Maffetone Method Resources

It seems that in endurance training right now there are two competing training methodologies: low heart rate aerobic training as espoused by Dr. Maffetone, and high intensity interval training, perhaps best exemplified by Crossfit. They both appear to be effective, but  mutually exclusive, and that confuses people.
I am not going to debate, compare/contrast, pros and cons etc. I choose the Maffetone Method. For those who are curious and want to learn more, I am assembling here a guide to resources about this training method.
Basic Principles:

  • Aerobic Training Trumps Everything
  • Anaerobic training is risky
  • Aerobic/Anaerobic Threshold is determined by fat utilization
  • Aerobic fitness is best developed at a lower intensity than you might think
  • Aerobic fitness seems to have no ceiling

The Training Method:

  • Find your heart rate range using the 180 formula (Maximum Aerobic Function=MAF)
  • Always wear your heart rate monitor
  • Start with 10-15 minute warm-up to gradually bring up heart rate into training zone
  • NEVER go above MAF! If heart rate goes over, slow down
  • Walking is ideal for warming up/cooling down

Annotated Resources to Learn More:
The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing
This is the one book to get if endurance sports are your interest, whether or not you race. It is a compilation that was born in response to many athlete questions over the years. I personally disagree with the nutritional advice, as I prefer to follow the Whole Foods Plant Based diet as espoused by Dr. McDougall and Dr. Esselstyn. But the training information, much of the self-care, and the holistic approach is very thought provoking. Most of what I have applied has worked well.
The Big Book of Health and Fitness
This book is not much different than the other one, except in focus. There are more general health topics, and less about what affects competition. It has one important topic that is a regrettable omission from his other book which is an explanation of how to incorporate strength training with his aerobic training philosophy.
The Maffetone Method
Dr. Maffetone has said that his previous books are out of date, and that The Big Book(s)… represent his best advice. But this old one is short and gives a good, general explanation. I like it.
Both Dr. Maffetone and Mark Allen have great articles on their respective websites covering many related topics.
Here is Mark Allen explaining how to build a great aerobic base. This is the method he used during his “patience phase” to build the fitness needed to win Ironman Kona multiple times.
“Training Your Heart”
Here is the Man Himself Explaining:
“Want Speed? Slow Down!”
I first learned of The Maffetone Method in a magazine article by Mark Allen. It didn’t mention Maffettone by name, and the article did not make sense to me at the time. But when I heard the man explain it himself, it all came together. Here are some great podcast interviews where Dr. Maffetone explains the principles and responds to questions.
The First One I Heard:
The podcaster recently changed his nutrition and training for Ironman to be more in line with Maffetone.
Trail Runner Nation
Mark Allen credited Maffetone with much of his success, and Maffetone uses Mark Allen as the best example of what his brand of aerobic training can achieve.

The “Ask the Ultrarunner” and “Ask the Coaches” podcasts at are good resources as questions about Maffetone style training are often answered. They recently interviewed Maffetone twice/;

Part 1 

Part 2

While there are many effective ways to train, I think most people will gain more enjoyment from using this aerobic based approach and saving the anaerobic efforts for race day, or brief build periods. I know I have.


About vegpedlr

Plant powered off-road triathlete

Posted on August 1, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Hi vegpdlr,

    I have just brought the Big Book of endurance racing and training, electronically. Looking forward to reading it.

    Ruff (from the McD forum)

    • It really is BIG. Lots of info there, but not all chapters are equally important. The first few chapters about heart rate training are super important. From there you can read the topics that most interest you. Enjoy!

  2. Hey Vegpedlr,
    I bought “The Maffetone Mathod” after reading your comments on the McD board. I like the fitness part of the book, but not his take on diets. I think he mentions “carb intolerance” about 100 times, and he thinks that a lot of people suffer from it, and that is why they don’t lose weight. He basically wants the reader to drop all carbs for 2 weeks (ALL – meaning they will go into Ketosis state) and if they lose weight doing this: THEY ARE CARB INTOLERANT! His diet sounds eerily similar to Atkins to me. Obviously as a McD I won’t be doing that.

    I am not sure that aerobic and anaerobic have to be either/ or, or mutually exclusive. Even Maffetone says once you build your aerobic base he sees no problem with 2 anaerobic workouts per week. One thing that anaerobic does that aerobic does not is HGH release, which to me is huge.

    Thanks for the info, I will use Maffetone in conjunction with my 1-2 sprint 8 workouts per week, and look forward to good results.

    • Thanks for stopping by! I do not agree with his nutritional recommendations either, and usually remind people on the McD boards to ignore them. He is not so much Atkins as Paleo, because he also repeats over and over to get 10-15 servings of fruit/veg daily, and to avoid all refined foods. But his carb intolerance idea is annoying. I also can’t tell from reading and listening to him whether he really means ALL carbs, or just refined. As we know there is a big difference.

      As to aerobic/anaerobic, Maffetone does say that they are exclusive. To properly train the aerobic system, one must train it exclusively during the base period. This should be at least three months, but more is better. Note that even is elites often train aerobically only. His way of combining anaerobic training is no more than twice a week, for no more than six weeks leading up to a big event. Then you go back to rebuilding aerobic fitness, because it will have suffered. If you are combining intensities in the same week without a pure base period first, it’s not the Maffetone method, it’s mixed speed training, and is what most other coaches do.

      Don’t forget the importance of the MAF test, as it gives very good feedback. Good luck in your experiment!

  3. As a former vegan, I would advise people to open their minds and use diet as a targeted tool. The answer here for humans is whole foods and use fruit as a treat, not a meal. Stop the dietary labeling and dogma and come together.

    My current goal is fat loss. If your targeting fat loss, eating a higher carb diet, for 75% of the population, is the WRONG tool.

    Did I lose weight as a vegan, yes, a lot.
    Did I lose as much muscle as fat? YES, I lost muscle, not good. (was not weight training)
    I am NOT blaming veganism for muscle loss entirely.

    I most likely lost weight because of the following, a natural caloric deficit created by eating whole foods. I was not a processed foods soy munching “vegan”. I ate real food.

    I am not going to say Mcdougall or higher carb approaches don’t work for some people. I think Mcdougall means well, along with Furman and the others. What I am going to state is that they are not open to admitting that PLENTY of medical studies that show eating fat, in the absence of processed carbs and sugar, IMPROVES all metabolic health markers.

    What I think we all can agree on is logically, a LOT of people are unbalanced due to many decades of eating processed foods. By this I mean sugar and grains (carbs). At that point, I don’t even care if your only eating fruit, you are carb intolerant and probably insulin resistant and heading towards diabetes. I tried 80/10/10 and was ridiculously hungry, cranky and lost zero weight and gained zero muscle. This was my wake up call.

    I am currently cycling a ketogenic diet. 6.5 days ultra low carb, 1/2 a day, highly carbohydrate heavy. The cycle is supposed to keep fat burning hormones and thyroid at n
    I am losing fat, maintaining muscle and for the first time in my life, I am NOT hungry. I put aside my vegan dogma and as always, I am experimenting on myself. I measure body fat via electrical impedance on three devices and Dexa scans quarterly. I track blood sugar as well.

    I am doing low heart rate walking 1-3 times a week and HIT weight training weekly for 20 minutes. My lifts are timed by stopwatch. I have lost 15-20 pounds of fat over 70 days and so far my lifts are stable or improving. This is after two years of weight training (not a novice).

    So far, every single thing a ketogenic diet is claimed to accomplish, is right on target.

    No, you cannot do this short term and expect to have your body restore its fat for fuel ability. It takes time. I am so tired of reading studies or blogs where people went and tried an endurance event after 10 days on a ketogenic diet and failed.

    I am hoping this post brings intelligent discussion and not a backlash of hate.

    • I choose a vegan diet for numerous reasons, health being one of them. I am unconvinced, unimpressed, and consequently uninterested in low-carb or ketogenic diets. Even if they prove to confer an endurance advantage, I will stay away for long term health and ethical reasons. Good luck in your adventure.

    • Hi Mike,
      I was ketogenic for over a year (evidenced by ketosticks) I started running during this time. I ate a low carb paleo diet and morphed into zero carb. I was totally zero carb for over 6 months. During that time my I often ate only once a day. After initial weight loss of about 25 pounds, I stuck totally, even eating once a day, zero carb I could not lose weight. Sport was impossible beyond a certain point….I could not get over 10 km without bonking, despite careful training, running fasted, doing sprints as well as endurance, and building it up over the year.

      I am now low fat vegan (not zero fat, I eat nuts and avocados ) and am training for a marathon and a 50km. I also do trail runs, and love them. I am not fast but then I am a menopausal woman in my 50’s. I have lost over 80 pounds and I have found muscle, particularly in my legs. I still have a few pounds to lose, but it will go in time. I have a normal BMI. My blood sugar is great, my blood pressure has improved as has my resting heart rate and my lipids are amazing.

      From reading websites and forums, I have noticed that ketogenic diets seem to work better for fit young men. For me it was a disaster, and I certainly gave it time! My life has been transformed by my plant based low fat high carb diet. I am fitter, happier, healthier and lighter. My next race, in early April is Mt Arrowsmith (just south of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings movie, I live in NZ). I would never, ever go back to a ketogenic diet.

      Good luck in your search for health and fitness.

      • About 10 yrs ago I flirted briefly with low carb by trying the South Beach diet. After I used up my stored glycogen in a couple days, I went for a ride and could barely turn the pedals. I thought I would die. Then, a little later, inspired by coach Joe Friel who coauthored The Paleo Diet for Athletes with Loren Cordain, I gave Paleo a try which also failed with a complete lack of energy. Then I went plant based and I was finally able to train consistently enough to race. To be fair to the low carb crowd, I did not stick with it long enough to become fat adapted, and I don’t remember how well I actually did with the Paleo experiment. I could have done it “wrong.” It doesn’t matter to me now because I am content with my current diet.

        BTW, I love how you give location details by referring to Lord of the Rings. Now it’s not a name on a map, but an actual picture! Good luck in your training and racing.

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