“MAF Training is a sustainable approach for all levels.”
What Is MAF Training?
The MAF (Maximal Aerobic Functioning) method, developed by Dr. Phil Maffetone, is an approach to training focused on building endurance through fat adaptation. Running efforts with high exertion (tempo runs, hill repeats, etc.) are fuelled primarily by glycogen. By slowing down your pace in an effort to remain at a lower cardiac output, you teach your body to burn fat, a robust source of energy.
The Finding My Psych MAF Training Challenge
In order to test the effectiveness of the Maffetone method, I decided to put myself through a 30 day (4 week) challenge using the approach outlined by Dr. Phil Maffetone. The Finding My Psych team thought it would be helpful to record this journey by showing you my cardiac output for each run in relation to pace. In theory, by the end of 30 days, I should see some improvement in pace as my body adapts to this zone training method.
Getting Set Up – My Approach
In order create reliable results, the following was adhered to throughout the course of my MAF running experiment:
- Using the Maffetone method, I took 180 minus my age to calculate my maximum heart rate for the next month. This gave me 132 beats per minute. Taking ten from my maximum heart rate provides me the required range to stay within for each run (122 – 132).
- I used my Garmin Fenix 5 Plus as both a training and fitness watch through the month. I usually wear an Apple Watch during the day and the Fenix for training efforts. By sticking with one tool, I was able to reliably monitor a broader range of health stats outside of training efforts (stress rating, resting heart rate, etc.)
- I chose a relatively flat course for each run; I live in an area with a lot of hills.
- I weighed myself every day using a scale that provided me my weight, BMI, water weight, muscle mass calculation, and bone mass. While these calculations tend to be rough, they do provide benchmark data and delta.
- Most runs were done in the morning. I find that evening runs are more difficult, both mentally and physically.
- I trained four times a week using the calendar function in Garmin Connect. This kept me on track through the course of the challenge.
30 Day MAF Training Log
The following is a log of each run for the next 30 days. Each session includes a chart of my heart rate data, followed by notes on pace, my experience of the run that day, and any significant changes in health related stats (e.g., weight).
During the last run of the challenge, you will find a formal MAF testing session designed to evaluate impact of the MAF method on pace and other health indicators.
Run #1: October 7th, 2020
- It has been three weeks since my last run (my confession).
- Keeping my pace slow enough to keep my heart rate under 132 was much more difficult than I anticipated.
- Ego is the primary reason running slow is difficult.
- I did not have to stop to bring my heart rate into range.
- The course was very flat (Rocky Point Park, Port Moody, BC.)
Run #2: October 8th, 2020
- Run feels better today compared to last. My body is not revolting so much.
- Using workout heart rate high and low alert on Garmin Fenix – Very helpful!
- Was difficult keeping heart rate below 132 on the small hills. Course close to my home.
- Did not have to walk to bring my heart rate into range.
Run #3: October 9th, 2020
- Was a bit sore last night, but recovery is quick, especially on MAF low intensity workouts.
- Ate about one hour prior to run.
- Local course with trails and hills. Was very difficult to stay within the zone.
- No walking except up a steep hill. Next run will be a flat course!
- Hard rain, my favourite running experience.
- Notice a significant improvement in mood. Too many days (3 weeks in this case) without running sends my mood into a deep nosedive.
Run #4: October 11th, 2020
- Felt stronger today – Finished off with a short hill workout.
- 75% of the course was flat. Ended with trails and hills, thus going over my maximum MAF range (132).
- Mood massively better after a running effort, especially today. Amazing Autumn colours.
- Walked half the hill workout portion of the run today.
- MAF is making me love running again. I was so burnt out being attached to pace and maximum effort scores.
Run #5: October 14th, 2020
- Tired today. Feeling crappy like due to eating recent analogue meats (Gardein).
- Difficult staying under 132, but completed it as average.
- Sleep has been great, to the point of it being difficult to wake up in the morning.
- Motivation is, “okay”.
Run #6: October 15th, 2020
- I did not do a MAF specific run this morning. I was feeling the need to push harder.
- I did a long slow hill for the second half of the 5k run.
- My heart rate recovery was quick. While this was a harder run compared to the others this past two weeks, I did not feel destroyed after.
- I am starting to see that the Maffetone method every day is not as beneficial to cardiac output, at least according to Garmin Connect; I am not improving my cardiorespiratory fitness compared to harder efforts like today. Anaerobic training is also critical to improving maximum output.
- I am going to replace at least one of the scheduled MAF sessions each week with tempo efforts for balance.
Run #7: October 17th, 2020
My final MAF (or, ‘not so MAF’) training run – You will see that I decided to stop my 30 day MAF challenge after only seven days. For my 7th and final run, my average heart rate was 142 bpm, 10 beats above my max target of 132 bpm. Why? Check out my analysis further down the page.
My MAF Training Fail (With Observations)
After five successful Maffetone training runs, I decided to push my effort out of the suggested max training effort of 132 bpm. The final two runs threw the method completely out the window. Here is why:
- It is way too difficult to keep a slow pace in order to stay within the MAF aerobic range. After two runs, I was able to get past my ego (looking like a turtle). The final efforts just felt, ‘silly’.
- Garmin Connect training effect remained at, ” Unproductive” for all five MAF runs. Once I started pushing my effort up into the 140 bpm range (Zone 3), my efforts improved my aerobic functioning. I also felt more accomplished after my last two runs and my mood got an extra boost.
I fully acknowledge that in order for MAF training to work, you must commit to the approach for at least 90 days. The work by YouTuber, “The Plant Based Runner” proves the positive impact.
The Final Verdict
It is my judgment that the Maffetone method is best for those setting a goal to break into running for the first time, or those returning to running after many years away from pounding the pavement. If you have a solid base of miles (or klicks) per week, the impact is less obvious.