After years of following and sharing the Maffetone Method (low heart rate training), the number of questions I’m getting about it seems to be on the rise. More of you are coming to my way of thinking, mwhahahaaaa.
It’s so simple that it genuinely feels confusing or impossible!
BUT, now you’re starting to understand that Low Heart Rate runs might just be the easiest way to break free of your ego around pace and actually run easy enough to get the benefit of easy runs.
Here is an overview of the basics on LHR: you calculate your max heart rate from a provided formula and then use it as threshold for all of your workouts.
I’ve written a lot about this topic because I’m passionate about the benefits that I and many of my athletes have seen, so for more details on the basics read these:
- How to calculate your max HR of Maffetone or LHR method
- Low Heart Rate Training Plans
- More details on WHY and benefits of following low heart rate for everyone
- My personal results after just 4 months (PR without speed work)
- Results from other LHR athletes
Benefits of a low heart rate training plan?
Go slow to get fast. That’s the carrot at the end of the stick which draws so many in to this idea, but of course there’s so much more it than that.
Again read the original article, but in short, the benefits include:
- Burning fat for fuel
- Creating a solid aerobic base for training
- Running faster with less effort
- Prevent overtraining
- Maintaining hormonal balance (less stress)
All right, now we’ve touched on the what and the why, let’s dive in to the how.Tired of breaking down during every marathon training cycle? Maybe it's time to explore Low Heart Rate Training #running Click To Tweet
Tired of reading about all this?? I also did a Facebook Live to answer your questions!
How to implement a low heart rate training plan?
Trust me, this is going to seem WAY too simple in comparison to your normal training plan with all kinds of workout variety. But we aren’t actually talking about no variety, if you read Matt Fitzgerald’s amazing book 80/20, you’ll see that EASY running is a standard of all great runners.
Low heart rate training I have found is a way to help runners understand what it means to run easy.
Instead of being driving by pace, you now let your body tell you exactly how hard you’re working by following your heart rate. The very basic of that being:
180-your age= max HR for all workouts while base building
Beyond base building, we know that easy running is HUGELY beneficial for all the reasons I listed above. So if you wanted to test out low heart rate training or learning to run easy, what would a training plan look like?
- Find a training plan that will help guide you in terms of total mileage for your goal race.
- Complete the miles listed, but NEVER going above your calculated max HR. That basically means you’re doing the miles, but not the speed workouts.
- If you go above max HR during a run, you immediately transition to a walk. Give your HR time to come back down and then you can begin to run again.
- You may need to cut down some of the miles initially if you find that even with walk breaks you’re HR is going too high.
- No cross training can be done above your max HR.
- NEVER go above your max HR…no zone training, it’s literally just getting close to max, but never going over.
Yes it’s really that straightforward!
Maffetone Training Plans
One of the big things I’ve heard from you over and over is that it stinks there are no specific training plans for you to follow. How do you know when you can add in some speed work or how many miles to run each week?
I decided to do my best in helping you solve that problem!
You can now download Low Heart Rate Training plans for both beginner and intermediate runners in both the half marathon and full marathon!
Common Questions on LHR Training
A few more of the questions you’ve asked…
But I’m so slow?!
Yes starting out you are going to have to slow down. This is you finally allowing your body to create a solid aerobic base. By the end of 8-10 weeks, you should see that you are running your previous pace or faster at LHR.
My HR spikes initially?
You aren’t warming up enough or your watch is funky. For some reason, occasionally you’ll find the HR reading is off the first mile, but that’s something you’ll learn with time as you get more used to running by feel. If it’s always that the first mile your HR jumps way up, you need to spend more time on the warm up.
Your first mile should actually be about 10 beats below your max, so spend plenty of time walking and doing dynamic movements before you even begin a light run. All of this will help you run farther with less energy over time.
Can I do any speed workouts?
Initially no because that is going to push your HR. After a minimum of 8-10 weeks at LHR you can try a couple of things:
A. Hop on a treadmill with a decline feature and use that to allow you to pick up the pace. This will keep your HR down, while allowing you to practice leg turn over.
B. Try adding just 1 short speed workout each week. That might be 5 x 1 minute sprints the first week or a little bit of a speed play workout. If you notice a decrease in your energy levels or that your other runs are getting slower at LHR, it’s time to cut this back out because you haven’t built enough of a base.
What if I can’t get my HR up to my maximum?
If you’re in your 20’s this is far more likely. A 160 HR for me requires really pushing the pace, while 144 (my current max) is a great everyday run pace right now.
If you’re 30 and older finding yourself struggling to get close to your max HR, that’s often a sign you’re already over trained. A low resting heart rate is good only to a certain point, then it’s a sign that your body is so overtaxed it can’t perform. This could be from a lot of intense workouts, dehydration or poor nutrition.
What do you use to measure HR?
Never ever use the cardio machines, they’re unreliable and while you’re holding on you’re changing your HR. I’ve reviewed a number of watches over the years, but swear by all of the new one’s that do HR through the wrist strap. Here is a detailed review of the options for measuring HR on your runs.
Isn’t this just using Heart Rate Zones?
Nope, it’s way simpler than that. You have basically two zones….below your max and over your max. Boom done. That’s it. Here’s more info on training with heart rate zones, this is not that.
I’m Over 40…50…60, so this is impossible.
Ok usually this is more of a statement to me than a question, but it’s inaccurate and I wanted to address it. Is it harder to keep your HR down to say 120, yes…but also your average HR is lower as you age, so there’s that.
- This is where a coach might be far more helpful
- You may need to do a test to find your current max
- You may indeed need to spend a few months slowing down and rebuilding
- You may need to have some patience and work through a bit of a plateau
- If you’ve been doing it awhile with no progress, then time to evaluate, diet, sleep and stress
- If you’re doing things right, might need to reconfigure the HR by doing some other run tests which a coach can help you figure out
- Try getting an actual VO2MAx test, though I’d prefer a metabolic test. This will define your cross over point much better.
Following are a few of the tools and resources that will help you to truly implement easy running:
- Read Matt Fitzgerald’s book 80/20
- Read Maffetones The Big Book of Endurance Training
- Get a great GPS watch with accurate HR monitoring
- Join our group coaching program so you can have a coach answer questions and help you figure out what style of training will most benefit you
Have you tried LHR?
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