Running

I Tried the Maffetone Method for a Year

A runner’s strategy you may not know about

Bradley S.
Oct 7 · 5 min read
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Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

So, what is the Maffetone Method?

The Maffetone Method, or “MAF Method,” is heart-rate training designed to keep you within your aerobic threshold. You run your training miles under a certain heart rate which you calculate by subtracting your age from the number 180. I am 35, so my Maffetone heart rate is 145. That means all my runs will be under 145 bpm. You accomplish this by using a heart rate monitor during your runs to make sure you stay under. Typically, you wouldn’t run at exactly 145 bpm but more like 125–135 bpm since it’s easy to spike over.

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The “Big Yellow Book” or MAF Bible, Photo courtesy of Fruugo

Why would anyone want to do this?

By running exclusively aerobic, you will increase your endurance by doing more miles with less stress to your body. As you continue Maffetone, you can increase your running speed and stay at the same low heart rate. This also drastically reduces injuries and recovery time, since you are not putting the same stress on your body as running anaerobically. Dr. Phil Maffetone, the creator of the method, identifies overtraining and recovery deficit as huge problems in the running community, and this method is primarily meant to mitigate those risk factors. Many runners have used this for success, including six-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion Mark Allen, but it still quite niche.

Upsides

I like to start with the positive notes! For the most part, training this way lives up to its promises. I could run 20 miles on Saturday and feel well enough to go out Sunday and do it all over again! This is really effective when training for distance events like ultra-marathons. I did not get injured and rarely had to incorporate a lot of recovery tools like Epsom baths, Theragun, massage, or extra rest.

Downsides

While I encourage you to try MAF, I am not here to sell you on it. There were some negatives that made it really difficult.

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Courtesy of RT Magazine

Key Takeaway

Maffetone Running is the healthiest and sustainable form of running you can do, but it’s not the most fun. Even though running using the Maffetone Method brought increased endurance and training success, I found it too constricting. I like to lift weights, drink beer, and run at whatever heart rate I want to. I like getting a good sweat in and going fast. Ultimately, I plan on running this way for a training cycle (3–6 months) especially if I am training for an ultra. I think this is the most balanced approach which can reap the benefits without selling my soul to it.

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Bradley S.

Written by

A runner who has beers and writes

Runner's Life

Runner's Life is a publication for advice and stories from the intersection of running and life. By runners, for runners.

Bradley S.

Written by

A runner who has beers and writes

Runner's Life

Runner's Life is a publication for advice and stories from the intersection of running and life. By runners, for runners.

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