Friday, October 11, 2013

MAF Test and Training Summary

On the Facebook group, and people I am coaching we have a few participants doing an aerobic test called a MAF test.  Some are logging their performance here LINK.

The 180 Formula (To find the maximum aerobic heart rate):

1. Subtract your age from 180 (180 – age).

2. Modify this number by selecting a category below that best matches your health profile:
a. If you have, or are recovering from, a major illness (heart disease, high blood pressure, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or you are taking medication, subtract an additional 10.
b. If you have not exercised before or have been training inconsistently or injured, have not recently progressed in training or competition, or if you get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, or have allergies, subtract an additional 5.
c. If you’ve been exercising regularly (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems listed in a or b, keep the number (180 – age) the same.
d. If you have been competing for more than two years duration without any of the problems listed above, and have improved in competition without injury, add 5. 
 For example, if you are 30 years old and fit into category b: 
180 – 30 = 150, then 150 – 5 = 145.

During training, create a range of 10 beats below the maximum aerobic heart rate; in the example above, train between 135 and 145 staying as close to 145 as possible.  Track you MAF tests weekly or biweekly for 3 months.  When you see a plateau you can switch to speed days, hill climbs, real anaerobic stuff. *

Perform the MAF Test on a track, (or repeatable surface) running at the maximum aerobic heart rate. A one- to five-mile test, with each one-mile interval recorded, provides good data. The test should be done following an easy 12–15 minute warm up, and be performed about every month throughout the year. Below is a 5-mile MAF Test of a runner training at a heart rate of 150:

 Distance Time (min:sec)
 Mile 1     8:21
 Mile 2     8:27
 Mile 3     8:38
 Mile 4     8:44
 Mile 5     8:49

During an MAF Test, it is normal for the running times to slow each mile – the first mile should be the fastest and the last the slowest. If this is not the case, it may indicate the lack of an effective warm up. In addition, the test should show faster times as the weeks and months pass. For example, over a four month period, we can see the endurance progress in the same runner from the above MAF Test. Note the aerobic speed improvement between April and July:

             April   May    June   July
 Mile 1   8:21   8:11    7:57   7:44
 Mile 2   8:27   8:18    8:05   7:52
 Mile 3   8:38   8:26    8:10   7:59
 Mile 4   8:44   8:33    8:17   8:09
 Mile 5   8:49   8:39    8:24   8:15

This improvement is typical during the aerobic base period. Some improve at a faster rate, others slower.  Most importantly, if you’re not improving within a three- or six-month period, it means something is wrong.  It may be a dietary or nutritional factor, excess stress, overtraining (such as too many miles), etc. In some cases, it may be the maximum aerobic heart rate is too high (often from choosing the wrong category in the 180 Formula).  Moreover, a reversal of aerobic function, i.e., slowing of aerobic pace during base training, may indicate an impending injury – enough of a reason to perform the MAF Test regularly.

Progress should continue in some form for three to six months or more before aerobic benefits may reach a normal plateau. Adding anaerobic work to the schedule before this plateau may impair (and ultimately even reverse) further aerobic progress.

The greatest benefit of the MAF Test is that it objectively demonstrates aerobic improvement in the form of aerobic speed. These changes also reflect competitive improvement.

© 2007 Philip Maffetone

*If you see NO improvements over 2 or 3 MAF tests, there's something in your training, diet or other stressors that is affecting your aeorbic performance.  email me and we'll figure it out! 


  1. Quick question. MAF training means I should keep my HR at 180 - age flat all the time? no tempo, no interval, speedwork?

  2. that's right, keep heart rate low for a while. for example, you have a race ~24 weeks away - spend 8weeks at this low HR, then 8weeks as if you're training for a 5km (with sprints, intervals), then 8 weeks race specific training.

    if you've never done a base building period before now, keep chugging along at that pace. (feel free to go up +5 to +10 beats per min) look for hills, you'll have to more legs fast on downhills and power hike on uphills.

    if you have no races planned and feel experimental, do a base building period until you don't see any more improvement in your MAF tests.

    1. I made a switch from Asics shoes to Huaraches read about MAF from barefoot forum and train with MAF +0 around July 2012 for 3 months. It felt good but the problem is my body got used to 12min/mile (Pace at MAF HR) to the point that it's so hard to run 10min/mile.

      despite the fact that my speed got worse and very small improvement over 3 months (better pace at MAF HR). I gave up MAF method and just run as I like sometimes with normal training plan

  3. if you see no progress - you're a good candidate to change it up more. make every run MAF+10 for 2 weeks, retest. then two weeks varying MAF, then MAF+5, MAF+10 mixed in to every run.

    also a good strengthening plan will help. squats and or deadlifts before a run, steep uphill treadmill walks,stuff like that.