Heart Rate Training

I tried heart rate training when I first started running in the early 2000’s.

It was terrible.

Terrible like the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

The straps rubbed you raw, you looked like an idiot running with a shirt off, and who knew what to do with the data.

There were charts for calculating your training zones based upon heart rate but at the time it was based off calculating your max heart rate of 220 minus your age.  Don’t get me started on 220 minus your age.

The highest heart rate I ever saw in training or racing was 179 bpm at 25 years old when the formula predicted it should have been 195.


But now I’m back at it after hearing friends (1) with success stories of using the Maffetone method.

Guess what?

It’s actually worse now.

Not because of the straps.  The new Garmins have the heart rate monitor built into the watch and they are pretty accurate.

It’s worse because the Maffetone method requires you to run for months without exceeding a maximum aerobic heart rate in training.  For me, that’s 135bpm.

For most runs, that’s about a 60-90 seconds slower per mile than my preferred comfortable pace.  That also means walking most hills.

Maffetone and his adherents (including 6x Kona Champion Mark Allen) say that eventually your body adapts and you will be running race pace at that same heart rate.

Mark has said in interviews he started at 8:15 per mile pace at his aerobic heart rate and eventually became so fit that he later ran 5:20 per mile pace at the same heart rate.

It almost sounds too good to be true.  But I can attest to the fact that there’s nothing good about the first month or two.

It’s 100% annoying.

I’m giving it three months.


Have you had luck with this method?  Please let me know your experience in the comments.



(1) One “Idiot” friend says it worked for him and he just ran a sub 18 hour hundred.  He also said it’s terrible for the first few months.

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2 thoughts on “Heart Rate Training

  • February 15, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    Eric, this is a training method that I’ve struggled with, even while doing it, but these last couple weeks? It has all come together! I’m running strong, steady, and while the pace is not fast enough for awards in half marathons, that same pace will nail some BIG wins in 50k’s. It took me 18 months m/l to get it right, and it took some adjusting of zones as my zone 2 originally was too high, but once we got it right it all came together. I don’t know how it works for shorter distances, but for endurance running, I’m a big believer.

    • February 16, 2016 at 11:24 pm

      Thank you for sharing this Kris. Very cool to hear it’s working so well for you.

      How did you and your coach originally come up with your zone 2? And how did you decide to lower it? Sounds like it was a good idea.

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