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What Is MAF? – Guide To Low Heart Training

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Because heart rate training is designed to strengthen your aerobic base, it’s frequently suggested for novice runners who want to run longer distances.

What Is MAF? – Guide To Low Heart Training

That being said, it isn’t limited to one type of athlete; in fact, it might give a much-needed boost to your present running ability.

People who demand a stronger aerobic basis often gain the most from MAF training.

You may fall under this category if you have continual pain or aches during training, or if you are looking for more stamina throughout your exercises, these might be signs that your body is working harder than it needs to give adequate oxygen and energy to your muscles.

What Is MAF?

Phil Maffetone, a nutrition, fitness, and sports medicine expert, established the MAF Method in the 1980s after 40 years of research.

MAF means Maximum Aerobic Function and concentrates on the aerobic system—your body’s fat-burning system.

MAF is, in general, about adopting a lifestyle that allows you to reduce chronic inflammation, burn fat, manage stress, and more. 

The MAF running strategy bases fat burning and endurance on your heart rate. To determine your own MAF heart rate (HR), subtract how old you are from the MAF method’s optimal training heart rate of 180.

You may now do some more calculations. Subtract an extra ten if you are recuperating from an injury, for example.

Subtract five more if you are currently suffering from a cold or have allergies. However, if you have been training consistently for at least two years without a serious injury, add five.

This is how you get to your optimal current training heart rate. The goal is to establish a speed that allows you to run for lengthy periods of time without causing your heart rate to rise.

Understanding Heart Rate

Anything that raises your resting heart rate will raise your heart rate while exercising. If stress or worry raises your heart rate at rest, your heart rate will rise accordingly during activity.

Hot temperatures and humidity, as well as dehydration and elevation along your route, can all have an impact on your heart rate.

With those things in mind, you might find it useful to utilize a different measure, such as perceived exertion, when undertaking heart rate training.

Use your heart rate monitor to target the appropriate heart rate zone, but also consider your breathing and perceived exertion when running.

Your desired heart rate for an easy run should correlate to slightly higher breathing and the capacity to converse.

Heart rate monitors can help you reach your objectives whether you are a novice runner seeking to make jogging a habit or an experienced runner looking to improve.

Heart rate monitors can demonstrate how to manage your effort and run at an easy, comfortable pace—and whether your aim is to run comfortably for 30 minutes or to run faster in a race, running at the optimal level of intensity will help you achieve your goals and avoid injury.

Although one goal of exercise is to increase heart rate, pushing the heart too hard might be hazardous.

Chest tightness, trouble breathing, and a relative inability to converse while jogging are all signs that a person is straining their heart too hard.

If a person sees any of these symptoms, they should take a deep breath and calm down. If a person constantly feels chest pain while exercising, they should seek expert medical advice right once.

It should be noted that these target heart rates are for “average” people who are otherwise healthy.

If a person is on any drugs that slow down heart rate or change how the heart responds to exercise, or if they have a history of cardiac arrhythmia, a heart attack, or another medical issue, they should consult a doctor before beginning any exercise plan.

How To Measure Heart Rate

After determining their desired heart rate zones, a person may determine whether or not they are meeting these ranges by monitoring their heart rate while running.

Counting pulse rate by hand is the simplest way for evaluating heart rate. To achieve this, lay two fingers lightly on the other wrist until the pulse is felt.

Count the number of pulse beats in 30 seconds and divide by two to get the number of beats in 60 seconds.

Wearing a chest monitor or wristwatch that detects pulse is a simpler approach to evaluate heart rate while exercise. Online, there are several things to pick from, such as heart rate watches and heart rate straps.

Otherwise, booking time with a treadmill or a personal trainer to acquire reliable heart rate measurements and create targets may be a good option.

What Is The MAF Test?

What Is MAF? – Guide To Low Heart Training

You should not perform the test more than once a month since you risk becoming obsessed with analyzing the findings.

If your long runs are now 60 minutes or fewer, you should perform the MAF test over a three mile distance rather than the specified five mile. Ultrarunners might consider testing beyond 10 miles for more reliable distance data.

How To Do The MAF Test

  • Using the 180-formula, calculate your goal heart rate.
  • Allow at least 15 minutes to warm up.
  • Wear a heart rate monitor and make sure it is fully functional before beginning the exam.
  • Find a 5-mile route on which you will have permanent access for all future examinations.
  • Set a watch to take splits at regular intervals at about each mile, but kilometre splits can be used as long as you are consistent each time.
  • Begin the test when your heart rate is near to your objective.
  • Run to the target heart rate as possible for the full 5-mile run. Make sure that you track the splits or that the watch does it automatically.
  • Every kilometre or mile should be somewhat slower than the previous one if done correctly.
  • After finishing the test, reset your watch and go for a brief jog.

Understanding MAF Results

Splits are slower than in a previous test – Your previous training was too intense and not balanced with adequate easy jogging, and your aerobic capacity decreased as a result, or you were particularly weary before the test, which might be the first sign of overall under recovery/under performance.

Splits are getting faster with each test – First, make sure you’re running at the right heart rate. If you were, the findings might point to problems with your heart rate monitor or an insufficient warm-up before starting the test.

Inconsistent results – Make sure your path is as consistent as feasible. Running over a severely undulating route will not give you an accurate evaluation of your results.

Is MAF Training Beneficial?

Developing a robust aerobic system is beneficial to running performance since it improves your body’s overall efficiency and health.

This MAF training technique allows you to burn more body fat, raise your energy and cognitive function, reduce your risk of injury and disease, and improve your endurance, strength, speed, and physical fitness.

If you’re not familiar with your aerobic system, it’s the mechanism through which your body effectively consumes and uses oxygen as energy for your muscles during activity.

As a result, if your body is better able to create and utilize oxygen while running, it will be more efficient at burning fat for fuel, increasing your energy and endurance levels.

That means you’ll be able to run faster with less effort, and your body will adjust to a more stable hormonal balance (likely reducing your overall stress levels).

Aside from the athletic benefits, it will also maintain your heart healthy and help to prevent injury and disease in the long run.

Another advantage of MAF training is that running slowly helps to avoid injuries. This is especially beneficial for beginner runners because the temptation to go quickly can be overwhelming at times.

However, if you run at a defined heart rate, you won’t be able to go too quickly, protecting yourself from potential damage.

If you keep to your maximum aerobic zone for all of your runs, you’ll become more efficient and consume less energy, and your times will improve while maintaining the same heart rate.

We all want to go fast as runners, but sticking to the MAF program and 180 Formula has the potential for a tremendous payout in the end.

Heart-rate training keeps you from running too hard on your easy or recovery runs, lowering your risk of exhaustion and overtraining; it also aids in recuperation.

Your legs will be fresher for your next intense workout or race if you recover appropriately during your easy runs.

Similarly, while operating at a greater intensity, you will be able to correctly monitor your effort in interval sessions.

Heart-rate training is especially effective for tempo runs, when getting your intensity level just right is critical to getting the most out of the session.

Training to heart rate also aids in mitigating the effects of environmental conditions such as heat and humidity, which make your heart work harder.

Anyone who has run through numerous seasons understands that the weather has an impact on your performance.

Running by heart rate makes it much easier to change your pace in the spring and summer, rather than winging it and being frustrated that your typical speed seems so difficult.

Thus, if your heart rate remains constant, it might be attributable to the weather.

Why MAF Training May Not Be Working for You

Here are some potential reasons why you are not seeing results from MAF training. 

What Is MAF? – Guide To Low Heart Training

Training Too Much

If you have done too much high-intensity training, you will be in a continual fight-or-flight response state, which is a physiological reaction that happens in response to a perceived detrimental event, such as an attack.

You can never totally rest in this situation. In the short term, your performance may exceed what is healthy in this pressured situation.

When you reduce the intensity of your workout, your body returns to a more natural condition, no longer needing to compromise in survival mode, fighting for its existence.

As a result of this shift, your body is no longer willing or able to provide the same amount of production that it did under stress.

To build the aerobic system, you must first remove the tension from your body.

Some athletes may require more time to cure injuries than others. Patience, perseverance, and a good attitude are essential in this situation.

Rest, recuperation, and enough sleep are also critical components in reducing stress and improving performance.

Athletes can overtrain even at a MAF rate by doing too much training and not getting enough rest.

Athletes who have previously exercised at a high intensity, in particular, require adequate rest and recovery time.

Take a rest day every now and then if you want to increase your aerobic fitness; your body and mind will thank you.

Fat Burning Issues

If you have overtrained and eaten poorly for a long period, it will take time for your body to repair the damage before you can improve.

Your body will have to adjust to efficiently using body fat for energy.

Another thing to consider when it comes to poor fat burning and overtraining, is that there are some athletes that do a lot of strength training and cross training.

All of these workouts can be stressful. It is very advised to keep your heart rate at or below MAF during the MAF foundation development process.

At this rate, either eliminate all strength training or severely reduce its time and intensity.

Poor Nutrition

One of the biggest aims of low heart rate exercise is to boost your fat-burning skills.

If you workout hard yet consume a lot of processed junk food and refined sugars, your aerobic growth will be limited.

Eating unprocessed, wholesome meals can help you burn more body fat for energy, which will help you strengthen your aerobic system.

It is advisable to consume four to five meals and snacks each day, all of which should have a healthy balance of fats, proteins, fiber, some unprocessed carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins.

This way, your body will not seek sugar as an energy source. This diet, when combined with adequate Aerobic HR exercise, enhances your metabolic efficiency dramatically.

Imbalance Of Muscle

Muscle imbalances occur when one group of muscles is stronger or larger than the opposing group of muscles.

When one muscle is weak and the other is hyperactive, your body is pulled into improper posture.

Using the proper running shoes for you without over-support. Also, be certain that your running shoes are the correct size.

Running shoes should be a little larger than your everyday shoes.

The space between the end of your biggest toe and the front of the shoe should be around one thumb’s breadth.

This might imply that you’ll need to buy a larger size running shoe than you’re used to in order to have the proper fit.

High Stress Levels

When considering a holistic approach to training and racing, stress is a critical issue.

Excessive stress inhibits aerobic growth and reduces fat burning. There are several methods for reducing stress.

Getting adequate rest to recover correctly is one of the most ignored aspects of training for athletes.

Many athletes do not get enough sleep and rest, making it difficult for their bodies to recuperate from exercises and develop in their training.

Seven to nine hours of unbroken sleep is considered healthy. 7 hours of sleep is probably insufficient for athletes who run 50-60 kilometers each week.

Top athletes who train 20+ hours a week will require closer to 9 hours to recover. The recuperation period provides greater training advantages than the actual workout.

That recuperation is required to allow the body to progress normally.

Daily meditation may have a significant influence on your life, including making you a better runner.

Meditation can help with this by increasing happiness, improving cardiovascular and immunological health, changing our sense of self, reducing stress, improving focus, and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

Calculating MAF Wrong

When applying Dr. Phil Maffetone’s MAF 180 formula instructions, you subtract your age from 180 and adapt this amount to your profile.

Try being as honest as possible with yourself about which fitness and health profile category best matches your needs.

Using Your Heart Rates When Running

What Is MAF? – Guide To Low Heart Training

Many runners go at the same speed throughout their runs, so pushing oneself to higher heart rate zones can be challenging.

However, it is difficult to maintain the heart rate low enough when it comes down to it.

Attempting to stay inside the easy HR zone will seem quite simple for most runners, perhaps too easy.

However, there is a reason why such runs are referred to as “LSD” – long slow distance. Some find it quite hard to go slowly enough to maintain a low heart rate.

You should have no qualms about taking a stroll break. If you can’t keep my heart rate in the desired zone for the whole run, strive for the overall average to be inside that zone.

It is common to disregard your heart rate at the start of a race as you are warming up. Unless it’s a short event, such as a 5K, and you warm up before the race.

Once you’re warmed up, aim to get your heart rate into the goal zone and stay there for the duration of the race.

If you still feel like you have enough energy at the conclusion of the race, you can let your HR go above the desired zone.

If you do a good job of remaining in your HR zone, you should always have some stamina left over.

It should also be mentioned that for the first several months of MAF training, you must only run slowly.

It’s all about developing the aerobic system as well as the slow-twitch muscle fibers, and introducing speed sessions too soon can disrupt the entire process, thereby losing all of your time spent jogging slowly.

If you stick with the program long enough, you will eventually return to your previous pace, but your heart rate will be a lot lower than it was before MAF training was started, which will be far healthier in the long run.

When you achieve this level, you may reintroduce speed work into your training routine.

Creating A Training Routine

Knowing what target HR to aim for after you know your max HR gets difficult since runners vary greatly in terms of how long a certain percentage of max HR can be maintained.

This will be determined in part by your overall level of physical fitness and your unique lactate threshold—the point at which lactate begins to rapidly build in the muscles and circulation.

A beginner runner, for example, may feel pain after only a few minutes of jogging, even at 60 percent maximum heart rate, but a competitive runner with years of expertise may run at 90 percent maximum heart rate without any difficulty.

When selecting what pace to run, it is critical to consider your current fitness level. The purpose of individual exercises is another important consideration in determining what HR to employ.

Aerobic Endurance Workouts

Continuous aerobic jogging for 30 to 60 minutes or more should be done at 70 to 75 percent max HR (60 to 65 percent HRR).

These runs are designed to stimulate cellular changes in the running muscles, such as increased mitochondrial and capillary volumes.

For this sort of training, 70 to 75 percent max HR is sufficient to get the desired results.

During base building, when increasing weekly distance, complete the majority of your running at 70 to 75 percent max HR.

If the distance of the run is within your aerobic capacity and is a regular component of your training, your heart rate may remain almost constant during the run, as long as the terrain is flat, and it is not too hot.

During really long runs, however, when glycogen stores are depleted and body temperature rises, heart rate begins to climb as the body fatigues.

Lactate Threshold Workouts

Workouts that target lactate threshold improvements at 80 to 90 percent max HR are recommended. This level of intensity is “comfortably hard.”

The more your lactate threshold is in respect to the max HR, the greater the intensity required to train the lactate threshold.

You will be capabale of running at a higher intensity for longer periods of time if you raise your lactate threshold.

Running in this HR zone may occur in the late base phase and early competition phase of the training year.

Aerobic Power Workouts

What Is MAF? – Guide To Low Heart Training

While jogging at lower intensities is helpful for developing an endurance basis and recovering between intense workouts, running at an intensity greater than 90 percent max HR produces the best increases in aerobic fitness.

Training at this high intensity aims to enhance VO2 max.

Aerobic intervals, which consist of running periods of more than two minutes followed by brief rest periods, are generally employed to achieve this aim by focusing on cardiac components linked with VO2 max (e.g., stroke volume, cardiac output, heart contractility, etc.).

Because VO2 max occurs at or near 100% max HR, you should execute these intervals at or near 100% max HR.

However, you must use caution here since if a 6:00 mile produces maximum HR, a 5:45 mile must likewise produce maximum HR.

However, given the aim of the program is to target VO2 max, the session is completed by running the mile repeats at 6:00 intervals. Running faster simply adds to your leg tiredness.

Heart Rate Training Zones

Heart rate training will be most beneficial to new runners. Heart rate monitoring will assist new runners in training more precisely and accurately inside the right zone for each session, particularly easy runs.

In addition, because rookie runners should wait until they have established an aerobic basis before attempting speed work, they may use heart rate monitors to adjust intensity on all of their runs and learn how to run at the right perceived effort.

Finding that sweet spot of simple, comfortable effort is what will help you increase your basic fitness the most while putting you at the least danger of injury.

Using a heart rate monitor will allow you to manage the intensity and maintain your easy runs at an optimal level.

You will have an accurate range of figures for your desired heart rate using a formula and you will maintain the right intensity of your run if you keep your heart rate inside this zone.

The Energy Efficient Or Recovery Zone – 60% To 70%

This zone of training improves endurance and aerobic capacity. The ability of the organism to transfer oxygen and carbohydrate on dioxide away from active muscles may be strengthened and enhanced.

As you develop fitter and stronger from training in this zone, you’ll be able to run up to 75 percent of your long weekend runs, resulting in some fat burning and better aerobic capacity.

The Aerobic Zone – 70% To 80%

This zone of training will help you enhance your cardiovascular system. The ability of the organism to transfer oxygen to and away from active muscles may be strengthened and enhanced.

As you get fitter and stronger from training in this zone, you will be able to increase the intensity of some of your long weekend runs to 75 percent, resulting in some fat burning and better aerobic capacity.

The aerobic activity zone has a narrower and larger range of heart rates. The aerobic zone is defined as being between 40% and 85% of maximal heart rate.

During activity, you are employing aerobic metabolism and the body does not have to convert to anaerobic metabolism.

The aerobic heart rate zone is ideal for expanding the number and size of blood vessels in your muscles as well as improving lung ventilation.

As a consequence, your body can transport more oxygen to your muscles and remove waste products.

You will also be using stored fat for fuel, which is beneficial for people looking to shed body fat and weight.

A prolonged main muscle group effort for 10 minutes or longer is required for an activity to be called aerobic exercise.

You’re breathing faster than usual to get the oxygen your body needs for aerobic metabolism, but you’re not fully out of breath.

You may exercise for a long time in this zone, initially using glycogen for energy and then, after approximately 40 minutes, stored fat.

Unless they have been starved, even persons with thin bodies have plenty of stored fat. Because of this, you can engage in endurance exercise for extended periods of time.

You can stock up on carbohydrates while exercising in the aerobic zone to keep your muscles supplied.

The Anaerobic Zone – 80% To 90%

Working out in this zone will help you build your lactic acid system. Your anaerobic threshold (AT) – also known as the point of deflection – is located in this zone (POD).

The quantity of fat utilized as the major energy source is reduced during these heart rates, and glycogen stored in the muscle is mostly utilised.

The majority of over-training occurs at this time. People are inspired by elite athletes to push themselves to their limits without giving their bodies the time to recuperate and adjust.

This puts a lot of strain on the body, destroying the mitochondria that have worked so hard to develop.

Lactic acid is one of the byproducts of burning this glycogen. There comes a time when the body’s ability to eliminate lactic acid from active muscles is compromised.

This is your anaerobic limit (AT). Training can postpone the AT by enhancing your capacity to deal with lactic acid for a longer period of time or by pushing the AT higher.

Training at the anaerobic threshold increases muscular power, allowing athletes to maintain high speeds for extended periods of time.

Furthermore, it employs more muscle fibers, constructing mitochondria in fast twitch fibers.

This zone is critical for medium-distance runners and swimmers whose race distance is shorter than 4-5 minutes.

This type of training, however, will assist endurance athletes as well, as it develops speed and endurance.

The Red Line Zone – 90% To 100%

What Is MAF? – Guide To Low Heart Training

Training in this zone will only be possible for a limited time. It efficiently trains fast-twitch muscle fibers and aids in the development of speed.

This zone is allocated for interval running, and is saved for the most fit people who can train efficiently in it.

No matter how fast the athlete is, he can only sustain his peak speed for a few seconds.

Even 100m sprinters can only sustain their maximum pace for around 50m in the middle of the race before slowing down towards the finish.

This zone’s training focuses mostly on maximal speed. However, because maximal intensity uses all muscle fibers, it also has an endurance advantage.

This workout, if not done to exhaustion, develops mitochondria in rapid twitch muscle fibers, boosting athlete endurance.

Nutrition For MAF Training

Everything improves when MAF exercise is combined with carbohydrate restriction.

After a single carbohydrate-restricted MAF training session, you develop more mitochondria than after the same session without the carbohydrate restriction.

Going low-carbohydrate with MAF training keeps the work going even when you’re not doing it.

You’re wasting a lot of progress if you burn mostly fat during endurance training but then eat a high-carbohydrate diet at home.

Increasing your protein intake is one of the most significant things you can do for your running training.

Consider it an edible leg improvement that will help you gain muscle, heal faster, and avoid injury.

Runners require 50-75 percent more protein than non-runners, which translates to 200g of chicken per day.

The good news is that chicken has a lot of other advantages, such as selenium, which protects muscles from free radical damage during exercise, and niacin, which helps regulate fat burning when running.

Hydration is essential, as we all know. But, in the weeks leading up to a marathon, it’s just as vital to stay hydrated while you’re not training.

Fluids keep your body temperature stable, clean away damaged cells, and keep your joints lubricated.

When you’re out on the road, a decent rule of thumb is to drink 3-4 sips of liquids every 15-20 minutes, or to drink until you’re thirsty.

Everybody is different, but as a general rule, you should not drink more than 600ml of water each hour of jogging.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Maintain Good Running Form While Doing The Low Heart Rate Training?

Running slowly with proper running form is really more challenging. When most runners slow down, they do not decrease their stride sufficiently.

Instead, they overstride and land on a straight leg with a heel strike, potentially injuring themselves.

Shorten the stride and land on a bent leg with a mid-foot stroke and a full foot landing. Relax and run in a glider-like manner rather than the gazelle-like manner of speedier runners.

If you have trouble maintaining good form at lower speeds.

How Fast Is It Possible To Improve Your Running Speed When Doing Low Heart Rate Training?

You will have to slow down at first. If you have no additional health issues, you should be able to resume your usual training pace with your new low heart rate in three to six months.

Then you may devote up to 20% of your training time to speed practice. The remaining 80% of your workout should be low heart rate (MAF) training.

How Can I Measure My Heart Rate When Running?

A heart rate monitor is a gadget that measures the rate of your heart. It comprises a transmitter coupled to a chest strap and a watch-shaped receiver.

Since 2015, there have been watches with an optical heart rate sensor integrated in, eliminating the requirement for a chest strap.

When the heart beats, an electrical signal is sent to the heart muscle, causing it to contract. This signal is picked up by the transmitter and sent to the wrist receiver, which displays the data.


A MAF training method can help you become a stronger, healthier, and happier athlete.

Simply lowering the risk of injury and sickness can make a significant difference in athletes’ long-term growth.

The increased energy and mental function is extremely beneficial during training cycles.

Greater endurance and physical fitness will benefit all participants, especially those towards the finish of an endurance race.

When exercising aerobically, athletes should naturally grow and get quicker over a period of several months.

Overtraining, excessive levels of stress, poor running economy, disordered diet, and insufficient warm-ups and cool-downs are major reasons for athletes who are not progressing.

These issues should be treated carefully for the sake of every athlete’s long-term health.

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