BEN’S ZONE: Maffetone Method Training Update

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Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness.  You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy 🙂

Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Race 3.0 Running Vest

Maffetone Method Training Update

This year I have been testing a new training technique called the Maffetone method. The premise is that there are two types of muscle in your body, fast and slow. The slow muscles can be used for sport but you have to train them to do this, the advantage is that using slow muscles brings greater endurance as they burn ketones (fat) not glycogen and there is less stress on your adrenal system, so less injuries. The downside is that these slow muscles only work when you are exercising aerobically, so your heart rate has to be kept lower than usual. In training the heart rate should not exceed a maximum value known as ‘Maximum Aerobic Fitness’ or MAF. The value I am using for my MAF is 135bpm, which is very low compared to my usual heart rate while running.

We’re now nearing the end of April and I have been training using my MAF for 4 months on and off. I say ‘on and off’ because I had a number of races near the start of the year and took rest periods before and after these. This has meant my training routine got quite sporadic. Last year, due to my 1000 mile challenge, I was extremely regimented in my running. This year, not so much.

I have to be honest and say I am not enjoying this mode of training at all right now. One of the reasons for this is technical, my heart rate strap has been playing up. The consequence of this is it tends to over read and as the MAF method hangs on not exceeding a certain heart rate, this is very disruptive. Even when the heart rate monitor is working correctly I find I am spending lots of time fixating on the reading and it stops me relaxing and getting lost in my run. Rather than enjoying the amazing scenery of my local forest I’m checking my watch every few seconds to make sure my heart rate isn’t spiking.

Another problem I am having is that, due to the heart rate cap, I often have to walk to bring my heart rate down. I have a fixed amount of time to run in the morning and so I have had to bring my distance right down, from 6 miles a day last year to about 1.5 miles a day at present. Psychologically this does not feel good to me, I’m struggling with my weight a bit at the moment and so the urge to run far and fast is really strong, limiting myself to 1.5 miles feels wrong, though not giving in to the urge to go crazy with exercise is probably a good thing.

From chatting to people who have spent time training using MAF, this is all quite normal but it’s still a relatively stressful experience. The consequence to this is that rather than looking for an opportunity to go out for a run, I am looking for an excuse not to, and that does not feel great.

I knew it would be tough though. What I need to bear in mind is that the end goal is worth it, getting to a place where I can run fast, for long periods of time and not worry about slowing down as I get older is worth some level of temporary discomfort. In this update my plan was to talk about performance measurement over time but I felt it more important to talk about how I am feeling about this training right now. People talk about the MAF method as though it were a magic bullet and while I still believe that it is a great way forward, the experience I am having, as an experienced runner, is not well documented but also not uncommon when you get people talking on the subject.

I’m not giving up, so stay tuned for the next update.

2 thoughts on “BEN’S ZONE: Maffetone Method Training Update”

  1. Thanks for your honesty on this Ben, I have read a lot about this method and the Maffetone approach to diet as well. I don’t have a sports watch at the moment but was considering doing it whenever I got one. I found the TomTom Spark cardio watch a good alternative to a chest strap to check heart rate, might be worth looking into for you. I reviewed one for them last year and mine lasted about a year of constant use before it gave up.

    • I’ve actually found a cheapo strap for about £8 so I am back on the heart rate monitor. It’s just the distraction of looking down at the watch, it stops you losing yourself in the run. What I’ve heard is that this is a long term approach so I will give it a good few months. My main concern is I’m not running enough to really get the benefits


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