Friday, February 22, 2013

How MAF Keeps You Honest: A Personal Case Study

As I begin my Maffetone Method base-building, which will span the next 8 weeks, I want to try to do more frequent blog updates to share observations. I'm by no means a MAF expert; I'm still figuring it out a bit as I go. Part of that process is reading everything I can, but the biggest part of it is just personal experimentation.

This morning MAF helped rescue me from a crappy workout. It was too icy to run outside (the roads in Parker are horrendous), so I hit the treadmill for an 8-miler at MAF. During the first mile my heart rate (HR) unexpectedly spiked to 167 without warning. As GZ pointed out, that could have been related to static or whatever, since Denver is so damned dry. Or maybe my HR just spiked since I was, after all, feeling quite rough from two runs and a weight session the previous day (plus crappy sleep on Wednesday night). In the moment, though, my only reasoning for the spike--again, I was feeling rough--was that I was dragging from yesterday's training. So I slowed down, and even stepped off the 'mill for a few seconds, and got my HR back down to MAF range. Once back in range, I settled into a nice pace for the rest of the way, clocking 8 miles in 1:01:49. During the last few miles I had to slow my pace a bit to stay in MAF. Average HR was 138. Perfect.
Without MAF, I would have tried to push through feeling like crap and would have only felt crappier with ever step, digging myself into a hole. We often don't recognize the holes we're digging, but we dig them with one shovel-ful at a time and this morning, had MAF not reigned me, I would have started digging that hole and suffered the consequences for days. Instead, I let MAF pull me into the pace I needed to be in. That is the beauty of MAF! It's not a predetermined pace and it's sure not LSD (long, slow distance). If you're feeling good, then your pace is going to be good. If you're feeling rough, like I did this morning, then MAF is going to "make" you run slower. It's a personalized approach to training, and I love that.


  1. So you know I enjoy a good training conversation as much as anyone. But what really matters is this:

    you got to do what you believe in and what you enjoy. Otherwise everything is for naught.

    You don't need to convince anyone about MAF, or how religiously you need to stick to it, or justify when you break away from it, or whatever. Do what works for you. Cuz at the end of it all, the only one you really need to answer to is you. Regardless if you DNF at Leadville or go 18:59, the folks that really love you will still love you. The rest of us will go away eventually anyway. MAF, HIT, Crossfit, hills only, whatever. Your ride, you make it. Rock on.

    But I am sure it was the static.

  2. "But I am sure it was the static."

    Thanks GZ. I think that is the first time I have really, really laughed today! :) I needed that.

  3. I could not disagree more violently with GZ. I would stop loving you if you quit running and joined CrossFit.

  4. I am no where near the caliber of runner you are, but the Maffetone method has helped me increase distance and increase speed safely. It sounds ridiculous but the most effective method (for me at least) is to run slow to run fast.

    Thanks for your insight.

  5. Did you wet the HR sensor before you put it on? Sensors on dry, pre-sweat skin can be all over the place. Aloe gel is cheap and really effective.