Girl Gone Tri

By July 19, 2015 November 27th, 2016 Exercise, Nutrition
Girl Gone Tri
Christine Schirtzinger chalks up athletic accomplishments and coaching business to two decades of MAF training.

For more than two decades, Christine Schirtzinger has used the Maffetone Method to guide her through top athletic performances. Now she’s using these same principles in her own coaching business and her efforts to empower women through the sport of triathlon.

The list of Christine’s accomplishments in triathlon, running, cycling and swimming is lengthy, but she’s also a race organizer, a Registered Nurse with 13 years of Intensive Care and Emergency Room experience, and a mother of four.

The Chicago-area resident first became involved with the MAF principles in the mid-90s. She was a Pediatric ICU nurse in Hawaii and training for a marathon with co-workers.

“I always loved to run but could never get to 16 or 17 miles,” she says.

A fitness coach suggested she try using a heart-rate monitor and she initially resisted. But many of her co-workers were running the marathon and she didn’t want to be left out. When she at last decided to try a heart monitor she discovered she had to walk to stick with the 180 Formula. But that changed very quickly.

“Within six weeks of following the guidelines I was running the same pace I I’d been running before but with a heart rate 15 to 20 beats lower,” she says. “I ran the marathon no problem.”

Christine had thought that would be a “one and done” event, but that marathon led to more endurance adventures, a new lifestyle, and eventually a profession sharing her passion for triathlon and other sports as a fitness coach. Over the years she says she fell off the MAF wagon a couple times but she always seems to come back to it.

Today at 44 she is a USAT Level I, USAC Level II, and TrainingPeaks Level II certified coach, and the founder of her own coaching business — T2 Coaching LLC.

Christine also coaches for local fitness centers and is the founder of Girls Gone Tri, an organization dedicated to empowering women through the sport of triathlon by organizing community training runs, rides and clinics. She also directs UnRace, a local sprint-distance triathlon designed to expose new triathletes to the sport.

Throughout her journey Christine says the Maffetone Method has served her well in both her training and lifestyle. For instance she does absolutely no speedwork but runs a 5K race every year just to prove aerobic training is all she needs for speed and top performances. She recently was the top woman overall in a 5K race.

She’s also an advocate of clean eating and a balanced diet rich in healthy protein foods, and avoiding all processed foods. Her household is gluten-free.

“I just love the whole concept of non-processed food — that no one is messing with my food,” she says.

With her four children also involved in sports, Christine continues to be an inspiration to her clients and others as an elite age-group Ironman athlete, having qualified for the prestigious Ironman 70.3 World Championships twice, including this year’s event in Austria in August.

For more information about Christine and her coaching business

Also, check out this video on Christine’s Girls Gone Tri Club.

By Hal Walter
MAF Senior Editor


  • Eyob Zewdie says:

    What a wonderfully timely article! I’ve been a subscriber to the maf method for a couple of months now, but have found inconsistent training to an issue do to what seems to be some mild imbalances in some key areas. Although not surprising do to some injuries I’ve sustained in the past, it is rather frustrating to deal with the after effect, especially seeing fellow students not falling victim to such issues. Working through Jay DiCharry’s “Anatomy for Runners” and some of Phil Wharton’s AIS programs recently, I’ve really been able to see some changes; however, the classic paranoia from knowing more has been making me more timid about doing corrective work for these biomechanical issues in fear of not correcting the exactly the right way.

    Then comes this article! I though “good for whoever lives in that vicinity!” There are not typical groups like this where I live. Well wouldn’t you know it: I live 15 minutes away. Thank you Hal and Phil for continuing to recognize trainers all over that provide such service, as finding a competent community of people like this is truly a gem against the backdrop of a culture that continues to perpetuate (quite aggressively) pseudo scientific views concerning the body and its optimum function.

  • John Goelz says:

    Yes, Ivan your explanations are always enlightening & appreciated.

  • Hi Mike! Thanks for the thoughts Ivan, your explanation is very enlightening! As a coach, I find just as you mention, some athletes progress incredibly quickly, others longer to see the time drops. But, get universal feedback to how much better they feel, how they don’t feel beat down and how they are so much more productive in other areas of their life. And, Mike if you are ever interested .. I would love to show you some run files of different athletes I have coached, is it absolutely amazing to see the progression when using the MAF method. You can email me on my website if you are interested! Happy running!

    • Mike:

      Let me put it to you this way. One of the reason that people have so much success with the MAF method is because the conventional approaches that we hear about aren’t good at directly addressing the underpinnings of athletic ability. This is because modern exercise prescription has been studied and developed around the collegiate athlete—a human who by definition has uncommonly developed neuromotor abilities, who in consequence has achieved a high degree of aerobic competency. Conventional approaches are designed with this person in mind. (And because they don’t address aerobic competency, they tend to spend it like it’s monopoly money, instead of working to build and maintain it).

      When you diligently develop a particular system (the aerobic system) while completely removing the bottlenecks to growth (anaerobic function) then you’ll find that it develops very very quickly. That said, remember that aerobic function is the common denominator of the health and functionality of the human body: if you are stressed, tired, eating badly, have an injury, are angry with a spouse, or experience noise or light pollution, you are increasing your anaerobic output. There are myriad negatives reducing our aerobic output (and therefore our aerobic development). When you successfully remove them, you’ll realize that the only reason that physiological development is as slow as we believe it to be is because these negatives are so damn ubiquitous.

      • Mike says:

        After 12 weeks of applying MAF HR with 3 MAF Tests evenly spaced and no increase in speed at MAF HR, should I abandon base building, or continue? From the article, increased speed within 6 weeks should be attainable. Not sure what to believe, 6 weeks or 3-6 months to get results from base building? I am interested in properly building a base. Thanks.

        • Mike:

          Thanks for your comment. In the comment thread, I mention how one of the reasons that Christine may have had such quick improvements is because her physiology, biomechanics, lifestyle, and nutrition were advantageously poised to begin developing aerobically. But the converse also holds: if biomechanically, physiologically, lifestyle- and nutrition-wise we are not doing the right things—eating inflammatory foods, sleeping badly or very little, with high work stress, bad biomechanics, etc,—our aerobic base won’t be developing at all. In a nutshell, there’s too much stress, and the body needs to be unstressed to work aerobically.

          In a very real way, aerobic function is the lowest common denominator of the body’s health. So, if your aerobic base isn’t developing, it isn’t because base-building “doesn’t work for you.” It means that there is a significant bottleneck somewhere, that is preventing aerobic development from happening. And most likely, the problem isn’t in whether you’re exercising right. You need to look for some significant stressor in your life and address it first. Once you widen that bottleneck, you’ll start seeing aerobic improvement.

  • Mike says:

    Interesting, how did you progress from walking to running “at the same pace” with a heart rate 15-20 beats lower in just six weeks?

    • By following the MAF method and doing the MAF test. When you develop aerobic power, your speed at the same heart rate rises (or, seen another way, your heart rate at the same pace drops).

      • Mike says:

        6 weeks to get to the same pace dropping 15-20 beats seems to be incredible rapid progress and adaptation when 3-6 months is suggested just to build a base. Does this article and results suggest a MAF base was already established and aerobic intervals brought about this speed within 6 weeks?

        • Mike:

          Aerobic intervals (presumably at the MAF heart rate) is itself aerobic base development.

          Why did Christine progress that fast? Some people are primed for aerobic development. Think about it this way:

          One of the requirements for running correctly is that your legs track back and forth in a straight line, with the foot-leg-hip system everting and inverting at all the right moments. If this doesn’t happen, you’ll be landing suboptimally, which means that the force will be going into your body in suboptimal directions, which means that you’ll have to brace against that, which raises stress levels, and reduces your aerobic speed.

          Ditto for knowing how to breathe well (which means having your diaphragm correctly patterned to your abdominal muscles, which should be in turn correctly patterned to your hip and leg muscles).

          Even if you have no aerobic base whatsoever, but you are functionally, nutritionally and stress-wise in a place where there are no bottlenecks to your aerobic development, then you can progress very quickly indeed. Of course, 6 weeks does imply some sort of previous athletic ability, but those gains in speed are certainly due to further development in the aerobic base.

          • Mike says:

            So she was running at a pace 20 bears higher than MAF 180 Formula, applied MAF heart rate which forced her to walk and over 6 weeks, without increasing MAF heart rate is back running at the same pace? Hard to grasp the process worked for her that fast, even if she was in her 20’s at the time and had optimal biomechanical and ventilator efficiency and coordination.

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