Maffetone Training Method for Running

Afterthoughts: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparks

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I stumbled across the Maffetone Method for running and it has completely changed the game in terms my approach to training. Not only do I feel more inspired by learning of others’ progress with the MAF method, but I also feel more energised. The low-intensity nature of the runs means that I recover faster and am less moody. I have been finishing my runs with fuel left in the tank which only motivates me for my next run.

The objective for any runner is two-fold: improve speed and endurance. The traditional approach involves, in a given week, workouts that develop your aerobic and anaerobic systems. The former includes easy runs and the latter includes some element of speed work whether that be a tempo run, threshold run, intervals, or fartleks. Intuitively, improving both systems seems a sensible course of action to improve speed and endurance.

The controversy with the Maffetone Method is that, unless preparing for a race, it counsels against any type of speed-work. The focus is all in building up one’s aerobic base. To do so requires that one runs at a low-intensity but higher mileage. Low intensity is measured via heart rate, their is a calculation you can do to find your MAF heart rate, and the idea is that during your runs, you want to stay below this with no exceptions. There are countless testimonials from amateur and professional runners alike of the amazing improvements in both speed and endurance through everything from a 5k to ultra-marathons.

The quirk with this training method is that the results are not immediate, and will only appear a few months down that line. While there are many that try and feel discouraged, those that stick with it experience tremendous increases in aerobic capacity which translates to race performance.

The best part about the Maffetone training method is that anyone can become runners in theory. The goal is to not run hard, it’s to run slow and easy, a pace where you can hold a conversation. This is the opposite experience that most beginner runners have, and I am willing to wager that had they known this, a lot more people would be running in general.

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