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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
I thought I would start this thread as some of you seem to be interested in knowing more about the Maffetone Method of low HR training. I'd also like to share my personal experience thus far with it and I'm planning to keep the thread updated with my most up-to-date progress.

First off, a link to a PDF file that pretty much summerises the whole idea: http://content.bandzoogle.com/users/cippianhotmail/files/Want_Speed_Slow_Down_2007.pdf

Please grab a copy if you are not already familiar with his method. I can't explain his theory better than the man himself, can I? :)

I'm still reading his book "The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing" but I've finished reading most of the core chapters regarding training and diet. It's basically just a highly elaborated version of the PDF article above.

In his book Maffetone said something along the line of "being fit and being healthy are 2 different things", and that really did it for me. Do I want to be fit or do I want to be healthy? Too many times have we seen runners putting in all the hard work, setting PB's, ignoring the niggles they have picked up along the way, putting in more even harder work, and achieving more personal goals, only to find themselves injured or getting sick and having to spend a prolonged period of time on the sideline and watch their hard earned fitness decline.

I have first hand experience of that "syndrome" when I broke my heel bone in May 2010. I was still a relatively new runner, I was training hard trying to set PB's, doing tempo and interval sessions once or twice weekly, etc. I was fit (by my standard then), I was setting PB's in my 10k's and 5k's. I picked up a niggle on my ankle/heel some time in May, didn't thought much of it, continued to train hard, even set a PB in a 5k race later that month. Of course the "niggle" turned out to be a fractured heel bone and I was banned from any form of sport for the following 6 weeks! During that 6 weeks down time I did a lot of reading and found out about barefoot running, I've since been converted as many of you are already aware of but this post isn't about that so I won't go there :)

Now in early Oct 2011, 15 months after my recovery from the injury, my barefoot running had served me very well, I set a 10k PB on 1st Oct. Things were indeed going very well. However, at that point some of the training sessions had become quite hard and I started to feel that it was going to be rather difficult for me to progress very far anymore. I started to doubt if the hardest sessions were worth it. I fear the effort/reward ratio would start to decline very quickly, and injury became a real risk again.

That was when I stumbled upon Maffetone's theory and I found it very interesting. I liked his theory on improving the body's aerobic functions, in order to improve general health, and only then, incorporate anaerobic training to further enhance running and racing performance. Being just a middle-of-the-pack runner I thought it made sense for me to train in a more sensible way that doesn't jeopardise my health. It's not like I have an Olympic medal to chase anyway so there really isn't much for me to lose by trying something new from scratch again. I gave up all the mileage to start running barefoot from literally zero distance last year, so the idea of giving up all the speed and start from zero again isn't too much of a shock to me :)

I'm now almost 6 weeks into training strictly below a HR suggested by Maffetone's book, and I'll share some data and charts to illustrate my progress in my next post.
 

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thx ilovebowling, I'm in too, got the book on the way, and done a couple of sessions using the formula. A lovely way to run.

I have not done an initial MAF test, might not bother, I think the stats will speak for themselves as time goes on.

Looking forward to your reports
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Before I go into details of my training data, let me first summarise my race times so things can be viewed in proper perspective with regard to my ability. All race times after August 2010 were done barefoot, times prior to that were done in shoes.

5k: 23:17 (22 May 2010), 27:26 (7 Nov 2010, hilly, and first ever barefoot race), 21:17 (7 May 2011)
10k: 56:52 (28 Feb 2010), 50:59 (20 Feb 2011), 48:08 (27 Mar 2011), 45:37 (1 Oct 2011)

The following races were done after I started the Maffetone training (i.e. slow running exclusively). I'm not supposed to be doing any racing during the aerobic base building period but I entered this race long before I started following his method so I completed these races anyway.

10k: 48:29 (13 Nov 2011)
HM: 1:51:41 (27 Nov 2011)

According to Maffetone, the HR you use as the ceiling in training is calculated based on the 180-age formula. You then adjust this number based on your current fitness. I decided I didn't need any adjustment according to his criteria, so 141 is the magic number for me.

I'd also like to mention that besides maintaining the low HR in training, I have also completely changed my diet to incorporate a low carb, high protein, balanced fat sort of diet. I've lowered my carb intake very significantly and am eating lots of veggies/fruits/eggs/meat/nuts/etc. I've also tried to avoid (but still not completely) any food or drinks with refined sugars or white flour.

For ease of monitoring my progress, I've chosen to run on the same route in every run since the beginning. It's a loop of about 1.88km (1.17 miles) with some gentle undulation of no more than 10-15 feet. Now that the route and HR ceiling are fixed, the only variable in each run is really just the weather.

I have attached 3 images with this post. The first one is a table of training paces. These are average paces across every 2km (per km pace) in the runs. My shortest runs are usually 6km and a bit so I also included a column called "6k Avg", which I will use for plotting some charts. Sorry for using numbers in metrics but that's how things usually work over this side of the world. For easy reference a 6:00/k pace is about 9:39/mi and 7:00/k is about 11:16/mi. I've added some notes in the table to indicate some special conditions like unusually hot or cool temperature. The table also indicated some of the days when I only walked as an aerobic exercise, as well as the races, but those days are not included in the charting.

The second image is a chart plotted based on the table in the first image, the coloured bars are the 2k splits and the purple line is the 6k averages. The non-training days are also included in the chart (with no bars) so that everything is linear and easy to compare.

The third image shows a simple line chart using weekly 6k averages. I'm only a little over half way through the 6th week so that number may still change.

There's clearly a trend to be observed here. The first 2 weeks were miserable. Pace got slower and slower. It was an uncomfortably slow pace to start with and I couldn't believe it could get even slower! It was very frustating. I felt like walking was faster, hence the introduction of walking into my training (though I proved that walking was still a bit slower :)) I believe what happened was that my aerobic base was still pretty much non-existent, yet my anaerobic systems were regressing due to the absence of higher intensity training. Both of these contributed to my slowing pace at the same HR. However, I started to see the end of the tunnel in the 3rd week. Times started to come down and they are coming down faster than I had expected! I started seeing improvement almost on a daily basis!

So now almost 6 weeks into my new training, I still find it difficult to keep my HR under 141, especially on warmer days. But with some patience and persistence, I'm starting to see some results. Together with the changed diet I also feel much more healthy these days, no more sleepiness after any meal, no more tired legs, no more niggles of any kind!

Needless to say I'm very happy with my new training so far and I always look forward to my next run these days, wondering if I'll see an improvement yet again!
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
I don't get this, a training plan which doesn't really make you that fast?
It's a plan to build up your aerobic base, or base speed if you like. It's not for everyone. It requires a lot of patience. After developing the aerobic base to its full potential you can then add anaerobic training to further develop speed and sharpen your race form.

And there's actually more to running than just chasing time. I for one would be very happy running simply for my health. As stated in my original post, I have no interest in pursuing PB's at the expense of a healthy body anymore! I believe there's a possible balance to be struck.
 

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as an addition to this, I worked for some time using the Jack Daniels training pace tables, which worked really well for me and made me a lot faster by just running at LSR pace. Jack recommends you train at this pace for a month to 6 weeks, then jump up one level on the VDOT scale, which generally means increasing pace by 10-12 seconds per km. It is slow and progressive, but it really works.

Seeing you pace improving by 40 secs to a minute over a 6 week period, by running slowly is far faster improvement than even the Jack Daniels training plan (well respected by many) would produce for the steady runs, so it is obviously working well for you.

Just mention this as a comparison. I also have a huge admiration for Anton Krupicka who has won the Leadville 100 a couple of times at record speeds. I read that his 5km time is only 16 mins or so, so he's not fast on the short runs compared to many, but he also loathes speedwork and says he doesn't do any. He does run 150 - 200 miles a week though.

I think what I am trying to say is that base training at slow speeds can make you fast, and it is a nice way to run too.
 

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While I can accept, although it's not for me, that training the aerobic system for prolonged periods without speed work can be of benefit, I'm not sure relying exclusively on HR is correct. The formula for calculating areobic HR is no better than the standard formula for maximum HR. it is based on a crude calculation that takes no account of the individual. Any heart rate training programme should begin with a realistic test of maximum HR (based on a race, or intervals etc) and training intensities drawn down from that.

But even then, HR is just one variable, and it's not always precise. As you say, keeping in the HR zone is difficult because temperature, among many other things, can affect HR. As Jack Daniels asked in his book when urging caution with any HR training programme "Is the purpose of a training run to maintain a specific HR, or to stress a physiological system". I think we all agree that the aim should be to stress a physiological system. HR may help you do this, but it shouldn't be blindly followed.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The formula for calculating areobic HR is no better than the standard formula for maximum HR. it is based on a crude calculation that takes no account of the individual. Any heart rate training programme should begin with a realistic test of maximum HR (based on a race, or intervals etc) and training intensities drawn down from that.
Dr. Maffetone does acknowlege in his book that to accurately determine one's true aerobic zone, lab tests are necessary. However, he says that his 180 formula is accurate enough in most cases. You might also want to note that his formula does take certain individual factors into consideration, such as whether the runner is prone to injuries and common colds and flus, how much and how consistent he/she has been training etc.

But even then, HR is just one variable, and it's not always precise. As you say, keeping in the HR zone is difficult because temperature, among many other things, can affect HR. As Jack Daniels asked in his book when urging caution with any HR training programme "Is the purpose of a training run to maintain a specific HR, or to stress a physiological system". I think we all agree that the aim should be to stress a physiological system. HR may help you do this, but it shouldn't be blindly followed.
Unlike most other training programmes, the Maffetone Method isn't entirely about "stressing" any system, not at the aerobic base building stage anyway. It's more about teaching your body to be more efficient in burning fat as fuel, as oppose to using sugar. Hence diet is a big part of the method. Our body has a very limited supply of carbohydrate/glycogen stores, but a relatively unlimited supply of fat, even for skinny people. If your body knows how to use fat efficiently as fuel to power your runs, you can go on and on for a very long period of time without "hitting the wall", which is basically the emptying of your body's glycogen stores. And as far as I understand it your HR has a direct relationship to the ratio of fat/sugar burning as energy source. The higher the HR, the higher the percentage of energy coming from sugar instead of fat, regardless of any of the external factors like temperature. By training strictly in the low HR zone, your body becomes more and more efficient in burning fat as the source of energy.
 

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I mentioned in another post that when I was in my late twenties, I spent a few months using HR and cadence as my only measure of intensity, albeit on a road bike rather than running. I used the crude 220 - age to get started, and tried to work near the top end of the 'aerobic zone' which in my case was 150-159 bpm. I decided to ignore speed, however hard that was, and used cadence and HR as my gearing system if you like.

I started at 15-16 mph average on a ride, starting at doing 8-10 miles 3 times a week, with a long ride which I build to around 2 hours on the weekend.

Within 4 months I was riding at closer to 23-24 mph avg on the shorter rides, and still over 20 mph on the long ones. I was whizzing past those guys on the Bianchi bikes and the racing jerseys.

My resting pulse in bed in the morning fell from mid 60 bpm to under 50 bpm. The fat fell off and I went from 14.5 stone to 12 st 9lbs, although fat loss was not the main goal.

I used a 'crude' method, but it worked. And I certainly think for many people getting started, or not at an elite level, these crude systems can work. Not for everyone, but for the majority perhaps.

There is no doubt in my find that running slowly increases speed, I did it in 2009 with good effect. There is obviously a place for speedwork, but for me, who wants to be competitive at endurance events, slow work needs to be the backbone of my training.

I will keep my records, and compare my results with ilovebowling's, see how it goes.

One thing regarding Jack Daniels, whose book I love and have read many times, is that running to pace is great, on flat level areas. For me, in hilly Dorset, it is a pain in the butt, I am slowing, speeding up, working too hard, not working hard enough!! HR, although open to a range of influences, is a moderately fair way of judging intensity, it might not be perfect, but again, unless training at an elite level, do those influences matter that much?
 

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It's a plan to build up your aerobic base, or base speed if you like. It's not for everyone. It requires a lot of patience. After developing the aerobic base to its full potential you can then add anaerobic training to further develop speed and sharpen your race form.

And there's actually more to running than just chasing time. I for one would be very happy running simply for my health. As stated in my original post, I have no interest in pursuing PB's at the expense of a healthy body anymore! I believe there's a possible balance to be struck.
How is the program innovative compared to the likes of Lydiard?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
How is the program innovative compared to the likes of Lydiard?
I'm not sure if it's "innovative". I think it's actually very similar to a lot of the base building phases proposed by other programmes. The main difference is just that Maffetone puts a strict HR ceiling to every run, to keep your body exercising inside the aerobic zone at all times. Any form of anaerobic exercise should also be avoided during this phase according to him, including racing and weight lifting. He also suggests doing no more than 4-8 weeks of anaerobic training every season after you have completed the aerobic base building.
 

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The formula for calculating areobic HR is no better than the standard formula for maximum HR. it is based on a crude calculation that takes no account of the individual. Any heart rate training programme should begin with a realistic test of maximum HR (based on a race, or intervals etc) and training intensities drawn down from that.
I have read through the book, and he states that the 180 number is purely an arbitary figure with no real meaning other than as a starting number to get your heart rate for this type of training. What he actually did was work backwards to get this number.

He analysed many many runners of all levels, including elite athletes, and by testing them, and finding their ideal aerobic training level, was able to look at their ages and a number of other factors, and found that 180 - the age of the athlete was a figure that got very close to the ideal aerobic training heart rate for the majority of individuals. The 180 is not related to theoretical max heart rate, but to real tests on real people over a long period of time.

To me, although their will be some anomalies and outliers, I think that by using real testing and evidence, this formula is probably more realistic than many others.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I have read through the book, and he states that the 180 number is purely an arbitary figure with no real meaning other than as a starting number to get your heart rate for this type of training. What he actually did was work backwards to get this number.

He analysed many many runners of all levels, including elite athletes, and by testing them, and finding their ideal aerobic training level, was able to look at their ages and a number of other factors, and found that 180 - the age of the athlete was a figure that got very close to the ideal aerobic training heart rate for the majority of individuals. The 180 is not related to theoretical max heart rate, but to real tests on real people over a long period of time.

To me, although their will be some anomalies and outliers, I think that by using real testing and evidence, this formula is probably more realistic than many others.
The formula obviously works for me too. I thought the 141 HR was way too low at the beginning too as my max HR is very close to if not over 200 (I've seen 198 at the finish line in a race). It was a real struggle to keep it under that HR in the first couple of weeks, I felt like a tortoise. It was mentally very hard to go through that period, having to watch slow elderly runners pass me! But I kept at it and now it is starting to pay off, and the pace is starting to look half decent.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Ok, I´m in.

One thing is doesn´t set out is a training programme in terms of times and frequencies per week. Any info on this?
My understanding is that it really isn't a "training programme" in the traditional sense. It is just a process that takes quite a bit of time to "re-wire" your body so that it uses more fat than sugar as energy source. For me I just run as much as my time and body allow me to, which in my case is about 5 days a week, most of the time 8-12k each, 50+km (30+miles) a week. Time is really a bigger limiting factor at the moment as the slow pace doesn't really put much stress on my legs and body at all!
 

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Maffetone's stance is that you should not do anything other than aerobic training whilst building your aerobic base, including any sort of resistance work, but who knows whether that is essential? He seems to think that the base fitness is all important and can be messed up doing other stuff, I guess it just depends how closely you want to follow it.

And regarding running as much as you like, he recommends at least one rest day pw. I have found that this week I have easily been able to up my mileage due to the lower intensity workrate, but It would probably not be prudent to go up it drastically too soon, gradually is best, and also, he thinks working to time rather than distance is better as you will obviously reduce the time as your speeds increase over time.

I am working on a 1 hour run 5 days per week and 90 mins or so on a Sunday.
 

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Ok, today I went out and went slow. I didn´t have a HR monitor so had to judge it. My heart rate when I got in the door was 84, about 3 minutes after I stopped running, so I probably went way too slow. It was strange and I missed the rush of exerting myself.

I´ll stick with it though.
 

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It is just a process that takes quite a bit of time to "re-wire" your body so that it uses more fat than sugar as energy source.
I'm intrigued to know, what difference in terms of percentage of energy derived from fat does running at say 70% of max heart rate compared to running at lower heart rates in the Maffetone method?
 
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