Friday, July 25, 2014

Maffetone Training: What the Hell is That?

Over the last week, a lot of my running buddies have asked me, "What the heck is that Maffetone training thing you are doing?"  After a little explanation, the next question is usually, "Why?"

I've read so much about Maffetone training that it's second nature to me. I don't even imagine others might not know about Phil Maffetone. I've written about him and his ideas on this blog several times. Here's a good summary from me in 2008:

Maffetone Heart Rate Training

And for a little more in-depth explanation, check out Phil Maffetone himself in this interview from Runner's Connect:

I also strongly encourage you to read his most recent book, The Big Book Of Endurance Training and Racing. It "replaces" or summarizes many of his older books all in one place. Pretty cheap at Amazon--about $16 for the actual book, $13 on Kindle.

All of the above (my old blog post, video, and book) explain his system. The core belief is that we need to run at a very easy aerobic heart rate based on 180-age (with some minor up/down adjustments). That formula will give your MAXIMUM aerobic HR. Don't exceed it. Yes, it'll feel too easy and you'll be going rather slow. Things will improve!

Why run at this low heart rate? It's low impact and low stress, efficient, encourages fat-burning, decreases stress hormones, and increases aerobic fitness. Low chance of injury, high chance of better aerobic fitness. Win-win. It will not get you into amazingly fast running shape quickly. This is a long-term commitment. Many people won't hang in there. If that's your personality, then I encourage you to think about rotating training cycles with Maffetone style training for 3 months, then your "typical" training (that might include intervals, tempos, hill repeats, or fartleks) for 3 months. Aerobic-Anaerobic. Maffetone builds the body up, the higher HR training sharpens, but also destroys. You might find a mix that is synergistic. True converts stick with Maffetone and slowly build their aerobic fitness over months and months and the improvements can be continued for years (without annoying set-backs).

You'll be surprised how much better you feel using the Maffetone program. You sleep better, recover faster, nagging injuries fade away, you run more miles (or minutes), and slowly get faster at the same low heart rate.

Anyway, I decided to switch over to Maffetone low-heart rate training because I was getting injured with the fast tempo runs and the pressure to "perform" was putting stress on me (physically and mentally). Maffetone is low stress! In one week, I've already seen positive changes. More running miles. Lower resting heart rate (RHR). Better heart rate variability (HRV). Better sleep. My slow paces are even improving--slightly.  I promised myself to give it 3 weeks (then race Howl at the Moon 8-hour ultra). I'm done with week one and feeling great. Hope the next 2 weeks go just as well. I have confidence they will. After Howl at the Moon, I'll return to Maffetone training and hope to see continued improvements. Give it a try!

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