I did my first MAF test last week. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, MAF stands for Maximum Aerobic Function. It’s a term coined and popularized by Phil Maffetone, who is a huge proponent of doing all of your training at or below your MAF heart rate. You MAF heart rate will be much lower than any other target heart rate you’ve probably ever used, as it uses the formula of 180 – your age to get your number. For me, that’s 132, which is super low and means I have to walk a lot to maintain it, especially on hills. The MAF test is simply measuring your time over a set distance while maintaining your MAF. And then periodically repeating the test, hopefully on the same course, to measure your improvement. Don’t listen to me, though! Here’re a couple links to the source, one talking about the test and another talking about the 180-age formula.
I’ve been messing around with running at or below my MAF for a couple of months now. I won’t say that I’ve failed, but I will say that I often find myself well above that number. I need to focus on keeping it down and just be patient and let it work. Maybe getting in the habit of doing a MAF test every month will help. Here are a few additional tips I got from the comments at the link above that I think I’m going to incorporate. I’ve been running and cycling consistently (slowly, but consistently!) for over two years with no injuries or complications. Maybe I could up my MAF by 5 beats, as per the 180 formula. That would make my new MAF number 137. Other comments from devotees and Maffetone’s staff seem to indicate that he (Maffetone) is generally ok with one or two sessions per week being anaerobic (ie, higher than MAF heart rate, but not a lot higher) but to keep the others, and the majority, down at MAF rate or below. But, it’s not uncommon for me to only get two sessions per week in. Maybe I’ll try to do at least one session per week at MAF, with the other one being more free-form and allowing myself to jump up some if I feel like. If not, it’ll be another MAF session. If I can get more workouts in, I’ll alternate them the same way. And finally, I’ll use a regular schedule of MAF tests to measure any changes. If the “Maffetone Method” is correct, and I’m applying it correctly, that should tell me if I’m working in too much anaerobic time so I can adjust the workouts accordingly. I like that plan. N=1.
Want more info on MAF? Here are a few links:
- Phil Maffetone and Paul Laursen in Sports Medicine “Athletes: Fit but Unhealthy“
- Phil Maffetone’s MAF Heart Rate white paper
- Mark Sisson being interviewed by Ben Greenfield on Ben’s podcast
Oh, the test? Ugh. A blazing 12:08 per mile!