(132 bpm) = 0,79 g/min (+ 4,0%)
        fat_ox(147 bpm) = 0,82 g/min (+ 6,5%)
        fat_max(157 bpm) = 0,91 g/min (+ 34,0%)

        I startet MAF-training AND LCHF-eating around Oct. 2016. I tried hard to run at or below 132 bpm — but failed most of the time. Running at 147 bpm on the other side was a bit too risky due to possible injuries (cramps, hurting patella chord and so on).

        Now, do I get you right? Does your advice have the following goals?

        1) Get as many miles in as possible to increase the quantity of mitochondria.
        2) Lower the training HR below MAF-HR as much as necessary to avoid injuries.
        3) Switch training HR from day to day to strengthen chords and bones by allowing better recovery between runs at a training-HR as near as possible to my MAF-HR.

        Did I miss anything, Ivan?

        Sorry for my horrible english. Your hints are very valuable.

        Thank you!

  • Stuart Goddard says:

    I’m 23 and have a heart condition of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which I currently manage with a defibrillator. I have been approved to play sport including AFL and other high intensity sports by my cardiologist.
    I’m not sure if I should be subtracting the 10 bpm for my condition or whether this really does only apply to people with heart disease. I am also just coming off a football post season break of about 2 weeks and I have not done this kind of aerobic training before but want to start getting into it do to it’s ability to build aerobic conditioning without soreness and burnout to complement my strength and power program I am undertaking. This means I’ve had to subtract a further 5 due to just getting back into training.
    This put my ideal heart rate range at 142-132 which I tried to training at a couple of times and this was basically a brisk walk and almost impossible to maintain for any extended period of time. Should I be foregoing the minus 10 and going at 142-152?
    I understand you will be hesitant to give any solid advise simply to cover your own back and will likely say consult a health specialist but I’m realistic and simply want the opinion of the people who understand the training method.
    Look forward to hearing from you.
    Regards

  • john bowman says:

    I find this interesting but I’m not ready to buy into it fully. Please read on to understand why. I believe the formula is overly simplistic and overly dependent on age. The 180 formula is not much better than the 220 formula and we all know that using 220 and subtracting age does not give a max heart rate. But my main objection is the age portion of this and based on my own experience it’s not logical. As a 40 year old man my max heart rate was about 170, which almost fits the formula. Now, as a 65 year old man my max heart rate is still about 170, maybe 165, thus not fitting the formula at all. I’ve searched everywhere and not found any scientific data indicating that max heart rate declines with age, so why is the 220 and the 180 formula completely dependent on age?

  • Jim V. says:

    I’ve read virtually everything on this site, The Maffetone Method, and am half way through the Big Book of Endurance… and am still confused on the concept of aerobic vs. anaerobic, when it comes to training vs. racing. You state that in an endurance race, 99%+ is aerobic. But you also state that race HR should be 10-15bpm higher than the MAF HR. My understanding that the MAF HR is calculated to be the ‘max’ aerobic thresshold. So if you’re running for 25 minutes at 10bpm, aren’t you in anaerobic territory? Or in a marathon, running 3+ hours at an anaerobic HR?

    I’ve been doing this for 5 weeks, and like Pdiddy above, am pretty frustrated most days having to run at sub 12:00 minute miles. I have trouble maintaining that range, as even brisk walking puts me only around 100HR. Am trying to be patient, and have incorporated indoor rowing and biking to try and stay at my 129MAF HR.

  • SG says:

    Thanks for the article and the formula. I’ve dusted off my HR monitor and am trying out the formula result (145 bpm) for recovery runs and one long run a week while I train for a sub-1:28 trail half marathon. I’m also putting in a “hard” long run and a tempo or speed rep session each week. I’d appreciate any feedback you might have on the use of MAF for this training approach.

  • Andy says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I got my Fatmax measured in a lab.
    Fatmax occurs at very low heart rates (around HR 100bpm for biking).
    At that HR I burn almost only fat (RER=0,72 and about 9 kcal/min).
    Bike watts at 100 bpm: 167 watts

    After Fatmax the absolute amount of fat oxidation is only very slightly reduced (RER=0.77 at 220 watts and HR of 110 bpm).
    Once I passed HR 110 the fat oxidation drops much quicker and is almost zero at HR 140/280 watts

    I raced a 70.3 IM recently with an average HR of 127 for the bike.
    My racing HR did not match my training HR at all. I only biked at an average power of 175 watts.
    Thats approx. 25 beats higher than I see during my training rides.

    I would be happy about your opinion regarding the following 2 questions:

    1) Would you consider my MAF HR at 100 bpm even if fat oxidation is almost constant for quite a while beyond that point?
    2) What could cause a gap of 25 bpm between my training and racing HR?

    Cheers
    Andy

    • Andy:

      Thanks for your comment.

      1) Anywhere between 100 and 110 BPM sounds fine. Do you know at which heart rates your ventilatory thresholds (VT1 and VT2) occur?

      2) The MAF HR’s goal is specifically to develop the aerobic system as quickly and sustainably as possible. It is not necessarily the best heart rate to race at, given a large amount of factors (swimming and running fitness, hydration and fueling strategy, etc.). If you’re ingesting a good amount of sugar, your body may be able to sustain a higher heart rate, at which it is burning more sugar. The gap simply means that for whatever reason, you have the sugar stores that allow you to race much higher than your MAF HR.

      • Andy says:

        thanks!

        My main concern behind question 2) is that I need 25 bpm more while racing for the same watts compared to training…? I think thats too much. 10 bpm more due to fatigue after Swimming and under racing stress would be ok I guess … but 25 bpm more puts me close to threshold heartrate at aerobic watts under training conditions

        VT1= 108 bpm
        VT2= 130 bpm

        • Andy:

          I understand your question now. You’re right — your training and racing wattages at the same heart rate should be similar. What you’re likely seeing is (a) pre-race excitement or (b) the effect of a possible modification to your routine pre-race, such as a “special” pre-race meal, less sleep, waking up at an hour that you’re not used to, etc.

      • Yves says:

        That’s maybe also my case. My MAF HR is 143 (age 37). But I can race “easily” a half marathon at avg HR of 175. Last year I did a laboratory test which shows me that my AeT is at 153 bpm according to the Dickhuth modell. Would you recommend me to add +5 to the MAF HR as I’m in endurance sport since almost 20 years but relatively new to runnning (since 2 years)? I’m also new to the MAF method and maybe it’s better to stick with 143bpm as in longer races like marathon I usually always hitting the wall. I’m good in shorter races but have a lack of perfomance in longer races. Thanks for help!

        • Hi Yves,

          If a laboratory test says that your AeT is X BPM, always go with that over the 180-Formula. (Your MAF HR intends to point to your AeT).

          What we’ve found is that the most sustainable marathon pace (fastest with the least speed reduction) is 15 seconds per mile faster than the 1st mile pace (fastest mile) of your MAF Test. So suppose that your AeT is 153 BPM. It’s likely that your best marathon pace will be 15 seconds per mile faster than your pace at 153 BPM (after a full warmup).

          Does this answer your question?

      • Andreas Peppel says:

        Hi Ivan,
        I have similar question: My fat oxidation rate is quite constant over the whole test up until 200w/145bpm, Shortly after I cross 150bpm at 220w it starts to drop significantly. (it were 9x20watt steps starting at 100w)
        In the clinic my VT1 was defined as 127bpm at 144w. My RER at the VT1 is 0,82.
        Both points are quite far away from each other, so I am a bit puzzled.

        At what HR do you see the MAF HR? (I am 40 years old and I have asthma, so my MAF HR would be at 135 theoretically speaking)

        Regards
        Andreas

  • Tom says:

    Hi:
    I am long long time runner and ultrarunner and am age 63. My max HR is 180 or above.
    Would I still use the formula of 180 minus my age and train under 120? Or is my max HR so high that my numbers should be adjusted?
    thanks
    Tom

  • balbeer singh says:

    Hi
    Iam 42 and been running for the past 3-4 years & my last 2 full marathon were at 5 hour +
    Q1. how many miles per day & number of days in a week do we need to train on MAF technique?
    Q2 . How long will it take to stabilize the HR at 180-age rule

  • Sebastian says:

    Hi there,

    I’m a 22 y/o M and I’m getting into running semi-consistently over the past 2-3 months (average 25-30km a week but trying to increase it due to life commitments) when stumbling on this MAF method. I just wanted to get your opinion on which “fitness category” (in terms of adding or subtracting beats from 180-age) I am roughly placed in.

    Some info:
    Used to run 2-3 times a week for 2 years and got into barefoot/minimalist running for a bit (now wearing shoes).

    I’ve been quite fit throughout high school playing basketball + badminton but never gotten into long distance running.

    In past 2-3 months the Garmin watch I wear places me at a VO2 Max of 57 and my PB for 5k is in the high 20:xx’s.

    I would take a guess and say I should just do 180-age but not sure if i should go more conservatively and subtract another 5 since i technically have not trained consistently (4 times a week) for 2 years.

    Any thoughts/advice on which fitness category best suits me would be greatly appreciated :))

  • Todd Wilson says:

    I’m 6’0″ and 162 lbs, and my wife is 5’1″ and 95 lbs; we both are 52 and in great shape, so according to the 180 formula, we should have the same training heart rate. However, it’s around 140 bpm when I first start to notice that my ability to have a normal conversation while running is becoming impaired, but my wife can speak normally in long sentences well above 150 bpm, which I could never do. I think we are being treated unfairly by this age-only-based formula.

    • Todd:

      The formula is only a formula, meaning that it is Dr. Maffetone’s best shot at ballparking your MAF HR (a.k.a. aerobic threshold) while giving it only 15 seconds of work. The best way to figure out your MAF HR is to go to an exercise laboratory. Specifically ask for:

      FAT MAX. Fat Max is the heart rate at which you burn fats at the maximum rate. This is also known as your aerobic threshold, which is what the MAF HR intends to point to. So: FAT MAX = MAF HR = aerobic threshold.

      • Todd Wilson says:

        Thanks, my wife and I will try to get tested. One other point of confusion: my wife and I are both keto-adapted, which I had assumed meant that we are always burning fat. If I exceed the MAF HR and burn less fat, then what am I actually burning? I didn’t think we had much stray glycogen available. In short, is the MAF HR moot for keto-adapted athletes? (I assume not, but would like to hear an explanation.)

        • Todd:

          All of us are burning fats, sugars, and ketones to some degree generally all of the time, with Keto-adapted people burning much more on a regular basis than the rest of us. That said, being “Keto Adapted” is really a spectrum of how much ketones you use during your daily activities. There’s no real universally agreed-upon cutoff after which you are now keto-adapted. When you are keto-adapted, one of the things that happens is that your liver gluconeogenesis (glucose production) actually is going at a pretty decent rate, because the body still needs glucose to provide some of the fuel for some of its functions (as it always will). But because by and large, you’re not using very much glucose, it’s typical for the glucose “fuel tanks” (your liver and muscles) to have some degree of glucose in them. In other words, because you can produce glucose just fine but don’t ever use much, there’s often surplus glucose to keep the tanks half full. That’s what you burn more of when you go above the MAF HR.

          I would encourage you to do a full-spectrum metabolic test where they look at your metabolic fuel utilization across all efforts. That way you’ll be able to see specifically how much of what you’re burning when.

  • Michael says:

    Hi, I have just started using the MAF method, based on the advice of Mark Sisson in Primal Endurance. I have set my MAF HR as 128 (180 – my age), even though I could probably add 5 based on my 6 years of injury-free training. I am a cyclist, and attempt to keep my HR between 115 and 128. My question is this: every time the road tilts up, even by 3-5%, my heart rate jumps quickly over 128. Usually I can keep it from climbing over 134, although sometimes it gets up to 140 before I can reverse the trend. This might happen 5-10 times over a 3-hour ride, and usually last less then 15-30 secs before I get my HR under MAF. How much impact is this having on my ride? Am I flooding my system with Cortisol in this this brief period and thus losing all my gains, or is this phenomenon to be expected and okay, as long as it is infrequent and short-lived? Thanks for your attention, and for the great responses.

  • Suz says:

    I’ve been following the MAF approach for over 6 months now and have not had any improvement at all in my speed at MAF. I am a 36 and take meds for hypothyroidism. I have exercised consistently for about 15 years (gym, several half marathons, bootcamp-style work-outs) and realized that I was overdoing it about a year ago when I was not recovering well from work-outs, not sleeping well etc and having high cortisol. My thinking initially was that I would try to do about 4-5 hrs of MAF/week to try and build a base – this entails about 50/50 brisk walking with a bit of a shuffle-jog to not go over MAF. I’m frustrated because I’m putting in this time and getting nowhere. I should add that I also do some weights (30 min) about once/week. Diet is nutrient dense, low-ish carb paleo and sleep is decent. I’m not too interested in doing any more half marathons but I’d love to just go for a ‘normal’ run 2-3 times/week and do some weights 1-2x/week to have good well-rounded fitness. I guess I’m asking whether I should continue to work strictly at MAF for now? Thanks for any advice you have!

  • Jared Hill says:

    Hi,

    I am training for my 2nd 50k and it has been hard to for me to keep my HR below 160 or even 165 after my first 2 miles. Do I just need to force myself to run slower or walk when it starts getting too high? I am in South FL and it is summer (85-90 degrees with 100% humidity)

    Thanks!

  • Lorenzo says:

    Hi, I remember that several months ago we were requested to send our results for the MAF test. I did it and you promised to give us a feed back. I may have missed it since I only enter the web page occassionally.
    Did you get any interesting information from all those tests?
    Thanks

  • Sophie says:

    I just went on my first “run” using the 180 method today. I’m 28, been running for 4 years (intervals for fitness and fun 3 years, and one year of slower, longer distances) but have recent injury which I’m just about recovered from. I did 180-28-5 and got 147.

    I am a recent sub 2H half marathoner, but have been training too fast. I have however improved from a 2:20 HM in the last 6 months. I’m doing this to build my aerobic base. At 147bpm I can barely jog slowly, even had to stop a few times to keep it down. I realise I’m in absolute terrible shape! I only have 1,5 month until I start HM training again. Worried. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! TIA.

    • Sophie says:

      I should add that I also lift weights 4 times per week, and my HR is definitely higher than 147bpm during. Does this affect my results in any way?

  • Andy says:

    Hello,
    i am in the U.S. Military (active) and have an annual requirement to pass an Physical Fitness Test. I typically run a 7:30 min/sec pace. I would run 4-5 miles every other day at a 9-10 mile pace. In February I decided to try MAF after reading and listening to podcasts by Dr. Maffetone. I really believe in the aerobic training method, but it is very difficult to stay at between 135-145 aerobic range. My Garmin HRM will go above 145 a times (146 to 150) during my runs. I quickly slow down or walk for about 20 seconds and continue running again. I have given myself a MAF assessment each month. I noticed it isn’t consistent nor do I feel like I getting faster. I understand stress has an impact. I listed my times per month below. I feel I am not progressing. A 70 year old man was running the same pace as I was today, which I know is my pride, but I wonder if I am doing something wrong. I will take a diagnostic PT test in a week from now to see if my 7:30 pace is still attainable. I am 40 years old Any suggestions? Thank you

    2/28/17- 10:01,10:28,11:01,11:48
    3/28/17 – 11:08,11:05,11:08,11:24
    4/26/17 – 10:25, 10:46, 11:51, 11:14
    5/26/17 – 11:34,12:06,12:07

    • Andy:

      Thanks for your message. Stress has a phenomenal impact on the body. That kind of fluctuation would lead me to believe that there is a strong intermittent stressor that is (a) impacting the aerobic base’s ability to function and as a result (b) reducing its ability to grow over time. I would start by figuring out what that is.

  • Geoff says:

    Howdy! I am very much intrigued by the MAF heart rates. Here is my story: Last year trained for an ultra marathon–peaked volume at 240 miles in a month. Toward the end I had enough–was not loving it. Two month later after not running I tired to see if 51 year old Geoff was as fast as 46 year old Geoff (macho BS) and a did a time test–strained my calf the next day warming up. I am back to running and starting the MAF for about a month off and on (listening to my body for calf issues). Between my two MAF test I have shown improvement. Three questions:

    1. I have been using 180 – 51 or 129. Similar to others, my running is super slow ~12min miles on flats. I find I am shorting my form to hold the 12 minutes (most on the kick–>now I tend to drag). Do I continue not to lift my legs as high and correct as I get faster? Do I walk/run post warm-up and hold the running form until I hit the 129 heart rate and then walk?
    2. I have seasonal allergies–grasses. Do I take 5 off for allergy season or forever? Since my calf injury is due to stoopid Geoff do I need to back another 5 off knowing that the injury was completely my fault and MAF is my new life style.
    3. On steep hills I have a hard time holding the MAF below 130. Do I stop walking until it under control–or drop my walk WAY down?

    • Geoff:

      Thanks for your comment.

      1. Correct as you get faster. It’s better to go at a speed/combination that you can hold under the MAF HR for the duration of the exercise session. If this means that you’re barely running for the duration, then that’s the best way to go.

      2. Just take 5 for allergy season. But if you have both an injury and allergies, you only take 5 (it’s not additive). Once one of those clears, you stay -5. Once both clear, you come back up.

      3. Just drop your walk gently, so that your heart rate climbs back down towards your MAF. So there’s no need to make sure that the heart rate drops as fast as possible, just that it does end up below MAF for the majority of your climb.

  • Filipe Jorge says:

    Hi,
    Due the fact that I’m running long distances, my heart rate is low, and considering my age with this formula my optimal pace should be around 124 so let’s performing a test and see the results. I still have a doubt at what time after we start running it starts to be efficient?

  • Andy says:

    Hello,

    An update on my previous question (April 7, 2017 at 11:57 pm): I got tested, and some of the “interesting results” below:

    Cholesterol (HDL): 44,8 mg/dL, still below the recommended levels, but well above my previous level (34,3)
    Cholesterol (LDL): 162,8 mg/dL, above recommended levels and also higher than my previous level (108,7)
    Triglycerides: 67,5 mg/dL, within the recommended range, and better than my previous level (85,9)
    Ketones: 0,28 mmol/L (my goal is not to be in ketosis)

    Running is still impossible, I always have to walk in order to maintain my HR within the limits.

    Has anyone experienced something similar? Any advice so I can run again while keeping all the LCHF benefits? besides the problem with my training, and the LDL levels, I definitely feel well better than before

  • Bradley Smith says:

    Thanks for all the great resources on the site. I have some questions about how to apply this method to specific sports. It seems most of the comments and information on here is tailored to endurance athletes doing things like marathons, triathlons, etc. — sports that rely on more consistent, predictable efforts. How might things change applying to a sport like, say, soccer?

    I’m a 33 year old soccer referee and I’m trying to get my fitness/endurance to the next level so I can continue to advance. My MAF heart rate would be around 147bpm, and I definitely struggle to keep myself at that pace, even when doing the lightest of jogs. Obviously my aerobic foundation is not really there, and I need to take a step back and address that based on what I’m seeing here.

    Our warm-ups we do before our referee training sessions and before our matches can bring my HR up into the 180s pretty easily, as those warm-ups often end with short 20 yard runs at 80% and 90% efforts. I have little control over what our main training sessions are like, as they are written by the higher ups. They can be anything from recovery sessions, to sprint endurance, speed endurance, etc. And then the games obviously alternate between a lot of different types of movement, including sprinting — sometimes full field. You gotta go where the play goes. So during these training sessions and matches, it’s not uncommon to spend a *lot* of time anaerobic.

    I guess my questions are these:
    – What is the best way to balance these efforts in games (often 1-3 matches per weekend, 90 minutes in length) and training sessions while not hurting an aerobic base (once built)?
    – How can sport-specific training like on field exercises be integrated?
    – I have some important matches coming up in the next month. Should I even bother with worrying about MAF or changing anything in the interim, or are there simple things I could do that can improve things that won’t create short term issues?

    Longer term, I need to find time to create a base-building period for myself, as there really isn’t any break in the soccer season around here. They play year round!

    Thanks,
    Bradley

    • Bradley:

      Thanks for your comment. Don’t worry about the matches. You can think of matches as the time where you spend the aerobic investments you’ve made during training.

      What you can always do is replace some interval training with skill training. A lot of ball training occurs at lower intensities and only requires jogging—anything of that sort “counts” as aerobic training.

  • Gary MAF says:

    Dear Editor,
    Thanks for the great post and detailed replies. I have searched for the answer for my question, but don’t think I could find a detailed answer.

    How about doing 40 mins MAF running first and then 10 mins HIIT STRAIGHT afterwards? I noted that you did mention it is best to have aerobic and anaerabic trainings on separate days. But why can’t they be back to back? I would assume the 40mins doing MAF training would be able to not stress the system and train up my heart muscle (as well as the fat burning system), and don’t think MAF training work like the way HIIT does which elevate heart rate for the rest of the days etc for continued impact. Would be great to get some pointer. Thanks.

    • Gary:

      The training effect of a particular workout is less the specific percentages of what you do than what your body “remembers” from the workout. So something that is a long MAF workout plus a relatively intense HIT session at the end is “read” by the body as an HIT session with a long warmup. You’ll still get some aerobic benefits (40 minutes is no small thing), but the HIT session at the end will more or less overshadow the aerobic stimulus. When the body asks itself “what do I have to develop to adapt to whatever I just did?” it’ll choose towards adapting to the HIT. This is because HIT breaks down muscle mass far more than aerobic training, so the body can’t afford NOT to put all of its recovery into recovering from and adapting to HIT.

  • Jarek Zimmerman says:

    I have been running at MAF hr for 2-3 years now and have been progressing in competition. I am 17 years old, and do get upper respiratory infections at least twice a year. I also am taking a mild antibiotic for acne. My maf test pace had previously been about 7:15 before I cut off five beats per minute from 180-age for the respiratory infections and flus. It is now back up to about 7:30 @ below 157 bpm. Should I cut off another five for the antibiotics that I have just begun taking? That seems really low for someone that has been progressing in competition.

  • Adam says:

    I am new to MAF and have been digesting the articles and comments/discussion. I have used a HRM on/off over the years and would appreciate thoughts on an article from the University of Michigan MedFitness group which suggests HIT first to consume glycogen stores followed by low intensity to consume fat in the aerobic range:
    http://umich.edu/~medfit/resistancetraining/timingiseverything101705.html

    How would that affect building one’s aerobic base?

    Much of what I’ve read so far seems to target longer distance/endurance performance, but what about for a hopefully typical middle-aged male desiring to improve fitness but without plans for a marathon/triathlon?

    Cheers,
    Adam

    • Adam:

      Thanks for your comment, and sorry I couldn’t get to it before.

      It’s a very, very good question.

      The problem with doing what is suggested by HIT is that it gears the body’s systems to consume sugars, not fat. What this means is that when the sugars are consumed, the body would much rather rest than switch over to using fats. Not only is it legitimately tired by that point, but switching over from burning sugars to fats is very hard, especially at such a late stage of the workout. You can liken it to forcing yourself to calm down when you are in the throes of an argument: the reason people are often tired after an argument is because the stress of the argument itself gears the body to burn sugar over that period of time. So burning fats at a high rate after burning off all your sugars is, metabolically speaking, a lot like settling in for a long, easy day’s work after having fought with your in-laws.

      So it’s almost impossible to burn fats to a high degree (and therefore develop your aerobic base) after using HIT to consume glycogen stores.

      But there’s another way: you simply don’t need to consume all your glycogen stores in order to start burning fats. But this is why a proper warm-up is so important. When you warm up, each of the body’s energy systems is allowed to act as a “starter motor” for the next energy system down the line: ATP-PC acts as a starter motor for anaerobic glycolysis (sugar breakdown), which does the same for aerobic glycolysis, which does the same for the Krebs cycle fed first by glycolysis and afterwards by lipolysis (fat breakdown), which eventually does the same for ketosis.

      What this long list of jargon means, for your purposes, is that if you warm up slowly and gently for 12-15 minutes, your fat-burning systems will be geared up and ready to go without having to have burned off you muscle glycogen in the first place. I don’t have the link off the top of my head, but if you do a cursory lit review you’ll find that ultra-endurance athletes burn fats at an extremely high rate while maintaining levels of muscle glycogen.

      Hope this helps.

  • Debbie says:

    Question about beta-blockers and how to adjust my max HR. I’m 53, and take 2 meds daily for high BP, one of which is a beta blocker that lowers my heart rate. I’m calculating my max HR at 117, but am unable to do more than walk at a very easy pace without going above. Should I recalculate somehow for the heart rate lowering effect of the beta blocker?

    • Debbie:

      By assigning yourself to category A. The metabolic effect of beta-blockers means that the body—and as such the aerobic system—remains in perpetuity under generalized stress. This is true of essentially every prescription medication on the market. That’s why the 180-Formula asks for a reduction of 10 BPM from 180-Age in order to find the MAF HR (category A).

  • Andy says:

    Hi,

    I used to run below my MAF HR during training. It took me around 2 months to be able to run (lots of walking at the beginning), but since then, I had been improving my times up to 6min/km. I switched to a LCHF diet 2 months ago, and since then, I haven´t been able to run below the MAF HR limit, since it requires me to walk in order to maintain my HR on the expected range. A few times I have been able to run unexpectedly after around 50 mins of walk/run. I have tried increasing salt consumption and even magnesium supplements, but none has helped so far. Any advice so I can run again while on LCHF?

  • I have another question. Do anybody have experience with MAF training during middle-term (from 1 week to 4 weeks) fasting? I wonder if MAF heart rate should be decreased or increased for the time of fasting. I am at the 10-th day, and I see that it is more challenging to maintain MAF HR during runs, like what, as I read, is happening when endurance increases. But opposite to that case, I ran not faster than before fasting, but approximately the same speed or even slower.
    Another interesting thing I observed is that the fasting goes significantly easier with continuing MAF training. But, if nobody will share his/her experience with MAF fasting, I think I will decrease MAF HR as recommended for people taking medication, to be safe.

  • laurent says:

    Hello,
    I m following Maffetone method for more than 3 months and went from 6 mn/km to 5mn/km using my 139 MAF number.
    Within 2 month I will race on a 100 km ultra with quite a lot of elevation.
    The lenght of this race would be in beetween 15 and 20 hours approx.
    My question is :
    Which average and maximum heart beat number do you recomment during this race ?
    I m use to race these kind of distance ( did 100 miles once ) but I usully collapse after X hours and need to walk + run to finish.

    Thanks a lot for your response
    Laurent

  • Lorraine Lawson says:

    With 800 comments and no way of knowing how to search those, please forgive me if this question has already been asked here! I’m happy for a link, if it has…

    It looks fair enough to consider excemptions for those who are older and younger, but I live in the tropics, and the heat plays havoc with our training on a daily basis pretty much year round. Wonderful to travel down south for a run, as it’s like a blanket of hot, humid air is lifted off your shoulders!

    My question is how do you incoroprate this into the formula, with heart rate drift a distinct possilibity in our climate. I live in Cairns, Queensland.

  • Jason says:

    Hey,

    I have been wanting to test the MAF method for a long time now and have finally started a couple of days ago. At the moment I am trying to learn to run at my BPM pace, as a 28 year old who hasn’t trained aerobically in a long time I calculated my BPM should be 147. However despite how slow I try to run I can’t consistently stay under the 147 mark, the best I have managed is to stay at around 154 whilst gently jogging.

    I was wondering if you might have some advice for me to get my pace to match my BPM. Would it be better to walk/run anytime my heart rate monitor tells me I am beating too fast? Or is there any advice people can provide for someone who struggles to slow down.

    When I timed my circuit (0.91 miles) it took me just over 8 minutes to run, approximately 8:15, which is just over a 9 minute mile. I keep my steps very small with a good foot turnover rate, I’m just not sure what I am doing wrong!

    Many thanks for any guidance / advice,
    Jason

  • I'm fine - Dangit says:

    45 years old. Had a heart attack while in a group ride last summer. 100% blocked in the right coronary artery. By the development of compensating arteries, this had been an issue from some time. I am on a beta blocker and [despite my 158 total cholesterol] a statin. By the formula, I suppose I’m 125bpm, but this seems very low. My max HR [even with my age and drug cocktail] is 175bpm, the max HR of a 45 year old with no issues.

    As a result, I split the difference and use 130 [125 is the -10bpm, 135 is my 0, and 140bpm, a +5 is where I would otherwise be targeting]. Is this sound rationale, or am I just negotiating more effort with myself? I have always been a ‘high effort, low skill’ athlete.

  • […] came across Dr Phil Maffetone, from a Google search ‘Clinician. Coach. Innovator’ and, a long distance, ‘seasoned’ runner also. From his, and others, […]

  • Jordan says:

    Ivan,

    Just a quick question. I’ve been doing CrossFit for about 4 years now, and recently started wearing a HR monitor during WODs. I’ve always been a stronger athlete with terrible recovery and endurance. I believe this is because I have no background in an endurance sport as well as I never did typical CF long WODs when I started CF. Since I don’t really have an endurance background, should I take the approach when calculating my max aerobic heart rate as I am new to training since I am new to endurance training? Or should I use the 180-age and not adjust for another 5bpm lower?

    Thank you. =)

  • Gus Scott says:

    Just by way of reference for everybody, I have had my lactate threshold measured clinically (ie medically accurate) twice. Results:
    Age 40: 154bpm
    Age 50: 132bpm (after 2yrs of non-activity)
    As you can see the first LT is a little off the formula, the second is very close.
    I followed Maffetone for Ironman age 40 – worked a treat. For those worried about ‘walking’ in the early stages – don’t worry, it DOES get better! Stick with it. I’ve just restarted Maffetone age 50 for another Ironman, starting from very, very low base. I’m walking a lot of my ‘runs’ again (!) but knowing after a month or two I should start seeing tangible improvements, particularly as I start introducing interval/tempo training in between long-slow-distance (LT) runs.

  • Renata says:

    Hi,
    I just started training with a heart rate monitor. I am 33 years old, 130 pounds female. I ran my first marathon last Fall and finished in 5h15min. I had to walk a lot. I have been running for almost 2 years.
    I am having a very hard time staying in zone 2. 180-33=147. My average heart rate during a 4 mile run at a pace of 12min/mile is 168, getting as high as 193. In order to stay in zone 2 I must walk the entire time. My resting HR is 50. I feel like my HR goes up very quickly. How can I train in zone 2 if I cant run in it? Should I just walk? Please help, I really want to figure this out so I can get better and faster.

    Thanks,
    Renata

    • Frederick says:

      Renata,
      I’ve the same experience. 60 years, but have max heart rate of 175. If I keep my pulse below 120, I can’t go faster than a walk, if that. Also, I tried this approach 5 years ago keeping my HR below 124 and only got very good at going at a slow speed for long distances. For now I’ve decided to use my ‘max heart rate age’ of 220-175 or 45, making my adjusted range from 125-135.

  • Wendell says:

    I wanted to run a marathon this year. Instead of planning on it I’ve decided to give maf 3 months and see where that puts me. I’ve been running and playing b-ball for the last 17 years. I have always been active. I’m 48 and that puts my maf hr at either 132 or 137 depending on my category. Like many my heart soars quickly when running. On the flats I pretty much run 20 steps (both feet) which raises my heart rate about 3 beats. I then walk for about another 20 steps and repeat. Up and down hills I vary the run and walk steps as appropriate. I understand the importance of the 15 minute warm up and cool down. Since I run over lunch, quite often I won’t have more than 30 minutes to run. In a case like that is it best to warm up and down for 30 minutes and not actually run at maf or would it be better to shorten the warm up and/or cool down to 10 minutes each so I can run at maf for a while. Thanks!

  • Robert says:

    Hi, Ivan. I’ve searched around and haven’t been able to find any advice on my specific issue.

    I started MAF 3 months ago, sticking to the approach in “The Endurance Handbook,” including 180 formula running, as well as dietary and lifestyle principles. I realize that it may take a while to see improvement and I need to be patient. However, my challenge is that after 3 months of running at MAF, I’m actually getting slower and my MAF test is getting worse.

    I used to run ~10-11 min. pace for half marathon distance. When I started MAF, I had to slow down to ~14 min. pace to keep my HR below 138 (180-42, no adjustment). Now, after 3 months of 3-4 one-hour runs per week, I’ve had to slow down to ~15 min. miles. I am okay sticking with this and walking for the majority of my workouts if I can expect improvement eventually, but I don’t want to continue as-is if something is wrong and needs to changed. Is my frequency/distance insufficient to see improvement?

    I read Dr. Maffetone’s page listing potential culprits (https://philmaffetone.com/why-dont-i-get-faster/), but none of those suggestions apply.

    Dr. Maffetone alludes to “something else is wrong” when athletes are struggling like this. But I can’t figure out what that “something” is for me. Thank you for any thoughts or suggestions!

    • Robert:

      It might be the case that you need more distance, but people typically don’t. What is important is to give yourself at least 1-2 mandatory days of rest per week, ESPECIALLY if you haven’t improved.

      But there are other possibilities. Read up on this FAQ to see if it applies to you.

      Also, let me asked you a few more questions:

      Do you live a fast-paced lifestyle?
      Do you get drowsy after meals?
      Do you get into a lot of arguments?
      Do you have a high-powered executive job?

      An affirmative answer to any one of these questions means that your stress levels may be too high.

      • Robert says:

        Ivan, thanks a lot for the response. I appreciate the link to the FAQ and the additional questions about stress. The stress levels could be the culprit. I’ll focus on addressing that aspect and see how that impacts training. Much appreciated!

  • Ali says:

    Hello Ivan,
    I’ve had a strange experience with using the MAF method that I’d really like your thoughts on. I’ve been running for about six years and have never been very fast, but by the time I started the MAF method (in July), I could run comfortably at 9’30” miles and do a flat trail half-marathon in just under 2 hours. I had chronic asthma as a child which has never completely gone away but improved considerably as an adult and then particularly since I’ve been running – over the last six years I would say I was 99% clear of it. When I started the MAF method, I was on a very low dose (the lowest possible) of a steroid inhaler. Because it was so low and my asthma so good, I at first only took off 5 points from my MAF Hr (I am 43 so that made it 132bpm) but although this made my pace very slow (about 13min miles) my hr was very erratic and my pace wasn’t improving, so I decided to try taking off the full 10 to make my MAF Hr 127bpm. This made my pace terribly slow (16min/miles) but after only a week it was obviously improving, and the next month and a half it continued to do so. Then I went through a period of unavoidable emotional stress and my pace slowed – understandably – for a few weeks. But just when things were calming down, I started getting asthma, in a way I haven’t had since I was a child (my asthma is generally allergen-related rather than exercise-related). This has lasted for a couple of months now, with nothing much helping, but two weeks ago, I wondered if my MAF running might actually be exacerbating it – although my asthma is a response to allergens, perhaps my lungs had lost strength to resist those allergens (there has been nothing new in this line to suddenly bring on my asthma like this) as I hadn’t been doing any (or very little) VO2max training and hadn’t been ‘pushing’ my lungs to work harder. So I have been running ‘normally’ again (though not very fast, not even back to my old ‘comfortable’ pace) and doing a few little hills etc, and my asthma has shown a marked improvement. I am a little confused! I have read reports of MAF training helping asthmatics, but I really don’t know what else could have caused this prolonged problem – I’ve had more severe amounts of stress during the last twenty years without getting asthma and nothing else has changed. At the moment I’m alternating MAF runs and ‘normal’ runs and I’d like to get back to doing more MAF training, but I don’t want my asthma to get worse again. Any thoughts you have on this would be much appreciated.
    By the way, I did the two week test (just before starting on the lower MAF hr of 127bpm) and have continued with a fairly low-carb high-fat diet since then.
    Thanks,
    Ali

    • Ali:

      Thanks for your comment.

      An asthmatic response is always due to stress, but the MAF HR is the heart rate after which the body produces a natural stress response. So while you always incur some stress if you stay below the MAF HR (because operating at a HR of say, 120 is greater stress than sitting, and sitting is greater stress than resting), you don’t incur enough to kick-start any of the physiological processes that lead to an asthma. In other words, we can say that if it is your MAF running that is contributing to asthma (but your higher-intensity running isn’t), it’s VERY unlikely that it’s the “MAF” part of MAF running that is contributing to your asthma. I’d say that other factor is at play for your MAF running to be more stressful for the body than higher-intensity running.

      I’ll look into it and hopefully get back to you soon with a more satisfactory answer.

      • Ali says:

        Hi Ivan
        Thanks for your reply. But I’m not suggesting the below-MAF HR training is actually causing the asthma, it’s just that something has changed (quite dramatically) from how I was before, and I thought that perhaps it was that my lungs aren’t as strong as they used to be (because I’m not exercising them as much without high-intensity training), and therefore not as resistant to the stress or allergens that cause the asthma.
        However, if this is not the case, then the only other thing that has significantly changed in my life is that I’m eating a lot fewer carbs – yet everything I’ve read (and not just on this site) is that a low-carb diet should help asthma, not make it worse (I did not have much weight to lose when I did the Two Week Test, but over the last few months, I’ve lost that little bit of extra weight and I’ve certainly lost fat and gained muscle, and I feel healthier – apart from the asthma – than before, so I would say a low-carb diet is working for me). But I wonder if there might be certain carbs I should be eating (though I do eat a small amount of healthy carbs – brown rice, beans, beetroot)?
        Thanks for any thoughts you might have!
        Ali

        • Ali:

          It’s very unlikely that a lack of carbs is producing an asthmatic response. It’s far more likely some stressor that you have not identified. It could be a relatively mild environmental stressor that goes unchecked. You can always try to put a few low-glycemic carbs back into the diet to test your hypothesis, just make sure to not include so much that the signs and symptoms of carbohydrate intolerance return.

  • Johanna says:

    Hi all,

    as I read through the articles, questions and replies you write that the 180-formula is sufficient accurate for the majority of people, but a lab-test would be more valuable. So I eventually did a lab-test to determine the HR at which fat-oxidation Fat_ox is at a maximum and did some calculations.

    It appears that my Fat_ox is actually u-shaped. One smaller max is at HR=132 bpm (Fat_ox=0,75 g/min) and one higher max is at HR=147 bpm (Fat_ox=0,7711 g/min) where Fat_ox is derived from the formula Fat_ox=(1-RER)*V’O2. RER and V’O2 have been measured during the lab-test.

    Then I calculated the percentage of energy taken from fat (%ENE_fat=(1-RER)/0,29) and the energy taken from carbs (%ENE_cho=(RER-0,71)/0,29.

    It appears that when I’m training at HR=132 bpm the energy from fat is at 67% and the energy from carbs is at 33%.

    When I’m training at HR=147 bpm the energy from fat is at 59% and the energy from carbs is at 33%.

    Now my question is: At which heartrate should I run to get the most benefits in terms of building the best base?

    Thanks, Johanna

    • Johana:

      It’s quite reasonable to suppose that 147 is your MAF HR. When your FAT MAX corresponds to more than 50% fat-burning (as a HR of 147 does in your case), it’s probably showing you your aerobic threshold.

      That said, if you do find that training at 147 is stressful and unsustainable for the majority of your miles (you get muscle soreness, etc.) you’re probably better off training at the lower HR. For example, you might also want to train some of your volume at the lower HR (132), to get an idea of how both HRs feel in comparison.

  • Neil Mickelsen says:

    I started using the MAF principle about a year ago to help build my endurance. I calculated my range to be approx. 138 BPM. When I first started, this required me to just walk. I eventually got to a point where I was having to take very fast walks in hilly areas (progress!) to stay at my rate (typically 60 min walks).

    Here’s my issue – in trying to transition from walking to running I can’t get my heart rate to stay at the range when I make the transition. Even at the slowest I can possibly run, I can’t get my HR to stay below 160 (even on a treadmill at 0% incline). I’m sure it’s because running uses different muscle groups but how do I make the transition to running?

    I hope this makes sense. Any and all input is welcomed.

    Thanks!

    • Neil:

      It’s because walking doesn’t train a critical neuromuscular process necessary for running: the stretch-shortening cycle.

      Now, jumping rope pretty much exclusively trains the stretch-shortening cycle in the ways you need for running. So the best way to bridge that gap is by supplementing your walking with jumping rope, and testing your ability to run (at the MAF HR) on a weekly basis.

  • Ceren says:

    Hello Ivan! I have searched but couldn’t find a same question to my problem. I guess i have about 225-230bpm maximum heart rate. My easy 4-5K runs average is 170-190bmp. I am running for more than a year but get injured (knee pain) or get sick too often. I am 25years old and the best maf number i can get is 155 which is impossible for me to maintain while running. What should i do? Would Vo2max test solve it? If yes should i train with my max aerobic heart rate?

    • Ceren:

      Sorry for the delayed response.

      Yes, it’s best that you train at your MAF HR. It’s very rare that the 180-Formula underestimates someone’s MAF HR, and I’ve only seen it happen with people who are already very fast runners at their MAF HR. So, if you do train the bulk of your miles at a higher HR, it’s quite possible that you’ll find yourself injured or overtrained. In fact, it’s likely that the constant knee pain and sickness you mention is being triggered or exacerbated by the degree of anaerobic training you’re currently doing. If you train aerobically, you should expect such pains (but especially the sickness) to disappear.

  • Mark says:

    Dear Ivan,
    I’m 43 and I’ve been in endurance sports in my whole life (started when I was 6). I used to do cross country skiing and was part of the national team for 10 years. Besides that, I used to compete in swimming and as a triathlete, too. Still pretty active, doing runs 2-4 times a week around 10-15 kms each time. I’ve never used HRM devices before, so when recently bought my first one, I realised that my HR is extremely high during exercises. This means, that even on a flat track and with an average pace, my HR is around 180. When I push it a bit more or a nice incline is involved, it easily goes up to 195-200. It freaked me out, to be honest, so I did two stress tests where the doctors equipped me with proper ECG sensors, etc., and I did a 20 minutes run on the treadmill with continuously increased incline. My top heart rate was 211. They did CT, MRI and the result was that my heart is healthy.
    I can easily run 2 hour half marathons with no issues on those HRs. My resting HR is around 48, which is not too bad, I think.
    So when I came across with the MAF method a couple of days ago and calculated my optimum HR (180-43 = 137), I needed to realise that there was no way to stay even just close to that number during my exercise. But it looks like that my body has learnt pretty well during the years how to deal with this tremendous amount of stress I put on my body every time I go for a run or do any other exercises. It is still coping really well, however with the age I don’t thing I should keep this up for any longer.
    So the question is, what should I do to teach my body to work in a much lower HR range without losing my endurance or fitness level?
    Many thanks for your help in advance.
    Cheers,
    Mark

    • Mark:

      Thanks for your comment, and I apologize for the delayed response.

      It may (or may not) be the case that the 180-Formula doesn’t work for you. People who grew up on cross-country skiing tend to have conspicuously high Vo2 max readings. So it’s possible that your aerobic threshold (which is what the 180-formula intends to point to) may be higher than predicted. For individuals who think it may be the case, the best option is to get tested by a laboratory for their FAT MAX, aerobic threshold, and VT1.

      If it turns out that your aerobic threshold is higher than predicted by the 180-Formula, you’re most likely good to keep training like you always do.

      That said, let’s say that it turns out that the 180-Formula does predict your aerobic threshold relatively closely, and that you’ve been doing the bulk of your training at anaerobic intensities. Every time you run at an anaerobic intensity, you take a coin from your “aerobic base” jar and you put it in your “power” jar. Some people have huge aerobic base jar, usually from doing a preponderance of highly aerobic sports as a child, which means that there’s a lot of coin they can transfer between jars before it starts cutting into their health or aerobic endurance.

      However, for people who have very big aerobic base jars, the sheer size of it may be hiding the fact that all this time, they’ve been slowly emptying it out.

      If this is the case, it’s not really about “fitness level.” In other words, we can say that your “fitness level” has been subsidized by the slow dismantling of your aerobic base. This training and racing volume is being corrosive to your aerobic base (meaning that it’ll eventually reveal itself to also be corrosive to your health and fitness). In this case, your “true” fitness level—defined as a sustainable training and racing volume—is much lower.

      (Whether this is actually the case in your situation is, of course, a different question.)

      Does this make sense?

      • Mark says:

        Hi Ivan,
        Many thanks for getting back to me on this. Much appreciated, mate.
        And you’ve just put in words my biggest fear of pushing things too far during those years. I love training, but I don’t want to compromise my health, obviously. So I’m going to take your advice and get myself tested to find my answers.
        On the other side though, I would like to think that your thoughts on aerobic base jar and power jar are much closer to reality in my case than anything else. At least the results can back that up nicely, but the real question is for how long.
        So I’m going to do the test to make sure I don’t jeopardise my health with old routines and keep you in the loop with the result.
        Cheers,
        Mark

  • Wim says:

    Dear Ivan,

    Thank you very much for your informative and very helpful website. The MAF method has helped me cure my chronic calf injury.

    I am 58 yrs old and have been running all my life. Some 10 yrs ago I tore both my calf muscles several times when playing tennis, and ever since I have been plagued by chronic calf pain that stopped me from running further than 3 miles.

    I have consulted numerous sports medics and physical therapists, tried barefoot, Pose, chi running, etc. Nothing (massage, extensive stretching, foam rolling, etc.) worked. Then I came across the “Aerobic deficiency syndrome”, mentioned in the book ‘Training for the new alpinism’, by Steve Young. From there to your website.

    I have been doing the MAF method for 4 months now, and it took me quite a while to get used to running so slowly (about 9.5 km/hr at HR max 127/m). But it worked, and I am now running 10 kms 4 times a week, without any problem. I am now experiencing I have to pick up my pace to get to 127/m, so still progressing.

    I really think you nailed the way humans should train their endurance, and you are correct that in this time-starved society it is very much neglected.

    Many thanks again, and keep up the good work !

  • Andy says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I recently did some lactate testing and figured out that the first rise above lactate base level (aerobic threshold) occurs at very different heart rates for running and cycling. Heart rate differs by 20 beats – running being higher than cycling. I also cross checked the results with metabolic tests and they confirmed the lactate results.

    How is it possible that metabolic state is so different at the same heart rate?
    What does that mean for my aerobic training – should I use different heart rate values (MAF) for running and cycling training?

    Regards
    Andy

    • Andy:

      Yes—whenever you have laboratory values for your aerobic threshold, use those and not the 180-Formula. The 180-Formula is a really good “first guess” at your aerobic threshold, but it’s not the be-all, end-all.

      It’s not quite that the metabolic state is different. Cycling uses far fewer muscles than running. Running uses a wide variety of muscles for stability, spreading metabolic activity across a wide variety of muscles. Cycling doesn’t have as large a stability requirement, and so the same amount of metabolic activity is much more concentrated in fewer (hip and leg) muscles. So it takes relatively less metabolic activity to exceed the local aerobic threshold of the (relatively fewer) muscles in use during cycling.

      However, even when the local aerobic threshold of the cycling muscles is exceeded, the body as a whole will remain in an overwhelmingly aerobic state up until the body as a whole begins working at an anaerobic effort—when you exceed the MAF HR. As cycling fitness increases, you’ll see that your cycling aerobic threshold begins to approximate your running aerobic threshold. Why? Because the local aerobic threshold of your cycling muscles will increase as your fitness improves.

  • Robin Davis says:

    I am a runner. This year I have run 3 50k’s but was sidelined by a tibial stress fracture in October while training for my 1st 50 miler. I have Ortho’s blessing to begin training again and am attempting MAF but am getting VERY frustrated! I am 42 so 180-42-5=133. I can hit that, and above, by simply walking! I am slightly overweight and am working on that with keto-diet but I feel like I am never going to be able to run my races, in the required time limits, if I continue to train as slow as I am having to go! I can’t even run a 15 minute pace without hitting into the 150s! HELP!

    • Robin Davis says:

      I wear the Garmin Fenix 3HR (and have compared it with other means of tracking HR), am not taking any medications, other than vitamins/suppliments. Female, 5’6″, 172#, RHR 66.

  • hayden says:

    Hi Ivan. Amazing website with a lot of info. I’m a cyclist and have some questions regarding the MAF method. I’ve just got on to the MAF method, even though Ive had the book for years. I’m gutted I didn’t pick it up earlier. I want to know if you could answer the questions below please.

    1- Do you do stay in the zone for as long as possible or do you do reps in the zone?
    2- Can you do short 3s sprints throughout say a 20min MAF effort if you can stay within the zone?
    3- Do you stay 100% within the zone, or is it the average HR that stays within or both?
    4- What sort of anaerobic efforts would you prescribe once the aerobic base is sufficient?
    5- How do you know when your aerobic base is sufficient?

    Thanks so much. If something has been answered in another thread can you please direct me there. Thanks.
    Hayden

  • Steve says:

    Hi,
    I am male, aged 56 and have run 5 marathons and a number of halfs in the last 6 years. I was a decent runner when 25, but didn’t run for years until picking it up again at 48. My first marathon was at 49, 3:29. My fastest is a 3:28. Half marathon best is 1:33. Have always struggled to get faster than this, but would really love to be able to run a sub 3hr. I decided recently to run with HRM again after ditching it due to unreliability(Garmin 310xt). I have a Polar FS1 and decided to use it. Running to a rate of 120-130, i found it hard to run that slow, but am getting used to it. The one thing I have noticed is that I recover so much sooner, and don’t end up sore at all. My concern is that if i continue training this way, and it doesn’t work out, i will have difficulty picking up speed again, as my next targeted marathon is in 11 months. Thoughts?

  • Jim Stanton says:

    Hi Ivan,
    I’m a 77 yr old male, 150 lb, been running for about 40 years without any serious injury. Recently I have been diagnosed with occasional AFib (it showed up on my HR monitor first), So my Doc has me on an anti AFib med and a blood thinner. The medication does not eliminate the symptom (irregular HR) but dampens it. I only experience an episode about once a week its random and lasts for about 20 mins. Most of the time it does not occur when I’m running, there is no sensation, if I was not wearing a monitor I would not know anything unusual was happening.
    My question is how to modify my aerobic heart rate? Should I subtract 10 from my 103 HR? I’ve had good luck with the MAF training method and want to continue using it.
    My diet is pretty clean no processed foods no added salt and no added sugar. Lots of greens beans nuts, fruits and veggies
    Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
    Regards
    Jim

  • Becky says:

    I’ve tried searching for questions similar to mine but haven’t found one. I’m 44, female, 5’6″, borderline obese (187 lbs), take blood pressure meds and have non-allergic rhinitis (allergy-like symptoms with all negative tests on allergies). If I used the formula correctly, my MAF rate would be 126 or 116 to 126 (regular meds and chronic allergy-like symptoms). I’ve never been consistent about exercise or eating healthy. In the past, I tried to take up running but quit when I started having knee pain whenever I ran for more than a few minutes ( I had carefully worked up to 2 miles and then feeling over-confident ran 4 miles and my knee was never the same again). Over the past year, though, I’ve been going to the gym 3 or 4 times / week and working with weights, doing squats and strengthening my quads and using the elliptical to do some cardio without aggravating the knee. At first, the weight training was a bit hard on my knee but I started with very low weights and over time, it seems to have worked itself out. I can now run without knee pain. It’s been on my bucket list for a long time to complete a marathon, so I tentatively tested out following the Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer for about 6 weeks or so. I started with the week where you transition into running/walking since I’ve been using the elliptical 3 times a week or so for a while. I’m on the 2nd week of running 30 minutes continuously. At first, I tried to run 3.6 to 4.0 mph and had quite a lot of pain in my ankle and hip. I took a half a week off and then came back at 3.2 mph without pain, and have been trying to slowly raise that. I’ve since bought some better shoes and that has helped a lot, so now I can manage 3.4 to 3.6 mph and sometimes 4.0 until I’ve run 35 minutes or so. I have been looking around for better information about what to as it seems that with my super slow speed, running 3 miles would be a big jump for me – it would take me nearly an hour and even the 35 minutes is wearing me out. I’ve been looking for better info for people like me who truly are/were couch potatoes, slow and overweight as I am, to make progress without injury. Today, after reading suggestions about running slower (but not using the formula), I used my fitbit to try to keep it under 130 or so. I had to get below 3 mph to do that. This seems significantly slower than the sorts of times people are posting here. Are there any suggestions for starting where I am? Did I calculate the formula right? Does anyone have experience starting out this slow??

  • Darren says:

    First of all, just wanted to say that I heard about MAF about three years ago, and building a decent aerobic base improved my health so dramatically that I wish I had discovered this way earlier! The benefits to my immune system were incredible, and I only wish I knew earlier that my original baseline was so abnormally low.

    Anyway, unfortunately I injured my knee running a year and a half ago (specifically sprinting – it hurt the day after a sprint session and never got better – but I’m guessing it was a combination of sprints and slower). Rest didn’t help, doctors didn’t help, medicine certainly didn’t help, exercise didn’t help, not exercising didn’t help. Finally, I discovered via research that I probably had a hamstring injury combined with posterior chain weakness, which caught me by surprise since I deadlift. So about four months ago, I restarted MAF training on elliptical and exercise bike, minus 5 bpm, combined with a weightlifting rehab program centered largely on posterior chain movements such as Romanian deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, glute bridges, etc (the knee has finally been showing steady improvement since I began). The MAF stuff was incredibly boring, but I noticed my general health was starting to get better, so I kept going, but because of the knee rehab, I was hesitant to ever go above MAF. The MAF definitely plateaued, and then even started regressing. A week and a half ago, I figured I might as well give higher intensity a shot, and did a very short session of HIIT on the elliptical (4×20 sec with 10 sec rest), followed a few days later by 5×1 min with 1 min rest. The next time I got on the elliptical, my wattage was way higher at MAF rate than in the previous month, and I also feel better in general. How is it that such a small amount of high intensity work could make such a quick difference? And how come the weightlifting, which definitely goes into anaerobic HRs at times, didn’t do this for me?

    Also, are there any guidelines for effectively combining MAF training with weightlifting? For instance, if I do a 30 minute MAF session and follow that with a hard weightlifting session, will I “lose” the benefits of the MAF session? Or does the body treat them as two separate stimuli? Is it better to do only MAF one day and only weightlifting another?

    Thanks for all the great info! Love reading the articles and comments.

    • Darren:

      It’s better to separate intensities as much as possible. On different days would be the best choice.

      Let me give you an extreme example: in an interval session, the sprints are often far above MAF, and the interval jogs are often somewhat below MAF. But the stimulus of the session itself is fundamentally high-stress (even though strictly-speaking it has both aerobic and anaerobic benefits). I’m not trying to say that a hard session and an easy session back-to-back is exactly an interval session, but rather that the more your training looks like an interval session, the more your training stimulus will be high-stress, which means that the more it will cut into your aerobic base.

      As for why high-intensity was so effective: When you’ve been training at your MAF HR, your body is fundamentally unstressed. This means that it is very open to growing from new stimuli. The speed at which your body improved from just one anaerobic training session is quite representative of the way that the body improves from high-intensity training. In other words, the reason we are used to gains taking so long is because we usually train the body in a stressed state—which is a state in which the body is fundamentally defensive and resistant to growth.

      In effect, the body doesn’t actually grow from stress. It grows from stimulus. This is why the body can grow at low intensity: it constitutes far less stress, but it stimulates different systems than high-intensity training does. So it still creates a training response. The reason we believe the body grows from stress is because stress and stimulus often co-occur. Whenever you pile up enough stimuli, you create stress from stimulus overload. For example, take a single, maximal-intensity sprint: that sprint is effectively asking the body to run faster—that’s stimulus. However, if you’ve never run over a mile, and you decide to go run 20 “aerobic” miles, you’ll still stimulate the body, but you’ll also catapult it into a stressed state, which inhibits it from growing from that stimulus. So the key is to hit the body with as much stimulus as possible, while keeping it as unstressed as possible.

      • Darren says:

        Thanks, Ivan! That makes sense with separating the intensities, and the stimulus vs stress differentiation. Great explanation.

        Two additional questions:

        1) Any idea on the carryover from one type of MAF training to another? Specifically, wondering how much of my current base I’m going to “lose” when my knee gets better and I can go from elliptical back to running, which is what I really want to be doing. Obviously the heart doesn’t really care what exercise the rest of the body is doing, so I’m assuming there will be some carryover, but I’ve read in your other comments that the shock of running also takes a lot of energy, so I’m curious what the transition is going to look like.

        2) When planning workouts according to 80/20 MAF/High-intensity, should that be high intensity at 20% of the total time spent working out, or should it be no more than a 4:1 ratio of time spent at MAF to time spent doing high-intensity? E.g., if a workout is 15 minute warmup, 5×3 min intervals with 2 min rest (25 min), 15 minute cooldown, then does that mean that in your weekly budget you’ve “spent” 15 minutes doing high intensity stuff and 40 minutes working out towards the 80% budget? Or 15 minutes doing high intensity stuff, but zero minutes towards the 80% budget since it wasn’t a MAF-specific workout? When I read that someone spends 20% of their time doing high intensity stuff and the rest doing MAF training, I’m not sure exactly what that means when taking into account warmups/cooldowns, rest intervals, etc.

        Thanks!!

        • Darren:

          Let me answer in sequence.

          1) To answer this question we really have to split the body apart into different systems. The bulk of the aerobic system—which is what you primarily train at or under the MAF HR (with any movement)—is primarily physiological. I use “physiological” as shorthand to describe the body’s infrastructural operations: how the nervous system talks to the glands, how hormones break down fat cells, how energy metabolism is managed, how the lungs coordinate with the heart, how the digestive system influences the whole body. So all of those gains—all of the systems that enable the “running muscles” to run—are utilized almost identically by any other sport or movement. So all of those “physiological” gains are carried over nearly immediately and seamlessly.

          But the other part of the body is its superstructural operations: how the particular muscles it uses for the movement you do (running, cycling, etc.) have developed in order to work. All that stuff has to be re-trained to the extent that the movements are different. Capillaries need to be networked into new muscles, mitochondria have to be developed in new muscles, neurological output has to be redirected to those new muscles.

          That said, what really makes the body “run” or “cycle” or whatever, isn’t the individual muscles. It’s the physiology. So if you go from cycling to running, you’re not really retraining yourself from the ground up, you’re just developing a new neuromuscular skill which allows you to effectively express all that aerobic power that you didn’t lose at all.

          2) 20% of the total time spent working out. Let me put it to you this way: run a 20 mile “MAF” run with 4 miles at your AT, separated by 4 miles each. It’ll have the training stimulus of an interval session, even though only 20% of it was anaerobic. As far as warm-up/cool-down goes, I just never count it into my training volume. If it turns out that by counting warm-ups and cool-downs, my aerobic volume jumps up from 80% to 90% (or 90% to 95%), I don’t care. I’m erring on the side of safety. So what I want to do is give myself every opportunity to overestimate anaerobic training volume but underestimate aerobic training volume. So I’ll count any interval session as anaerobic (regardless of whether my ratio of sprint/interval durations is 1:1 or 1:5 or anything in between).

  • Hi, wanted to drop by and give an update on my MAF test, I am pleased to report faster run times and a more even result on my 2nd test:

    MAF HR is 146
    MAF test #1 at Boling Park 8/6/16
    Humid and warm. Went over 145 several times and up to 147. Average was 143, 144, 144 for each mile.
    1-mile intervals were 8:54, 10:24, 11:34
    I found it difficult to stay below 146 and was surprised how often my HR alert went off.
    Breakfast was larabar, half kindbar, coconut oil.

    MAF test #2 at Boling Park 11/19/16 14-week interval
    Factors: Raising my 3-month old precious infant daughter for the past 3 months! Poor sleep and 30 mph headwinds.Temps in 60s.
    MCT oil and egg ham for bfast
    HR strap would not wake up until 2nd mile so I used miles 2,3,4 for the test
    HR went up to 147 and 148 , 149, even 150(gasp!) several times and it was difficult to keep it at 145 but I am not going to adjust my times due to the headwinds, which pretty much evens everything out or close enough. Since the HR strap was unreliable, I also used the nose breathing test. I noticed that I was having to mouth-breathe a few times so that meant I was above MAF here and there
    1-mile intervals 8:18(, 8:45,8:49,8:57
    Avg HR per lap 143, 146, 146, 146 (Not a completely flat course)
    Note: my HR strap didn’t work until after the 1st half-mile so I’m not counting the 1st mile.
    I am pleased with these results and even though my HR was spiking several beats above my MAF HR, I will not adjust times because of the severe headwinds on the course.
    I am also more fat-adapted than back in August and have dropped about 7 or 8 lbs. Since then
    I am eager to see the next test results in February
    The past 3 months have been an exercise in patience and it has been frustrating sometimes running and biking. I have mixed in anaerobic workouts also, sometimes 2 or 3 a week with only 1 or 2 aerobic workouts in the same week. I would say 70% of my workouts since August have been aerobic.

    Read all about it at my blog: http://bornonthetraintracks.blogspot.com/

    Thank you for reading and for the guidance I’ve found from this website!

  • Serge says:

    I am 44 but my HR goes op to 193 bpm on a regular basis (i.e during karate training).
    I also have a very low rest HR (It gets down to 35, sometime 32 bpm).
    Theorically, my MAF HF would be (180-44=) 136 bpm. Max theoric HR would be (220-44=) 176 bpm. vs actual 193.
    Given the above, should I adjust the MAF formula to work mainly on the (anti-glycolitic) aerobic energy system (on Kettlebell ballistincs) ?
    Thanks in advance for any precision

  • niklas barreto says:

    How is the 180-age applicable when you start to develop training stress from workouts over several days? By your teaching that means you are getting “fitter” but that is not the case. I am a cyclist and have both power and HR. If I am in a block of training or stage race my HR will go down for the same effort. So say on monday a 20min effort at 150bpm is about 300watts. Then on tuesday I would need to do 310w to hit the same HR and continue in that direction though my perceived exertion has gone way up.

    Can you clarify how this formula is at all relevent to elite cyclists? Basically, by using a power meter + HR monitor two days in a row, I can show a huge weakness in the formula.

    • Niklas:

      Perceived exertion is very different from metabolic output. Heart rate measures metabolic output, but is not well correlated with perceived exertion. This is because perceived exertion is a function of peak muscular contraction, rather than metabolic output. So, when you try to open a stuck jar lid, your perceived exertion rockets skyward (but not your metabolic output) because the peak muscular contraction of the muscles you are using (hand, arm, shoulder) is nearing 100% of their capacity.

      The MAF HR is intended to correspond to the aerobic threshold (the highest activity level at which there is still zero anaerobic function). If you cycled in a laboratory that was able to measure in real time where you stand relative to the relevant physiological threshold of metabolic function (aerobic threshold), you would find that despite your increase in perceived exertion, you would remain under the aerobic threshold in both workouts.

      Caveat: Under very specific conditions, such as severe (but not mild-to-moderate) overtraining, a steady heart rate might not fluctuate in concert with metabolic output and percentages of energy utilization.

      Ultimately, it is your metabolism as a whole that is the main engine for your body’s athletic output. That athletic output happens through your muscles. However, the main measure of whether a subsequent session is physiologically more difficult than a previous one is not your muscle tiredness or your perceived exertion, but rather measures of metabolic output such as where your heart rate stands relative to the aerobic threshold in both workouts.

      Being able to cycle at the same wattage than a previous session, despite a much greater perceived exertion means that while your individual muscles are getting tired,means your metabolism as a whole is quite capable of maintaining that same athletic output in a way that is qualitatively very similar (in terms of substrate utilization) to the previous session. This means that fundamentally, your body is responding physiologically to both training sessions in a very similar fashion. In other words, you are garnering a comparable training response from both workouts.

  • Julian says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I’ve been interested in trying MAF for a number of years, but I live in a VERY hilly are (San Francisco) and my daily bike commute (the vast majority of my riding) includes two decent sized hills. Both of these climbs are steep enough that even walking my bike would put me around my MAF (I’m 32). Any suggestions on how I can incorporate the principles of MAF into my riding without having to walk for long portions of my daily ride?

    Thanks,
    Julian

    • Julian:

      Consider those hills the extent (or the majority) of your anaerobic workout. Riding habitually to and from work, even with a few hills involved, is much healthier and better for the aerobic system than not doing so. Just keep an eye on your stress levels, and emphasize aerobic training in other ways.

  • Chris says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I’m currently 39 years old 6’4 and 190 pounds. I was extremely active in my 20s and fairly sedentary for most of my thirties. I was bit by the golf bug and haven’t done much else for the past 10 years. I started running, swimming and lifting some weights about 6 months ago and have been trying the MAF method for the past month.

    I was blown away when I realized how hard my heart was actually working on a basic 5 mile run through the canyons behind my house. I’ve now resorted to running on a treadmill, since I can control my heart rate much better. If I’m walking my heart rate goes down to 110, but spikes quickly once I start running.

    Currently I warm up for 15 minutes walking on incline treadmill with 20 bpm under MAF. I’ll then start to run which I can maintain a 10 min mile pace for roughly 15 minutes before I go over 140. I will then walk on an incline for the rest of the time at 135 and then cool down for 15 min, which ends up being a total of one hour on the treadmill. I’m doing this 3 days a week, with one day swimming and one day weights.

    In the past month, I’ve noticed that I have a lot more energy, I don’t get tired after meals or mid day and I’m sleeping better. While all of this is obviously great, my running performance has not improved at all.

    Should I expect to see more progress than this? At 140 I feel like I can run with my mouth closed for hours and not fatigue. But after 15 to 20 minutes im getting into the high 140’s, which I can really feel the shift to anaerobic. The past two weeks I haven’t gone over 141 just to be cautious.

    I also just got a waterproof monitor for swimming and it looks like my heart rate is way low, around 115 on a mile swim. Wondering if this has to do with how tall and lanky I am. Possibly because im horizontal and not vertical?

    Thanks for your insight,

    Chris

    • Chris:

      Yes. Think of your lack of improvement being related to the fact that your body is a responsible engineer. The reason your energy levels are rising is because your body is committing its new aerobic development and ability to providing the basic upkeep for your body. It’s very typical that once your body has crossed its t’s and dotted its i’s as pertains to your basic health and fitness, you start seeing improvements.

      It’s often the case that swimming heart rates are lower, since the water cools your body to a great extent.

  • Ryan Spearman says:

    Hi guys,

    I just finished my first ever half-marathon at 1:56. I was delighted.

    I discovered the maffetone method after I had already been training for about 5 weeks and my knees totally blew out. I wasn’t able to run for over a week.

    I only managed to get in 2 months training exclusively with maffetone but improved a lot over that time. I found the half marathon itself relatively easy and extremely fun- the furthest I’d ever run previously was 15k.
    I have continued to maffetone train since the half marathon and hope to do many more.

    Thanks

  • Andy says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I wonder if the 180 Formula is also a superior training method for shorter endurance events like a 10 k race.

    The energy for a 10 k race is provided 95 % or more aerobically. But I assume it does mainly come from aerobic glycolysis and not from fat, correct?
    For a 10 k race the stored carbohydrates are sufficient. Fat is not really needed as energy source.

    Does it therefore make sense to train and optimize the fat metabolism by going at FatMax heart rate?
    Or is it maybe better to concentrate more on higher speeds to train the specific demands of a 10 k race like muscular strength due to the increased pounding at higher speeds and longer stride length etc..?

    I would appreciate your opinion.

    Many thanks
    Andy

    • Andy:

      Excellent question. But to answer it, let’s back way up. What’s best for the body is to be able to burn as much fats as possible at all intensities. So what you’ll see happen is that guys like Galen Rupp and Mo Farah are burning something like 95% fats all the way up to 55% Vo2 Max. And at 100% Vo2 Max, they’re probably burning 35% fats.

      The distinction between race speeds isn’t about which fuels you burn (at which ratios) but rather about at what heart rates you burn which. So what gives the elite endurance athlete the “elite” metabolism isn’t that they’re fasterper se, but that they’re burning more fats at higher heart rates than you are. (That’s what makes them faster).

      This brings me to your second point: “For a 10 k race the stored carbohydrates are sufficient. Fat is not really needed as energy source.” That would be true if the body was a car with 2 distinct fuel tanks. Even though we could say that technically fats are not needed as an energy source, there is no real way to make that happen. For example, what matters specifically isn’t the amount of sugars you have, but rather the concentration you have in the bloodstream. The more sugars, the more the concentration. So you need a minimum concentration of sugars in your bloodstream to keep your brain running. If you blow through all your stored sugars because you “have enough” to fuel your run, you’ll have long since fallen beyond the minimum blood sugar concentration it takes to keep your brain alive. (Your brain, of course, will never let you do that).

      The best way to keep this concentration high is to burn as high a percentage of fats as possible, so that you can fuel as much of your run with fats, so that you need as little sugar as possible for your muscles, so that your brain has enough sugar. This is why studies like Hetleid et al. (2015) show that in a high-intensity interval session, the difference in speed between elite runners and recreational runners is a far greater rate of fat-burning by the former (sugar burning remained very similar between both groups).

      So yes, it makes absolutely a lot of sense to keep training your ability to burn fats. Speed training matters a lot, but it does so because it opens up space for you to burn more and more fats at your aerobic heart rates (making you faster).

  • Michael Ryan says:

    Hi
    Currently Working on Building Aerobic Base its seems to be going ok I was just wondering if my HR by 180 formula is 140 what HR would you recommend for running the following distances in races, thanks for any advice.

    5K
    10K
    10Mile
    15Mile
    Marathon – I think I read this as 15 above the 140HR

  • Neel says:

    Hi Ivan,
    Have just started MAF a month ago (in order to start doing more endurance runs, giving myself a year to train) despite the mockery from my work colleagues about my pace on strava. I live in North QLD where it is currently 28C and 60% humidity at 7am. At 5 am its still 24-25C. As we approach the Australian summer, its only going to get hotter! With the heat and humidity i need to walk for a bit after a few miles to keep to my MAF HR of 145. I was a 830-9min/mile runner pre MAF (and constantly feeling tired) and now I’m doing 1130 to 13min/mile with MAF. I run 3-4 times a week and swim 1-2 times a week (also started using MAF for that). Because i can’t keep running in the early mornings, my times don’t seem to be improving. I hope thats because I’ve just started and due to the difference in heat intensity on my runs. Do i keep on with walking to keep HR at 145 with the heat and humidity or adjust my MAF HR.
    N

  • Johanna Meyer says:

    What are the Maximum fat oxidation rates in g/min one can achieve?

    What fat oxidation rates may athletes like Frodeno an Ryf have during a Triathlon race?

  • Turby M Wright says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I am wondering if my taking 125 mcg of levothyroxine daily for hypothyroidism would require me to lower my MAF HR by 10 beats?

    Thanks so much

    TMLW

  • TMLW says:

    Hi Ivan,
    I’m really looking forward to starting to train using Dr Maffetone’s method especially after talking to Mark Allen this year at Kona! Very interesting stuff!I take 125 mcg of Levothyroxine daily for hypothyroidism. Would I subtract 10 from my MAF heart rate because of this and does that change as one builds their aerobic function or always stay the same.
    Thank you kindly
    TMLW

  • Roger Johnson says:

    I am a 72 year old competitive road cyclist. So 180-72= 108. Add 10 for being highly trained and old still puts me at 118 max. Believe it or not at my age my max measured HR without any caffeine or other supplements is 200+. I can push really hard and get to 190 without reaching a Perceived Effort above 9-9.5. So 77% of 200= 154 seems intuitively too high. But if I even used 190 X 75% it would put me at 142 for Max Aerobic HR. Taking it to a more scientific level it is reported that ones max Aerobic Threshold is reached at a blood lactate level of 2.0. If that is accurate i do not reach 2.0 till my HR 155 and my power is 190, just 7 points below my Lactate Threshold (197 watts). So i must not be producing much lactate relative to effort or maybe those stated references are in young untrained sedentary people.
    Breathing through my nose at 130 HR is very comfortable. Going above 130 I have to take more serious abdominal/diaphragm breaths to continue breathing through my nose. My intuition suggests that 130 should be my number. Any advice? Roger

    • Roger:

      I would go by the 180-Formula. Otherwise, take a lab test to find your heart rate at the maximum rate of fat-burning (fatmax), as well as your VT1 (first ventilatory threshold). Your Fat Max is your aerobic threshold/a.k.a. your MAF HR. The VT1 should occur a few beats per minute above your MAF HR. We use it as a way to confirm that your fatmax/MAF HR is correctly ascertained.

      Incidentally, we consider that the aerobic threshold occurs physiologically when there is substantively no anaerobic function (which means substantively no blood lactate accumulation). In other words, we consider that the aerobic threshold is indicated by the point of onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA).

      The body’s hormones change qualitatively as you pass OBLA (but not between a blood lactate of 2.0 and 2.1 mmol/L). So there is a better argument to be made that the aerobic threshold occurs at the point where you go from substantively zero anaerobic function (zero lactate production) to a little bit of anaerobic function, than from a little bit of anaerobic function to more anaerobic function.

  • Marie says:

    Hello,
    I have enrolled for a semi-marathon in February 2017 and a full marathon in April 2017. Traditional training clearly does not work for me considering I went from one injury to another ever since I started running in 2012 (from groin strain to knee problem to tear in right hamstring and now tear in left hamstring in juts a few years!!!) so I decided to give the MAF HR training a go after my partner suggested it however I am still wondering if it is right for me. I read the book of endurance and it seems to be working great for athletes but what about normal people (no particular weight problems, more or less healthy lifestyle at the moment. I even did the two weeks test last month and swear by it ever since) with less than average abilities for running? I am a very slow runner (9min/mi pace for a 5K). With a maximum heart rate at 140bpm I am around a 16min/mi (with pain in my hamstring so decided to switch to stationary bike at the gym). Is the MAF training going to work for me and can I do anything to accelerate the improvement (if any)? And also how often should I train?
    Thanks a lot,
    Marie

    • Marie:

      It works very well for people of all skill levels. Let me introduce you to this Maffetone Method Facebook Group so you can see for yourself and discuss with other “MAF”ers.

      The “problem” is that the energy system capable of providing the endurance necessary for you to run marathons—which we call the aerobic system—takes a very long time to develop. It’s impossible to rush it, but it’s also impossible to train fast and hard (and make fast gains) and expect to not break down a few months or years down the line. So any training programs that offer you very quick results might produce quick results, but only at the cost of your health. And if your health fails, all the athletic gains you made thanks to these “quick result” programs will go down with it sooner or later.

      How much you should train depends on how much you’d be training. But to be physiologically prepared to run a marathon, I would look for/work up towards 2 requirements:

      1. To consistently and without injury, illness, or signs of overreaching, be able to run twice the marathon distance in a week (50 mi), including a twice-monthly MAF-paced long run of 2/3 of your expected race time based on race pace. Marathon race pace should be calculated as the 1st mile speed of your MAF Test minus 15 seconds (15 seconds faster).

      2. For the last mile of your MAF-paced long run (usually mile 18-20) to be no more than 2 minutes slower than your first mile.

  • Chaitanya says:

    I started doing all my training in my MAF zone starting a month ago and plan to start on the 2 week test soon. My diet is almost completely vegetarian though I do eat eggs. Yogurt [made at home with no sweetener added. Just milk and bacteria culture from a previous batch of yogurt] is an intrinsic part of my every day diet.

    Trying to setup a recipe plan for the 2 weeks and am finding it extremely difficult to figure out meals that include just vegetables, coconut oil, clarified butter, cheese, tofu and cottage cheese. I do eat chicken and fish, but do not want to eat them during the 2 week test as they would not be normal constituents of my every day diet.

    Coming to my query.

    1. Would including pulses be ok? garbanzo, red eyed beans etc?
    2. Is yogurt not acceptable? [made at home only]

  • Norm says:

    Hi Ivan,

    Wondering about running a marathon and the 180 Formula. Generally speaking, should I be looking to run at my MAF heart rate (I am 34, so at 146 bpm) for the marathon or can I go higher than that?

    Thanks!

  • Mike C says:

    In an earlier reposes you wrote. “You want to take your resting heart rate (RHR) the moment you wake up in 4 different instances: (1) before your first aerobic day, (2) at the end of your last aerobic day, (3) at the beginning of the day that follows your anaerobic day, (4) at the end of your 2 consecutive days of rest.”

    There is a contradiction; you first say the “moment you wake up” but in situation (2) and (4) you state the end of the day. Could clarify which is correct and how do you define end of your day? Thanks

  • Johanna Meyer says:

    Hi,

    your site is a great ressource. I really like to read the articles and the user comments!

    As you suggest, I am trying to change my nutrition to low-carb, which appears to be difficult. I am training now 6-7 times per week. Carb-intake is slightly below 100 g. I am training before breakfast. Training at MAF-Heartrate is not that easy. My heartrate goes up to much.

    Today I had no problems to run at MAF-heartrate after having an icecream-party yesterday evening. Our local icemen are leaving for Italy due to the upcoming cold temps here.

    What does that (high carb intake from icecream) tell you about about the quality of a metabolic system? Some say fats burn in the fire of carbs.

    Any hints welcome. Thanks already today.

  • Kim says:

    I have a few questions. I’m 39 and have been running again for about 4 months. I take 2 daily meds and have had 1 cold during the last 4 months that forced me to take 2 weeks off of training. I have a 10K coming up on Nov 12 and a half-marathon on Nov 26. My best 5K time was 39:57, which is incredibly slow. I am following Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 program, which has 4 runs a week. I think my max should be 132 with the meds but I’m not certain. When running all out I usually get up to the high 160s. My resting HR is between 80-90. I’m concerned that changing now to a HR-based program will slow me down for the race but I don’t see myself getting any faster doing what I am now. Should I put off HR training until after the half or would it still benefit me now? Thanks for your time.

    • Kim:

      It would certainly benefit you, but it would also slow you down for the half. So it would benefit you in terms of speed for future races, and in terms of finishing this race healthy and whole, but it wouldn’t benefit you in terms of speed for this race.

  • Ryan Spearman says:

    Hi,

    How many hours a week should I be training for using the 180 method? I have just started using it (a little over a week ago), I have been doing an hour every second day, with one longer run a week. I feel I could do a lot more, and that my sped would increase because of it.
    What are the recommendations? I haven’t found them one the site.

    • Ryan:

      We don’t have recommendations because everyone’s different. We could say that the best recommendation is to start from your current activity level and add 10-15% more activity every week. For example, add 1/2 an hour on one of your current “off” days, and then add another 1/2 hour to your other “off” day the following week. Keep doing that every week until you’re at around 5 hours of running per week, and stay there for a while.

      • Ryan Spearman says:

        So 5 days a week would be ok?

        • If it isn’t too stressful, yes.

          • Ryan Spearman says:

            What about jump rope? Is that a good way to supplement training if I can stay at my MAF heartrate?

          • Ryan:

            Yes, it’s an excellent way to supplement, particularly for runners. For lot of people who run far above their MAF HR but walk far below, jumping rope usually puts them just below MAF. Also, it provides a way to train the body’s muscles and tendons to work in almost exactly the way they need to for running. In other words, we could say that jumping rope is an excellent stepping stone for walkers who want to run, or runners who need a supplementary activity.

          • Ryan Spearman says:

            Wow. I just tried and my heart rate sky rocketed!
            It sped up and past my MAF heart rate within 30 secs of picking up the rope. Even once I was warmed up I could only maintain about 10-15 skips before needing to pause for 5-10 seconds.
            Just to be clear- MAF training essentially is about holding your heart rate at or just below the figure worked out with the 180 formula right?
            Does my experience with the jump rope sound correct? Despite having a very slow MAF running speed, at least I can maintain it

          • Whoa yeah. It’s going up too fast.

            There’s also a certain technique to jumping rope—making a small hop as the rope passes under your feet. A lot of people want to swing the rope up from behind them and jump at the same time, necessitating a much bigger jump to clear the rope. And that turns jumping rope into a crazy plyometric workout. So think “skipping” or “hopping” instead of “jumping.” If it helps, jump alternating feet at the beginning, like doing mini-running in place.

          • Ryan Spearman says:

            Thanks.
            It seems the more I train this way, the more questions I have.
            Are you guys going to start a forum on the site to deal with all of the questions and info? It would be a bit easier to access.

            Does the Maffetone method have a philosophy on cadence? Does a longer or shorter stride make a difference?

            Is there any difference to breathing through the nose versus through the mouth while training? Does it affect heart rate?

            Thanks

          • Ryan:

            Yes. Shorter strides are better because they equate to a higher cadence at the same speed. Higher cadences are more economical as they allow the tendons to function better.

            Nose breathing can be useful sometimes but overall it’s better to just breathe normally.

  • Scott says:

    Thanks Ivan!

  • Scott says:

    Almost three weeks ago I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and prescribed Diltiazem and Xarelto to lower my heart rate and thin my blood. I adjusted my MAF by subtracting 10 for the now-regular medications. My question is this: since my HR is now artificially low, are my MAF HR calculations all wrong? In other words, my MAF HR is now 112 (180-58-10), but does that number accurately correlate to my metabolic rate now that I’m taking Diltiazem?

    Thanks and keep up the good work. This is a great forum.

    Scott

    • Scott:

      It probably doesn’t—at least not perfectly. But the subtraction of 10 BPM most likely puts your MAF HR somewhere near where your physiological aerobic threshold would be while taking Diltiazem. In other words, it probably isn’t perfectly accurate, but the subtraction does coincide with some decrease in your physiological aerobic threshold due to atrial fibrillation plus the medicines you are taking.

      There are hundreds of thousands of medicines out there, and trillions of combinations that you could be doing. There is absolutely NO WAY that for even a tiny percentage of those medications (let alone when combined with the variable severity of the multiplicity of ailments out there), 9-11 BPM fall from the physiological aerobic threshold.

      One very important thing to realize is that what the 180-Formula lacks in accuracy (although it is quite accurate for a majority of the population), it makes up for in simplicity. Lab tests—which are incidentally, what I suggest you do—take more time and money to get than many people will ever have at their disposal. So, the 180-Formula is a free, easy-to-use, and nearly-instantaneous way of ballparking where your physiological aerobic threshold will lie, within a reasonably narrow range.

      Hope this helps.

  • Mike says:

    I didn’t see this in the questions so I apologize if I missed it, but here is my question:

    I’m curious as to how the MAF formula can apply to anyone without regard to someones actual Max HR? We know that the Max HR formulas (e.g. 220-age) are not very accurate individually and thus it’s better to obtain through an intense exercise test. So how does the 180 formula apply to everyone? Even Jack Daniels has said, for instance, that he has carefully measured the max HR of a 30 year old to be approximately 148 BPM. If this runner is in the worst shape and qualifies for all the subtractions in the MAF 180 formula, his MAF HR ends up being 135 BPM – 91% of his Max HR! Can his maximum aerobic HR really be at 91% of his max??

    • Mike:

      The 180-Formula is a good way to ballpark your aerobic threshold. But no, it is not precisely accurate.

      And no, his MAF HR wouldn’t be 91% of his max. Let me explain:

      It’s really important to keep in mind that the MAF HR and the MAX HR are 2 totally different things. The MAX HR measures how hard your heart can pump (the power and endurance of its muscles, and the brain’s ability to innervate it). So the MAX HR is only about the heart. The MAF HR looks at the metabolism: in order to produce anaerobic work, the mixture of hormones in your bloodstream have to change in fundamental ways. As they change (and more stress hormones get added to the mix), anaerobic work starts. But stress hormones also increase the heart rate. So, the heart rate is a good way to measure whether or not you have exceeded the intensity at which you begin anaerobic work (what we call MAF or “Maximum Aerobic Function”).

      That said, there are particular considerations to be made when someone has an abnormally low heart rate. As someone’s heart rate rises towards their MAX HR, their stress hormones increase (because they begin to redline). So, this person starts to produce stress hormones not because the body has to work anaerobically to provide more energy, but because it’s stressful that the heart is redlining. In effect, this brings down that person’s effective MAF HR. However, if you looked at the functionality of their muscle mitochondria, blood composition, lung function, etc.—essentially all of their systems except their heart—could be functioning aerobically at 135-140 BPM, except that they can’t because that’s when the heart starts to redline, and floods the system with stress hormones.

      Does this make sense?

      • Mike says:

        Yes this makes sense, thanks for the answer. I guess what I was getting as is: it seems like the 180 formula gets you into the ballpark for your aerobic threshold similar to the way the 220-age formula gets you into the ballpark for your max HR. But also just like the max HR formula, it seems for individuals there should be a more precise way to find your aerobic threshold to maximize your training, just like their are more precise methods for finding your max HR to maximize any training based on percents of max HR. Is there a more precise way to estimate your aerobic threshold than the 180 formula? What would the 30 year old with the abnormally low HR do to figure out his aerobic threshold since it’s obviously not 91% of his max? 🙂

        • Mike:

          Laboratory tests, full stop. From the perspective of athletic training, this is someone with a cardiac condition (even if they have an otherwise healthy heart). What the 180-Formula tries to ballpark is the aerobic threshold (or ‘first lactate threshold’ or LT1), not to be confused with the anaerobic threshold (or ‘second lactate threshold’ or LT2).

          Check out our MAF HR white paper for other measurements that coincide with the aerobic threshold.

    • brendan chiswell says:

      Thanks for the reply Ivan.

      Quick update: am now a week out of the test; trying to keep to good carbs & generally feeling a lot better.

      Im still doing the running. Its got slightly better in that i can now manage 0.4 miles without the heart rate tripping out, but for miles 2 & 3 they generally tend to be v slow at around 15.5 mins miles.

      I read through the comments and i see ppl use the bike so have started doing this too (much less frustrating) and surprisingly have found i can keep by heart rate at the optimum level on the rowing machine too.

      I have a 10k race at the end of the month and am keen to stick to my heart rate training as much as possible.

      Similar to your conversation with Ryan – should i be aiming for 5 hours a week ? Or given the gentle nature of the training is it ok to step it up more ? Is there anyway to maximise my aerobic base training ?

      • Brendan:

        Bike and rowing machines are a good way to help develop your aerobic base if you’re a very slow runner. I also recommend that people jump rope and/or do a 1/2 hr session of very short, fast intervals once a week to practice the running movement and help the body transition aerobic gains made in the bike and rower into running. (Note that intervals and any other type or power training are NOT done during aerobic base training periods. But as you are training for a race, it is acceptable.)

        5 hours a week of running is decent for a 10k. What I usually tell people to aim for is to be able to run 50-70% of the race distance 4 days a week and for sub-HM races run just over 100% of the race distance (such as 11K) 1 day a week, all at the MAF HR. So part of what you want to be able to do is to make sure that running the race distance isn’t going to be a problem for you, so that you can attempt to run it at a faster-than-MAF speed.

  • brendan says:

    hi team,

    just found this site (thanks to mr mcdougall) – and its been something that’s been in the back of my mind for a while. my brother in law has been continually telling us to cut out processed sugar as well so i felt hey it was time to try.

    im currently into day 4 of the test. so far so good.

    i have started to use the 180 method at the same time. my first run (in the heat) avg 15 min miles (barely running before the heart rate would spike); the next 2 runs were down to about 12 min miles (running 2-3 miles). normally im a 22.5 min 5k’er & maybe 48 min 10k; so this feels v slow.

    i have had some slight knee issues, but still completed a marathon in each of the last 2 years & run 5k every saturday. per the breakdown i have just gone 180 – age, but generally in pretty good shape (2nd marathon was trained for in 3 weeks & completed in a time of 4:14). with this in mind should i add a few beats ? or just try and stick to 144 ? (am 36 yo)

    or have i been to keen & bitten off too much ? should i start to use the 180 method post the 2 week test ?

    i scoured the comments, but couldnt see this issue had been raised.

    thanks

    • Brendan:

      What I suggest is to train at a particularly low intensity during the TWT. In this period of low-carb eating, you really don’t want to be training in a way that uses a lot of carbs (in high intensities) as it can lead to stress. And always calculate the 180-Formula conservatively. For example, I have a series of muscle imbalances that don’t cause pain or injury, but I still take 5 BPM off my MAF HR even though I have been improving.

  • James says:

    Hi Ivan,

    As part of a oneyearnobeer 3 month abstinence challenge https://www.oneyearnobeer.com/ I have to sign up for a fitness challenge which to me is a 7 mile fell race on New Year’s Eve.
    I used to run a lot on roads and a few years ago completed a sub 4 marathon. Lately though I have become disollusioned with roads and run on trails with minimal shoes/sandals but have lost a lot of my old fitness.
    For the past 3 months on and off I have ran for an hour or two at 136 bpm (44 years old) but not challenged improvements and have no idea what min/mile I’m doing.
    I don’t want to participate in this fell event and feel too slow or be at the back so am concerned how to progress training over the next 3 months given that the inevitable hills will equate to anaerobic running and a high heart rate.
    At what point would you introduce anaerobic training and what form should it take?

    Thanks,
    James.

    • James:

      I would introduce 20-30 percent anaerobic work (of my total training volume) two weeks out of the month of the 2 months previous to the race. The idea is to have a full 2 weeks of aerobic training (including taper) before the race. I would do something like:


      Near aerobic-only training.
      2 weeks anaerobic (25%)
      2 weeks aerobic (100%)
      2 weeks anaerobic (25%)
      2 weeks aerobic (100%)
      RACE

      • james says:

        Thanks Ivan, much appreciated.

        Are there any particlular anaerobic sessions you would recommend for fell runs and is heart rate not a consideration during these sessions?

        James.

        • James:

          Thanks for asking this question. It’s a really great one.

          Heart rate is a consideration, but first let’s back way up.

          For almost all sports that I can think of, aerobic training is ‘general training.’ That’s why it helps for life, work, exercise, jet lag, etc. It prepares the body to live in the world and absorb the stresses of the world, whatever they may be. The opposite of that is anaerobic training. In my view, anaerobic training is really where it gets specific: sports-specific, event-specific, or even course-specific.

          Let’s take sports-specificity, for example. Your muscles, whether you are running a marathon or a mile, are going to return the most energy if your stride rate is in the ballpark of 180 steps per minute. So, whether you’re an endurance runner or a middle-distance runner, you need that minimum power. So, a lot of “running specific anaerobic training” (before even talking about distances or events) has to do with bringing up the runner’s power to the point that their comfort zone occurs at around 180 steps per minute. And getting to the point to where a runner can produce 180 steps per minute—let alone get comfortable with it—has everything to do with what percentage of their muscle power they need to use to produce 180 steps per minute. If it’s 110%, they’re not even going to be able to get there; if it’s 55 or 60%, they’re probably going to be able to produce 180 steps per minute somewhere around their MAF HR.

          But the larger take-away is that really that the way in which you train for specificity on any level is through the anaerobic system (with caveats and exceptions, of course).

          And you can take this philosophy the way down to event/course specificity, in the case of fell runs. If you’re training fell runs in order to say, run the Hardrock 100, going all out will help you, but it’ll be necessary to convert that high-end power into the kind of power you’ll be able to use to run up and down gravelly terrain for 100 miles. So you’ll want to use a specific heart rate not so much to “protect your metabolism” (in the MAF sort of sense) but to train or convert your fell running skill at a heart rate/intensity that looks specifically as much as possible like the kinds of intensities you’re going to be running the race at. In other words, at a distance of 100 miles, you might not ever touch your anaerobic threshold on the hardest hill. In a 5k fell, you might be going above at every single hill.

          So what you would use heart rate for in those anaerobic workouts is to manage your workout so that you train at intensities that look like what the race is going to be. And just to come full circle, let’s reiterate the use of aerobic work in this context. You’ll use aerobic training to ensure that, in a general sense, your body can healthily cope with whatever specific (anaerobic) training it is that you’re doing.

          The obvious caveats to all this is that there are some distances, like a flat road 50k, where, by happenstance, race specificity essentially means running at the MAF HR. And even for a flat road 50k, there are some reasons why you would want to do a bit of anaerobic training, but that’s another story.

          Hope this helps.

          • James says:

            Thanks Ivan that is really useful and I will certainly take it on board.

            One further question if I may relating to fat adaption and fuel when on long runs.

            When an athlete is in a fat adapted state, such as Kilian Jornet, why is it necessary for him to consume so many high glycemic foods before and during runs such as nutella? Isn’t his fat adaption enough to provide energy?

            Is there a way to fuel without sugar for non athletes such as us mere mortals?

            Thanks.

          • James:

            It’s not necessary during runs, and before runs it’s counterproductive for both “gods” and mortals. A god with a powerful aerobic system can reap the benefits of sugar without being hit as powerfully by the drawbacks, but mortals are hit more powerfully by them.

            The best answer, to be honest, is that mortals should run mortal miles and gods should run god miles. For example, I run ~8:20 minute miles at my MAF, and I never run to the extent that I need fuel. At one point, that was 8 or 9 miles. Now it’s 20.

      • GaryH says:

        Thanks Ivan. May I have clarification on your comments above?

        1) How do you define training volume? Training time or distance run?

        2) Why go back to aerobic only after 2 weeks?

        Near aerobic-only training.
        2 weeks anaerobic (25%)
        2 weeks aerobic (100%) <— Why aerobic only here?
        2 weeks anaerobic (25%)
        2 weeks aerobic (100%)
        RACE

        • Gary:

          We usually do training time.

          The reason I put 2 weeks aerobic is so that the body has a time to completely integrate all of the neuromuscular learning (that happens primarily during the anaerobic weeks), as well as to guarantee to a fault that the body is completely recovered from anaerobic training.

  • Tom says:

    Hi, Ivan:
    I’ve read every single comment on the site. Your responses are extremely informative and professional–thanks for your dedicated work to keep us informed.

    I am attempting to establish my maximum aerobic heart rate. I am 68 years old, am on regular medication (blood pressure-which is controlled; synthetic thyroid medication to control hypothyroidism), have been training consistently (walk 4-5 days per week, light strength training (Nautilus) 2 days per week without injuries (no competitive events) for several years.

    Disregarding effect of the thyroid medication (for the moment) my HR would be 180-68 = 112. I am on regular meds so -10 takes it to 102.

    I read (to my deep disappointment) your response (18 November 2015 at 8:22 pm) that thyroid medications effectively invalidate the 180 Formula model. Extract: “All bets are off with thyroid meds—it’s an issue best left to your doctor. The problem is this: hormones control your metabolic rate. Usually, these hormones fluctuate in relation to exercise: through your thyroid, your body ups your metabolism when you exercise, and reduces your metabolic rate when you stop. But when you are taking thyroid hormones, you create a hormonal steady-state, so that your metabolic rate (and yes, your heart rate) correspond not to the level of exercise—as they would in a body with a healthy thyroid gland—but to the level of thyroid medication you have in your body in real time.”

    I have found that my HR is remains very responsive to increased levels of exercise, changes walking/jogging speeds, small elevation changes, etc. In fact, I see no differences from before beginning the thyroid medication about one year ago. Subject to getting approval from a health professional about the 180 model, I believe it would it still be better for me to implement MAP principles in my exercise routine than not to? I would appreciate your comments on this course of action.

    Thanks very much for your time and attention to my questions.

    • Tom:

      Let me clarify what the quote means for what I believe are your purposes.

      Usually, the heart rate is tightly linked with the metabolic rate—and specifically the percentages of fat and sugar energy metabolism. However, heart rate and metabolism are linked by the thyroid gland. So, while your heart rate will still respond as you expect it to (because it is responding to levels of stress hormones and innervation from the central nervous system), your metabolic rate and energy metabolism will look somewhat differently from what you would expect by looking at your heart rate. In other words, in people with thyroid problems, heart rate still responds correctly, but is less predictive of the metabolic rate and energy metabolism—the very things that we use heart rate to predict here at MAF.

      So, the potential is that you might be burning more or less sugar, or more or less fat (based on a bunch of different factors) than what your heart rate will predict. These “bunch of factors” is why you’re much better off (1) going to a doctor to see how much exercise means too much stress, and (2) to an exercise lab to see what your sugar and fat metabolism is doing at the heart rate that is predicted by the 180-Formula. However, since the 180-Formula assigns the threshold for “low-intensity training,” its unlikely that running at your MAF HR (as assigned by the 180-Formula) will be unhealthy for you. That said, it might be the case that your body might be working differently at your 180-Formula assigned MAF than what we would expect of someone for thyroid problems. Those differences might have implications for your training, particularly if you’re trying to progress quickly and safely and/or become competitive, but again, because the intensity isn’t very high, its unlikely to be unhealthy.

      So, yes, it is better to implement MAF principles (unless your health specialist indicates otherwise), and to attempt to implement them conservatively.

      • Clare says:

        Hi,
        Thanks for the clarification on thyroid meds and the 180 formula. I just want to make sure I am clearly understanding, so apologies if this is repetitive ….

        Its sounds to me like you are suggesting that for those of us using synthetic thyroid to control hypothyroidism, it is best to work with a lab to understand what the right heart rate is for optimal fat burning – is that right? Are there specific tests we should be asking for/about?

        Thanks for your help.

        Clare

        • Clare:

          That’s right. The best test would be a simple VO2 Max/RER test that looks at important physiological thresholds:

          Aerobic threshold (MAF HR)
          Anaerobic threshold
          First and second ventilatory thresholds (VT1 and VT2).

          So it’s not that people with various issues need different tests to ascertain their MAF HR. The same test will demonstrate that their MAF HR is elsewhere than would be expected for a fully healthy person. That said, the 180-Formula doesn’t work any less well for people with thyroid issues than it does for healthy people—it is reasonably accurate for about 80% of the population. But people with thyroid issues have another (health) reason to want to be specific.

  • Kai says:

    Hello Ivan,

    I am a competitive trail/mountain runner. After another taxing running season in the Alps with lots of vertical training, racing one 50K and another 100K race, I feel tired and burned out. Even though I have integrated much more hiking in my training, I feel drained and very likely overtrained (I feel this way after every season).

    However, this time around, I wish to take care of my health (I will do the two-week test and lower my carb intake) and intend to rest and recover properly. For 2017, I plan on racing one very runnable 100 miler in early May and one technical mountain 100K mid July.

    Could you please give me advice on:

    Recovery – for how long I should completely rest without any running, before I start building a base, using the 180 formula?

    Training – during which months can I introduce (if even necessary) more race-specific workouts, perhaps anaerobic runs, or some vertical pushes, before the first race in May?

    A response is most appreciated,
    Kai

    • Kai:

      Thanks for your comment. Let me answer in sequence:

      Recovery – It’s hard to say how long you should completely rest, but the best advice I can give you is to rest until the symptoms that led you to consider that you were overtrained have become completely cleared up. If you are in stage 2 (but not stage 3) overtraining, it’s prudent to walk at a leisurely pace for an hour a day, and do unloaded, light movement training.

      Training – I would think that the best months to do so are weeks 5,6,9,10,12,13 before the race. In other words, I would leave 4 full weeks of aerobic-only training between the race and any anaerobic training, so that you have a chance to train aerobically for 1 or 2 weeks and taper for the rest of the month. The reason I stagger 2 weeks of some anaerobic training (say, 25-30%) with 2 weeks of aerobic-only training is to allow yourself to (1) rest between anaerobic training periods and (2) transfer some of your strength gains into aerobic speed.

      • Kai says:

        Hello Ivan,

        Thanks for your helpful feedback and suggestions of when to introduce anaerobic training, next to using the 180 formula, in preparation for the 100 mile race next May. Could you please answer me the following questions that have come up:

        Heart rate: What actual heart rate should I target when moving up and down the mountains during those harder workouts that usually last between 60 and 120 minutes? Just today, I ended my season with a 21K skyrunning event and despite a race plan that worked out well enough, my average heart rate ended up at 170 bpm.

        Nutrition: What kind of carbohydrates would you deem acceptable during those taxing months of training? Is white basmati rice from India and/or yams an option?

        Again, thank you for all your help and great job you are doing!

        Kai

        • Kai:

          You don’t need high-glycemic carbs (basmati rice and yams). For example, you can get comparable amounts of low-glycemic carbs by eating bean chili soup with tortillas. In fact, I typically end the day with a low-glycemic carb dinner, just to make sure that my recovery during sleep is fueled. But I can’t really think of a benefit that high-glycemic carbs have OVER the same caloric amount of low-glycemic carbs, unless you are literally mid-race.

          I would also steer clear of referring to high-intensity workouts as “hard” or “taxing.” One of the best ways to keep the body sensitive to high-intensity training is to not overdo it—to keep the body relaxed and receptive to it. So, even though you’re running close to your top speed, the moment that it becomes “hard” or “taxing” (which is the quintessential way that our culture relates to high-intensity training), your body begins to harden to it and resist it. This is the very situation that leads to overreaching and eventual overtraining. The way to prevent this is particularly to cease an event of high-intensity training (or a microcycle) before or as soon as it becomes “taxing.” If you alternate high-intensity training with low-intensity training before it becomes taxing, you can do comparably much less high-intensity training for the same medium-term results, and you get the benefit that those results are much more sustainable.

          As far as heart rate goes, setting a heart rate for mountain running is very difficult. The best thing you can do is to test out a preferred pace during your long runs, setting different paces for different inclines, lengths of hills, substrates, etc. It all really comes down to wisdom and gamesmanship. What I would do as a coach is take my athlete through a series of different scenarios (specific to that course) and figure out optimal paces for each.

      • GaryH says:

        Thanks Ivan for your response. Excellent blog page and I am learning so much. I am in similar situation with Kai, so am interested to clarify your comments above. I would have I should focus on aerobic training exclusively in the beginning so to build up the base, and then supplement with anaerobic training closer to the race times. What is the rationale in your comments above? Many thanks!

        • The reason is simply to be prepared for the race. Aerobic training builds the body’s foundation, so a lot of times you need some anaerobic training to hone your race speed. If Kai would simply start training aerobically right now, his aerobic base might develop well, but his race performance might also suffer. The reason is because it takes a big chunk of unbroken aerobic training to really accelerate the development of the aerobic base. So in the short chunks of time, it’s most likely that he’ll just lose his anaerobic edge and not be able to develop a robust aerobic base.

          In other words, when you’re in the thick of it, it’s good to maintain a balance. (2 weeks of aerobic-only training is not enough time to begin losing significant amounts of power). However, athletes who have a team of specialists making sure their body stays healthy might train anaerobically a few times per week, every week. But unless you can track your physiology in a detailed way, 2 weeks “on”, 2 weeks “off” is a great basic plan to structure your microcycles.

  • Norm says:

    Hello,

    Training up for my first marathon and wondering if I should be doing the traditional build of miles as I approach my goal or if I should be more or less staying with the shorter runs. I would do either still within MAF. Thoughts?

  • AnneL says:

    I’ve read through tons of questions and responses and have a fairly good idea of what I need to do but have some questions about how it’s working for me. We are all different, right? I’ve done the method before when I was a few years younger. Then, I was able to mostly stay under the MAF hr. Now, I’m starting with it again. I’m almost through the two week test. When I try running, like others my heart rate quickly jumps up and goes over 126. I can barely run and end up walking most of the run. I’ve tried to bike but it still goes high and I also can’t bike every day. Here are my questions:

    1. Even when walking my heart rate can jump up higher than 126. Should I be concerned if after I’m done running/walking my average hr was below 126?

    2. Should I resort to walking only at a faster pace? Would I be able to run eventually?

    3. When I have to walk to keep my heart rate below 126, I’m not sweating. Does this mean it’s not working?

    • Anne:

      Let me answer in sequence:

      1) No. Typically, during a MAF run, your average heart rate will be 5-8 BPM below your MAF.

      2) Yes, try walking at a brisk pace. Supplement your walking with jumping rope—that’s another way to train the muscles that you will use for running when you eventually start running at MAF again.

      3) Sweating is relatively unrelated to work rate. For example, on a hot and humid day, you can be strolling along or just standing in the sun and be sweating. So the purpose of sweating is primarily to keep you cool. If there is no need to cool you down because either the environment or your work rate (or both) aren’t enough to produce the need for it—because, say, you are exercising at a low-intensity in balmy weather—it is typical that you won’t sweat.

  • Andy says:

    Hi Ivan was there a problem with my question I notice it didn’t get posted…I’ve only a iPhone to surf with, so slightly awkward to go through all the comments to see if my question have been answered..

    I’m at prayerbone@yahoo.co.uk if there was any issues
    Regards
    Andy

  • Mariska says:

    Hi Ivan,

    When I look at the numbers it seems like the MAF method does not apply to me. I’m a 48 years old so my heartrate should be 132. I started running (for stretches longer than 5k) after a knee injury (torn ligaments) 2 years ago. 1 year ago I ran my first marathon in 3:52:05 with an average heartrate of 176. In my second marathon in april this year my average heartrate was 183 (though not as comfortable as the first one?) and the time was 3:56:25. I find it very difficult to stay below 155 during a run. My max. Heartrate is 201 and my resting heartrate between 60-70.
    Where does the “180” come from?, it seems to be so arbitrary (just like the 220-age should give me my max heartrate (which I know is not 172)).
    One more question: I’m on a very low carb diet for 1.5 years now. Whats with the “training your body to burn fat”, it seems like my body has no choice. Where are the benefits for training at a low intensity when your body is already programmed to burn fat?
    (I’m not english speaking so I hope it makes sense what I’ve written).
    Thanx for your time

    • Mariska:

      The “180” is a number that was derived from extensive clinical observations, to reverse-engineer a formula to find someone’s aerobic threshold. I caution that the aerobic threshold (MAF HR)—which is the point at which the body begins working anaerobically—is quite unrelated to the maximum heart rate, which is a measure of how strong the heart is. The aerobic threshold has to do with the body’s oxygen intake capabilities, it’s fat breakdown capabilities, its capillaries, the mitochondria in its muscles, etc. The maximum heart rate has to do with the resilience and strength of cardiac muscle, and the brain’s capability to innervate it. These are 2 different systems. It just happens that the body’s aerobic system is easily measured through heart rate.

      The benefits of training your body at a low intensity are quite extensive, and we discuss them at length in a variety of articles here on the site. I recommend that you begin by perusing “The MAF Files,” where we discuss the science of heart rate training in detail.

      Let me give you a brief summary: the aerobic threshold is the highest level of intensity at which the body can train without triggering a stressed state. In a “stressed state,” hormonal levels change dramatically, to allow the body to respond to the stressor (in this case a high athletic demand), which means burning more sugar, burning fewer fats, etc. Furthermore, both chronically high levels of stress hormones and chronic sugar burning have adverse effects on the body. This means that a preponderance of activity under the aerobic threshold is necessary to absorb the effects of high-intensity (stressed) activity, and to develop the systems (aerobic muscle fibers, vagal nerve tone, mitochondrial density, capillary networks) that allow the body to do so.

      This brings me to another point: there is an important difference between burning mostly fats (due to your diet) and burning fats at a very high rate (due to the quality of your aerobic system). And this is perhaps one of the most important side-effects of aerobic training: that you’ll be able to keep a very high level of athletic output at a low heart rate because of the fact that when your body is burning mostly fats, its fat-supply/fat-burning systems are powerful enough that even near-exclusive fat-burning (with very little sugar) means that you have a lot of energy.

      Given that you report you are quite slow at an aerobic heart rate, this tells me that your fat-burning capabilities are not very developed. For comparison, highly-developed aerobic athletes are not only very very fast at their aerobic threshold (MAF HR), but the speed differential between their MAF HR and (say) 20 below MAF is much smaller than someone who is less aerobically developed. So, one of the biggest clues that the 180-Formula doesn’t work for you (in the sense that you need to increase your estimation) is if you are very fast (I’m talking sub-7 minute miles) at your MAF HR. This isn’t necessarily the case, but it’s by far the likeliest one.

      That said, another, better, and more accurate way to look at your aerobic threshold is by taking lab tests. The statistics you want are:

      Fat Max (heart rate at the maximum rate of fat-burning)
      LT1 (first lactate threshold, also known as “aerobic threshold,”)
      VT1 (first ventilatory threshold).

      Fat Max and VT1, which are right on top of each other, coincide with your “real” MAF HR—which the 180-Formula intends to point to. VT1 should be a few beats per minute above Fat Max and LT1.

      The reason we propose the 180-Formula (even though it is not as accurate) is because it is accurate enough for a vast majority of people, while also being almost completely inexpensive, in terms of time, effort, and money, to perform. Lab tests are contingent on a lot of things, that are beyond the reach of the majority of the public. (In one of our white papers, we discuss the abovementioned statistics).

      Hope this helps.

      • Andy says:

        Hey Ivan,

        you have a typo:
        VT1 should be a few beats per minute above Fat Max and VT1.

        Probably you mean:
        VT1 should be a few beats per minute above Fat Max and LT1.

        Cheers
        Andy

      • Craig says:

        Hi Mariska,

        I am not sure if Caitlin Snow uses this exact method but I’m pretty sure she would be following something similar to the 80/20 principle that this method follows. The whole idea is to run longer and faster at a lower HR. In Caitlin’s case she ran the Kona IM World Championship marathon in an incredible 2:56 with an Ave HR of only 146!

        Here is the link so you can look at her HR data and it also gives some really great additional insight that has pretty much been covered by previous comments http://www.xtri.com/run-tech/detail/284-itemId.511712213.html.

        I am starting out on this training method now and it’s been painfully slow (the pace at which I am running), but from what I have heard it is definitely worth it. Imagine running your 3:52 marathon breathing in and out through your nose 🙂

  • squirrelrunner says:

    Hi there Ivan,

    I have been training with this method for app 8 weeks and don’t feel I’ve made much improvement. I try vigilantly to try to stay within the MAF range I had calculated; but I usually spend about slightly less than a quarter of my workout time out of the zone, even with my best efforts (too high AND too low). Specifically I should not go higher than 120 bpm; and I try to stay between 110 and 120. I think my monitor shows me what is happening as of a few seconds prior to the actual display; so it is hard to adjust quickly enough to stay in zone.

    SO, this was happening when I took the first test and am getting ready to take another. My question is: how can I be sure of an accurate reading when taking the test, if my heart rate is varying this much? I imagine I can’t trust the reading unless the time is substantially different. For instance, if I see a 15 second per mile improvement; how do I know that this is not due merely to less variability rather than actually getting faster?

    For instance, let’s say the first test I am fluctuating between 108 and 123, and the next test I am able to sustain more evenly around the 120 mark?

    I really appreciate all your thoughtful answers on here – I’ve already learned so much from reading them!
    Thanks

    • squirrelrunner:

      Thanks for your comment. The variability you are talking about is a phenomenon known as “aerobic decoupling.” You can read more about it here. They only talk about heart rate drift, but heart rate fluctuations (“heart rate variability” is a different thing), are also an example of decoupling. Essentially, aerobic decoupling is a hallmark of poor aerobic fitness. So, if your speed improves, particularly as a result of reduced fluctuation (due to improved aerobic coupling), that is one of the best guarantees that your aerobic system is improving, and that you are underway to more permanent improvements in speed.

      Hope this helps.

      • squirrelrunner says:

        Thank you Ivan !

        I also realized that I was not warming up enough. I thought I was doing enough but honestly was not actually timing it. Read somewhere in this forum that warm-up should be 15 minutes – tried that the last two days and it really made a difference. I still drift some but not nearly as much. Who knew? I even had to work harder in spots to get my heart rate to go higher – good sign. I will take the test again this weekend and get a better measure. Thanks for the article – very helpful!

        All the best, Jean

  • Camm says:

    Ivan,
    I am schedule for some “metabolic” testing. I will having a VO2 Max, Lactate Threshold and RMR test over the next week or 2. I have been training at (180-age) minus 5 due to previous overtraining up until late March of this year.

    What number from those tests should I be looking for to be sure I am training at the proper HR for aerobic development? I assume it is quite possible for one to have a low MAF heart rate than the formula and also possible that crossover point after which the rate of fat burning declines could be quite broad — like a MAF HR of 134, but also able to hold a far higher HR without a significant decrease in the rate of fat burning.

    Thank you.

    • Camm:

      Look for the heart rate at your LT1 (first lactate threshold), also known as Fat Max. It can preferentially be gotten at by testing for the heart rate which occurs at the maximum rate of fat-burning. That’s your MAF HR. LT1/Fat Max/MAF HR should occur a few BPM below VT1 (first ventilatory threshold).

      • Camm says:

        Ivan,

        Thank you. I completed the RMR test and VO2 Max test yesterday and will take the Lactate Threshold test next week. I am 46 (male) and my VO2 Max was measured yesterday at 51.3 and my max HR in the test came in at 195. How will I use this info and the data from a lactate threshold test to train.

        Is it at all likely that given a relatively high max heart rate that my MAF rate may be slightly higher that 134 (I’ve been training at 129 due to a perceived decrease in performance this year)?

        Thank you again.

        • Camm:

          Good! Make sure that they give you your LT1 as well as your LT2. Let me direct you to an FAQ where I’ve discussed the answer to your question. Let me know if I need to explain it further.

          • Camm says:

            Ivan,
            Thank you again. I tried, but the university lab only offered the VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold (LT2) to the general public.
            I completed that part today. My LT2 occured at a HR of 166 and power output of 200. My VO2 Max came in at 51.3 last week.

            Would it be appropriate to complete 80+% of my training at 180-age = 134 and the remaining at just below LT2 or is the lactate threshold just a good number to know.

            My MAF runs have improved, but not alot and most of that may be attributed to 35+ degree swing in hear from early spring until now and additional stress at work. But my MAF runs are still terribly slow at 13:47/mile for 4 miles. That can not be good.

            How does one prepare for events without ever doing some higher intensity work? Is that just not necessary?

            How long should I go with very small improvement before considering there may be something wrong physically? It would seem that my metrics are OK, but something doesn’t seem right.

          • Camm:

            Certainly not, you have to do some high intensity work for certain events. For example, Galen Rupp, who won the bronze medal in the Olympic marathon, was expected to also medal in the 10,000 meters. However, to prepare for the marathon, he had to reduce his high-intensity training dramatically (to expand his low-intensity training) and in doing so probably lost some of the raw speed that would have helped him finish the 10,000. That said, this tells you something very important about longer-distance events such as the half-marathon and the marathon: the amount of high-intensity training you need is very, very small. A lot of elite marathoners, for example, run something like back-to-back 5 miles between their aerobic and anaerobic thresholds (with 2 mile jog in between). So a lot of them don’t even get up past their anaerobic threshold on the one workout of the week where they go above their aerobic threshold.

            But even races of the same distance are a different animal for elite athletes than they are for recreational athlete. For a very elite athlete, a 10k is a sub-30 minute endeavor. For a recreational athlete (who might run it in 40 minutes) the training requirement is proportionally more aerobic because for all intents and purposes, it is a longer race. So, for the same distance, training should be more aerobic for a recreational athlete than for an elite athlete because it takes more time to complete, and so engages different energy systems differently (more aerobic, less anaerobic).

    • NRC says:

      Very helpful. Thanks.

  • NRC says:

    As my (first) marathon approaches in less than 12 weeks, and in my third month of MAF training, I’m questioning whether I’ve put in the proper amount of training. I’m fine with avoiding the typical, rigid 50, 70, 100 mile per week training programs for a more fluid approach. Not to mention, with a job, family, etc…, and how long it takes to run at or below my MAF heart rate, there’s no way I would have the time to put in that kind of mileage. That said, given that I’m a far cry from an advanced runner, some structure or guidelines would certainly help. I understand Dr. Maffetone prefers discussing training “hours” over “miles,” but I can’t seem to find much guidance in terms of approximate hours per week is appropriate leading up to an event like a marathon. In one article on the site (“Take it Easy,” from January of this year), Dr. Maffetone provides an example of a runner’s tapering schedule, which amounts to 5 hours per week, and in another article (“Personalize Your Training,” from April 2015) he relays some training advice he gave to a runner to cut back from 20 hours per week to 12.

    Over the last few months I’ve averaged between 3 to 5 hours per week, almost all of which is at or below my MAF heart rate. I’m a 41 year old male, in decent shape with a little fat to lose but otherwise with no medical issues. Should I be looking to increase my training volume as I enter this 12 week pre-marathon time period?

  • NRC says:

    I’m curious, how much improvement to their race times and in what timespan can someone expect by adopting this approach and consistently training at or below their MAF heart rate?

    After about two and a half months of strictly training at or below my MAF heart rate, I decided to take the governor off just to see where I stood. I ran a 5K at race pace and it was virtually identical to my 5K race time from just before starting MAF training. I expected to see, at least, that I completed a 5K at race pace with a lower average heart rate, but that was virtually identical, as well.

    For what it is worth, I saw drastic improvement in my MAF Test between the first and second test, but actually declined a bit between my second and third test.

    Anyway, I understand I’m still relatively new to MAF training, but I’m just wondering if I should have seen some improvement.

    Thanks.

  • Robert says:

    Quick question. I am trying to employ the formula to my Mountain Bike training. However, it is quite challenging to ride some of the courses and keep my HR in check.
    Today was my first try at this method (besides using my elliptical yesterday) and my average was 124 BPM but occasionally went over my 132 score. I also peaked out at 146 on two occasions and the ride lasted 1:46.
    I normally do this ride in about 1:19 with an average HR 164 and a max of 179.

    Do you have any suggestions for this specific sport?
    My goal is to get my race pace around 154 average.

    • Robert:

      What I would do is to try and do the majority of your courses at a relatively low heart rate. While the “ideal” for health is to bike the majority of your miles under the MAF HR, we don’t live in an ideal world, so just try to keep close to the MAF HR as best you can.

  • Hi, I am considering following the Maffetone formula for 3 months and seeing how it goes after realizing that I may be overtraining. I consider myself to be an advanced to elite athlete, specifically with mountain biking. I also run, which I understand is easier to follow with Maffetone. How can I follow the Maffetone method when mountain biking on hilly trails ? (I live in North Georgia.)
    Also, are there specific training plans available to follow?
    Thanks

    • Jonathan:

      No, we don’t have any at the moment,

      • Jonathan Hiott says:

        Thanks for your reply. I have done my MAF test and have been doing aerobic workouts for about a week. I plan on doing aerobic workouts for 3 months then test my MAF score. My goal is to be leaner and faster for next spring’s races.

        A few questions:

        1. Is it OK to incorporate a “black-hole” (above aerobic intensity but below threshold intensity) workout once every few weeks where I bike at my normal intensity or is this strictly forbidden? Will it damage any aerobic gains along the way?

        2. Would I need to stay below MAF when I swim also or does it just pertain to running and biking?

        • Jonathan:

          Thanks for your comment.

          1. Yes, that’s totally fine. One of the functions of the aerobic base is to absorb the by-products and residue produced by anaerobic training. So, while the aerobic base does get “damaged” by higher intensity training, this is a natural part of life. The importance lies in keeping the aerobic base strong enough that it can absorb these stresses when they come without being crippled by it. The best way to know? If subsequent MAF tests are slower.

          2. For aerobic base training, all sports should be performed under the MAF HR. But when you don’t intend to do aerobic swim training, going above is fine.

          • Jonathan Hiott says:

            Thanks again.
            I’m one month into MAF training and have noticed that my running and biking times are slower when I’m going all out on some of my local trails. Presumably because I have been training at a slower aerobic rate and not doing much fast training. Is this to be expected? Should I incorporate speed work to bring my speed back up or just be patient and trust that the aerobic training will pay off in the long run?
            The reason I ask is that I’m doing a 3-mile trail run race at the end of October and would like to be as fast as possible. However, with doing MAF training, I don’t feel that this will be achievable.
            Your thoughts?

          • Jonathan:

            Thanks for your comment. MAF won’t really help increase your maximum anaerobic speed, so it is prudent to put in some anaerobic training in to prepare for short races (such as a 5k), without exceeding your limits.

  • Ricky says:

    Hi Ivan,

    One question:

    There have been many online running coaches who advocate doing some strides (eg: 6 x 20s strides at about a mile pace) after a easy (MAF) run Is this advisable? If so, is it ok to go above MAF for the strides?

  • Sergey Ivanov says:

    Dear Ivan, I have couple questions. How can I estimate the limit for the amount of length (time or distance) for the training run with the heart rate below MAF HR. I believe there is such limit because after running for more than 4 hours I feel pretty tired. And the second question: is there some recommendations about performing MAF test in the summer heat? My heart rate depends more on the temperature than on my pace?

    Regards,
    Sergey Ivanov.

    • Sergey:

      Typically, you start getting diminishing returns for your training after 2h30min. While there are good reasons for doing a long run beyond that time every now and then, most of your runs shouldn’t really need to go above an hour and a half.

      In regards to heat, remember that MAF training is about how much fat you can utilize for fuel. The reason you run slower in the heat is because your sweating system is being powered with some of those fats. So, even if your pace slows down, your body as a whole is still working at the same rate.

  • Larry says:

    Hi,
    First, thanks for all the great answers and advice!

    I have had metabolic testing done (irregularly) over the last couple of years (New Leaf brand equipment). My fat burning has been historically pretty good. The last test, a year and a half ago, said my aerobic base was at 144 rpm and burning 71% fat and 29% carbs. I’m a back of the pack runner, triathlete and weight lifter for lots of years now.

    I’ve been following the MAF formula for not quite 2 months and am seeing some nice improvements. My MAF heart rate is 114 (180-56-10 for medication). I am not interested in raising my MAF because, and this may be way oversimplified, if I can run at x minute miles at 114 then why would I want to run those x minute miles at 124… I say this even though I am mostly walking at the moment.

    So the first question is, am I missing out on any health, fitness or performance gains if my tested number (crossover) is higher?

    Second question, what is the proper protocol for the metabolic test? (treadmill) 15 minutes warmup obviously, but is there a minimum time to bring you through the ‘zones’. The last one went on two minute intervals as we ramped up the speed.

    • Larry:

      The crossover is sometimes, but not always, the MAF HR.

      The best statistic you can look at is FAT MAX, or the highest rate of fat-burning. You can expect FAT MAX to be a few BPM below your VT1.

      There are several different metabolic tests, each with different goals. Which are you talking about?

      • Larry says:

        Ivan,

        Thanks!

        The gym I take it at calls it “Active Metabolic Assessment”. (That’s quite possibly not helpful at all!) You wear the mask and run on a treadmill. The goal is to give you accurate zones to train in, “Zones 1-2 should be 80% of your cardio, zones 3-5 should be 20%”. Sounds familiar, but I was not paying attention in class that day. Paying attention now!

        The bar chart on the print out did say I was burning more fat in zone 2 than 1, 79% vs. 71%, but no FAT MAX number. VT1? Ventilatory threshold? I don’t have that. From the trainer’s notes, my RQ was .87 at 166 bpm, the top of zone 3. (for what it’s worth)

    • Camm says:

      Is FAT MAX the same as Lactate Threshold? Is VO2 Max worth getting as well? What about RMR?

      Thanks again for all the information. Any ideas on when the App will be available?

      • Camm:

        Fat Max is the same as the aerobic threshold (AerT or LT1). Usually, the lactate threshold is referred to as the anaerobic threshold (AnT or LT2). Both Vo2 Max and RMR are good stats.

        • Camm says:

          Ivan — Thank you. I am having difficulty finding a place to test this. The nearest major university has a Dept. of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies and I can’t seem to get anyone to confirm a test other that VO2 Max / Lactate Threshold or RMR.
          Any ideas?

  • Camm says:

    I trained exclusively in my MAF HR (119-129) from late March until mid-June when I raced an 18 hour adventure race. I took about 2 weeks “off” with only walks and some low HR trainer work on my bike. I then did 3 weeks where I added intensity (15 sec or under sprints / body squats / pushups) all with full recovery after the set. In those weeks I only did 2 or 3 days of that with the remaining at rest or very light recovery well below MAF HR target (119-129). I am back to exclusive MAF HR runs/rides for about 7 to 10 hours per week.

    I am a 46 year old male and have been recreationally training (3 – 5 days a week) for many years, but most of my prior training was “black hole” training well above MAF target. I do not take any meds or have any injuries. The only thing I am currently doing different is gradually transitioning to minimalist shoes from stability shoes and orthodics due to really flat feet / overpronation.

    Despite all my prior training, I had a BOD POD Body Comp Analysis on March 17, 2016 that put my body fat percentage at an astounding 27% at 176.785 lbs. This and some slight regression in performance prompted me to move to a Primal Diet with no carbs from anything but natural whole foods (nuts, seeds, veggies and some fruit). I lost some weight about 8 to 10 lbs, but have lost a lot of fat and still have more to go.

    I want to be sure I am training in the proper HR target and I wondered if my default MAF target is actually 180 – age (46) + 5 = 139 instead of the 129 number I have been using. My 5 mile MAF runs have gone from an average pace of a miserable 14:40/mile to a disappointing 13:47/mile in 4 months of training.

    I don’t know if my target should be 129; 134 or 139 or some other number. I completely agree and am committed to the process, I just want to be sure I am making the best use of my limited training time. Outside stressors are likely the culprit of such ridiculously slow MAF times.

    I greatly appreciate this site and look forward to any direction you can provide as I prepare for my next adventure race in late September.

    • Camm:

      Thanks for your comment.

      Go with whatever the 180-Formula tells you. Put yourself in whatever category you feel you best fit into. But of course, no formula will ever be as accurate as a laboratory test. If you want to absolutely know which heart rate is your “real” MAF, get a lab test for FAT MAX and VT1. Your MAF HR is your FAT MAX, and your VT1 should be a few beats per minute above.

  • Are M. says:

    Hi!

    I have two questions:

    1. It’s about when to change category. I have trained well for about two years pluss (6 years total), with just minor problems, so to be conservative, I chose category C). When do I know when I can change to category D)? Is it a good idea to stick with the MAF heart rate I have calculated now for 5 years till it is +5, or is it too conservative? As I understand it, you should drop the MAF HR with one as you age each year?

    2. Previously I have trained a lot exclusively in zone 1 which in this situation is below 142 BPM. My MAF HR is max 157 so it feels speedy! What is Phil Maffetone’s opinion about training in this zone, way below the MAF-training zone? I still use it for recovery, and warm up and cool downs as prescribed for MAF-runs.

    Regards!

    • Are:

      1. Generally, you change category when you feel that the reasons you were in category X are no longer applicable. If they stop being applicable 1 month after you went into say, category A (because you stopped taking regular insulin medication) then for all intents and purposes you do not fit in category A anymore.

      2. It’s perfectly fine. Usually, if running at your MAF HR feels speedy, you’re in a good spot to start putting (10-15%) anaerobic speed training into your workout.

  • Alex Fergus says:

    Hi.
    In regards to a MAF test – is there an optimal distance. Ie. if you are training for a 10k, should your MAF test be a 10k? A 5k? Or a 20k etc? I’m actually training for a 2k rowing event – what distance should my MAF be?

    Also – for a 2k rowing event (about 6-8minutes long), would the maffetone method be suitable – or is it too short of a distance? I think at 6minutes it is 80% aerobic energy systems so I think I know the answer to my question, but I would love to hear everyones views – especially as most people hear are long distance athletes.

    Cheers

  • Ward says:

    Hi. I’ve been through the comments and haven’t seen this issue addressed so here goes. I’m 68, in nutritional ketosis (so I’m a good fat burner) but my exercise history has been of the high intensity variety, thus my aerobic system needs some work. However, when I try to run my heart rate rapidly exceeds my MAF (as has been discussed extensively). Walking is obviously one solution, but I also have access to a Concept 2 rower and would like some advice about possibly using that for aerobic training. Morel specifically, the rower uses different and more muscles that running and it seems that it would be very easy to drift over into something resembling strength training. A 20 minute row (with warm up and cool downs on the ends) feels much harder than a 20 minute walk both done at the MAF. Any issues here or will it work fine if I just stick with the MAF (which is quite easy to do).

    Thanks, this site is a wealth of information.

    • Ward:

      It’s fine to row at MAF. The reason it feels harder is because your metabolism is actually fueling fewer muscles while rowing. The reason is because while rowing you usually have at least 4 points of support (feet and arms). Your issue is in fact quite similar to the issue a lot of cyclists have—they also feel that it is harder, since they have 5 points of support at nearly all times (handlebars, seat, pedals). This means that in these sports, the stability requirements are much fewer than in a sport such as walking (where you momentarily have 2 points of support) or running (where there is only 1 point of support at maximum).

      So, in order to stabilize the body with fewer points of support, you need more muscles in play at all times. This means that your total metabolic energy needs to spread out across more muscles, meaning that you can’t supply as much energy to any particular muscle: If you were using fewer muscles, you could allocate more energy to each of them.

      So, with the same metabolic energy you can use fewer muscles to a greater degree (so that it feels harder) when you have more points of support (cycling, rowing) than when you have fewer (running, walking). But the reason this doesn’t affect your MAF HR is because the MAF HR isn’t a measure of how hard you feel you are working, but rather how much energy your metabolism is using (and what that says about the percentages of fat and sugar). Even though cycling and rowing feel harder, you are using the same percentages of fat and sugar.

  • Paul Vincent Guasque says:

    My question is simple:
    I am 35… so my MAX HR is 145.

    Meaning:

    1. Going over this is not good for me?

    2. I should maintain 135-145 during my RUN SWIM BIKE ?

    That’s all

    Hope to hear from you

    please email :Teampeewee888@gmail.com
    Thank You

    • Paul:

      Thanks for your comment.

      I would like to specify that your MAF (not MAX) HR is 145. This means that going over 145 starts creating significant stresses for your body. It isn’t good for you to run the majority of your miles above 145, although if you’re healthy, it is beneficial for 10-20% of your training to be above 145. This applies for all sports.

  • David says:

    Thanks for this website. I am a 69 year old trailrunner, so my target has been 111-121 BPM (180-69+10). I have found that I can maintain this target for 6-8 hours, but my question concerns long or steep downhills. I have found that I cannot maintain a leg turnover fast enough to stay in the 111-121 range. So my thought is; do you look at the HRM at the conclusion of the run and look at the average HR over the length of the run? Thanks for your comments.
    David

  • Michael says:

    I looked through here to try to find an answer but I only found a partial one. My question is, as an amateur runner who has run a couple marathons, how many minutes does a session need to be for the 180 formula to actually work towards building your aerobic base? If I go out for an hour, I know it is working. But what about 30 minutes? or even 15 minutes? If i can only do 15 minutes of running at MAF HR with a warm up and cool down is that long enough to build my base or is that too short and not worth it?

    • Michael:

      A minute of walking, if that’s all you have, is worth it. So 15 minutes can do (and does) a lot. Of course, experienced athletes have to do much more for their aerobic base to get better, but you’d be surprised by how little you need.

  • NRC says:

    I have been training strictly under my MAF heart rate (139) since June 1st, and I’m seeing some steady progress. My first MAF test was an average 14:38 per minute mile, and my second MAF test in early July was an average 10:46 per mile. Considering my typical 5K (before MAF training) is about 7:45 minutes/mile, I feel great training at this pace, and feel there is still a lot left in the tank for when I eventually turn up the dial in a race.

    Despite the progress, there are definitely some “blips” on the radar. By that I mean, there are some bad runs every so often, in which I can’t seem to keep my heart rate down. This morning, for example, my heart rate would easily go over my 139 max, continue to climb even when I began to walk, and it would take longer than usual to come back down. It was so bad this morning that I abandoned my “run” and just converted my workout into a good paced walk. This does not happen all of the time, but it’s frequent enough to be pretty frustrating, especially when I feel good and that I could get a good training session in if I was not so closely adhering to the MAF Method.

    My question is whether there is anything I can do to decrease the frequency of these types of frustrating training sessions? In terms of background, I train about 4 times per week and average about 20 total miles. I don’t feel like I’m overtrained. I’m preparing for a marathon (my first) in November so, if anything, I feel I need to increase the volume. I train fasted first thing in the morning, about 5:00 a.m. In the past, I would drink a small cup of coffee with some heavy cream before a run but have since stopped, theorizing that the caffeine could have been contributing to my erratic heart rate. I have also cut down generally on caffeine overall. I’m mindful to get as decent a night’s sleep as I can (average anywhere from 6-8 hours), and also warm up about 5 to 10 minutes before every training session. Is there anything else I can do to control my heart rate during runs? Should I eat something before a run and, if so, what? Are there foods I should avoid the day/night before a run? Or are these types of maddening training sessions, in which you can’t keep your heart rate down, just part of the process and will eventually be minimized or fall to the way side all together as one gets more efficient?

    Thanks in advance for any help.

    • NRC:

      It is typically other significant stresses that are cause trouble (work stress, travel, exposure to household chemicals, etc.) Taking an inventory of stresses that occur before these episodes (and removing them) can help you in that endeavor.

  • Kirsten says:

    I’ve noticed when I try to run at this pace, I typically have to walk a lot in order to keep my heart rate down. Is that normal? I’ve been trying this out for a year now and still can’t run faster than 18min mile pace without my heart rate spiking…

    • Kirsten:

      There might be other issues that are hampering your aerobic development: any and all stresses in your life (bad sleep, bad nutrition, work stress, travel, etc.) challenge your aerobic function and make you get less out of the same aerobic workout. Working to remove stressors in your life is an integral part of developing aerobically.

  • stoz says:

    Hi Ivan,
    I fully understand the MAF HR and how it is calculated. Mine works out at 140. I understand that this is the MAXIMUM, but what is the minimum eg is riding indoors at 120 an unproductive waste of time (as compared with a bit nearer your personal maximum)? I’m guessing it’s about 10 beats below max but would appreciate you clearing this up, ta!

    • Stoz:

      That’s not really a problem.

      In all my MAF runs, I start out quite slow, 20 BPM or more under my MAF HR, and let it climb up to MAF over the course of a few miles. I let my body wind up slowly, kind of as if the first third of my workout is a long warm-up. And even when I don’t get up to my MAF, I let it happen. It’ll just relax the body more, make the workout less stressful, and teach the body how to exercise at a higher percentage (but probably a lower rate) of fat-burning. I even take this principle and work it into my training routine: when I have the time, I get up in the morning to walk the dog half an hour to an hour. All that low-level aerobic movement really does count as training.

  • Maggie says:

    I have just found this method and did my first run using it yesterday. My legs felt like lead and I was doing 12min/ml on the flat to achieve the right hr. I normally run a steady 10 – 10.30. But I am training for a marathon, which I am happy to walk/run to complete. I’m 62 this week, but consistently trained for 10+ years, running up to half marathon and now endurance cycling too.
    But my question is this: I am very lean, low body fat percentage, so is the fat burning going to compromise my health? Fuelling on long runs is likely to be glycogen into the muscles which will be used first/exclusively?

    • Maggie:

      No. The 8% body fat ultrarunner-types are all excellent fat-burners. Burning more fat (and higher percentages of fat at any given time) makes you healthier.

      Actually, when you fuel on long runs, most of the glucose you eat goes to stabilize your blood sugar and help feed your brain, in order to stave off fatigue. When the body is already breaking down fatty tissue at a good rate (and burning it at a good rate), ingesting glucose helps keep the fat-burning process going.

  • Sergey says:

    Dear Ivan,
    I am very interested in trying MAF approach to training. I am ultra-marathoner and for a year and a half on a ketogenic diet, 59 years old. My best marathon time was 3h 22 minutes, since keto my maximum heart rate increased to 180bpm, while lactate threshold heart rate is 175. Best 100-mile time is 24h 01’29” (I tried hard last 7 hours to get under 24 hours:). But I am afraid I am overtrained, so I do not add or subtract anything from 121=180-59.
    Running under 121 bpm is really hard for me, especially in summer heat. I’d like your advice, I can incorporate short Galloway intervals into MAF runs?
    I see 2 ways: the first is to run short interval until my watch beeps at 121 bpm, then stop and see how heart rate is increasing for some seconds above it and wait until it drops to 111 or below. Then repeat this short (about 7 seconds) sprint. Because my muscles are not doing any work when my heart rate is above my MAF value, this rest times should not count as anaerobic training, should they?
    Another is even shorter sprints so that 121 bpm is reached after, on rest segments after the run.

    And another question: I used to climb stairs at work when possible. I wonder if I must stop doing them often, because, if prolonged, in a few minutes of such “workout” my heart rate sure will be well above 121.

    With best regards,
    Sergey Ivanov.

    • Sergey Ivanov says:

      I want to clarify. I understand that interval training is developing the ability to recover from anaerobic intervals. But what makes an interval anaerobic? My leg muscles are not working with a constant power, there are some very short intervals when the power spikes and longer intervals of relaxation. Does the process of producing work in the muscles become anaerobic when oxygen depletes? Or when the heart rate increases above MAF HR? Can the very short burst of force can be so short that it does not drag me out of aerobic exercise zone?

      • Sergey:

        No. The body is a predictive mechanism, which means that it will respond to the amount of effort it perceives you will produce. Aerobic muscle fibers, also known as “slow-twitch” muscle fibers, simply cannot produce the amount of power that anaerobic muscle fibers, or “fast-twitch” fibers can produce. So to run the anaerobic component of intervals, your body switches over to anaerobic fibers, such that the entire sprint is run anaerobically.

  • Connie says:

    Hi Ivan;
    I’ve been run/walking halves and full marathons for several years, and I’ve just started training using the Maffethone Method: 180- my age(73)+5.
    Is it okay to take spinning classes (indoor cycling) and boot camp classes while training using this method?

    • Connie:

      It is. However, unless you get to where your training MAF 75-80% or more of the time, you won’t be gaining a lot of aerobic endurance. Below that percentage, the time spent training MAF will help your body absorb the stresses and by-products of anaerobic training, and deal with them in a healthy way. So, what a lot of athletes do is set aside a 3-month chunk out of their year to train exclusively under the MAF HR, so that they can develop that aerobic endurance—which comprises the core of the body’s ability to perform well in endurance events.

  • James says:

    Hello Ivan,
    I have now read every comment and response so have a much better understanding. I turned 60 this week and have been training in MAF method for one month at 121bpm so back to 120 from now on. I ran the Gold Coast half on Sunday and added 20bpm (I gleaned this from one of your comments), sitting on 141 for the entire race. The first 10km was at 6:10min/km but after that I found my pace dropping as I held on to the low heartrate. In the end I was out to 7min/km.
    Would that be because I’m not fit enough or maybe needing food?

    My race time was 2:17 which is embarrassing when people ask me as I usually do around 1:40 But my heart rate then would be more like 170.

    I actually felt that I had lost fitness and I have Full Marathon at the end of July.
    Will my times just keep dropping as I put the hours in at mahr?

    I have not done anything with diet yet.
    Is it that important and should I do the Two Week Challenge as soon as possible?

    • James:

      Your heartrate should rise during any race that is marathon distance or shorter. (A race is not a training run). The idea, however, is that you allow yourself to go fast enough to use up all of your muscle glycogen without depleting it beforehand. So what I’d recommend is to try out some long training runs (no more than 1 a week) some 30-45 seconds faster than your 1st mile MAF pace, and see if that works for you.

      • James says:

        Thank you Ivan. I hadn’t understood that at all. I’ll give it a go. I understand of course that it’s early days for me but I had to start somewhere and we’ve already booked the holiday to San Francisco for the marathon.

  • Benjamin says:

    Hi Ivan,
    After witnessing my success with the Maffethone Method, my wife has expressed interest in trying it, as well. However, she’s known for the past decade that she has a heart murmur. W/ a chronic condition like that, should she adjust her target heart rate when training w/ the Maff Method?

    Thanks a bunch

  • Jim Hanrahan says:

    Hi Ivan
    Thanks for all the information that you have provided here. My question is (maybe I missed it when reading all of the above)
    As a 72 year old in good physical condition who jogs 3-4 times a week for anywhere from 40 to 65 minutes, how do I determine my MAF heart rate.
    I have exercised for at least 4 years (jogging for 1) with no injuries or medications. I think that I read somewhere about adding 10 for people over 70.
    Thanks for any response

    • Jim:

      If you’re very, very healthy, add up to 10 BPM to your 180-Age. This is to your discretion. Only 5 BPM may be warranted, for example. I wouldn’t add any more beats, as we usually only add 5 for competitive athletes who are also very heealthy.

  • Bill says:

    Hi Ivan,
    If my MHR is calculated to 120, and I go on a walk, and as soon as I hit a slight incline my HR goes above 120 very quickly to the point that I have to almost shuffle to keep it under 120, Is this of actual benefit?
    I guess what I’m asking is how can going at this pace build an aerobic base? If I keep at it for a couple of months, will I eventually be moving faster but have the same HR? What should be the duration of these walks? Thank you in advance

    • Bill:

      Yes, you’ll still benefit. It’s OK to go above the MAF HR for a little bit. That’s not where you want to live (by a long shot) but a few, SMALL hills here and there won’t be an issue.

      The reason is because the aerobic system is a totally different animal than developing power. A very low intensity is necessary to coax the body into producing all the fine work that’s necessary to build a stronger aerobic system. The best bet for duration is to start from what you’re used to, and slowly ramp it up to 5-6 hours a week. Ramp it up slowly (over the course of 6 months) to stay as stress-free as possible.

  • Catherine says:

    Hi

    Firstly – thank you Ivan for your commitment to answering all our questions! Here’s mine

    I had been training with the Maffetone method for around 2 months
    I have had several colds over the last few years but otherwise healthy and uninjured
    I am 37, and had therefore been training at 138
    but had seen a substantial regression in my results (from around 8min kms to 9:30 min kms)

    so I had metabolic testing done and confirmed the following
    RQ of 0.85 – 163 (this was described to me as the crossover point)
    RQ of 0.87 – 171 (I have seen in other posts this is the Maff recommended RQ train at)
    The test was conducted on a treadmill

    My questions are
    1 – what is the correct HR for me to train at now?
    2 – is my training HR the same for the bike and run

    Thank you in advance for your help

    Regards,

    Catherine

    • Catherine:

      Sometimes, it happens that an RQ of .87 corresponds to the MAF HR. But this is not always the case. (If I remember correctly, I’ve used quite qualified language in the past to describe this. I apologize if I’m wrong). What you need, more than percentages of fat to sugar burning, is rates of fat and sugar burning. It’s very unlikely that you’ll find that your highest rates of fat-burning occur at 171 BPM. (If they did, you’d be very, very fast, and only getting faster).

      So, to answer your questions:

      1: your MAF HR as obtained by the 180-Formula is the heart rate at which you should run the preponderance of your miles.
      2: yes, it is.

      Let me explain why reductions in speed don’t necessarily mean you’re losing “fitness”:

      They haven’t quite gotten worse. Let me explain:

      When people are used to high-intensity training, they essentially keep their body in “crisis mode.” This means that the body, in its desperate attempts to be able to meet the demands of training, begins to sacrifice its health. In other words, that athletic output was only possible because the body was in a stressed state.

      (This a milder version of why, when someone is in intense physical or emotional pain, they can express an immense amount of strength.)

      So now that you’ve been training MAF, why are you slower? The body is no longer asked to compromise its integrity, and its stress has subsided. Because of that, the body is no longer willing to give an athletic output that is only possible in a chronically stressed state.

      In other words, your body’s physiological ability has not waned. In fact, it is probably increasing. What has waned is muscular power that was only built in the first place because the body perceived itself to be constantly fighting for its life. Let me put it to you this way: if that muscle power was NOT challenging the body’s health, it would NOT have waned. So, the fact that the body is allowing its power to wane means that it’s getting a chance to develop the systems upon which that power is built.

      Let me use a metaphor. Suppose that an overeager building manager decided to add 10 extra floors to a building whose foundation only meant for 20. With 30 floors, the ceilings are constantly caving in, and productivity stops while repairs are made. Finally, the building manager brings in a competent engineer. What’s the first thing the engineer is going to do?

      1. Immediately remove those 10 extra floors, to remove undue stresses to the foundation.
      2. Repair all the damage.
      3. Upgrade the foundation to the desired rating.
      4. Add floors that are supported by that rating.
      5. If more floors are needed, upgrade the foundation first.

      This is essentially the calculation that the body makes, when you let it.

  • Chas says:

    Does Zoloft (Sertraline) count as medication for MAF purposes? I use it for an anxiety problem at work.

  • Jim says:

    Hi there,

    I have started running a couple of weeks ago. I am 29 years old but overweight as I started running at 96.5KG, now down to 93KG. I alternate between running and walking every other KM. I have managed to build up from running 1KM at max to a constant 4KM run now at an average pace of around 6:40. My heart rate spikes up pretty much whilst I’m running and I fear I am constantly in the anaerobic range. The figures below are some of the statistics of my run last night:

    1st KM – 6:47 – Average HR was 152, Max HR was 166
    2nd KM – 6:30 – Average HR was 167, Max HR was 172
    3rd KM – 6:44 – Average HR was 171, Max HR was 177
    4th KM – 6:48 – Average HR was 173, Max HR was 178.

    I see my numbers are constantly improving, meaning I get a faster pace at around the same HR, however the run feels exhaustive each time, and as I try to run daily, every morning I still feel exhausted.

    The reason I picked up running is to lose weight along with increasing my fitness. I have never had any injuries, nor constant sicknesses etc. What I would like to do is to run for a 5K in around 25 Minutes, and build up the stamina to run 10K. How do you think I should proceed with this?

    Thank you.

    • Jim:

      How many times per week do you run/ how much total mileage?

      • Jim says:

        Hi Ivan,

        Sorry for the late reply. I am trying to run around 4-5 times per week, for around 20-25km. Since my post I’ve dropped another 3KG through dieting and exercise so now I’m at 90KG, and have increased my runs to 5K. My Garmin Fenix tells me my RHR is around 60-62 bpm.

        As I said earlier, I’m not running so I can compete in a marathon or something, but only so I can improve my fitness and lead a healthy lifestyle without exercising too hard which can bring problems down the line.

        Looking forward to your response!

        Thanks, Jim.

        • Jim:

          What I would do is work up to where you can easily run weeks of: 4k-3k-4k-3k-6k-rest-rest at your MAF HR consistently and without exhaustion. Then, every other week, I would switch out the two 3k days for 1.5k of 100-200m intervals, with a 4k run instead of a 6k run the final day. In effect, you’d be alternating “interval week” with “MAF only week.” Once you’ve grown accustomed to this for a couple of months, do 1 interval week per month and add 1k to 2 of your MAF runs per week starting by the first 4 runs (2k more per week) until you can run something like 5k-6k-5k-6k-11k-rest-rest consistently at your MAF HR without having to drop to a lower mileage. 2k more per week is a conservative but reasonable weekly distance increase. And then, apply the same calculation so that you can start doing 2 short days (3-4K) of intervals every other week. Once you’re doing this, I would take every 3rd month to go back to full MAF training, so that 12 weeks of training looks like: MAF-int-MAF-int-MAF-int-MAF-int-MAF-MAF-MAF-MAF.

          Again, this is very conservative; you might find that your body can take more or less anaerobic training than I suggest.

  • Chas says:

    I’m 42 and recovering from various running injuries (knee, foot and back). Had to stop running altogether 6 months ago and turned to weights in the gym and swimming. A few niggles remain but slowly getting back to running – ran 5km at the MAF zone (138bpm) yesterday without much issue. The problem I have is relates to swimming as my HR is much higher during a session (140 after a few laps, rising to 170 at the end of say a 1,500m TT). Even drills and 100m intervals has the HR up over 140/150 quickly – some of this invariably is due to being new to swimming and have a tendency to “fight the water” – or so my coach tells me!

    The questions I have are these:
    1. Am I hurting my aerobic capacity by training beyond the MAF zone in the water?
    2. Would toning it down to say a 140 HR average over a session speed up the aerobic capacity and hence be the quickest route to improving running performance (which is the main game for me)?
    3. I bought the big book of endurance (only started reading) but am confused around training vs racing. Surely when it comes to racing (and lets say after years of MAF training) one doesn’t run at the MAF level (138 for me)? I would expect in say a 5km race to quickly have the HR up around 170 after the first km and around 190 by the end of the 5th, rather than 138 throughout.

    Cheers,
    Chas

    • Chas:

      1. Not necessarily, unless you’re doing far too much of it. What you are doing for sure, is slowing down your aerobic development somewhat.
      2. Averages can’t tell you much. For example, intervals where you take your heart rate from 115 to 175 and back again would average out to 140 BPM. Your est bet is to stay just under the MAF HR for the duration.
      3. Yes, training isn’t racing. For example, marathon pace is usually 15 seconds faster than your first mile MAF. You can expect your 5k time to be 1-2 minutes faster.

  • Samuel says:

    I’ve been perusing the site, and this might be the best place to ask this comical but hopefully relevant question…

    I’ve recently begun aerobic base training. I’m 43 and, until recently, not considered myself an endurance athlete. However, my wife and I have always enjoyed a healthy and somewhat vigorous sex life.

    So here I am during regular workouts keeping my heart rate within my 180 formulated limits. But my heart rate tends to go above the aerobic limit during sex (yes, I actually had my heart monitor on during a session).

    So the question is: during the 2+ months of aerobic base training, how long can I safely be above the limit? Or is all benefit wiped out as soon as I go above my formulated aerobic max, forcing me to restart the 2 month process?

    And really, this question applies to the aerobic workouts as well – in that if I bump above my aerobic limit and then quickly adjust (within seconds), am I still on track or do I need to start my 2 months over? How does that all work?

    • Samuel:

      That kind of stuff just doesn’t matter. Play the pros and cons out: having extremely fun and athletic sex is incredibly enhancing to quality of life, in part because it reduces stress. So while we can discuss all sorts of caveats—yes, sex does put you over your MAF HR; yes, that does mean a certain amount of anaerobic function—the overall result of healthy sex is a healthier body and mind.

      Just keep training aerobically, and use it to fuel your sex life. Don’t worry about it; it won’t hamper your aerobic development significantly.

      Even if you go a hundred times above your MAF for a few seconds, over the course of a single MAF workout, you’re still getting 99% of the aerobic development you would get if you didn’t go above it at all. The MAF method isn’t a magic recipe that you need to execute perfectly. Instead, think of it as a method that harnesses the body’s basic ways of growing and developing, and maximizes them. Sure, it’s not completely optimal for you to go above your MAF HR, but it’s not optimal in the same sense that 99% of the benefit is not the same as 100%. The aerobic system is a very complex and very basic structure, which grows in the exact same ways that you can expect a plant or a person to grow. If a teenager misses a few meals, they’ll grow slightly less that particular day, and keep growing just fine the next. You can think of aerobic training in this exact same way.

      Hope this helps!

  • Jenn says:

    Hello, Ivan:

    I, too, have questions about 180-category choice (and then another question following). I’ve been taking an OTC allergy medicine (Loratadine) for years. 1) Do ALL regularly-taken meds automatically make you a Category A, or just prescription meds. 2) Would I also then subtract another 5 for said allergies? 3) I also have been running 25-30 miles/week regularly for way over 2 years, with improvements, an occasional injury here and there but nothing serious. How should I choose category most appropriately?

    I’m 45 and have a resting heart rate of 38-42. I consider my self a “lazy” runner because long and slow are what most of my runs consist of. The majority of my runs are run between 9-9:30/mile. I’ve never trained for speed; although I did my first 5k last year and finished in 23:18 and I was told this was “pretty fast for an old lady” ;). I do a lot of hill work because I live in a hilly area. I race occasionally; when I do it’s a marathon or longer. I run because that’s what I do. I’m interested in this for the fat-burning/muscle-building component. Speed would be an added bonus. I’m wondering if I already run aerobically? What are your thoughts?

    • Jenn:

      Thanks for your comment. Let me answer in sequence:

      (1) Yes, all regularly-taken meds.

      (2) No. You only subtract once, from the category that subtracts the most points. You also only make one operation: if you subtract, you only subtract. If you add, you only add.

      (3) You would still fall under bucket (1).

      It’s possible, but I would very much not rely on that. For me, the best subjective indicator of whether I am running aerobically is when my demeanor remains contemplative through mile 20. If the run is at all noticeably harder at mile 20 than at mile 1, it hasn’t been aerobic. (If my run hasn’t been that many miles, figuring out whether it has been aerobic is a good deal harder).

      So, while it’s possible, the best way to know is by heart rate.

      Here’s an excellent, excellent article detailing the importance of the heart rate, and why it surpasses the subjective as a form of measurement.

  • Steve Hoffman says:

    I’m an experienced runner just getting started with MAF training. After reviewing this board, my initial experience has been similar to many others. I have a quick question about how to manage my pace as I learn my way into this..

    At a brisk walk my HR is about 110-115. When I try even the SLOWEST jog I can manage, my HR quickly spikes above my MAF target of 130. I understand now, after reading other posts, this is due to the muscular contraction required to run vs walk.

    Here’s my question: should I structure my runs around this run/walk pacing, where I jog until my HR goes above 130 then walk until it comes down, jog again, walk again, etc.? Or, should I maybe train only at a walk for a while until I become more efficient at that?

    Thanks!
    Steve

  • Michael says:

    Hi Ivan. For quite a long time I’ve been taking an antibiotic called “doxycycline vibramycin-d” – is this considered as a “regular medication”, and therefore should I subtract 10bpm?

    Also, for the 180-formula, am I supposed to only choose 1 category? So in this case category A?

    The reason I ask is because I have been doing running/cycling 4x per week for 2 years now and have made progress, which is technically category D (+5bpm) as well.

    I know it says:
    “Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:

    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.”

    which implies to choose just one category, but I saw a few comments around here where they were subtracting more than one thing, or subtracting 5 and adding 5 (cancelling each other out) etc. Is this incorrect?

    So I should be choosing category A (-10bpm) on its own, not A+D (-5bpm net total). I just wanted to clarify things!

  • Adam says:

    Hi Ivan,
    I usually run shorter distances 5km, or triathlon sprint distance 750/20km/5km and i was wondering if the MAF method would be benificial for me? I notice that most people are doing much longer distances and I wasn’t sure if I would see the same benifit. If you could give me some insight that would be greatly appreciated.

    Regards,
    Adam

    • Adam:

      Yes. Essentially, any amount of aerobic training will help the body, and the more you do it, the more benefit you’ll find.

      Don’t think of the MAF Method as “aerobic-only training.” Any short race runner needs high-intensity training, and even some marathoners do. But the important thing to realize is that any event that lasts over a minute depends very much on the aerobic system—and the aerobic system is also the one that allows the body to recover from high-intensity activity.

      Another thing to realize is that, when the body is open to stimulus, it doesn’t take very much high-intensity training to create a big effect. But if you increase anaerobic training to a certain degree, the body becomes desensitized in order to protect itself. So, what happens is that someone who trains at a high intensity a lot finds that they suddenly need far, far more high-intensity training to gain even a little bit. And here’s the important bit—the body is desensitizing itself for protection. In other words, whenever you find that you need to dramatically increase the volume of high-intensity training in order to create a training effect, it’s because the initial training was already becoming harmful to your body.

      So what aerobic training can do for you is to help your body remain healthy throughout training, increase the yield of any high-intensity training, recover quickly from workouts, and of course, carry you through the race.

      Hope this helps.

      • Adam says:

        Thanks Ivan. That was very helpful. I have started using a heart rate monitor to train using the 180-formula for a few weeks now and have already seen benefits. I have seen my pace quicken while staying at the same heart rate. I initially needed to walk portions to keep my heart rate with in the correct range but now i am jogging the entire time.

  • Ben says:

    I’ve just recently heard about the MAF 180-formula but am finding that the HR recommended (180-55=125) for me is way too low. I’m 55 and have been running for years (mostly on weekends) and would agree that I have been pushing way too hard by mostly running at 170-180. Over the past couple of runs I’ve tried to keep my HR down to 125 but just can’t do it. I’ve slowed my pace all the way down to 15:00/mi and I’m still often over 140. Do I have to keep at it to re-train my body to this slower pace (and how long will that likely take)? Is it possible that my HR is just faster than most. Any help or guidance would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Ben

    • Ben:

      The most likely explanation is that you do need to train slowly.

      The more aerobically fit people get, the lower their heart rate is. This is partly because the hormone that increases the availability of sugar in the body (cortisol) is also a stress hormone, which increases the heart rate. But if you’re burning mostly fats, you produce that much less cortisol because you don’t need to make as much sugar available. Insofar you’re burning fats instead of sugars, the factors that would have increased your heart rate are absent, so it drops accordingly.

      • Ben says:

        Thanks, Ivan, I’ll keep at it for a few more weeks and see where it takes me.

      • Ben says:

        Ivan,

        I’ve now been doing this for 2.5 months and have not seen any progress. I am able to keep my HR at about 125 but in order to do that I am basically fast walking at a pace of about 15 min/mi. That’s just way too slow and quite frustrating. How can I know that the 180-55 formula is right for me? It seems to me that most things don’t follow a straight linear formula. I also note that you have a different formula for people under 16. Isn’t it possible that that older folks might also need a different one? Can you share the data for how the formula was derived (with age groups)? Is there a better way to figure out what my HR should be besides the, what seems to me to be an overly simplistic, 180-age formula. Is there a test I could have done, for instance?

        As I said I’m quite frustrated with the lack of progress and am about ready to move on so any additional guidance would be appreciated.

        Thanks,
        Ben

        • Ben:

          Yes. In fact this is why we indicate that healthy people over 65 might need to add a few beats.

          The physiological threshold the MAF HR intends to get at is the aerobic threshold, also known as AerT, “first lactate threshold,” or “LT1.” (For comparison, the anaerobic threshold is known as “lactate threshold,” “second lactate threshold” or “LT2.” A lot of training labs will test your LT1. Another way to get at LT1/ MAF HR is to get the heart rate at the maximum rate of fat-burning (Fat Max). Fat Max/LT1/MAF HR should be only a few BPM under your first ventilatory threshold, also known as “VT1.”

          I caution you that the appearance that the 180-Formula is overly simplistic is an issue aside from whether it is overly simplistic. It doesn’t work for everyone, but one of the reasons it is so simple is because it measures a physiological parameter that occurs very similarly for just about everyone. (Think of it as a test that assumes you have 10 fingers and 10 toes, and bases itself on that to make other predictions). The people for who it usually is less than accurate are those with very high genetic baselines of aerobic markers such as VO2 max—in other words, those who are already very very fast at a very low heart rate. Put another way, the slower you are at a lower heart rate, the more likely it is that the 180-Formula is right for you, because you are closer to the average (or below average) of these aerobic markers.

          • Ben says:

            Thanks, Ivan,

            That still sounds all rather vague and so hard to feel confident about what the right HR is for me. So people over 65 should add a few beats but I’m not over 65 so I shouldn’t? Even though it feels like I’m hardly breaking a sweat? You also say it doesn’t work for everyone but there doesn’t seem to be a way to know if you’re in the lucky bunch for which it does. So I’m not feeling good about continuing this.

            Would you have any suggestions for how I might go about finding a training lab to get some of these tests done? I’m located in the Santa Cruz CA so near silicon valley.

            Thanks,
            Ben

          • Look for athletic performance labs. UC Santa Cruz might have one. Ask around in triathlete circles.

          • Ben:

            Look for athletic performance labs. UC Santa Cruz might have one. Ask around in triathlete circles.

            The lucky bunch of the population that it works for is those who are within 2 standard deviations from the mean of population VO2 Max. In layman’s terms, that’s a lot of the population. A quick-and-easy way to know if the 180-Formula doesn’t work for you (if you’re outside 2 standard deviations) is if you’re constantly contending for a podium finish in your local 10k and marathon—or if you’ve made enormous gains in speed over these months of training. In other words, the people that it doesn’t work for are already very, very fast at their MAF HR: they have an abnormally large (read: outside 2 standard deviations) VO2 Max, which means that they can process oxygen at a huge rate, meaning that they’re burning fats very quickly too. Check out this comment and this one. They’re a good supplement to my answer to you.

            Dr. Maffetone got to the 180 number by looking at people’s lab data (fat-burning, lactate, Vo2 Max, etc.) and finding a way that he could calculate their thresholds by using heart rate. 180-age plus modifications was the best he found.

            The reason it might be prudent for some very healthy people over 65 to add 10 beats (this is a far cry from “should”) is because people lose Type I (aerobic) muscle fibers at a very slow rate as they age. So, when someone remains healthy, their aerobic system, which is the bedrock of health—check out those sources—is proportionally very strong for their age. Hence the addition of 10 beats.

            Check out our white papers. I recommend that you go through the sources we use (various sources, but in particular this one—Meyer et al. 2004).

            The 180-Formula works for a majority of the population in finding what Meyer et al. and others call the AerT ge/la (aerobic threshold gas exchange/lactate). This threshold occurs at around 55% of VO2 Max, in other words around 55% of maximum exertion. If you’re hardly breaking a sweat, its quite likely you are around the aerobic threshold. The fact that the 180-Formula puts you around there as well would confirm that.

  • James says:

    Hi Ivan,

    Is there a minimum amount of time that you would need to run to reap the MAF benefits? I’m able to do 3-4 runs per week, usually in the 30-60min range each time. Thanks….

    • James:

      Not really.

      Any novel stimulus (such as walking for someone whose never walked habitually before) will cause the body to adapt to it. The time you mention is perfectly reasonable to gain significant fitness.

  • MAF Enthusiast says:

    In a highly trained ultra/endurance runner, should the MAF HR zone (MAF-10 to MAF) be an “all day” type of pace (let’s say 6+ hours)? Since one is burning maximum fats in this range, should it feel like they have “infinite energy”, as if they could go on “forever”? (With no/minimal fuelling required etc.)

    I know that it depends on the individual, but how do we distinguish the difference between:
    1) The aerobic system fatiguing (e.g. some people’s pace might drop considerably after 30mins, or HR increase at the pace).
    2) Muscles/fibers fatiguing after a long MAF run.

    Or are they the same thing? Or in the 1st case is it about the ability to process fats internally/generally, as in their body struggles to continue burning fats after 30mins (even though the leg muscles aren’t tired)?

    I also remember you saying that a long MAF run will have an anaerobic component to it too even at the same HR.
    I guess I’m just concerned that I can’t gauge if I’m aerobic or not because of all of the above factors affecting my pace/RPE after a certain time!

    • MAF Enthusiast:

      The core component of the aerobic system is the muscle fibers. So, one of the things that makes for a very powerful aerobic system is to have a vast amount of mitochondrial redundancy, meaning that a massive amount of mitochondria can get tired before your speed drops.

      The reason more mitochondria don’t always mean that you run faster (instead of longer) is because (1) you may have far more mitochondria than necessary to process the maximum amount of oxygen your lungs can take in and your red blood cells transport at any given time, (2) regardless of how many mitochondria you have, the motor neurons connected to your aerobic muscle fibers are smaller than those connected to your anaerobic muscle fibers. This means that if you can keep stuffing mitochondria into the muscle fibers far beyond their capability to contract, extending their range rather than increasing their speed.

      Another reason might be the case that your nervous system (the neurons that drive the aerobic muscle fibers) aren’t as numerous, strong, or myelinated as say, Kilian Jornet’s, meaning that they get tired more quickly, which means that your body has to up the stress response in order to keep moving. Furthermore, the blood vessel networks that feed those neurons might not be as extensive, which means that they aren’t getting enough juice.

      What I mean when I say that a very long MAF run will have an anaerobic component is not because you’ll start burning lots of sugar and producing lots of lactate, but rather because at some point your speed will drop off. This drop-off means that there has been a huge increase in the stress response, which means that your body is beginning to respond to the trainingas if you were training anaerobically, even though there is actually very little anaerobic work happening.

      When this drop-off happens is essentially when you’ve exhausted the mitochondrial redundancies—the “range” of your muscles—I discussed earlier.

      • Camm says:

        Sound one expect a drop off in speed and/or change in the “feel” of a MAF run as I try to move from orthodics and stability shoes to more of a barefoot scenario? I am attempting to slowing transition to more and more barefoot and my recent run absent my normal orthodics (assumed 1st phase) was terribly slow and felt fatigued early. Is that to be expected?

        How would you advise transitioning to barefoot / minimalist footwear?

        • Camm:

          Yes, that is to be expected simply because removing orthotics is quite a significant change. However, there are certain common conditions, such as hallux limitus, which make transitioning safely a very delicate process. I would consult with a gait specialist to see if such a condition may describe your situation.

  • Gregory Cox says:

    Thank-you Ian for your very informative and helpful answers.
    As per my second comment I am very interested in the relationship between the MAF test and aerobic fitness. When you say “As people get more aerobically fit, a classic change is that the speed difference between their first and last mile becomes smaller and smaller.” Surely this is dependent on the length of the test. I.e. 1 persons speed may decline after 5k while another’s may not decline until after 20k. Obviously after longer distances fatigue becomes a significant factor but have you and Dr Maffetone studied the relationship between aerobic fitness and this speed drop-off point. I’ve done another test staying strictly in the MAF HR zone and confirmed that for me the significant speed drop off point is 20k.

    thanks,
    Gregory

    • Gregory:

      Yes, but we haven’t yet had a chance to dive in-depth into these themes. However, let me first discuss what we have studied. For example, the slope between the 1st and the 5th mile (the difference in times) can tell you a lot about the health of someone’s aerobic system. If the drop-off happens before 5 miles, the slope will be very sharp, suggesting a rather poorly trained aerobic system. If the drop-off happens after 20k, the slope between the 1st and 5th mile will be very shallow.

      Of course, without having studied this more in-depth, we can be reasonably certain that the further out someone’s aerobic speed drops off is because their aerobic system is (a) quite healthy and also (b) quite powerful. Generally, this is because they have more mitochondrial reserves in their muscles, but many other factors can have an influence. For example, as the liver gets better and better at maintaining their blood sugar levels, and is able to do that for longer periods of time, there is a lower decline in speed. This is the kind of thing you can expect from people who have walked or jogged to and from school and work all their lives: their liver is excellent at producing sugar they haven’t had a chance to ingest all day.

  • Tito says:

    First, thanks for all of the great info. I am one month into the MAF training and I love it. Here are my specifics:

    Age: 58, no meds but some arthritis and old training injuries, plus an unpredictable work schedule. I put my MAF Heart rate at 180-(58+5) = 117. That makes my workout rate 97-107.

    I typically run every other day, 15+30+15, sometimes less if I don’t have time. My question is about maintaining heart rate. I will get the Maffetone App the moment it’s available, but for now I’m using Runtastic. It’s an annoying app that constantly tries to get you to upgrade, but it works. Runtastic has heart rate zones, and I can set the voice coach to tell me when I change zones. I have been using it like this:
    Zone 1 60-96
    Zone 2 97-107
    Zone 3 108-117
    Zone 4 117 and up

    I am thinking about tightening up the zones to this:
    Zone 1 60-96 Not working out yet
    Zone 2 97-107 Warm up/cool down
    Zone 3 108-112 If warm up, slow down. If working up, speed up.
    Zone 4 113-117 Workout
    Zone 5 118 and up slow down.

    Is this the best way to use the zones? Thanks in advance

  • Susie says:

    Hello. I’ve been running at my MAF rate for several months now, and now that it’s gotten really hot here in Florida, I’ve noticed that my MAF rate increases really quickly to the point that I have to walk enough to bring it down. Is this normal? I don’t feel like I’m regressing in my fitness and I actually have been eating better than ever, but I my runs are now painfully slow. I don’t mind walking some but I want to make sure this is normal. Should I adjust the rate for extreme heat and humidity (85-95 degrees)? Or should I just assume everything is till working even though I’m doing quite a bit of walking? thank you in advance and please keep up the amazing work?

  • Felipe Souza says:

    Hi. I’ll have to take anti-inflammatory medication for 5 or 6 days.
    Should I consider this as “regular medication” and subtract 10 bpm from my training zone in these days?

  • Carla says:

    When I start running or any other warm up exercise my heartbeat spikes up to 175 or more I then quickly fall back to something around 158 to 168 during my runs where I feel good. After your calculation, my ideal (aerobic) HR would be 135 (180-40-5), thus something between 125 & 135 which means I would have to walk at best. Even when I cycle, my HR is around 145. Getting up steps means that after 2 flights I’m way over my aerobic rate as my heart is pounding…
    I’ve been a smoker for 25 years (quit 2 years ago) and I only started endurance/high impact training about 4 years ago. Before that I didn’t do any exercise.
    No serious health concerns.

    There I am, do I really have to train that slow cause I would not run at all I would walk fast at best.

    What about intervals?

    Usually when I run for 10 minutes as fast as I can my over all fitness level increases.

  • Gregory Cox says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I did another MAF test today as I wasn’t happy with the test I did the other day – my HR was a few bpm over my MAF HR. This time I got closer – mostly within 1 or 2 bpm. My times were in the 6:00 to 6:15 mins/km range right up till 20k when the effort became markedly harder and the pace slowed to 6:30-6:45 mins/km for the next 5k. I always do my long runs fasted so I was intrigued by this. Normally, my 21.1k takes around 1:45, so well within the theoretical 2 hrs usually quoted as being generally achievable based on available glycogen stores and I feel reasonably OK at the end. My guess is that my metabolism system is still used to operating anaerobically i.e. burning glycogen for fuel, and therefore my glycogen stores had run low after over 2 hours of running. Does this sound right? If yes, could you please advise how long you think it might take running at MAF HR before it learns to burn fat. Is this the 3-6 months you advise to optimise aerobic system function?

    Many thanks.
    Gregory

    • Gregory:

      I apologize for not answering you sooner. I’ve been very busy and just haven’t had a chance. Let me answer this comment first and you can expect an answer to your earlier one later today.

      I’d say it’s not so much a matter of how much it takes for your body to “learn” as it is of how “powerful” it is a fat-burner. There is no real “switch”—think of the aerobic system as spreading larger and larger and creating more fat-burning capacity like the roots of a tree take up more and more volume. (I hope this visual metaphor works for you).

      Given the data you present, I believe you’re right in thinking it would take 3-6 months to run a marathon distance below your MAF HR with relatively little speed drop. As people get more aerobically fit, a classic change is that the speed difference between their first and last mile becomes smaller and smaller. However, in a more profound sense, the process of developing and maintaining aerobic power occurs throughout an entire lifetime. The degree to which you can keep making your aerobic system stronger, more resilient, and more capable of dealing with physiological turbulence, is virtually limitless. (The maximum speed that you can reach aerobically, of course, does have a more clear-cut limit.

      What does this mean? Certainly not to train only aerobically forever. But taking off seasons to train aerobically for say, 3 months a year, periodize your training so that you get weeks of almost exclusively aerobic training, manage your stresses, etc, will only help continue to solidify your aerobic function (and allow you to develop and keep strength and power gains because of it).

      Hope this helps.

  • Brent says:

    Does Prilosec count as a medication for purposes of the MAF calculation?

  • Gregory Cox says:

    Hi Ivan,

    “My name is Gregory and I have LORA”. (That’s my introduction as per, say, an AA meeting). Yes, I have Late Onset Running Addiction.

    As you have so kindly given advice to others here I am hoping you might be willing to do the same for me. I have read about the MAF protocol with great interest and would like to apply it to my running, but I want to be sure I do it right as there is a lot at stake :). It sounds like utopia – basically being able to run faster with less effort. Of course my initial fear is that I’ll get used to running slower and won’t be able to run as fast in races.

    So that you have a full picture of my running history, here are the details;

    I’m 58, 178 cm (5’10”) and 73kg (160 lbs). Thin build with a little extra fat around the middle. My diet is excellent, mostly raw vegan with plenty of fruit, vegetables and healthy fats.
    I took up running seriously around 3 years ago when, after having been a weekend only, 5-10k casual runner for many years, I set myself a challenge to run a half-marathon every weekend for a year. I successfully did this, then I found myself entered in a half-marathon, then a marathon, then the next ones etc. Here are my times;
    Half Marathons: 2014: 1:40:19 2015: 1:39:46, 1:39:59 2016: 1:39:10, 1:34:46
    Marathons: 2014: 3:29:06 2015: 3:28:15, 3:21:50
    Training: Mon: Weight training
    Tue: 13k run
    Wed: Weight training
    Thu: 13k run
    Fri: Weight training
    Sat: 21k run
    Sun: Day off
    This has been my regime for the last 3 years except that initially the mid-week runs were shorter.
    Having had the mindset up until now that faster is better, all my training runs have been at around 5 mins/km (8 mins/mile) or faster on reasonably hilly courses. This has always been my “normal” speed. As you can see by my results, my race speed has been about 15 seconds per km (25 seconds per mile) quicker.
    Fortunately I have never been injured and I never get sick.
    My only issue with my training is that I usually find it “hard”, but I thought that was just normal.
    Today for the first time ever, I tried running at my MAF pace (180-58+5 = 127bpm). I found it quite difficult to run that slow (around 5:45 per km or 9:15 per mile) but after an hour or so I was just managing to get down to 130bpm. Sure enough, I felt like I could run that pace all day.
    I’m guessing that my anaerobic system is probably reasonably well developed but my aerobic system needs building up.

    So, now for my questions;
    1. I have 4 months until my next marathon. Should I train at MAF exclusively for the first 2-3 months, and only incorporate some anaerobic work closer to race date?
    2. What sort of weekly volume do you think would be optimal, to build my aerobic system as quickly as possible?
    3. Do you have any other observations or comments?

    Thank-you!

    Gregory
    Sydney, Australia

    • Hello, Gregory:

      Let me answer your questions in order.

      1) Unless you are a semi-elite marathoner, I’d stick with MAF training throughout, and just incorporate a few race pace runs one month before the marathon, to get a feel for the speed you’ll be going at.

      2) The most important thing is that you know that you’ll be able to be on your feet for the time that you’ll be running the marathon. How much volume is a very difficult thing to say. For example, I can run a marathon perfectly well with 35 miles a week, but to PR I have to increase my mileage (responsibly) to 60 or 70. However, studies have shown that marathon performance is not correlated to training volume or training mileage (even though training mileage is of course important). But the point is to not expect yourself to be more “prepared” for a marathon the more miles you do.

      What I’d say is to do 1 day a week of weight training and focus on aerobic mileage, keeping a sharp eye on your stress levels. I’d say it’s probably a good idea to start ramping up to some 7km a day on the days you used to weight train, slowly and responsibly.

      3) The marathon is aerobic, aerobic, and more aerobic. Unless the distance poses absolutely no challenge to you and you can run it without bonking, speedwork won’t really help your performance at this juncture. You can keep training purely aerobically for a long time and your marathon times will keep getting better.

  • leon whaanga says:

    Hi guys, is it ok to “race” once a week/fortnight/month and go over your MAF. 5 days a week I do MAF, 1 day off and 1 day I do enjoy the club tri/duathlon/road race?

  • Juan Gentry - NerdPopz says:

    Hello MAF Community –

    I have recently started training using the LTHR method and find it useful for now. Prior to that, I was using the MAF method (4 years ago for 5 months) to start building up my aerobic system. Since then (within the past 2 years) ive started to workout and train again with the LTHR method and haven’t worked on my aerobic foundation since the first time I used MAF and have started to run into severe knee pains here and there. Would you suggest tapering back on the LTHR training and use MAF once again (3 X Per week 45mins to 1:15hrs per session Treadmill/Outdoors) with 1 LTHR per week? Is there a big difference training at below LTHR vs MAF.

    LTHR = 161 BPM
    MAF = 144 (180-36) No points deducted , B, C and D all apply to me right now. .

    • Juan Gentry - NerdPopz says:

      I forgot to add that I also do light strength training 2-3X per week for about 40 minute sessions using light weights and using a holistic (entire body) workout, i usually dont go over 135BPM during these sessions. I couple this with about 17-20 runs per month averaging 45mins to 1:15hrs per run session.

  • Leaf Seibt says:

    Hello!

    I have a question about ongoing MAF training. I discovered this site back in January after reading Primal Endurance, and immediately began training in this method. My MAF HR is 141 (39 YO) and I have been an active cyclist commuting and riding at least a few days a week for the last…well, forever. However, I have always struggled with my weight. Although be switching to low-carb I’m making good progress. I have progressed well since changing my ways, but I’m wondering if I should be training at even a lower HR due to overweight. Would overweight fall into the category of “illness” and thus mean taking 5 to 10 BPM off? On a side note, I have never trained at this low a HR. Being a bigger cyclist/runner, I have always worked super hard to try and keep pace with the smaller guys. I wish I would have discovered the MAF method a decade ago when I was first getting into road cycling.

  • SankaraNarayanan Venkataraman says:

    I am an active runner for 8 years and for the past 8 weeks have been onboarded to MAF and have been training fine. Quick question
    Based on MAF math, my MAF runs should be at 151 bpm, having said that my garmin connect has calculated my HR zones as following
    Zone 1 – 92-111
    Zone 2 – 111-129
    Zone 3 – 129-148
    Zone 4 – 148-166
    Zone 5 – 166- 185

    Since the MAF rate 151 corresponds to aerobic zone-zone 2 (correct me if i am wrong here), how do i calculate the ranges for other zones Zone 1, Zone 2,Zone 3,Zone 4?
    i can go do a custom heart rate zones, but i am unable to figure out other zones. i tried to look up in previous discussion, did not find any hence posting a new comment.
    looking forward to your response

    • We don’t use heart rate zones. There’s plenty of research that suggest that zones don’t really exist in the body’s physiology. The way we separate training stimulus is (1) at or under the MAF HR, (2) above the MAF HR but under the lactate threshold, and (3) above the heart rate threshold.

      These 3 are really the only “zones” that exist in the body. That said, if you find that the 5 zones work for you, just take the MAF HR to be upper end of whichever zone it finds itself in and calculate all other zones accordingly.

  • Aristotle says:

    Hello Ivan,

    Thank you so much for guiding us through this process.

    I have a two part question sir.

    Are there any reliable tests that one may pay to have ones aerobic threshold level determined? If so will it take into account a person who is in nutritional ketosis?

    I have been using the MAF method since Dec. 2015 and like it but would like to know for sure what my aerobic threshold is.

    Thanks,

    Aristotle

    • Aristotle:

      Yes. Essentially what it will show is your aerobic threshold given your current conditions (ketosis being one of them). What I recommend is doing a Fat Max test (HR at the highest rate—not percentage—of fat-burning) this should correlate quite well with your VT1 and your aerobic (not anaerobic) threshold.

  • Gordon Smith says:

    Hi,

    I am trying to determine when I have achieved my Aerobic Base?

    I am 51 years old and have been using the 180 Method since January 9, 2016. Since that time I have reduced my mile average by about 1’30” from the high 12’s sometimes over 13′ to the low 11’s sometimes below 11′. I consider myself relatively competitive for a man my age with a recent 5K at 22’26” and 10K at 47’24” in December and November of 2015 (Pre 180 Method). According to my Doctor, I am very healthy.

    When started the 180 Method I used a max HR of 139 with a Minimum of 136 which I monitor very closely. I am careful not to go over 139 even on the hills. I’m still using the max 139 today, but if I did it all over again, I may go with the 134. When I started with the 180 Method I think I was a little too stubborn to run so slow at 129 or 134.

    About three times since January 9th, I have gone anaerobic. Once it was to prepare for, and run a 5K in February and the other was to outrun a fast approaching thunder storm while I was out doing a 6 miler. Once per week I also have been lifting weights for my legs and occasionally go over 139 while doing so. Also once per week I exercise my upper body and often go over 139. After my lower body workouts I take a day off. Do you think these activities could be slowing my progress?

    I am getting a little anxious about working in 20% speed work since I have a 5K (Tough Mudder style) race I want to do in June 2016. But looking at the big picture, I am willing to wait if it means better overall and long term improvement.

    Are you able to give me a mile average time that I should shoot for as a goal like a 10 minute mile at 139 BPM before working in speed work?

    Thanks!

    Gordon Smith

  • Edwin says:

    I am now reading this MAF book and it certainly turns my usual understanding in running exercise upside down. After reading this book, I know for sure that my level is not too good and I am trying to fix that, and now been doing this MAF training for about 1 month now to see how it would give effect to my fitness level. Just a brief question, one thing that i wish to clarify is that whether it is okay for us to do a run-walk method in doing the MAF training? For example, (say my MAF max HR is about 145) I start running at my comfortable pace and whenever i reach my MAF’s max HR, i would walk it for a while until my HR steps down for about 5 digit (139-140) then I start running again at my comfortable pace and so fort. My question: is this method acceptable and still in the corridor of the MAF training? Or is it the “keep running the wholeway and decrease the pace gradually as in response to maintain the HR under MAF” method that the MAF is recommending for exercise?

    Thanks a lot for your feedback!

  • Camm says:

    Is it likely that my volume of MAF training is excessive and therefore impeding the process of growing the aerobic engine? I have been averaging 6-8 hours of MAF training per week for the last 2 weeks.

    Thank you.

    • Camm:

      Possibly, it’s hard to say. The best thing you can do is experiment—run less for 2 weeks and see what happens.

      • Camm says:

        Ivan,

        Am I correct in establishing my MAF HR at 130 (I am 45 and subtracted 5 for what appears to be an overstressed aerobic system)?

        When should I add that 5 back?

        How big of a deal is it for my HR during training to momentarily drift above 130?
        I have the alarm set several beats below 130, but sometimes it will either go up quick enough that the alarm doesn’t sound until its already 130+ or it just keeps going to about 133 for a moment at which time a go to a very slow walk.

        Thank you

        • Camm:

          The best time to add 5 BPM back is when you can honestly say—to the best of your ability—that the reason why you thought it was a good idea to subtract 5 BPM has genuinely disappeared.

          The cardiac drift for a few seconds is’t a big deal. The important thing is to fall into the habit of getting better at regulating your heart rate and keeping it under MAF.

  • Camm says:

    I have been fairly active most of my adult life. For the last 7 or 8 years I have been doing more longer term endurance events from 6 hours to 24 hour events. In the last month or so it seems my resting HR has drifted up a bit from low 50’s to low 60’s after changing my diet to no grains and losing some excess weight.

    I just started training at MAF HR, but am concerned about my calculation. I am 45 (soon to be 46) and set my MAF at 130 by subtracting an additional 5 BPM due to concerns that my rise in resting HR is a symptom of an over stressed body. Is that appropriate?

    My normal week has typically (for the last year) to be 6-9 hours of cycling, swimming and running, but nearly all of it occurred at HR’s above 130 and large chunks of training time well above 140. I started the MAF training and necessarily had to slow way down on the bike and running. In fact all riding has to be on the trainer to avoid exceeding MAF HR on hills and my running has a lot of walking regardless of the course to keep from drifting above 130 HR.

    I have set my HR alarm below the MAF number (130), but occasionally my alarm will go off and even after stopping to walk, my HR will drift past 130 for a moment. Is that problematic? If so what do you recommend?

    Should I avoid all strength training until I make significant improvements in MAF test results? I am just thinking that some body weight strength would be good (push-ups, squats, and pull-ups).

    I am so slow running it is very demoralizing — 14+min/mile over a hilly road course for 5-6 miles. What would be reasonable improvements in MAF to know I am on track?

    Thank you.

  • Craig Traub says:

    Hi

    I am in the middle of reading Primal Endurance. I am also in the middle of a training program for a marathon in June. I switched to a Low Carb High Fat diet and saw immediate health benefits and it obviously impacted my marathon time, I knocked 47mins of my PB after bring on LCHF for 12 months. I have never felt so healthy or run so quickly. While reading Primal Endurance I am re-thinking my strategy on the pace of my long runs. A friend and I ran 28km today and I was consistently 10 beats per minute higher than him, that included as we started and our average for the run. His was 145bpm and mine was 155pbm on average at the end of the run. According to the MAF formula we both should have been at 145bpm or below. We ran really slowly to get to this rate (45 secs per km slower than we usually run). Does the fact I am following a strict LCHF diet (I am in Ketosis, restrict my carbs to under 25g per day and take no gels on my runs) have any impact on my heart rate. We are the same fitness level so I am wondering if I need to adjust anything per the MAF formula?.

    Regards
    Craig

    • Craig:

      It shouldn’t have an impact on your heart rate, but it should have an impact on your speed. So, because you’re in ketosis, you should be able to produce more speed at the same fat-burning heart rate.

      That said, if you believe that you should make an upwards adjustment on the 180-Formula, I recommend that you get a Fat Max test done (heart rate at the maximum rate of fat-burning). Fat Max—which is what the MAF HR tries to point to, should correlate well with your VT1 and AerT. When you go get the test done, do it with a typical training day behind you and while eating a diet that’s typical for you, to ensure that the test is representative.

  • Dennis Cochardo says:

    2 questions. Firstly, do you consider a VO2 max test and the resulting zones as accurate as 180-age? Secondly, how does one adjust the Maffetone HR to account for aging? Doesn’t seem to make sense to drop it one beat per year if you are making progress. Any thoughts are appreciated. Thanks.

  • Craig says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I have been keeping to a low carb diet after trying the 2-week test and feel fantastic. I am using the 180 formula and a heart rate monitor in training, running slow and keeping my heart rate to my target. With the athletics season starting, I am wondering how to train for my usual events of 800m and 1500m. Normally I would join my club for one speed session on the track per week, but I still have 2 months to go developing my aerobic system. Should I stay away from the speed sessions over those 2 months? And do you have any advice on the best way to train for short fast events such as 800m/1500m using the MAF method?

    Thanks,
    Craig

    • Craig:

      Do a monthly MAF test to keep track of the health of your aerobic base. What I recommend is 1-2 speed workouts a week and 4-5 MAF workouts a week. Each speed workou should be 1/2 the time of a MAF session.

  • Gary says:

    I like this training method, and am curious to know how long each session of training need to before I can really gain the benefit? Would 30 minutes 2-3 times a week be enough? Any guideline on training frequency and length per session? Thanks!

    • Gary:

      It’s all dependent on your previous abilities. 30 minutes, 3-4 times a week is what we typically suggest for people who don’t have a history of exercising regularly.

      • Gary says:

        I did endurance trail walking (Oxfam trailwalker in Hong Kong, 100km); so did quite a bit of long distance hiking (20-0km a day) but am not a runner per se. I could run a 10km in an hour, and last night when I tried to do MAF training (at <8 km/hr) at 150 bpm (Age 34, no sickness). Previously I have heard that we need minimum 48 hours rest time before trainings, Is that required for MAF aerobic training as well? Thanks!

        Great work I have to say! Please keep up the good work!

        • Gary:

          That’s simply not true. It’s necessary for the body’s stress and recovery to return to baseline after a training, but that can be anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the exercise duration and intensity. 16 straight hours of MAF work might require a week of recovery, but 1 or 2 hours could be done 5 days a week by most well-trained runners. Hope this helps.

  • Shana says:

    Hi Ivan –
    I am a 60 yo woman and have been running for 4 years. I currently run 5 times for a total of 30-35 miles per week. I have run several half marathons and my times are no longer improving greatly but I am not getting any slower. I also cross train lifting weights with a trainer 2x/week. Based on the calculation my MAF HR would be 125. My question is whether or not RHR has any affect or play in the calculation? My RHR is in the low to mid 30’s and normal is around 45. I am not taking any medications other than for thyroid which I have been on pretty much all my life. When I start running or working out in the gym it is not unusual for my HR to stay in the 60’s or 70’s and after running for a while will settle around 115-118. Should I be running faster to push it closer to 125 or is it lower because my starting point is so low?
    I have had a cardio stress test and could not push my HR to 150. The highest I have ever seen it on a run is 145 when it was hot and I was running intervals.

    Thanks for your feedback
    Shana

  • John Demas says:

    Hello I just got introduced to this via Mark Sisson’s new book on endurance. I had been running half’s and marathons but didn’t manage to change body composition. I started eating paleo about 2 years ago and have brought my body fat down to around 24% but it hasn’t budged for a while. I started strength training and eating ketogenic plus doing IF to kick start the fat burning and although not dramatic it seems to be working (I weigh around 170lb and I am 5’7″ – gone from 24.5% to 22.7% in about 5 weeks.

    I now read about the MAF formula, shifting to fat burning and building an aerobic base and my calculation gives me a HR of 130. Thing is when I try to exercise at this rate I cant do anything more than walk before my HR goes above 130.

    Should I really just walk for 6 months?!?! How long? With what frequency? Can I strength train while I do this? It feels like too little.

    • John:

      Yes. The reason your body composition doesn’t change is that your body doesn’t have the mechanisms to pull fat effectively out of your fat cells and burn it. In other words, all the food you eat gets converted to muscle glycogen, which has been your primary fuel. The fat-burning engine only runs at a low intensity (as defined by the MAF HR). The only way you’re going to be able to change your body composition, and maintain it without falling ill or becoming injured is by developing this fat-burning machinery.

      Usually, we recommend that at least 80% of training be at or under the MAF HR. So, this might mean 1 hour a day 4 days a week. However, to maximize the development of your aerobic (fat-burning system), it’s best to train exclusively at or under the MAF HR.

  • Felipe Souza says:

    How many days should I wait before add 10 again after a 2 month period under medication?

    • Felipe:

      Once you can say that you are “no longer under medication.” If you are intermittently taking medication, for example, you are still taking medication. Once you feel your body “off the medication”—this can mean very different time frames for different people under different medications—that’s when you add it back.

  • Paul Regan says:

    I should have added to the above message: I asked the question as 118 seems low and I want to be certain that I am doing things correctly.

    I am a swimmer and training for longer open water swims this summer. Do you have any thoughts about MAF training for swimmers, ie., is it the same as for running and cycling?

  • Paul Regan says:

    I am 67. I just want confirmation about my MAF heart rate.

    180-67 is 113. I am on regular meds, so -10 takes it to 103. I am in category d), so add 5 to 108; and then add 10 to 118.

    Is this correct?

    Thank you.

  • Jonathan says:

    I noticed that according to this Mark Allen presentation video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_YbYCFRHUo – his interpretation of the 180 formula is different.

    He says to add 5bpm if less than 25 years old (or above 55 years old). It feels like I makes sense to me, because I’m 22 and I’ve always naturally “by feel” gone into the 153-163 range and not 148-158 range. Do you think he is trying to accommodate for younger athletes having higher aerobic thresholds, or what?

  • Jonathan says:

    Hey Ivan,

    I remember a while ago you talked about MAF HR pace being an indicator of metabolic/aerobic power, whereas rating of perceived exertion (RPE) at MAF HR pace is an indicator of how powerful the aerobic system is relative to total muscle power.

    With this in mind, assuming a good aerobic base and 80% of the weekly running being aerobic / below MAF, what type of anaerobic work would you recommend for 1500m or 1 mile goals.

    For reference, last year before I started building my aerobic system, I would go to the track and do 6x400m with as fast an average pace as possible with 2 mins rest and be destroyed all week. This type of training, combined with my 62-63s 400m speed (at that time) helped me get to around a 5:45 mile. However my aerobic development was still poor back then – as in 10-11 min/mile MAF HR pace and 23-24 min 5km (despite my competitively “fast” mile).

    Conversely, right now (or at least not long ago) my aerobic shape was pretty good – around 8 min/mile MAF HR pace and 20:09 5km parkrun in January. However my 1 mile performance is probably the same as it was before, and my 400m sprint speed is definitely not what it used to be last year. When I try to do a mile, I feel like I’m limited by my speed and muscular power etc.

    What type of training sessions would you recommend? My future goal would be to build towards a sub 5 minute mile. Although I know this is more equivalent to a low 17 min 5km and 6:00/mile lactate threshold pace (according to calculators), I think I could get there and overreach slightly with a combination of good aerobic (MAF) training and raw speed (muscular power) and other general anaerobic work (400m repeats) etc.

    Let me know what you think!

    • Jonathan:

      The big reason people get overtrained isn’t because they do anaerobic training—it’s because they do too much of it. You need very little anaerobic training to get a huge training boost from it, particularly when it’s well-contrasted with low-intensity aerobic training. What I’d recommend is to add 4 sessions (2 per week) of the following: 200×4 (session 1), 400×2 (session 2), 800×2 (session 3), mile x 1 (session 4), at appropriate intensities. Between intervals, I recommend walking easy until you get back to 120 BPM, and then run the next interval. I would make each of these sessions Tuesday & Friday of each week, so that Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday are all MAF (and Sunday is rest). This type of schedule is a place to start, but you need to make modifications in regards to your response to the training: you shouldn’t be “destroyed” afterwards, and in particular you should be able to do long, 1+ hour MAF runs the days in between. Note that each of these sessions might take you 30 minutes (including warm-up and cool-down), which means that you’re doing around 8 times more MAF training than high-intensity training per week. Maintaining this ratio is extremely important.

      To everyone else who is reading: This is NOT a training suggestion for everyone. It’s a tentative training schedule for someone who is trying to run a fast mile while also remaining healthy.

      • Jonathan says:

        Thanks Ivan, interesting schedule! Thinking of building towards it!

        For the 4x200m, 2x400m. 2x800m, 1xmile, what type of intensity do you mean? I’m guessing fairly hard but relaxed too, not a time trial / max effort, but still hard going. Like for the 200m reps, I guess I would do them at around “400m-800m pace”, the 400m reps at around 800m-mile pace, 800m reps around mile pace, maybe a tad slower. And mile reps? Especially the mile, I guess I would do a 90% type of effort on the mile. It’d be nice to to a “comfortable” sub 6 mile every few weeks!

        Before now I was more accustomed to 3-4 hours per week with a 20-25min threshold and 40-50min tempo run each week. I’m currently trying to rebuild back to ~4 hours per week all aerobic, except with 4x100m sprints/strides 2x per week. Once I’ve done that I’m thinking of transforming it into your recommended schedule/template! 4x1hour MAF runs between the 2 sessions will be a new workload for me, so I guess I’ll start with 4x45min MAF runs etc.

        • Jonathan:

          I’d say a start is to do the 200s at a 400 race pace, 400s at an 800 pace, the 800s at a mile race pace, and the mile at a 5k race pace. This is all very tentative and may bear significant adjustments depending on how well you recover, the quality of your aerobic training, etc. The idea is to train your body (1) into a higher speed than the mile will require, but (2) also make those efforts less arduous than what you were doing before.

  • Juan says:

    Hi Ivan,
    I am a 38 yo beginner runner and started training 2 months ago, I usually practice 4 times a week and my main focus was to reduce my time and increase my speed. A week ago I bought one of those GPS watches with a heart rate monitor and started using it. After doing some research I finally realized that I need to do things differently.

    When I run between 6 and 10 km my heart rate has been between 160 to 190bpm, however, according to the 180 formula I should’nt be exceeding 142 bpm on training days. In order to develop endurance, I have begun training with my main focus being not exceeding the 142 bpm limit. In order to achieve this my pace has to sometimes be slow or I may even have to walk for a little while.

    My question is, how many days a week, distance/time and for how many months should I train to correctly build my aerobic system? Please let me know your thoughts,
    Thanks

    • Juan:

      The most important guideline is to train “as much as you can but less than is stressful.” In other words, for a beginner runner it’s better to run for say, 15-30 minutes at the MAF HR while warming up for 15 minutes and cooling down for another 15. As a tentative starting point, you could do this 4-5 times a week. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to build the aerobic system for 3-6 months before putting in significant strength or power training.

  • christian says:

    Hello; I wonder how I should continue with my diet after the test two weeks .
    Thank you.
    PD. google translate

    Hola; quisiera saber como debo seguir con mi alimentacion despues de la prueba de las dos semanas.
    Gracias.

    • Christian:

      Slowly start including small amounts of carbohydrates, starting by beans and lentils, then berries, then apple and pears, then whole grains, and finally honey into your diet. Incorporate a small amount (1/2 cup) of one per day (but only 1-2 teaspoons of honey). Start from the first and work your way down. If any of the signs and symptoms of carbohydrate intolerance return, you know you’re not supposed to eat that food in that amount.

  • Nina says:

    Hello, my maxHR is at around 215, maybe even higher. If I was to use 180-age, then my trainingHR would be 138, which would translate to walking about the same speed as senior citizens with their dogs. I’ve been walking longer distances to work, and during weekends for more than a year. Walking with this highish HR is not tiresome at all for me but literally a ‘stroll in the park’ and had no influence at all on my HR. The lowest HR I seem to be able to run with is around 170, with around 13-14 min/mile, though that’s hardly running anymore. Been running for a year now. What to do?

    • Nina:

      I’d say that if you think the 180-Formula might not be working for you, the best thing to do is to go to a laboratory and get tested for your Fat Max, VT1, and aerobic (NOT anaerobic) threshold. They are what the MAF HR intends to point to.

  • diana says:

    75yr old female, keen indoor rower world record for 1 minute in age group. longer distances not so good
    max HR 162, min HR 50-58 early am. hrv all over theplace mostly low 80s but max 1o0, min 65
    sustained hr 135 for 1hr 50min in half marathon row.
    would like to imporve performance for 10min to 1hour row
    Keep hr <120 for warm up [10 mins] but avaerage 135 -145 for trail runs ~ 10 to 30 min
    How should I use MAF? Does base HR matter, as most people reading this will be <60 and many males < 50
    thanks

  • Mike says:

    Been using 180 formula for 2-3 months have been seeing nice improvement but in the last week my heart rate jumps up a few miles in and I am reduced to a walk not sure how to fix this should I take a day or two off or reduce miles for week or two, any advice appreciated thanks

  • NC says:

    Hi Ivan,

    A few follow-up questions.

    1) If I was able to maintain MAF HR, how much degree would carrying a sandbag (ie. on the road, walking up a hill, running on an incline treadmill, or stairmaster) interfere with “pure” MAF training?

    2) Similarly, if I was able to maintain MAF HR or below, how much would a low-intensity indoor rock climbing session interfere with “pure” MAF training?

    Thanks again!

    • NC:

      1) Unless you had that sandbag strapped to your postural muscles (i.e. like on a backpack) you wouldn’t be able to. Your, say, biceps would quickly go into anaerobiosis and bring up your heart rate regardless of how legs are working. But supposing it did work, it’s MAF training. In principle, there is absolutely no difference between carrying a 20 lb sandbag and 20 lbs of body fat.

      2) Personally, the only reasons where I’d say to not do this is if you’re ill, injured, overtrained, have a race coming up, or you are doing some very specific kind of aerobic base training. It would interfere, but there are very few people who have to do “pure” MAF training. Let me put it to you this way: if you are ill, injured, overtrained, or trying to strengthen your aerobic base enough for an ultramarathon distance you haven’t previously trained for, you should be focusing all your exercise hours on your aerobic base. But if you’re healthy and you’re trying to stay healthy and get fitter (and prepare for your 3rd marathon or 50k), the situation where a low-intensity rock-climbing session (per week) was a bad idea would be the exception, not the rule.

  • Rich says:

    I have been running for about 4 years now. I am a 57 yo who weighs in at 205. I have run a number of 5k’s and 10k’s and wish to run a 1/2Marathon this year. My heart rate even at a slow pace is above 150. If I use this method 180-57=123. That’s a moderate walk. Should I train at that pace for 4 months? If I do, does that mean I need to forego any near term races?

    • Rich:

      I would say yes, avoid racing. The problem is that when you race a half marathon at what should be say, a 10K heart rate, your body experiences outsize stress compared to someone who races at an appropriate heart rate. So what happens is that in an effort to be competitive, less fit individuals tend to wear their bodies down far more than highly fit individuals. This, in turn, keeps the unfit unhealthy (and compromises their future fitness gains) and makes the fit fitter.

      The only real long-term solution is to methodically lay the foundations for our fitness. I would suggest you do train for 4 months, or for better results, train until your speed has been improving for 3 months.

  • Andy says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I had a metabolic bike test done last week.
    Age:50
    male
    69 kg

    Some markers are:

    FatMax:
    8,4 kcal/min
    Power: 180 Watts
    RER: 0.72
    HR: 95 bpm

    VT1:
    Power: 217 Watts
    RER: 0.8
    HR: 105 bpm

    Crossover point:
    Power: 226 watts
    RER: 0.85
    HR: 115 bpm

    VT2:
    Power: 285 watts
    RER: 0.95
    HR: 130 bpm

    Vo2Max
    Power: 340 watts
    RER: 1.11
    HR: 147 bpm

    VT1 and VT2 seems high to me.
    I doubt that I could hold power at VT2 for more than 20 minutes.
    VT1 definitely does not feel easy.

    What would you propose as “Max Aerobic Heart Rate”?

    BR
    Andy

  • Robert says:

    I am quite new to this whole program but have done substantial reading over the past 6 months. I am fat adapted insofar as I have been low carb (15% of daily calories) for 7 months. I have been training for my first half Ironman and was very interested in starting fresh and using the MAF training for a base. I am 59 years old, 6 feet tall and 185 pounds. My maximum heart rate is about 175 from treadmill testing. The problem I am having is when I apply the formula and get a training heart rate of 121, I am barely moving. I mean my pace is about 15 minutes per mile! I am also barely breathing hard. Does this mean I should up the rate or am I just in pitiful shape.

    • Robert:

      The best athletes are those who are breathing quite hard and moving quite fast at quite a low heart rate. The reason is because in order to “shift gears” from burning fats (at a low intensity) to burning sugar (at a high intensity), the body has to increase the stress hormones that up the heart rate. What you’re experiencing is that you only burn very little fats at a low heart rate, so you consume very little oxygen and move slowly. The fix isn’t to raise your heart rate and let your body burn sugar, but rather to train the fat-burning machinery (which will really only get trained at a low heart rate, where it remains active).

  • Randy says:

    I’m male, 54. have been reading The Big Book of Endurance Training and started with MAF training on my elliptical machine about 7 weeks ago after finally getting my HR monitor fixed and plan to get back into running eventually.

    I switched to minimal/barefoot running 5 1/2 years ago and thought I had been taking it slow, even after the initial transition to BF, by not mouth breathing while running. After reading about MAF I realize I was overtraining, with HR getting to 150-160 by the end of the 30 – 60 minute runs.

    I haven’t run since Thanksgiving when I realized I was slowly getting a stress fracture in my left fibula about halfway up. I had had a stress fracture in the same bone just above the ankle 2 years previous. I was attributing these to gait issues with the switch back to shoes with the cold weather.

    Also, about a year and a half ago I started getting skipped heart beats, which my doctor said were premature atrial contractions, after using the Holter monitor. He said they were totally normal and nothing to worry about but eventually I got him to say the maybe stress was a cause, but he didn’t seem totally committed to that. The PACs happened mostly after exercise, after my HR got down to 120 – 130 and lower, and would last 6 to 24 hours depending on how long/ hard my run was and gradually go from happening every 3-4 beats to once in 30 or more beats. (My resting HR would stay above 70 for a day or so but would get down to 60 or lower with more time.) Now, I notice I’ll have a few skipped beats even after climbing a flight of stairs, less if I take the stairs slowly.

    So, I’m totally on board with the MAF training. After reading more and through trial and error, I’ve slowly settled on what my MAF HR maybe should be, what a true warmup is and what speed I should go on the elliptical to keep a relatively stable HR. I started out with my HM alarm set at 121, then set it at 116 and now it’s at 111, since sometimes it will jump from 111 or so to 116 or higher and stay there for awhile unless I really cut my speed.

    I’ve been wondering if I should consider the PACs a stressor or an injury. I’ve noticed that they seem to happen a lot less if I do a very gradual warm up. Is there the potential for these to totally go away or will they always happen to some extent? Do you know any more about PACs than what the doc told me? If they seem to go away completely, should I adjust my MAF rate up?

    Also, I have Raynaud’s and wonder if that would affect my MAF rate? Maybe only if there’s the potential for it to “kick in”? On the elliptical, maybe because of the slight vibration and my feet tend to slide forward on it jamming my toes into the front of the shoes, it will kick in on my toes after about 30-40 minutes. I haven’t tried it yet but next time I will try to remember to take a break when it kicks in and walk around for a little to get the blood circulating again. When running in the cold, the first 15-20 minutes could be Raynaud’s time, but after that I would be warmed up enough, at least at the higher HR I was running with.

    So, am I on the right track? Thank you in advance for your advice.

    • The best advice I can give you is to listen to your doctor, who is in charge of your specific case. That said, it’s a good idea to mitigate them with a warm-up. I’d say that if you feel like it’s OK to adjust your HR up if the PACs go away, and your doctor agrees with you, then do so.

      Yes, you seem to be on the right track, on Raynaud’s as well. Typically, however, we don’t suggest that you reduce 5 BPM for every injury, just 5 if you have at least one. So, whether you have 2 or 10 injuries, you’d still only subtract 5 BPM. For reference, I count stuff like “serious muscle imbalances” as an injury.

  • Kevin says:

    Hi
    I would love some clarification on strength training- when you are building your aerobic base can you incorporate strength training if you keep your heart rate under your aerobic threshold. Btw, I love the website. Thanks, Kevin

    • Kevin:

      Generally, yes. Although strength training, even under the MAF HR does have some anaerobic work, it’s fine for say, athletes who are developing their aerobic base, but generally not advisable for overtrained people.

  • NC says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I recently had a VO2 test, and the results raised a question that I hope you could answer. Since you are burning more fat (and using more O2) at a lower HR (up to a point) during aerobic activity, wouldn’t training at the LOWER end of the aerobic zone provide more benefit if we are stricly speaking about aerobic development? I know I am wrong, but I pose this question because I do not know why and would like your reasoning. Thanks!

    • NC:

      It would. In fact, it’s what the MAF HR points to. Let me explain:

      There are two things at play: (1) a change in percentage of fat-burning versus sugar-burning, and (2) a change in the rate of fat-burning versus sugar-burning. For perspective, the moment where you are burning the highest percentage of fat is during sleep. As you increase activity levels, the percentage of fat burned decreases and the percentage of carbohydrate burned increases, but the rate at which you burn both fuels also increases. The point at which these two tendencies meet is called Fat MAX, which is where you are burning fats at the highest rate.

      In essence, training at the point where you are burning the most fats—rather than the highest percentage of fats (a.k.a. sleep)—is where you see the most aerobic benefits. This point occurs at the MAF HR (which occurs around 65-75% of HR MAX depending on a variety of things).

      Because the lactate produced by anaerobic function (and associated hormones) clamp down on fat-burning, Fat MAX also occurs just before the Aerobic Threshold, which is where systemic anaerobic function begins. (For comparison, the Anaerobic Threshold is when the rate of anaerobic function—i.e. lactate production—exceeds the ability of the aerobic base to buffer it). Also important to note is that the point where anaerobic function starts is a point, not a zone. Being able to zero in on this point (through the 180-Formula or Fat MAX tests) tells you a lot more about crucial metabolic thresholds than zones ever could.

      While you are burning a higher percentage of fat at a “lower” aerobic zone (Zone 1 or Zone 2, say) not only are you burning less fats (which means that you are using the fat-burning machinery that much less), but this lower aerobic zone is no more “aerobic” than the MAF HR: there is no anaerobic function in either. So the MAF HR gives you everything you want for aerobic function: maximum fat burning plus no anaerobic function in one package.

      There are reasons why you might want to spend some time training farther under the MAF HR. But the MAF HR represents where you can get the most bang for your buck from your aerobic training.

      • NC says:

        Hi Ivan,

        Thank you for that well-crafted response. I was focused on % fat without considering overall amount of fat. You explained that very clearly.

        One more question (but maybe not the last!)…

        You mention that at the MAF HR, there is no anaerobic function. But to me this seems not true because at my MAF HR, according to my VO2 results, I am burning around 30% carbs. Isn’t the burning of carbs considered to be an anaerobic function? My VO2 graph shows my 100% fat point around 100HR and increasing to 0% fat at 155HR.

        So now I get why the MAF HR would be maximum fat burning, but why would there be NO anaerobic function if you are burning carbs? Or do you mean NO in the relative sense and not absolute?

        • NC:

          I mean “no” in the absolute sense.

          Carbs can be burned aerobically, to make a long story short. But as opposed to fats, they can also be burned anaerobically. For this reason, as carbs increase, the body is headed towards (but hasn’t necessarily arrived at) anaerobic function: you can be burning carbs and not producing lactate. For example, the Fat MAX of some people is at an RQ of .87, which puts them at something like 43% fat-burning and 57% carb-burning. Fat MAX occurs just before the onset of lactate production, which means there is no anaerobic function.

          If you want the long story on carbs: glucose goes through either aerobic or anaerobic glycolysis, depending on whether it meets an oxygen molecule in the cell. If it goes through aerobic glycolysis, it turns into a compound called pyruvate. If it doesn’t, it turns into lactate. Then, as the pyruvate goes into the mitochondria (which are the cell’s little aerobic motors), it gets converted into a compound called Acetyl-CoA, which goes through a long process of energy production called The Citric Acid Cycle (Krebs Cycle) by putting more oxygen into it. Fats, on the other hand, get broken down into triglycerides, which get further broken down into Acetyl-CoA. If glucose was burned anaerobically and turned into lactate, the body can then reverse that process by using more oxygen to turn it into pyruvate and sending it into the mitochondrion.

          The reason we focus on fat-burning is because the more fats you can burn, the less carbs you need to burn. This means that it takes that much more work to push your body up past the point where it starts burning some of those carbs anaerobically.

          • NC says:

            Thank you, Ivan. Again, very enlightening.

            Finally, I got caught up in the physiology that I forgot to ask you the primary question of at what HR I should be running. Using the MAF formula, I get 180-40-5 for 135. I have been athletic all my life though not through running. Martial arts, tennis, cross-training. However, my blood results points to me being slightly anemic, thus the -5. I have a RHR of around 45, and a max HR of around 155.

            Now, as I said, I recently had a VO2max test done, and it showed that my resting exchange = 0.81RQ. 103HR = 0.70RQ. 130HR = 0.81RQ. 137HR = 0.85RQ (crossover). And 153HR = 1.00RQ.

            What would be my MAF based on this data?

            I have been running at 125. The reason I chose 125 was that I knew it was well in the aerobic zone, and also because the MAF formula of 135 would definitely not feel easy. I considered 125-130 and settled on the conservative lower end. 125 feels a little slow, but not after 1 hour. I can breathe through the nose and could carry on a conversation. I was sore initially after 1 hour runs, but that has been slowly easing. I have always felt great after runs at this HR. Been at this for 3 weeks. I can tell it is starting to require a little more effort to reach 125, but it still feels great.

          • NC:

            Your guesstimate of 125 sounds like a very good one. What you can also do is look for subjective indicators of the MAF HR. The MAF HR also occurs just under the first ventilatory threshold (VT1), so you can expect your breathing to get slightly but markedly heavier some 3-5 BPM above your MAF HR. That could be a good way to re-test it.

            And as your speed increases and it becomes more difficult to get to the MAF HR, do some strength and speed training. Increasing your absolute muscle strength “opens up” more room for the aerobic system to grow.

  • butch says:

    training for a tri, i ran a mountain race in Brevard NC. I won it 3 yeard in a row for my age group 55/60.
    this time after the race (1/2)hr… full cardiac arrest in my car. Pronounced dead for 10/12 min, got the ticker
    started, 4 days in a coma(Mission Hospital Asheville NC . Soft place got me. Back training the Cardio Dr here said
    220-61= 159 max 80 percent for working HR 127, a little scary to me, what do you think, all my buddies are doing
    the 180- age.

    • Butch:

      Run it by your doc as a potential training heart rate. The MAF HR looks at where your metabolism is poised to burn fats, but hearts can either be way more powerful than the metabolism or way less powerful. (In the case of your heart it may be the latter).

  • Andy says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I see with myself that the MAF Method is working (getting better MAF Test results) but some things remain confusing.

    1)
    Further up you are stating that the MAF HR somehow correlates to a RQ of 0.85-0.87.
    If I understand correctly it is one goal of aerobic training to improve the metabolism and utilizing more fat at a given HR or pace.
    If you could improve your MAF Test and go from using 50/50 Carbs/Fat at HR 140 to let’s say 40/60 at HR 140 that would be a good thing. That would mean that the 50/50 crossover point would occur at a higher HR than 140.

    Wouldn’t this imply that the MAF HR should be shifted to that higher value?

    2)
    Why does the speed at MAF Test improve at the same HR?
    Is it “only” because I am getting more efficient and consequently need less energy at the same speed?

    3)
    Another training effect is an increased amount of mitochondria cells.
    I assume that means that more oxygen can be utilized for energy production in the muscle cells which should enable you to go faster aerobically.
    But a higher HR would be necessary because more oxygen has to be pumped to the muscles.

    Wouldn’t this imply that the MAF HR should be shifted to a higher value?

    Best Regards
    Andy