MAF Test #1 (Run Slower!)

Almost a year ago I stumbled upon an intriguing article by someone whose opinion I highly value, Dr. Mark Cuccazella. I had the pleasure of meeting him, without knowing who he was, at the Newton Retail Summit the previous year and what he had to say helped me make better sense of the pros of barefoot-esque running (and living). He is a family doctor that has turned around the health of an entire community in Shepherdstown, West Virginia by helping them get out and become active through running. He has even opened a “minimalist” ONLY running shoe store where none of the “traditional” models are carried. Every year he puts together a race called the Freedoms Run and I was perusing the page when I found an interesting topic: The Aerobic Engine.


For the first time, “base” period of running made sense. And I’ve coached many levels of athletes, but until then I never got it. Sure, run easy(er), run more mileage, get in “shape,” and don’t get burned out… that stuff really has very little, if anything to do with it. I’ll let you check out the “Aerobic Engine” page rather than explain it here… but it follows up the topic with links for how to heart rate train and the
Maffetone Method – and yes, it can be VERY frustrating at first to keep your heart rate under the suggested limit. The hardest mental barrier for anyone to start training this way is the mindset of “the harder you work, the more benefit you get.”  This training method has a way of monitoring your progress called the “MAF Test” – Maximum Aerobic Function Test.

Last year we followed the heart rate training for 3 solid months and mostly the rest of the year. Steph PR’d in the 5k and altitude 10k without running a single step at “race pace” before the events. She also was able to run more than 100 miles/wk without injury, where 60 miles would sideline her in previous years. I saw measures of progress in endurance more than speed. I consistently ran 100+ miles a week (156 mile max), finished my first 50 mile race, and was able to run a 16 mile pace run at 5:50/mi pace – surely a PR in the marathon was to follow had I not decided to injure myself trail building (stupid!).

So, Steph and I decided to start off this year’s “base” period with the MAF test as we enter the next few months of training with the Maffetone Method. Here’s how it works:

Basically, you “warmup” 15 minutes VERY easy (not at HR limit), then run 5 miles straight (some do 3 or 4 miles) as close to prescribed HR limit as you can and mark the times… this should be done on an easy to repeat course so the data isn’t skewed in subsequent tests (minimize variables!). Next time compare both the pace and the difference between your first to last mile, because the pace will slow down throughout the 5 miles… then 15min “cool down.”

As an example, Saturday we were on the indoor track and I ran:
Mile 1 – 7:39.9 @ 156
Mile 2 – 7:47.5 @ 156
Mile 3 – 7:54.7 @ 156
Mile 4 – 7:56.8 @ 156Mile 5 – 8:03.7 @ 156

[Click on the image for a larger view or see it here on Garmin Connect]

Steph ran:
Mile 1 – 8:13.0 @ 156
Mile 2 – 8:17.1 @ 156
Mile 3 – 8:24.7 @ 155
Mile 4 – 8:21.6 @ 156
Mile 5 – 8:24.5 @ 156

[Click the image for a larger detailed view or see it here on Garmin Connect]

We’ll revisit the test next month see how it compares!

Quite a few BARA people have started trying doing it, anybody else in?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

5 thoughts on “MAF Test #1 (Run Slower!)

  1. March 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Hi Ben! How does nutrition figure into the Maffetone Method? If you’re trying to teach your body to use it’s own fuel, is it still OK to eat a Gu when you feel like you’re running low?

  2. Ben
    March 10, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Good question! Even in the Maffetone zone of exercize you will be burning glucose (“carbs”). Usually you’ll find the ratio somwhere between 50-60% fat, 40-50% carbs… as opposed to typical running which will be ore like 20/80 (fat/carb). Because of this, you still have glycogen stores that will deplete.

    I would, however, expect you could go at least twice as long between gels… especially as you become more efficient in the fat burning. As an example, I find I can be just fine without anything (gels) for at least 2 hours, probably closer to 3 hours!

    You might find more info here:


  3. March 29, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Interesting post. One thing. Both you and Steph seem to be talking about running at 80% HRM, not the 180-age +- add on 5 bpm for training history/medication injury etc.

    So, for most people MAF target HR is around 65-70% HRM. Are you just using a higher heart rate, or is there some reason for that relating to maffetone method?



    1. Ian Doyle
      December 8, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Hi Steve, just seen this and had the same thought. I started MAF 3 weeks ago and I am enjoying it but too early to see progress I think.

      Also Interested as to where the 80% came from. By subtracting my age from 180 I got 131bpm. this also happens to be 75% of my HRMax.


      1. Ben
        January 7, 2015 at 5:56 am

        Hey guys, sorry for the delay… I can’t find where we posted about ‘80% of HR’ (but I know that we have called it that, so I’ll comment to it anyway). I had my “Maffetone” limit tested using a sub-VO2max metabolic analyzer – basically you run on increasingly faster on a treadmill and it looks at the air exhaled throughout the test to determine what you’re burning for fuel, carbs vs. fats. Then, the inflection point is determined to be the necessary HR for maximum aerobic development (Maffetone HR). Mine came out to be 158 (which is +6 of the 180-age(28) formula). Maffetone admits his linear formula isn’t perfect, but claims it should be very close and under HR if anything – and it was for me. Anyway, I also know my HR max is 193 (which is +1 of the 220-age formula). 158/193 = 81.8% of HRmax…

        Sometimes we used to refer to it as the 80% rule in discussions because it was easier for somebody to understand the foundation without the whole Maffetone back story. In the end, not a very exciting answer to your question, but hopefully it clears it up some.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *