Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Training Method?

About a week ago, I started Dr. Phil Maffetone’s MAF training method (Method | Dr. Phil Maffetone), and have found that my maximum heart rate for training, according to the formula, means running so slowly that it almost doesn’t feel like running… which of course requires a lot of patience and a little faith. Has anyone found long term success with this kind of training method, and if so, would you share your experience? I plan to keep moving forward with it - tracking towards a 50 miler and some larger adventures after that - but it would help to hear some success stories. Thanks!

I did MAF a few years ago. It was revealed to me a lot about myself. The primary thing I learned about myself was that I was not patient enough to allow the program to work. To your point, it felt like I was walking.

Then, the pride got me. People were seeing me walking - oh my gosh, that can’t happen.

If I had more patience…less pride…maybe I could have stuck with it longer and seen some real results.

The science behind the program makes total sense. Stick with it!

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I’ve been doing MAT since the beginning of the year. Who knew it would be so hard to run slow? Positive results so far: 1) I’m able to add ramp volume without injury, 2) my pace at aerobic threshold is down by over a minute, 3) I now enjoy going slower. I’m going to stick with it for the first half of this year at least.

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This method sounds interesting and will give it a try!

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I was introduced to MAF earlier this year and just started. After a few weeks it’s already getting frustrating not to go faster, do my fartleks, etc. I like to trail run because I like to push my body. However, I often feel beat up and have a history of injuries which, after many years, have my technique / mechanics a bit of a mess. I feel like this may be a good option for me.

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I actually have a lot of faith in the concept behind MAF training. It’s not for everyone though. My wife and I came across it several years ago when we started running ultras and, in my opinion, it’s a natural fit for long distance trail races. When you’re running 30-100 miles, having your heart rate as low as possible is beneficial as is reducing the number and magnitude of accelerations (“walk the ups”).

To be quite honest, I’d almost liken it to the “keto” diet, which I’m not trying to dive into here. I just mean that MAF helps your body stay in the right zone for slow caloric burn, which is essential for longer distances.

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I’m so tempted to try it again…I see the logic of it…I just can’t be patient enough with the progress…

Again, more of an issue of patience and pride for me.

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ha, maybe I just lucked out and it’s not so much that I “tried” it as it is that I’m just naturally very very slow!

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If I had a dime for every time someone emailed asking why MAF training made them slower, I’d be able to upgrade from those janky yellow headphones. However, there are success stories with strict MAF, like Ironman Champion Mark Allen. Usually, those athletes are outliers in their own right—very efficient, so that their focus on easy effort and big volume make a fast athlete because their physiologies are born to go fast in the first place.

Coach David Roche on MAF…

I tried it one offseason, went from 8:50 min/mi at HR 140, to 10:30 min/mi… slowed down drastically.
It’s likely I wasn’t doing enough volume to make it work. Mark Allen had decades of high volume and high intensity training before he started with MAF. Then he was training 15-20 hours a week, even at easy pace that’s a pretty good training load, 90-120 miles/week at 10min/mi pace…

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Very cool stuff…and great visual of the headphones!

I am also not a patient runner. But very interested to try out this MAF method. Self-detrimental, I have just not been running much over the last 18months. I am eager to get back it for longer distances, but I know if I just got out and attack it as hard right from GO as I had done often in the past - probably not the best idea. So, yeah, definitely going to check this out!

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This is such a great article!

Well I’d trust David Roche! If anyone here has read Rich Roll’s “Finding Ultra” his coach basically has him do something similar. “Slow down to speed up.” Particularly during his first Ultraman race – for the double marathon, he ran 4 miles and then walked 1. Continued doing this for the whole 52 miles and described seeing significant benefits compared to the other competitors.

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@DrAlexHarrison do you have any thoughts on the MAF method?

Works great, but probably unnecessarily slowly-paced for some folks, at the beginning. Definitely a very safe approach. Probably works best for ultra-distance athletes who are not completely novice. Works also for novices of course, but it’s for these folks that I think it’s probably acceptable to allow HR’s above what the MAF method might prescribe, on more frequent basis than it would prescribe it.

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Started training for Ultras in JAN of this year at the ripe age of 52. Never really been a runner, but watched too many damn videos last year during the lockdown: World’s Toughest Race Fiji, The Boundless series, and countless Ultra YouTube videos (Wally Hesseltine in 72 Year Old Ultra Marathon Runner Takes On The Western States 100). Still tear up every time I show someone that video.

Anyhow, I read (and watched videos) of MAF training right as I started and thought it would be perfect for me. Tiny bit frustrated with the slow pace initially, but not too bad since I was just getting into it. Using solely MAF training I was able to do a solo 31 mile trail run on FEB 26th.

I’ve had steady progression with my times while keeping my heart rate within range. I always hated running periodically before MAF training, since I always felt completely spent from running to fast. Now I love it. We’ll see if MAF training can get me through my first 50 miler at the Sean O’Brien on OCT 23rd.

If you’re old like me, and closer to novice than experienced, then maybe you’ll enjoy this type of training.

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Love it! Never too old to start, right?

Good luck at SO!

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Started MAF this spring…
In order to keep to it though, moved the majority of my runs to the treadmill because the heat and humidity destroyed the pacing even more.
The paces have risen while the HR has stayed the same, but I do occasionally leave the reservation on MAF just because sometimes I really want to run trails and sometimes those trails really point up hill and all the time it is hot and humid in the south.

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That’s a good point – it’s hard to maintain a low HR when you’re on a big climb.

And I’m in the SE too – it’s no fun right now!

The heat has been a killer here in Los Angeles for me (especially July); I’m always trying to get out there for a 7am start at the latest.

I can’t/don’t want to run uphill, so I opt for power walking when I hit them. Try to keep a quick enough pace to keep HR in proper range.