The benefits of slowing down – using the MAF method

Over the past 15 years I’ve been a pretty consistent runner.  I started running in college to try and burn off the freshman 15 and hopefully catch the eyes of some of the ladies attending the University of Idaho.  Once I started running I loved it and picked it up fairly quickly and saw immediate results.  It wasn’t long until my regular 3 mile run was only taking me about 21 minutes, or so, to complete.  12 years later, that same 3 mile run was taking about 20:30-21 minutes.  I was seeing no real improvement, but I was in it for the runners high and would “race” to see how I could finish in my age group.  It wasn’t until I discovered obstacle course racing and watching these incredible all around athletes that I discovered I wanted to get better.

Last year, I was introduced to Phil Maffetone.  Well…the method that he championed and made famous anyway.  His focus is on developing your max aerobic function (MAF).  The idea behind this method is to really work and build your aerobic capacity, that is your ability to supply oxygen to your blood, as well as teach your body to burn fat vs sugar since your body has nearly an endless supply of fat if you can teach it to burn it and not rely on quick burning sugars only.  Because I was already a “runner” and was in decent shape I decided to give it a shot after learning some tips from a running coach I had met through OCR on Facebook.  For details of the method please click here and learn the ins and outs.  I will tell you what I did but please taylor it to fit you as well.  Here is what I did and the results I saw:

  • Take 180 and subtract your age
    • For me last summer that left me at 145 beats per minute (use a HR monitor)
    • Because I was in good shape at the time, I was able to add 5, so my goal was to stay between 145-150
  • Make my long runs stay at that rate
    • This is the hard part and where many fail…it’s HARD!  You want to turn it up and go faster, it’s so slow it’s painful and agonizing, but stick with it!
    • Try to have a benchmark route that you do at least once a week so you can track your improvements
  • In a years time on I saw my pace increase for the first time in 12 years
    • I went from running my 6 mile route at close to a 9 minute pace per mile to 7:15 pace per mile, all while keeping my HR no more than 150
    • During this time, my speed work got much faster as well.  Haven’t cracked the 5:00 mile yet but got as fast as 5:02, so close!

So slow down to speed up.  It’s counterintuitive but I am a firm believer.  There are many other applications for this method as well.  Famous music producer Rick Rubin was able to lose weight and improve his overall health and OCR athlete Matt Novokavich swears by his long runs at low HR as the key to his success.  Give it a shot and have fun!


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