Everyone has heard of heart-rate training and plenty of people go through the efforts of finding their training zones to optimize their workouts. There’s a lot of validity to that kind of training, but there’s another heart-rate method that just might warrant even better results. Trouble is, it’s not for the impatient.
I’m talking about the Maff method, developed by Phil Maffetone, an applied kinesiologist, author of numerous training manuals, and long-term coach to such top athletes as six-time Ironman world champion Mark Allen. His method begins with the theory that you need to train at a truly aerobic level in order to teach your body to tap into fat for fuel. Anytime you become anaerobic, you’re burning sugar. Too much time spent training off of sugar for fuel and your body not only loses its ability to tap into fat stores for fuel, but becomes tired and burned out.
Now I know many of us believe you have to train fast to be fast. The Maff method, however, suggests that the longer you train at a lower heart rate, the more efficient you will become at that low heart rate. Before you know it, you’ll be bringing your splits down and doing it at that low heart rate. Well, maybe not before you know it–in order to achieve this, it takes time.
So how do you know what’s truly aerobic? Maffetone has developed a formula that is loosely based on 180 minus your chronological age. Then you factor in things like recent injury, illness, etc. Below is what he recommends from his web site:
To find your maximum aerobic training heart rate, there are two important steps. First, subtract your age from 180. Next, find the best category for your present state of fitness and health, and make the appropriate adjustments:
1. Subtract your age from 180.
2. Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:
a. If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.
b. If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.
c. If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same.
d. If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.
As you can see, the heart rate he recommends for your training is low, really low. In order to stay within it, you’d probably have to walk up hills to begin with. Like I said, not for the impatient.
I know enough coaches and athletes who use this method effectively to believe in its efficacy. Have I done it myself, however? No. I believe in it, but I’m not patient enough to do it. I like my runs with friends, I hate to walk up hills, and I want a race season this year. If I were to adopt this method, those would all go out the window for at least the time being. I know those are stupid reasons to bypass something that would lead to big results down the road. Maybe someday I’ll finally wise up and give it a go, but I know it won’t be this year.
How about you–ever do heart rate training? How about going as far as the Maff method?