Dr Phil Maffetone has been writing books, science articles and blog for decades today. He shares his personal experiences of coaching and teaching. I recommend you to get the "Endurance handbook" and the "Big book of endurance training and racing". It will bring your training to the very next level. Especially if you are overfat, injured, not improving.
It is all based on a heart rate formula what gives you a fantastic indication, not only on your run performance, but on your health. Actually this is the most important part in the actual system: Health !!! This is why so many burnt out runners, triathletes, soccer players, swimmers, rowers, expedition enthusiasts seek out the Maffetone method. To keep on performing at very high levels, while keeping health and while staying active and balanced in all other areas of life.
Upper Limit 180 - AGE / Lower limit 180 - AGE - 10
There are some extras to it. Like, if you were sick, taking medication, injured, obese and so, you take off 5. Any of the above, but very serious, subtract 10.
If you haven't been injured or sick for over 2 years, you have a balanced lifestyle and a healthy bodyweight and constantly running and training, week in week out in this two years, you might add 5. You'll see however, that generally you don't want to do that. It will be too hard.
This 10 beat heart rate range for instance for a 30years old, would be 180 - 30 = 150 / 180 - 30 - 10 = 140. So every single of your training sessions will be jammed inbetween these two numbers. When tired but feel still good, you go with the lower end. When motivated and well slept but have to hold back as a meeting is coming up or have eaten breakfast a little late, run in the middle. If ready for speedy session go on the top end.
What do you do when your heart rate goes over the needed value ? Experienced runners will control their breathing, posture, stride and the heart rate will naturally shift back to normal, MAF range. MAF : Maximum Aerobic Force. Beginner runners must stop immediately and start walking, till heart rate is back in range.
If you ran often on the same course, you'll see your pace coming down on the same heart rate. This is a great indicator that you are on the right track. On the other hand, if your pace is jumping all over the pace week after week, or simply getting worse and worse, you'll have other things to worry about. Health, diet, lifestyle, sleeping habits, air quality, work stress, family ambiance and much more.
How does a MAF workout look like ?
You warm up for at least 20minutes. That can be 5minutes of mobility at home. 5 minutes of walking, 5minutes of bodyweight strength like squats, lunges, pullups and 5 minutes of easy running. You can simply do 7minutes of walking and 13minutes of easy running.
When finished with warming up, you gradually increase your pace, till heart rate is getting into the perfect range. In about 2minutes. Hold it there steadily for the desired timeframe. Gradually bring it down in about 1minute and cool down for at least 10 minutes.
Cooldown. 5 minutes of easy running. 5 minutes of walking. 5minutes of easy mobility and stretching with proper breathing.
How to periodize MAF training ?
First of all, the longer you run or the higher heart rate you use, the more warming up you need. For a marathon prep long run, you might want to use 20minutes of walking and 10minutes of easy running at the beginning and the end too.
I recommend to keep an eye on your pace and adjust your training and lifestyle accordingly. However the best practice is going ahead with a regular MAF test. It is easy. You get to the same place, every 10th to 14th days, in the same time. After the same night of sleep and after a same non stressful day. After the same breakfast or no breakfast at all. You warm up always in the same manner and wear the same clothes. Let's say every second Sunday morning 9am on the local track.
You set your heart rate to 180-age and run 5miles / 8km. 20 laps ! You record the splits / pace of every single kilometer.
If the laptimes are jammed together and constantly improving, you are on the good way of developing general fitness. If the first lap is a lot faster than the others and the last lap is really far slower, you need endurance. Get onto MAF-10 heart rate more often and practice that. If your endurance is great and the differences in LAP times are very little and your improvements come very slowly, spend more time on MAF , 180 - age heart rate.
After a while, you might hit a first plateau. We talk about 3 to 4months of constant training. This is when interval training comes into the picture.
After a rest period, your runs become faster as your body is back to homeostasis. You can incorporate MAF intervals. Flat, trail, up or down ! 5 x 1600m on the track with 4minutes recovery on MAF. 10 x 500m uphill walking with a heavy back pack.
You can include extremely fast 10 to 20 second sprints uphill or flat. The recovery is set on a way that your max heart rate never goes over MAF.
If your surroundings allow you, long gradual downhill runs can stimulate leg turnover and speedy running on the same heart rate, that you are used to. 5km at MAF + 2km at MAF - 5 + 5 x 100m downhill accelerations.
You can challenge your body too. You do 1000m MAF repeats, but before each thousand you do 1minute skipping roping and 10 lunges.
When to derail from MAF heart rate ?
Self honesty and self observation is key to health and success in running. Are you really healthy and balanced with a correct bodyweight and habits ? Are you really improving ? First of all, if you were improving in all aspects of everything, not only in your MAF test, why change ? Stay till you really hit a plateau ! Discipline !
How to determine race pace ? Well, you should do some testing of trial end error and see how comfortable you are with your MAF pace and so. The MAF system when basic, is suitable more likely to 10km to the Marathon distance. From 800m to 10km and for ultramarathons, other considerations should be included and it becomes more complicated, than what I describe below. It stays relatively simple though, comparing to Daniel's VDOT chart , but outside of pace and heart rate other factors come in. For this reason, we talk in case of pace and race pace, about 10km to Marathon distance.
For beginners, after this first static period in the planning, what can come after about 4 to 6months, we can include some intervals. Maybe 2 weeks worth. 2 high intensity sessions and 2 sprint / stride sessions. That means for instance 5 by a kilometer on race pace at week one. 3 days later, 10 by 100m all out sprints. No run ugly and loosing form ! Just proper extremely fast running.
Week two might contain a classic 12 by 400 or 6 by 800, 5 to 10second faster than race pace and a 10 by 20sec uphill acceleration set.
For the ease of understanding, set recovery intervals to same time as your run split was.
For more advanced runners, the frequency and the volume can change. Let's say 3 weeks with high 6 intensity sessions. 3 sprint sets and 2 long tempo runs. All adjusted to the pace and distance of the up and coming event.
Afterwards you wean off from this and get back to MAF. Maybe only for 2 weeks, maybe for 6months. Depending on your personal feelings, on your MAF test, on your body or on your schedule.
It is possible that you entirely ignore straight periodisation and a once in a two week stimulus works better for you. You throw in an extremely hard set every 14days and outside of that, you stay at MAF all the time.
Sage Canaday criticises MAF and Phil Maffetone. He says that running at that heart rate that often is way two fast and the risk of injury is elevated for him. Well if he did all of his runs at least for a great base period on MAF, not including any HIIT sessions, risk would go down. Your aerobic fitness also can be ahead of your strength and resistance. So if you feel that you are running two fast for your MAF, you can do two things. Cut back volume or decrease your heart rate. Your goal is a fast marathon or 10km ? Instead of 90miles week, maybe 60 would be more than enough. Keep your runs at MAF and very fast and include strength training so your body can hold up to this very easy heart rate demand.
The second option is that you are preparing for and ultra or a back to back marathon and half marathon. You can decrease your heart rate even by 15 to 20 beats, add a full running pack.
The third option is that you include cross training, so actual aerobic volume would stay or even increase, but impact would decrease. The only thing to consider is technique and posture on a mountain bike, skis or rowing for instance.
If you are unfit and your MAF is a struggle, do not compromise your running technique. Better walk, walk uphill, walk trail with a hiking pack. Jogging in place with knees caving in is no good for you, despite that your heart rate is correct.
That same true for elite runners. You feel two tired to run at MAF, so you slow down 30beats below. That does nothing for you. Neither for your speed, nor for your aerobic development. Just imprints bad habits. Better going out for a 30 to 60 min walk, stretch down and call it a day.
Of course coaching, MAF and running can be and is way complicated than this. I refuse to train any runner with bad technique and bad habits. They need teaching and education first ! Not training ! When somebody has to learn how to run, how to eat, sleep and live, the whole MAF system can be years away ! However it is still a fantastic objective and a very positive goal ahead !