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What is MAF training?

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What is MAF training?

MAF stands for Maximum Aerobic Function.

MAF training is a system that combines training intensity, nutrition and supplementation, and stress management to keep the body in an “aerobic” state despite the influences of modern times.

A well-functioning “aerobic” system leads to:

  • Burning more body fat for fuel with a leaner body as a result.
  • Increased overall energy and stable brain function.
  • Greater endurance, strength, speed and physical fitness.
  • Injury and disease prevention.
  • And many other improvements in all areas of life!

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What is the MAF zone training?

MAF zone training is a training philosophy developed over many years by Dr Phil Maffetone as a way to reduce injuries in runners while maximising the benefits of their training.

Dr Maffetone observed that there was a correlation between reduced running economy and a heart rate that corresponded to approximately 180 minus the age of the athlete. 

Calculate your MAF training Zone

This training method focuses on improving the function of the aerobic system, the fat-burning engine responsible for fuelling all of the body’s needs. It usually requires that athletes slow down in the first few weeks of training to stay within the calculated range. 

This method is often viewed as a very conservative approach to training, but it does work and its long term benefits far outweigh the short term blows to the athlete’s ego. 

Other benefits are reduced injury rates (especially in runners) and a reduction in days lost to due to illness.

While it is very beneficial to strictly stay within the calculated MAF zone, it is not set in stone. It should be noted that a difference of 1 beat of the heart will not mean that the body has shifted from burning fat to burning carbohydrate.

The body will adapt to the training stimulus and improve in terms of efficiency and economy of movement. The MAF range is, however, a very good starting point.

Efficiency improvements will mean burning more fat (percentage-wise) at higher heart rates.

The economy of movement improvements will mean faster paces at the same heart rate.

Using a heart rate monitor makes MAF training a lot easier.

We whole-heartedly advocate the use of the POLAR brand of Heart Rate Monitors.
(See what I did there?)   

Training in your MAF zone is only a part of the strategy to build up the body and keep improving its efficiency. 

These topics will be discussed in other blog posts.

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Why use the MAF training Zone?

There are many good reasons for slowing your training paces down as well as increasing the amount of submaximal training you do for endurance events.
More and more, you will read or hear coaches say that you should “slow down to go fast”.
While there is a need to train at other intensities other than MAF, there appears that the amount of training in these zones is far less than was generally accepted. 

There is much debate about HIIT training and “Reverse Periodisation” and their effectiveness in boosting race performances. We agree, they are useful protocols, but that should you not be sufficiently aerobically developed, you will limit the benefits you could derive from these.

We believe that the athletes deriving the most benefit from these protocols have many years of aerobic conditioning in their past. All too often, the results we see today negate the groundwork put in during the development phases of the athletes’ evolution from novice to advanced. Far too many athletes want to mimic the training regimes of the most successful athletes without developing the skills, physical and physiological adaptations that these advanced athletes have had to accomplish to develop into the athletes that they are now.

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There is are many benefits to slowing your training paces down.

Spending more time training slower, in our experience, has benefited our athletes more than adding more and more intensity to their weekly training schedules.

There are many sports training theories that work but we feel that we achieve our goals for our athletes more consistently by coaching them to adopt MAF-friendly choices and doing the vast majority of their training in their MAF training zone.

Coach Shamus

Coaching since 1993, Coach Shamus has both theoretical knowledge and practical experience in triathlon having represented his country at the world championships on many occasions. He has competed in all distances from Sprint to Full Ironman and still, after more than 30 years of training and competing, gets excited to wake up and meet the team on the pool deck.

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