MAF running training: what is it?

If you read my running journal post last week, you may have seen that I made reference to “MAF training”. I thought I would explain a bit more about what that is, and my experiences with it.

I first read about MAF training on one of my favourite blogs, Runs for Cookies. Essentially, it’s a way of training your aerobic system based on your heart rate. The idea is that when you’re exercising, most of us go too hard for “easy runs”, or whatever training session we’re focusing on – we over-train. The MAF system helps to prevent that, while increasing your aerobic base. The goal is that when you’re out for a run, don’t go above your maximum aerobic heart rate.

How to calculate your max aerobic heart rate:

The MAF system is based on a calculation method:

To find your maximum aerobic training heart rate, there are two important steps.

  • Subtract your age from 180.
  • Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:

a) If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.

b) If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.

c) If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems in (a) and (b), keep the number (180–age) the same.

d) If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems in (a) and (b), and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.


My experience:

When I first started training in this method, it was because Katie of Runs for Cookies talked about enjoying her runs again since starting with it. That’s what wanted. I was sick of spending the entire time gasping for air and convincing myself to keep going. Really, I felt like I just wanted to curl up in a heap and die – definitely not an enjoyable run! I was trying to keep up with Mario, and he was so far beyond my fitness level it just made it unappealing. The problem was that I loved running, and I wanted to rediscover the love for it.

At the time I started the training, fitness was not my friend. I had been struggling with injuries from over-training and hip issues, and I had run maybe once in the past month. I calculated my rate to be at 144. Not a problem, I thought. That’s a decent number.

Let me just say that the first time I went for a run, I was beyond humbled. I had to walk at certain points to keep my heart rate under 144, and it felt like I could only run for a minute or two at most. So many people overtook me, and I felt like everyone was judging me. It was frustrating, and I felt like such a failure!

Eventually, I learned to slow down, and was finally able to keep a consistent pace. I realised no one cared about what anyone else was doing.  Running became fun again. I could run and not stress about collapsing, or my lung feeling like it was going to burst out of my chest. I could listen to music and enjoy it, or zone out completely and think about life in general. My weight started to decrease, while at the same time my overall happiness started to climb. My pace started to increase. Because I was enjoying running, my stress decreased and I began to enjoy life again.

Then I had to stop.

My hips started playing up again (I hadn’t properly treated them at this point), and so I had to ease off the running and started walking long distances in the morning instead. The MAF training went on hold.

The plan for 2017:

I feel like I have got the worst of my hip issues behind me, thanks to yoga. I’m now feeling confident again about getting back into running, although taking it easy mind you!

I haven’t given myself a running goal this year to avoid any pressure. For the most part, 2017 is about just enjoying being out there again, and hopefully injury free!

But I’m a stats girl, and I love to see stats.

Thus I’m back doing the MAF training again (and loving it again already), but I’m easing into it. I’m tracking my mileage through my running journal to ensure I don’t overdo it straight up. There’s a few running races that I would love to do just because I enjoy them, but we’ll see how that pans out. The main two that I would to participate in are the Women’s International Day Fun Run (always a really beautiful run throughout Brisbane), and the Bridge to Brisbane. If there’s anyone out there that’s interested in joining me I’d love to organise a group! I won’t be going in competitively so time doesn’t matter at all, it’s just going in and having a great morning out.

Right now I’m using my Apple Watch to track my heart rate, and I still have my Garmin 920xt on standby. I plan on writing my review of the app that I’m using for my Apple Watch once I’ve really had a chance to work through all of the features.

I’ll be sure to report in on how my training is going, particularly with my pace times. Right now my average pace for a run sits around the 7.43/km, so there’s tons of room for improvement there.

If anyone else decides to give it a go, let me know!

2 thoughts on “MAF running training: what is it?”

  1. That was an interesting read Kel. I’d never heard of the MAF method and I think I’ll try it…one I get my knee sorted. I started Kayla Itsines fitness program through the week and the very first exercise (jumping squats) ‘ade me knee flare up and ache immediately. It’s been tender and sore all week. I think I should go back to Physio for it. But when it settles, I’m going to give MAF a go. It’s probably just what i need. Keep writing because I love your blogs 😃 Xo

    • Thanks Lis! Definitely give it a go, it’s been really good for my knee because I’m not pushing hard, changing direction suddenly etc.

      I’ve been interested in the Kayla Itsines programs, but I know I’d have to change it up because jump squats or anything lunges do NOT agree with my knees.


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