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“Not only are bloggers suckers for the remarkable, so are the people who read blogs .” - Seth Godin
More than 30 years ago, Dr. Phil Maffetone started training elite runners using low heart rates for most of their runs. After many successes, he wrote a book called "The Big Book of Endurance and Training", outlining his method called "Maffetone Training".
Maffetone Training is perfect for us older runners, building our aerobic capacity to add power and speed to our running without the typical painful, injury causing workouts perscribed by most training plans. This is accomplished with low heart rate training using the formula of: 180 - Your Age = Your maximum training heart rate (MAF). As a result of following this method, you will experience effortless, powerful running without chronic pain and injury as you get older.
Getting started with Maffetone Training is difficult at any age, but is especially challenging for those over the age of 60 when it comes to running efficiently at a low heart rate. Trying to run using a calculated MAF heart rate of 110-120 beats per minute is tough for most people. I know it was for me, but I figured it out. I am here to share my winning approach as well as my story.
My name is Herb Reeves. I'm a Maffetone Institute graduate and a running coach who works exclusively with runners in their 50's, 60's and 70's. I’m 67 now, but started off when I was around 62. Like most runners in this age group, when I started my Maffetone training, I had to walk even on level ground just to keep my heart rate down and maintain my calculated rate. As you may know, that in itself can be pretty tough. The standard approach is to just tough it out and keep having to walk with the hope that you’ll get there eventually. But that takes a long time and is very hard to stick with for months on end before you start seeing results.
I encountered that problem, too. My approach was to start at a higher heart rate. What I did then, and what I do now with all my clients, is to determine which heart rate to start at, specifically what we determine to be your slowest viable pace. This means starting off running, however slow, on level ground without jacking up your heartrate. The idea is to first get efficient at running slowly before diving into the Maffetone program.
Although its not a strict calculation, what I usually have people do is run at a slow pace by shortening their stride and increasing their cadence. Even if your heart rate is a little higher to begin with, it will start to decrease over time as you get more efficient at running slow with good form.
Once you get more efficient at running slowly, your heart rate will go down to what your MAF heart rate is. This rate may not exactly match the calculated one since things change drastically once you approach your sixties. Instead, we can select a heart rate to train with and focus on matching it or improving it.
For example, as a 67 year old, I’ve settled on using a rate of 125, and I’ve seen my running pace either improve or stay the same over the past few months. Even though I started at a higher heart rate, I wasn’t seeing it worsen over time. This approach does take some time though, depending on individual factors like a person’s efficiency for running slowly, their mobility, and diet. It can take one or two months to find your groove with this method, but it is effective.
This technique is so successful for us older runners, I developed a framework around it I call the Forever Runner method.
If you are interested in trying a new training method, one that will allow you to run with less effort and more power, without getting injured. I would be happy to talk to you about it. Click this link to schedule a complimentary coaching Zoom call with me. On the call we'll discuss your current training and see if low heart rate training is a good fit for you.
Want to learn more about the "Forever Runner Method"? Click Here to get my book!
Coach Herb is an ultrarunner, author and coach. Founder of the Forever Runner Method.