Home FitnessRunning Running : Improve Your Endurance – Try The Maffetone Method for 100 Days

Running : Improve Your Endurance – Try The Maffetone Method for 100 Days

by Gee Ess
Tanya Agarwal - wellthyfit

Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that final victory comes.  Buddha

Caution.  Of course the best way to improve your endurance is to simply run more!  So read – reflect – run – review – re-align…. adopt only if it suits your game !

Having achieved a sub 100 Half Marathon time, I upped the ante and set my eyes upon the Full Marathon. The Macmillan Race Predictor said that a 3h 26m was achievable (btw BQ for my age category is 3:25). Excited by this technical info – serious training followed. Did I achieve it ? Of course not !  Mid-course corrections galore and several full marathons later I am much wiser now ! I never bonked or hit the wall in the true sense, but my performance always dropped dramatically after the 34 km marker. Critical self-analysis told me that I had followed the training programmes and the specified paces to the ‘T’ but they did not deliver! First Realisation – One size fits all training plans don’t bring out the best in us. It is better to have a training philosophy / methodology which suits the body, fitness level and mindset and then make our own plans around it. Second Realisation – I still need to improve in two key areas – my aerobic fitness and training the body to burn fat as fuel.

The summer season is a brilliant off-season opportunity for me to experiment with a new training concept/philosophy and improve my aerobic base without the pressure of a race or a training programme. The Maffetone Method of training promises to keep me both injury free and improve my endurance….and the http://100daysofrunning.in/. will make sure that I follow it long enough to make true gains….and then I can follow a structured training programme and get a PB (Read 4 hacks to get faster) in my target race in the winters !

The Basics  – Improving Endurance

  • Aerobic Fitness – to be able to run at reasonably good speed with a low heart rate for long distances, ie. achieve optimum heart rate and oxygen utilization efficiency.
  • Burn Fat as Fuel – the glycogen (carbohydrate) store of the body can last only up to 32-34 km (debatable) approx. The famous wall or the marathon bonk follows. But the body’s fat reserves last much longer. So train the body to burn fat instead of glycogen. Deduction – dramatic increase in endurance.
  • More time on the feet for the skeletal and muscular structure to build the stamina.

The Maffetone Method – The Approach

Phil Maffetone gave out the concept in his ‘Big Book on Endurance Training and Racing’ in the eighties (http://www.amazon.in/Big-Book-Endurance-Training-Racing/dp/1616080655). It covers a lifestyle concept encompassing diet, nutrition, exercise and stress management. There is now a MAF App on the web page of Phil Maffetone  https://philmaffetone.com/maf-app/ . Not very user friendly and you need a compatible bluetooth HR Monitor to use it. Do try it ! The running component is aligned to the ‘run slow to run fast’ school of thought. We stick to endurance running in this blog.

The Promise.   Phil Maffetone says that by developing maximum aerobic function you can burn more body fat, improve athletic performance, slim down, lose body fat, increase energy, eliminate injuries and ramp up your human potential.

The 180 Formula. Using a heart rate formula of 180 minus your age (plus several corrections) you get your “aerobic maximum heart rate.” To build your aerobic fitness (i.e., your endurance), your heart rate should never exceed this number. Most runners use the Maffetone Method for their base training phase, not allowing their heart rate to spike over this “aerobic maximum.” Read more at https://philmaffetone.com/180-formula/

Calculate your max heart rate BPM (beats per minute) by deducting your age from 180, then adjust as necessary:

  • Recovering from illness or on medication? Subtract 10.
  • Frequently sick or regressed in training? Subtract 5.
  • Been training regularly for 2 years without problems? Add 5.

Use a heart rate monitor while you run to make sure you don’t exceed this rate. Stay 0-10 beats below it. The low heart rate ensures that the body remains in the aerobic zone and does not enter the anaerobic zone. With sustained practice the body becomes efficient and performs faster with better stamina with a lower heart rate.

The Pitfalls.    There is a legion of followers out there…and there is a nay sayer lobby too. The biggest problem is the pace….it is excruciatingly and boringly slow…results take time…patience is a prerequisite. Besides this strength, mobility and flexibility take a back seat….The other big question ….should you run for a 100 days continuously ? In our opinion the benefits outweigh the chances of injury/fatigue ….if done scientifically. Be realistic in your planning with easy days built into the training program…and…listen to your body.

The How to of the Maffetone Method – NOT a training programme !

  •  Heart Rate Monitor. Buy a good heart rate monitor. Preferably one which beeps / vibrates when your heart rate spikes above your aerobic maximum he art rate. Garmin, Tom Tom and Polar are good options.
  • Max Aerobic Threshold. Find out your threshold heart rate using the 180 formula.
  • The Training Programme. There is no training programme ! Phil Maffetone does not recommend running by distance or pace. Instead he advises to run by time targets increased gradually over the weeks as per your fitness and planned race while keeping the HR below the specified threshold. For starters run for min 40 mins done at least three/four times a week. The method must be followed for minimum three/four weeks to see initial results. Make your individualized training program based upon the experience gained. Overall the initial or aerobic training phase for a marathon/half marathgon is two to three months depending upon the runner. More guidelines at https://philmaffetone.com/personalize-your-training/
  • Measuring Your progress – Maximum Aerobic function Test (MAF) test. It is important to track your progress both for motivation and mid-course correction. Warm up appropriately. Run 5 Km at your max aerobic heart rate and record it. Perform the same test, at the same time on the same route after three weeks to check your progress. You should be able to see a marked improvement in your MAF timings and subsequently in your race timings.
  • Warm up for 15 Mins. We all skip warm-ups quite often. This is a deal-breaker in the world of Maffetone. Your heart rate with immediately spike and it will be difficult to bring down. Warm up gently and slowly bring-up your heart rate to see best results.
  • The Pace. This is the most difficult part. It is excruciatingly difficult to keep heart rate below the set threshold at your natural pace. You need to curb your natural pace drastically to do so. In my case I had to cut down my natural 4:40 – 4:50 min/km pace to 6:30+min/km pace. Some may have to run even slower ! It is okay to take a walk break to bring down your HR !
  • Pro-Tip : Nose Breathing. An excellent way for keeping your pace and your HR in control is nose breathing. Difficult at first, it soon becomes second nature for running at slow paces. The added bonus – efficient breathing while running !
  • Results take three to four weeks before showing. Speed / tempo runs are not recommended in the initial phase. And since you will be bored to tears – it is very tempting to give up this method. A Maffetone  Facebook group, intelligent use of social media or a running buddy helps greatly.
  • Cadence and Running Form. They suffer because of the slow pace. Incorporate one/two workouts for the same after the first three weeks.

There you have it – the distilled wisdom about the Maffetone Method for improving endurance. I am going to do it this summer. How about you ?……Happy Feet

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Gee Ess has been following the Maffetone Method of Running for a while now, constantly improving and learning from his experience. This blog on Maffetone Running is his knowledge sharing for the runners who want to try new methods in the pursuit of becoming better and better informed runners.

Always looking for the next big high -physical, social, intellectual or spiritual, Gee Ess got hooked onto endurance running with ADHM 2014. A multitude of full and half marathons since then, he enjoys penning down the intriguing nuances of running that go beyond and hit the mind of a runner.

 First you feel like dying…..then you are reborn


  • Gee Ess
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    Always looking for the next big high -physical, social, intellectual or spiritual, Gee Ess got hooked onto endurance running with ADHM 2014. Having run many full and half marathons, he enjoys penning down the intriguing nuances of running that go beyond and hit the mind of a runner.

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Neeraj Vishwakarma May 2, 2017 - 2:55 am

It was a wonderful article ,I am basically a new barefoot runner who uses at Max strava to log runs.
I really love to run when it is mixed with experimentation and information. With this 100 days of Running challenge going on , I have been advised to run slow for next one month to handle blisters in forefoot.
So I think it would be great time to implement above theory to practice. So can u please email me the PDF. That would be of great benefit.

Thanking you in advance

Amit Makkar May 2, 2017 - 4:34 am

Thanks Gee Ess, I am also working on endurance and Am sure it will help

Vivek Priyadarshi May 4, 2017 - 8:13 am

Hi Gee Ess, I also followed the Maffetone way of running during last year’s #100daysofrunning and achieved good improvement in my HM and marathon timings. Am following the Maffetone way / aerobic running during current #100daysofrunning too and hope to further improve timings in the ADHM / SCMM. I too endorse your views in this article, which is indeed very well written. Congratulations!!

SANTOSH KUMAR May 11, 2017 - 10:31 pm

Very informative post, I will keep on reading you.

Gee Ess May 12, 2017 - 6:05 am

Thanks Santosh Kumar. Hope it works for you. Would love to hear your feedback.

Yogesh Satoskar September 28, 2018 - 7:36 pm

Thanks. A very well structured article. I have started using the method just a week back. My coach told me to run 60, 70 and 80 mins on 3 days a week and increase by 10 mins next week at max aerobic HR band which in my case is 120 to 130. I hope I see some real improvement in coming weeks.

Sohini Sen July 14, 2020 - 12:35 pm

Have started doing the Maff method this summer. Like you said, it is boring. And I realized everytime I am conscious of my heart rate… it goes up. But it has only been a few weeks.. So hopefully, will be able to control it better.


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