Heart Rate Training and More with Dr. Phil Maffetone

When it comes to heart rate training perhaps you have heard of the Maffetone Method -which is a calculation that uses 180 minus your age to find your maximum aerobic function.

The genius of heart rate training is that it trains your body’s systems to tap into its fat stores for energy instead of burning sugar.

That’s why we are excited to have Dr. Maffetone himself on the podcast to pick his brain about MAF Method, inflammation, and the over-fat pandemic.

Dr. Philip Maffetone is an internationally recognized researcher, educator, clinician, and author in the field of nutrition, exercise and sports medicine, stress management, and biofeedback. He is the author of more than a 20 books, including The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing. He is probably best known for the MAF heart rate training (180 minus your age) also referred to as the Maffetone Method. He was the first person to publish a book on heart rate training back in the 1980s.
In addition to working with top athletes he is also a musician and has published articles on the effect of music on human development. And he worked as a physician to Johnny Cash, James Taylor, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The MAF Method, Calculating Your Maximum Heart Rate

noun_343728_ccDr. Phil Maffetone developed a formula for establishing the peak heart rate you should achieve during the first three months of training. One of his mantras is, “Speed up by slowing down.” To calculate your ideal training heart zone for building your aerobic base do the following:

Subtract your age from 180 to determine your maximum aerobic heart rate. For example I’m 39 years old so . . . 180-39 = 141

Then subtract 10 if you’re recovering from a major illness or hospital visit or on regular medication for a chronic condition; subtract 5 if you have not exercised before or are just beginning to rebuild your running base; 0 if you’ve been exercising regularly without interruption. If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

This number would represent your maximum heart rate to use for aerobic training to promote fitness gains while staying mostly in the fat burning zone. A training range from this heart rate to 10 beats below would be used as the training range. (for example my range would be a heart rate of 135-145). This provides a conservative guideline for a 3 month period of base training.

He also recommends doing a maximum aerobic fitness (MAF) test once per month to track your progress. After warming up with 10 minutes of easy walking or jogging, run 1 mile at your maximum heart rate in zone 2 (ex 145) and record the time, jog a 2nd mile at the MHR and record time, finally jog a 3rd mile at MHR and record. The times from each mile should progressively get a little slower. If you do this test regularly you will see how your aerobic endurance is increasing.

Some people get frustrated because they find that their normal pace is outside the training zone. But lacking a solid aerobic base could be the reason why they’re not experiencing fitness gains or struggling with overtraining syndrome.

Take-A-Ways from This Interview

People often find the topic of heart rate training confusing because there’s no one size fits all strategy. It’s not like we can promise that if you follow Dr. Maffetone’s system (or that of anyone else’s system) for 3 months that you’ll be able to take 2 minutes per mile off your pace. But I think one big take way from this conversation is that health and fitness is about more than just setting PRs. There are many factors that go into giving you the best quality of life possible and you are an experiment of one. We’d encourage you to think about a few things:

  • Measure your waist. If it’s not less than your height consider changing how you look at training and nutrition.
  • Consider whether you need to improve the functioning of your aerobic system. Have you reached a plateau with your training? Does your body always seem to be in a state of stress, inflammation, and fatigue?
  • Find your MAF (maximum aerobic function) heart rate: https://philmaffetone.com/180-formula/
  • Perform the MAF Test- get your baseline numbers and retest on a monthly basis: https://philmaffetone.com/maf-test/

Eight Step Methodology

You can go through the 8 Step Methodology and take the associated quizzes to consider which areas you need to work through:

  1. Carbohydrate Intolerance– Do you have excess belly fat? Do you feel fatigued regularly? Do you get hangry? Do you have hormonal imbalances?
  2. Control Inflammation– Do you have ongoing joint or muscle pain? Are you struggling with chronic injuries? Do you deal with allergies, skin, or gut issues?
  3. Vitamin D Status– Get a blood test to determine what your Vitamin D levels are. Vitamin D is essential for optimum health and fitness and deficiencies are fairly common.
  4. Folate Status– Folate is an essential B vitamin found in vegetables, meats, and legumes. It has a role in preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and much more.
  5. Build the aerobic system– By training to improve your aerobic (or fat burning system) you can increase energy, improve circulation and immunity, and much more.
  6. Manage stress– We live in a fast paced world where much is often demanded of us and we also demand a lot from ourselves. It’s important to recognize areas of stress in order to take steps to manage stress.
  7. Build a better brain– The brain controls and manages nearly every body system and improving the functioning of our brain will help us manage the aging process better.
  8. Healthy aging– We can’t control the fact that we will grow older. But we can learn to maintain the quality of our life and approach the future with a positive mindset.

photo credit philmaffetone.com

We recommend that you head over to Phil Maffetone’s website for more information on any of the things that we talked about on this episode. We’ll provide links to both the MAF heart rate formula and the MAF Test with the show notes. If people are interested we may talk about the 8 steps in more detail in the future.

Also Mentioned in This Episode

The Fat Adapted Eating Plan – Let us help you cut out sugar and grains.

Dr. Maffeton’s website.

Healthiq.com -Marathon Training Academy is sponsored by *Health IQ*, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special rates on life insurance. Go to healthiq.com/mta to support the show and learn more.

Anolon Cookware -Shop Anolon’s cookware sets, baking tools, even pasta makers and culinary torches – all at Macy’s. Anolon – designed for creativity in the kitchen


Dear Angie, I recently completed the Bournemouth Marathon following MTA’s intermediate
training plan. Throughout the training I stuck to Phill Maffetone’s max heart rate (180 minus my age, which is 36). In the beginning of the race I felt a bit sluggish but when I got to 20 miles in 2:57 still monitoring my heart rate and there was no wall. For the last 6.2 miles I felt more of a running flow than I’d experienced since I ran a fast half marathon in 2004. I finished with the last 3 miles at 7:30 pace. What an experience to go slow, get to half way and have something left! I came in 3:48 which I was delighted with since I hadn’t run properly for 13 years until I came across MTA last autumn. The experience was magical and owes a tremendous amount to the wisdom, inclusive encouragement and confidence building of MTA. I did a negative split and finished really strong. My mantra ‘stay strong, stay tall, stay calm, stay positive’ (an adaption of one I’d heard on MTA) was repeated throughout the second half. Miles 20-26.2 feel like an almost sacred space. Thanks Angie and Trev, I’ve still got what it takes. Best wishes, -Tim

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