Some thoughts and comments on Maffetone training...

So we published a blog a couple of weeks ago which explained MAFFETONE TRAINING. Since then, we've had quite a few people try it for the first time and there's been a whole load of questions about it. Here's our thoughts on the common questions asked:

1. If you're following a 'Maffetone schedule' it generally recommends that ALL of your running is Maffetone pace. Our schedules include a lot of speed and interval work, only using Maffetone for longer runs, does this still work?

Answer: We're not following a Maffetone schedule. From our experience, using only Maffetone leads to people being very slow runners, precisely for the reason we identified in THIS RECENT BLOG. We are using Maffetone formula simply as a tool to slow people down on the long run/s, to prevent them running too hard. It also means that you are 'fresh' to run the faster / harder sessions at a much higher intensity.

2. The Maffetone formula is based on 180-age, is this accurate?

Answer: No, it's as reliable as calculating max heart rate with the formula 220-age. It works for 80% of people and for the other 20% it will be too high or too low. But as we have no option of testing everyone individually, we need a 'start point' so we use 180-age.

3. It feels really slow when I run, sometimes I'm walking, is this correct?

Answer: Yes, for many people you'll be going very slow in the early weeks, but this will change. In answer to question 2 above, we've said that it doesn't work for 20% of people. The issue with making that statement is that many people who are finding it tedious in the early weeks may well make the mistake of thinking they're one of the 20% and their heart rate is wrong. The truth is, it's probably right, you just need to stick at it.

4. Should I just forget the heart rate monitor and go with breathing or use feel?

Answer: No, because that's just like saying "shall I switch off my heart rate monitor and just run faster?" If you switch off your monitor and run from feel, you'll just go back to your normal pace. You might want to ignore the first few minutes as that can be very unreliable, but otherwise, use the monitor.

5. How do i know if I'm getting better?

Answer: Your pace will improve for the same heart rate. That's a second reason for using the monitor, if you start running faster and the heart rate is the same, then you're improving.

6. Seriously... I'm bloody walking, how slow should this be?

Answer: Ok, so you might be one of the 20%, add 5 beats and work from that. You'll find that 5 beats can make a big difference. Stick with that figure and see if your speed improves over the coming weeks.

7. It feel like I've done nothing... how is this benefiting me?

Answer: If you're doing the speed and interval work at the right intensity, you should be glad it's so easy. Do a really hard interval session Saturday and you won't feel so bad running slowly on Sunday! On a different note, if you run for an hour on Sunday and it feels like you've done nothing, then go and do 2 hours. The 2 key objectives of the long run as we've outlined are 'time on feet' and 'fat metabolism'. The longer you run, the more you benefit, the slower you run, the longer you can run. Taxing your cardiovascular system is not necessary, you've already done that during your other sessions.

8. My Maffetone heart rate is 135, when I run, sometimes it's above and sometimes it's below, but the average is 135, so is that ok?

Answer: Not really. If the fluctuations are very small, then it's probably ok, but it's key that you try to keep the heart rate as 'flat lined' and stable as possible. To enable efficient fat metabolism, you want to try and avoid heart rate 'spikes' or 'fluctuations'. Slow on the hills and hold a constant heart rate / intensity rather than holding a constant speed. This is a skill in itself and you'll need some time to learn it.

Running is a very simple sport, but there's lots of people who like to make it complicated. Our schedules are simple but effective, based on 3 principles:

1. Make the 'fast stuff' fast
2. Make the 'hard stuff' hard
3. Make the 'long easy stuff' long and easy

The 'long easy run' is just one part of the ingredients and for most people, it's not the key ingredient. Don't get hung up on Maffetone, give all sessions equal attention.

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