MAF Training Explained: The Ultimate Guide

Have you heard about the idea of slowing down if you want a faster pace?

Sounds like the Maffetone method, an intelligent approach that uses the heart rate monitor to elevate overall health and fitness.

If not, you are in the right article as we will give you the details about the MAF training.

A training fit for a walker, cyclist, athlete, runner, and even for starters who wants to improve running and strength training. Learn everything you need to know about the MAF training.

What Is MAF in Training?

MAF stands for Maximum Aerobic Function, or the Maffetone method is a low heart rate training plan initially designed by Dr. Phil Maffetone for athletes to perform better.

The “run slow to run fast” theory is for you to train at or below the MAF heart rate ceiling to enhance your aerobic training and elevate your fat-burning potential.

The MAF training method uses the synergy of exercise, nutrition, and stress management to help you strengthen your aerobic system.

The fat-burning engine is in charge of powering up the body’s needs.

Thus, an effective aerobic system can improve energy and endurance, boost brain function, help avoid injuries, and promote overall health and fitness.

What Is the Primary Goal of the MAF Method?

The philosophy of the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) training program is to enhance the aerobic base building, so your body can master running at high intensity at a lower heart rate.

This will hold back the time when your body requires the anaerobic method, so you can extend your running length and the pace faster before your body gets tired.

Establishing a solid aerobic if you are doing races is essential, especially for distance runners.

When you do races, usually 800-meter upward races utilize both aerobic and anaerobic energy, involving comfort and critical zone.

The critical zone is where races are won or lost.

You depend more on your aerobic system during an extended race, so it makes sense to build it up using the MAF method.

One more objective of the MAF method is to develop the percentage of calories from your fat-burning zone.

Who Should Use the MAF Method?

Many athletes, particularly runners, have been using the MAF for their base training.

Many runners devote six months of low-intensity running that will not impale their heart rate over the aerobic maximum.

The MAF method applies to athletes and anyone who wants to work with a low heart rate training to reach maximum health and fitness in a scientific approach.

The heart rate training is best to incorporate at the start of the training cycle for your base building.

However, if you enjoy speed work and variation, then the MAF training might not fit you.

Here is a list to help you decide if the method will suit you.

  • Individuals who need to upgrade their aerobic base
  • Boost fat exertion in running
  • If you want an injury-free training
  • If you regularly control your high sugar cravings during the training
  • If you are experiencing high-stress levels that are affecting the body
  • Not recuperating well from training
  • If you have above-average fatigue every time you elevate your race pace

If you find yourself on this list, better tell your running coach to integrate the MAF runs into your marathon training.

What Are the Benefits of MAF Training?

The MAF method has numerous advantages, particularly in developing body systems.

The MAF training will not only help you run at high speed at a lower heart rate, but it will build up many systems in the body.

The good thing is that you can run longer when there is less stress in the body.

So, if you are here for marathon training and preparing for a longer endurance race, then the MAF method will suit you.

Here is a more in-depth detail on the advantages of the MAF training.

1. Build a Strong Aerobic Base

The prime goal of the training method is for base building, which is extremely helpful when you are gearing up for race-specific exercises later in your routine.

You concentrate more on endurance with a small amount of high-speed and race running.

You can achieve progress in your aerobic training, which is attainable through high mileage and aerobic-specific workouts such as aerobic threshold runs and progression runs.

2. Develops Fat Burning

You will burn excess body fat for energy and not for carbs. A great way to lose unwanted pounds.

As you burn fat, your energy also increases. The mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouse, will convert sugars, fats, and proteins into chemical energy. Thus, raising power for the muscles.

During the MAF training, you work out with a lower intensity level, corresponding to low stress. Note that higher stress compromises your fat-burning ability.

So, when you are exercising at a lower level in MAF heart rate, it will permit the aerobic muscle fibers to progress and assist the anaerobic muscle fibers.

When you build up more aerobic fibers, you will have more potential to burn fat.

3. Increase Endurance

With the MAF heart rate training, Your heart muscle will be robust and help lessen physical stress.

Since you have lower intensity and less stress, you can run for an extended period.

So, the training will suit you if you are preparing for a marathon and more extended endurance events.

You can execute all your runs while maintaining your heart rate at a particular threshold, though your pace will decrease from your average speed.

What Are the Drawbacks of MAF Training?

Some athletes are not making significant progress when they have started the MAF journey.

You should be aware of several drawbacks of the Maffetone method.

1. Overtraining

If you are already used to too much high-intensity training, this stressed state will give more weight to your performance than being healthy.

Slowing down your training will bring your body back into its accessible state. This adjustment will not strive for the same high-intensity performance and speed work.

When you do the MAF training, you have to pull out from this stressed state to make aerobic development.

This might bring pressure and repair damage that will take some time to recover for some athletes.

With the MAF range, athletes still tend to over-exercise by increasing their workout volume without adequate recovery.

2. Lack of Strength Training

Over-exercising and nutrition have a direct link with each other.

Since if you tend to over-train and lack nutrition, mending the damage will take some time before you get better.

Your body will need to get accustomed to burning fat for energy.

Some athletes work with strength and cross-training, but these workouts can increase stress.

When you start MAF training, it is suggested that you maintain your heart rate or be lower than the MAF heart rate zone.

So, you will need to give up strength training.

3. Slow and Boring

Several critiques of the MAF heart rate training are that it is boring.

You will be deliberately working slower, especially if you just started MAF training.

The relatively slow training becomes boring for some because they are used to training at high-intensity levels and feel like they could still run faster by running faster.

So, limiting your running pace will not be efficient and will not boost your running (at least for some athletes).

How to Conduct the MAF Test

In any training, keeping tabs on your progress is vital to help you get efficient, make adjustments, and motivate you to do better. The same goes for the MAF method.

Created by Dr. Phil, the MAF test is a simple test used to track progress on your aerobic improvement and conducted on your daily routine at low intensity.

The test will help you recognize any obstacles in your development.

This can include excessive anaerobic or minimal aerobic exercise as well as diet and stress.

This impartial assessment will tell you if you are in the wrong direction, which might lead to any adverse results, so better conduct MAF tests regularly.

Here are the two methods that you can do:

Traditional MAF Test

The traditional MAF test comprises an athlete’s workout while simultaneously sustaining a sub-max heart rate.

You can use the MAF 180 formula to reference how to identify the max aerobic heart rate for training and testing.

You can start by executing the tests by:

  1. Warm-up: Do an easy 12-15 minute walking or a few runs for warm-up.
  2. Start the Test: Run with a calculated distance (e.g., three to four miles) within the sub-max heart rate, and record every single mile. You can use a monitor with a heart rate strap over a wrist-based monitor. Your monitor should catch your splits every mile. Usually, the first mile will be the fastest, and the following miles will get slower. This is normal and shows an average fatigue factor.
  3. Cool Down: Do a 12-15-minute active cool down.

The MAF test should imply faster times in the upcoming months. This will indicate that you have aerobic development and burning fat.

Dr. Maffetone suggested performing the test every month for a whole year and recording the results, but don’t frequently test per week as you won’t get substantial improvement.

This will help you chart your growth and track factors that might impede your training, such as the workout, diet, and stress.


TIP: Execute the test on the same track, time of the day, and with the same shoes. Do not perform the test in bad weather and when you are sick.

Advanced MAF Test

You can waive the local running track and opt for the advanced MAF iPhone App that can operate a MAF test.

The GPS test can assist in tracking fitness and health, particularly in preventing overtraining.

If you are a faster runner with the same MAF heart rate, there will be subsequent fat burning for energy.

Though both MAF tests show the effectiveness of physical movement, your running economy links to the body’s capacity to self-correct muscle imbalance faster.

The MAF-GPS test attends the same rationale but can be conducted anywhere. The GPS will prepare data about the distance and time.

Do stick with the method of measurement used for your MAF-GPS Test, so you compare the same test format.

How to Test Using MAF-GPS?

There are FIVE WAYS to assess your aerobic development with the MAF-GPS. You can work it out using a heart rate monitor and watch, EXCEPT for the third one.

  1. Calculate minutes per mile or kilometer. The first lap should be faster then, followed by a slower
  2. Calculate the total time of the test course, which you can find in the GPS data. Note that course time should also get faster.
  3. Find out the distance traveled on your regular workout. It would be best if you had increased the reach covered in a one-hour workout.
  4. Measure the power meter in watts throughout the test course.
  5. Determine the number of laps in a pool in a fixed time frame.


How to Calculate Your MAF Heart Rate

Most athletes use the 180 formula to obtain the ideal MAF max HR, which is the foundation of aerobic training.

When surpassed, the number suggests a quick-shifting toward anaerobic training.

It’s a pretty easy computation where you will subtract your age from 180 (180-age). Then, adjust based on the following factors:

  • Subtract ten if you are recuperating from a significant illness such as heart disease or surgical operation. This also includes rehabilitation, regular medication, and stage 3 over-training.
  • Subtract five if you are injured and not showing any improvement if you frequently get colds, flu, and allergies. This category also includes stage 1 or 2 over-training.
  • Subtract 0 if you are consistent in your training. For at least two years and four times a week, without any medical problems, injury, flu, and allergies.
  • Add five if you have exercised for more than two years without any medical problems or injuries. 

Suppose you are competitive and consistently make progress.

For example, if you are 25 years old and experiencing an injury, colds, allergies, and stage 1 or 2 over-training, you can apply this:

  • 180-25 = 155, then 155-5 = 150 beats per minute. This will be your maximum aerobic heart rate.

In this example, working out at the same heart rate of 150 beats per minute is a fit aerobic system that will let you develop the maximum aerobic function.NOTE: The 180 formula is exempted for people over 65 and athletes 16 years of age and below.

What’s the Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic?

Aerobic and anaerobic are the two systems in the body that provide energy.

What people missed is that research implies that working most of your running within the aerobic zone is the most secure and systematic way of training your body.

Let’s delve into the difference between aerobic and anaerobic.

Aerobic System

The aerobic utilizes oxygen to transform fat into energy to power your muscles. This usually depends on an ample supply of mitochondria.

The mitochondria are the part of the cell that functions to generate most of the chemical energy. This is by converting the energy we take from food into energy the cell can use.

The body usually has a sizable fat reservoir, so with a well-developed aerobic structure, you can keep working out for an extended period.

Anaerobic System

On the other hand, the anaerobic system functions when there is insufficient oxygen that the body needs.

When running at high intensity, you are utilizing oxygen faster than you are taking in.

So, to generate adequate energy, your muscles begin to break down their supply of glucose.

The anaerobic system wears out swiftly, and the body’s glucose levels are restricted. You cannot use the anaerobic system to run a very long mile.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We figured out that there are still some questions in your mind about the MAF method, so we will give you the additional information that might come in handy.

How Many Hours a Week Should You Do the MAF Training?

In your MAF training plan, you should be able to focus more on time spent than the miles.

You can do 7 hours per week of training to see visible progress.

You can gradually build the training and start for 1 hour, then add five minutes each week. After a few weeks, step down for a week so your body can rest.

Do not forget to do a 15-20 minute warm-up and active cool down. This will be included in your total time spent on your training.

For people who are ill, injured, and over-exercised, it is recommended that you will undergo a three-month training period with 100% Aerobic MAF heart rate training.

The aerobic structure that burns fat is also in charge of the body’s health, energy control, and endurance, which will develop over a long period.

How Often Should I Run For MAF Training?

For the base building, it is recommended that you run for 6-8 hours each week at the MAF HR. Make sure to include a rest day; you can do 4-5 hours per week in the fourth week of training.

Strive to obtain one day each week running for 2 hours, but during this stage, do not run above these 2 hours because this may increase physical stress and be ineffective.

After accomplishing 4-6 weeks of the average pace and developing a solid aerobic foundation, you can start allocating 20% of your time for speed work.

Your coach can also help you do a weekly long run with the fast finish for a few weeks and go back to the MAF to measure the effects.

The aim is to have a long-term goal to train for a year injury-free.

In MAF, where you run at low intensity, you lessen the possibility of being injured, burned out, and over-trained. You will have to start over again for a cycle.

Does the Weather Affect MAF Training?


It is not advisable to do the MAF running and training under weather stress, particularly during the hot season.

This is because your heart rate spikes when it is hot. Your body’s thermoregulatory response utilizes plenty of energy.

Take into account that the MAF heart rate conforms to the intensity at which you burn most fats. If you are sweating, your body will require you to increase your energy.

If it cannot obtain that from fats, it will acquire energy from sugars. The heart rate spike will show that your aerobic system cannot navigate the cooling system.

This may result in your body utilizing the anaerobic base to sweat at the required rate.


Workout is a lot of work, whether your focus is to beat your best performance or strive for a healthy body.

Everyone can try the MAF training, but not everyone can sustain it, especially those doing high-intensity training and speed work.

Nevertheless, always start training with adequate research and ask your coach what will be best for you.