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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Maffetone Method!

There are a lot of different thought processes in the running world on how to become a faster and more efficient runner. One of the more commonly accepted is the "No pain, No gain" philosophy, which really just says you have to run hard and fast during your training in order to run fast in a race. I havent found this to be entirely true...

When I started running barefoot I was doing short runs at very slow speeds at first, steadily building onto my distances little by little but never doing any type of speed work. I was very surprised when I timed my first "fast" BF mile at 6:37. The best I had managed the year before running shod was a 7:14, and I was dead afterwards. Here I was now, almost 45 seconds FASTER without any proper "training" do get this result.

Fastforward a few months and Im running half marathons on no speed work, just easy runs, and I managed to run a 1:42 as a PR. Then I had a few months breal untill my next half marathon, so I started focusing on speed work, thinking it would be the key to get me into the 1:30's. Turns out it wasnt and I had the worst race of my life and had to walk a few times and finished with a 1:54 (my second slowest half marathon). So in search of an answer I came upon the discussion of the Maffetone Method on the Runners World Barefoot forum and became very intrigued. So I ordered the book online and am still in the process of reading it.

Maffetone suggests looking at training from a holistic approach in that one should be concerned formost on ones health, and not their physical fitness. In such he suggests a healthy diet, reducing stresses on oneself, and a good training regimen. His key thing on training is building an aerobic base, which is what I am currently in the process of attempting to do, and so far I am very pleased with the results!

Im order to build this base you have to run under your aerobic threshold, which is based on the heart rate at which your body stops burning stored fats for energy and starts burning eaten sugars instead. Maffetone has developed a formula for determining what your aerobic threshold HR is, mine is 152 but I keep it under 150 for all of my runs.

Theres a few ways to measure your progress while using the Maffetone method. The most obvious is to monitor your HR and how it corresponds with your pace. When I first started my pace at an avg HR of 150 for a 5 mile run was a little under 15 minutes per mile, with miles 4 and 5 closer to the mid 16's. To put this anoher way, it took me 1 hour and 14 minutes to run 5.5 miles, with several walk breaks because my HR would start climbing too high to continue running. Now Im running closer to 10:00~10:30 per mile pace for most of my runs.

The other way to check your progress is through a MAF test, which stands for Maximum Aerobic Function test. The way Maffetone suggests this test is by running 5 - 1 mile repeats at the same HR and the longer you train at this method you should notice 2 things start to change. The first is that your miles will get faster as your aerobic speed increases, but also your mile times in each session will get closer and closer as your aerobic conditioning improves.

I did a slightly different version thats reccomended by Hadd in the famous Hadd post. In this version you run 5 - 2 mile repeats at varying HRs. I have done this test twice and have seen pretty amazing results, which are listed below...

First Test

2 miles @ 139 avg HR = 27:26 (13:43 avg pace)
2 miles @ 147 avg HR = 28:06 (14:03 avg pace) not sure why I got slower here...?
2 miles @ 168 avg HR = 21:41 (10:49 avg pace)
2 miles @ 178 avg HR = 17:26 (8:43 avg pace)

I was running out of time, so I skipped the 160 HR cap run.

Second Test.

2 miles @ 135 avg HR = 23:21 (11:40 avg pace) 1:55 faster per mile
2 miles @ 146 avg HR = 20:56 (10:28 avg pace) 3:40 faster per mile
2 miles @ 155 avg HR = 18:33 (9:17 avg pace) no previous data to compare against... grrr....
2 miles @ 167 avg HR = 16:02 (8:01 avg pace) 2:48 faster per mile

Ran out of time (got kicked off the track) before I could attempt running 2 with a 180 HR cap, but I imagine it would have been quite a good bit faster than the previous tests results.

These tests were conducted roughly a month apart, one when I first started this method, and the second one about a month later. So in just a month Ive gotten around 2~3 minutes faster per mile at the same HR with no speed work type training.

Guess you could say that Im sold!
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  1. Chaser, It does appear that you are getting better at running slow. Good job.

    Agel runner

  2. Thanks Agel! Ive havent been working very hard at it, so its deffinatley paying off so far! As soon as I develop my aerobic fitness to the level I want it to be at Ill start working on the speed portion. All in good time sir, all in good time!