The Maffetone Method – Month 8

May sucked.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way let’s take a look at the artwork:



As you can see, my average pace climbed way back up from where it was in April. There’s a pretty simple explanation for that: I had a lousy time running.

If you read Phil Maffetone’s “The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing“, then you know that proper endurance training is comprised of three different pieces: the structural (training) part, the chemical (eating) part, and the mental part. My biggest problem wasn’t the structural part, although that wasn’t stellar. I only went on seven runs in a 31 day month. My total mileage for the month was all of 26 miles. Structurally, this wasn’t very sound.

Pace was way up whenever I went out for a run. And by up I mean down. Or however you might say it. You know what I mean. The pace that I set in April as an average was lower than the piece that I sent May. I don’t know if that’s supposed to be up or down but you get the drift. A large contributor to this slower pace was the chemical part. I ate like crap last month. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Our admin assistant at work has giant bags of candy lying around. Anybody’s welcome to them. Oh, and I did help myself. My weight was up 5 pounds, my sleep was way way off, and I generally felt like crap.

But while chemical was certainly part of the problem, it was what drove the chemical that was the real problem. Maffetone explains that the triangle that makes up endurance training is comprised of these three things equally. And under the mental side of the triangle exists stress. How stressed you are and how well you manage it is a huge contributor to whether your training well. I cannot tell a lie, work has been very stressful recently. Lot of changes, lot of things up in the air, ergo a lot of stress. With the stress, which has led to lousy nights’ sleep, and with the mental side of that triangle being so weak recently, I just haven’t had the interest in running.

I knew I was having trouble with running recently. I mentioned it previously here, as well as what I was most concerned about: loss of conditioning. I think, in reviewing May’s numbers, and in seeing how June has started out, a loss of conditioning has definitely happened. But the truth is, I just haven’t had the drive, the desire to go out and run. The alarm clock goes off and I think “Sleep. Sleep is way better than running right now.” And with that, I slap the snooze button and roll over. What’s interesting is I’m not the only one. I good friend of mine who is also a runner, a really serious runner, said to me just yesterday “I’ve lost interest.” He’s still running, but he’s got to push himself to do it.

So what to do and where to go with this? In my mind, there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do but to keep pushing forward. I view this training program of Phil Maffetone’s as a grand experiment, a chance to see if, by applying his principles, I can make myself go faster and faster still while avoiding injury and keeping my stamina up and my heart rate down. Can I become a competitive runner? So onward I go. The Maffetone Method is not a quick method. It’s not a two month training program that gets you to the result you want. It’s not Couch to 5K app on your iPhone that gets you to run a 5K in eight weeks. It’s a serious training program that can take a few years for the results to be truly remarkable. And you have to apply all the principles, not just the ones you want. So in addition to actually running, I have to eat better and learn how to manage stressful situations better. The eating better has already started, and since the beginning of this past week, I’ve lost the extra five pounds I’d gained, plus one more for good measure. I’m trying to learn to manage the stress side of things, and trying to keep my head in the game, even when I have to talk myself into strapping on the shoes and getting out the door.

So what to do? Keep running.

8 thoughts on “The Maffetone Method – Month 8

  1. Hey Scott, I wish you the best on your running. I’ve done Maffetone since Sept. 2013, with really excellent results. Here are my suggestions, which I hope can help you become faster than you think is possible:
    1. Is this something you really want to do? This is actually the most important first step. I have read a few of your other posts, and (this is totally fine) you may not be interested in pursuing this whole-heartedly at the current time. If so, don’t sweat it, and don’t beat yourself up over it.
    2. Follow the nutritional guidelines as closely as you can. Remove refined carbohydrates, sugars. Current science says your nutritional strategy is probably MORE important than your training. The human body never “needs” refined carbohydrates (coincidentally?) unless you are trying to run a marathon or longer as fast as you can.
    3. Try to run literally 100% of your miles within “MAF”, which I define as the the 10-beat HR range, which Maffetone says you should run within. This makes a massive difference for the two main things this program let’s you do… (a) building your aerobic base, and (b) moving away from sugar-burning toward more fat burning, while running, and at all times. (your stats you have posted are NOT following this 10-beat range very closely.)
    4. MAF, because it is so conservative and easy on your body, allows you to greatly increase your mileage base. However, because it is so easy on your body, it more or less requires that you spend more time running, more miles, in order to get a large training effect. Translation… your mileage base is NOT nearly enough to see the increases you are capable of. I can’t tell you “run X miles” or whatever, but ~30 miles a month is NOT nearly enough.
    Again, good luck and I wish you the very best.

    1. PT-
      You’re absolutely right. I’m not really ready for the Maffetone Method. And there are soooo many reason why not. When I first discovered the Maffetone , it was because I happened upon a copy of “Training for Endurance”. If you go to Phil’s website, you’ll see that he specifically states that the book is out of date and that you should upgrade to the “Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing”. I do have that one now, but haven’t gone all the way through it. So I don’t have the information on nutrition that I would need to go faster.

      You’re also right about the mileage. I don’t put up nearly enough mileage for this to be effective. There are a lot of reasons why, not least of which is that, with a full time job, full time family, and other interests besides running, I simply don’t have enough hours in the day. Another big reason is motivation, and how much it’s been lacking lately.

      That lack of motivation is the real reason I think I’m ready to end my Maffetone experiment. When I first started, the biggest draw for me was being able to run without injury. Things had started to hurt, and I had to take a month-long break to really let things settle. This is around August/Sept of last year. The idea of running slow, which helps avoid injury, but at the same time increase speed, that was really appealing to me. But I’ve found that I’ve just put too much pressure on myself to get faster while not letting my heart rate rise that my enjoyment of running has tanked. Which is probably reason number one for my lack of motivation.

      And I’ve had to ask myself recently, “Why do you want to get faster?” Because I’m not racing. I’ve run one race for time in my running career. That’s it. So what’s the big push? Turns out there isn’t one. Even after I end my experiment, I can still run slow, still keep my heart rate down, but run for general fitness as opposed to significant training. I used to just throw on my shoes and go as fast as I could until I had to stop. Great way to get injured. Now that I’ve been running slower for almost a year, I can run at a slower pace, hopefully avoid injury, and enjoy the run as opposed to stress about it. Because trying to keep within the MAF has been very stressful for all of my runs, and as Maffetone himself says, stress is another big reason runners don’t succeed.

      And who knows? Maybe in a few years, if I really get into racing more seriously, I’ll start up with the Maffetone Method again.

      I started writing about the Maffetone Method because I hadn’t see a lot of online information about runners trying the method and tracking their results online. You can find bits and pieces in forums and blogs, but no long-term data. That was a key reason why I wanted to write about it. But in the end, the training has been haphazard and my results are the kind of results you’d expect for someone who half-heartedly follows the training principles.

      It sounds like you have been doing Maffetone for nearly a year now. I’d love to hear how it’s going for you, the pitfalls, the things to think about over the long-term, what the results have been. Feel free to post back here any information you have about your experiences using the Maffetone Method. I’d love to hear about someone else’s experiences with this type of training.

      1. Hi Scott. I’ve trimmed what I initially had down, but still, sorry for length of post…

        How it’s going:

        For me it’s going great. I guess it has been about 9 months using Maffetone’s system, and I don’t always follow it nutritionally, but I do my best. All of my runs, except for races, in the last 9 months have been as much as possible in my MAF range, now 127 bpm to 137 bpm. (sometimes I go over by a few beats, but try to get back in as much as possible) My average heart rate is generally close to 132 bpm, right in the middle of my MAF range.


        In my opinion, the only pitfalls To Maffetone’s system are psychological.

        You have to be OK with going much slower than you are capable of. Even though I am relatively fast at this point, I enjoy going slow on training runs. It’s stress-free, it feels good to me, and is relaxing. I’m kind of lazy, honestly. When I started, my MAF runs were generally between about 10:30 to 11:15 min/mile I believe, which felt pretty slow. But I just embraced it. And now my MAF runs are down to maybe 8:55 to 9:15? (I don’t really keep track of paces, you’ve got to only go with what your heart rate is)

        My girlfriend, when she started, had a really tough time with how slow her MAF pace ended up being. ~13:00/miles. She was accustomed to half marathons in which her pace was about ~10:00/miles. We used to get in arguments because she would insist she had done a MAF run, and then I would show her in her Garmin logs that 18 or 20 beats over MAF is not a MAF run.

        But now, she’s PR’d every race she’s run in the last couple months, and she’s more or less onboard with it. Sometimes, she still has trouble, and just doesn’t feel like doing it. (so she runs faster)

        This is the problem for most people, they feel uncomfortable going that slow. But Maffetone says that just means you need to strengthen your aerobic system, which is true. I would just add to that, OK great, if your MAF runs are “slow” (everything’s relative) then you just know you have some work to do, and you WILL improve a lot if you stick to the system.

        Things to think about over long term:

        Is it fun for you? As a hobby or whatever, running should be fun. If you won’t like modifying your nutritional intake to be more healthy or running slow most times, then I would say Maffetone is not a good system for someone.

        You mentioned you’ve just done one race. Maybe try an occasional race. My girlfriend and I like ’em, it’s sort of a fun scene. And… it lets you run as fast as you want and see how you are doing. That’s how I track my improvement, race times. Maffetone says to do a “MAF test” every so often, but I’ve never done one.

        (Maffetone also advises NO anaerobic training at all to start, but I have kept doing races, on average one every six weeks, during MAF training)


        I haven’t kept track of my weight, but I’m guessing I’ve burned off at least 20 pounds of fat in the last 9 months. A reduction of fat stores will just happen if you follow his system. If you don’t want that, just eat more (high quality, nutritious) foods.

        Last marathon pre-Maffetone… 6/16/2013 – 3:52:36 – 8:53 min/mile
        Most current marathon time… 4/5/2014 – 3:13:42 – 7:23 min/mile (BQ! tentatively, of course)

        I have PR’d in all other distances as well, but the marathon is what I care most about, and since late October 2013 when I first saw my speed increase, I have been working toward BQ-ing, and hopefully getting to Boston in 2015.

        My running is now much more consistent, and my mileage base much higher, on average, depending on races and tapering, etc. I don’t get injured anymore (knock on wood), outside of the occasional soreness.

        It’s worked out really well so far for me.

        OK, good luck and whatever you decide I wish you the best.

      2. PT-
        I’ve been on vacation for a bit and it’s taking me longer to get back into the swing of things, including this blog.

        This is some really great information. It’s hard to find anybody with solid numbers measuring their improvement using the Maffetone Method. I’m glad it’s working well for you. And you’re right, I’m not ready for it. My vacation proved that (I’ve run once in the last two weeks!).

        Out of curiousity, do you think you’d have any interest in doing a guest post or two on this blog talking about your experience with the Maffetone Method (what worked, what didn’t, any walls you hit, etc.)? Totally up to you.

  2. Hi Scott:

    I think it’s a great idea to take some time off from running sometimes. After the next couple months or so, I intend to do my best to take a full 2 to 3 weeks off from running, or at least really lessen the volume.

    Also… I believe you CAN do Maffetone. You’ve already put in 8 months, so I think you should just decide if you can devote the time to it, and if so, plan on doing (let’s say) 4 or 5 hours total of MAF runs per week. If that seems like too much, then try to hit 3+ hours of MAF runs. The more you can do, all the better.

    And do your best to look at your nutrition, and reduce processed sugar/carbohydrates as much as possible. Just that alone will have a huge effect on your running, and overall health.

    I’m not sure I’d be a good guest poster. I don’t really know what else to say about it. It really has been a good system for me, and easy to follow. But I do see why people (my g/f included) may have a tough time with it.

  3. I just heard about the Maff method five days ago from this interview on ultrarunner podcast

    Quite an inspirational interview and runner. She originally hails from NH. The athlete being interviewed ran Boston in 2:44 running within MAF entirely. This got her to a 1st female nonelite finish. More, she ran an ultra 100 miler race, and the most prestigious one at that at Western States, within her MAF range, and this too, got her a 2nd place womens finish. I think what sparked my interest from this interview though were two things though: decreased injury and the joy of running that this runner spoke of in the interview since starting on this method. I just ordered my first polar watch and will set it like she has, where all I see in my run is my HR. I tried Maff yesterday for the first time in a four mile run, and it was tragically slow, but I didn’t feel pain at all, and that was incentive enough for now.

    I hope you find some inspiration to get back in running again.

  4. I enjoyed reading your posts. I had flirted with the Maffetone method when first started training for marathons in 2011-2012. I did it for several months, but it is difficult holding back mentally. I eventually moved away from the technique and did a lot more speedwork, etc. I did end up qualifying for Boston this summer, but I had a disappointing race earlier this month at Dallas. I’m considering re-building my aerobic base and starting from scratch with Maffetone again.

    I’m 47 and paranoid about re-injury (2 stress fractures and perennially tight IT bands).

  5. Hi Scott,

    Thanks for sharing your Maffetone method experience. Also thanks to your readers input and their experiences.

    I’ve been reading about the Maffetone method for a couple years and after finishing my first Ironman in November, I decided 2015 is the year I’m going to dedicate to it.

    I’ve been keeping an excel sheet similar to yours for ten weeks. My MAF with modifiers is 139 bpm. My second weekly MAF showed an average 135 bpm was about 12:30 min/mile. I’ve since slowed to about 14 min/mile, which is barely jogging for me. I can just about walk at that pace and at a lower heart rate. I was very frustrated with this as my Ironman pace just a couple weeks earlier was 11:40 min/mile with average HR at 143 bpm.

    I’ve since been doing my runs at about 11 min/mile pace until my hr reaches 138 bpm, then I walk until it lowers to 129 bpm, then I run until 138 bpm, and so on. This equals about 12:30 min/mile. The GREAT thing about this is that mentally, I’m not as frustrated. I enjoy the run/walk/run way more than a 13:30 min/mile “run.” Also, I’m pain free (2014 I struggled with IT band, Plantar Fasciitis, bunions and callouses), I don’t sweat nearly as much and require very little water (although it is much cooler this time of year), and do not need to bring food to eat 100 calories every 40 minutes.

    I run about 17 miles/week and bike about 3 – 5 hours / week. I have yet to see improvements like Maffetone says I’ll see, but so far, I’m sticking with it. For years I’ve felt that I was training at a high heart rate. I’m 46 and have recorded HR up to 193 bpm in an all out 1 mile sprint (Galloway test). Most of my work outs over the last 8 years have been up in the 150 – 180 bpm range. My hope is to get more aerobically fit. I’d love to see results like PT mentions above…

    I’ve now added the Mark Allen weight training twice a week to see if that improves my MAF tests. I’ll do this for several more weeks to see what the data looks like.

    The hardest to incorporate is the nutritional part. I feel I have a couple food intolerances and have not kicked the refined sugars completely.

    Thanks again for starting this conversation.

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