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Going slow to go fast

I have played in many training worlds, from hard and fast to slow and low, but really didn’t find my groove until coming across the MAF Method.  Developed by Dr Phil Maffetone after 40 years of clinical and scientific research.

MAF stands for Maximum Aerobic Function.  It focusses on the fat burning engine (aerobic system) responsible for fuelling your bodies energy needs, instead of focussing on the anerobic system like many training plans.

Wondering what the difference is?

Aerobic System – Energy created by the body through the combustion of fats, carbohydrates and amino acids in the presence of oxygen.  Produced more slowly by the body, but more abundant in volume, it’s used for sustained exercise and other body functions

Anerobic System – Energy created by the body through the breakdown of carbohydrates from blood glucose or glucose stored in muscle during intense exercise in the absence of oxygen.  Energy generated through the anerobic system is short lived and is quickly depleted.  The by product for energy produced this way is lactic acid build up.  We have all been there.

Its worth noting, that your body will often switch between the aerobic and anerobic system during exercise.

Although there are 8 steps to the MAF Method, I wanted to focus on Step 5 “Build the aerobic system”.  Maffetone talks to Aerobic deficiency which is common in people who exercise too much, people who are overstressed and in people who are inactive.  This can result in Chronic Fatigue, Increased body fat (those people who are carrying excess fat, even though they are smashing out 10+ hours a week of training) and poor endurance.

The MAF method in essence is training in your MAF heart rate zone for all of your base training sessions.  The secret (and challenge) is to not go over your MAF zone, but stay at or as close to it as you can.

Your MAF zone is calculated using 2 steps

  • 180 minus your age
  • Adjust this number by selecting one of a set of criteria that best matches your health / fitness position
    1. If recovery from major illness – Subtract a further 10 beats
    2. If frequently injured / get more than 2 colds a year or have allergies – subtract a further 5 beats
    3. If you have been exercising 3-4 times a year with no issues – Keep the original number
    4. If a competitive athlete training for more the 1 year without problems – Add 5 beats

What have I learnt from my experience (over my 4 or so years playing with the MAF method)

  • It takes time. It wasn’t a quick fix, but I DID start to see results.
  • I thought I was fit, but was I wrong. My aerobic system was not as developed as I thought it was, preventing me performing at my best.
  • Start training alone when you can. MAF was a massive mental challenge for me.  My standard was trying to keep up with the group, which I quickly learnt put me over my MAF heart rate.  (not to mention the embarrassment of walking up hills I would normally power up).
  • Think about your diet. Fuelling my aerobic system, good fats became my best friend.
  • Enjoy it, and I told everyone who would listen to get on board (and I still am)

Although this is a very short summary of what MAF is, I hope it gives you a little nudge to look a little more into it and see if it works for you.  Check out www.philmaffetone.com for the details. 

Happy riding and we would love to hear your MAF tales