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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don't know if anybody has heard of Phil Maffetone but he is fairly popular with the running crowd. He has a HR based training method that relies more or less purely on base training in the aerobic zone. Claims many of his runners achieve PR's and significant competition gains purely from training at or slightly below the "max aerobic HR" which is derived from his own formula (180-age along with a few points added or subtracted for injury or over training history).

In any case, one of his claims is that his method will not work if during the base building period (3 months and sometimes as long as 6 months), if there is ANY anaerobic work done including weightlifting. I am wondering if there is any evidence that small amounts of anaerobic work during the base period will disrupt the gains achieved from base training.
 

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I don't have an answer for your specific question, but a program using a HR formula based on a constant is a giant red flag for me. Humans aren't built consistently enough for that to be any more than vague estimate that is useless for a whole lot of people. For example, that formula would put my "max aerobic HR" (aka aerobic threshold) at 127bpm, which is 40+bpm below where my actual aerobic threshold is. For me, 127bpm is a recovery ride effort level. Maybe less than that.
 

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Running coach here that is very familiar with the MAF method, having used it myself and with some of my athletes.

The MAF method was developed by Phil mainly for overall health. It is prescribed to help people build healthy aerobic function for overall wellness, avoiding inflammation, overtraining and injuries; it's original purpose was not to train high-level athletes. However, given the prevalence of overtraining, poor training methods, misunderstandings, etc. it has been used with great success by many athletes, including elite athletes like triathlete Mark Allen. It is particularly useful for ultra-endurance athletes but useful for base building for any sport as well.

The MAF formula is NOT predicting aerobic threshold, but the target HR for maximum aerobic benefit. The formula was developed by looking at thousands of athletes' data. As with any generic formula, it does apply to everyone. If you do not have an actual lab test or significant data to predict your actual HR zones, then MAF is a great tool to use. BUT, if you have a valid lab test, the MAF zone would be Zone 2 in a 5 zone system.

The MAF method works because it focuses on building a solid and healthy aerobic function, avoiding the potential for overtraining and injury by avoiding the workouts that contribute to those issues (like anaerobic-style workouts). It does require significant volume for this method to work. What is significant? Likely a minimum of 6 hours/week (of running) and increasing significantly over time, depending on your starting fitness and gains.

Now to the question. Generally, aerobic strength/anaerobic pathways are different and do conflict with each other. It is somewhat difficult to build both aerobic and strength capacity at the same time. However, this statement must be put in context. A bodybuilder will not be doing any aerobic work as it will decrease the strength response. But endurance athletes like us are not trying to get every last bit of strength gains, and there are other significant benefits of strength training (like resilience, injury prevention, efficiency) so doing some strength and aerobic work at the "same time" is still useful. "Same time" should generally not be within a few hours, but should be separated by maybe 8+ hours. Anaerobic training is more similar to strength pathways, so it also can interfere with aerobic work. Again, context is important here. A sound program will have some months of aerobic base training, with no anaerobic work. At some point, anaerobic training is added to build the high-end of the engine; aerobic work continues to maintain that base, not so much to build it further. But again, separating workouts will also minimize any interference.

SO, following the MAF method requires using the MAF formula, doing ONLY aerobic training, and regular MAF tests until you see a plateau in progress, at which point you can add anaerobic training. This is not too dissimilar to, but mostly just more strict, implementation of a typical periodization plan that starts with base building for some months. MAF just makes it more clear and easy to follow with rules. While I would not say that a small amount of strength or anaerobic training will ruin the MAF method, it might have some small negative impact. Ultimately, it depends on your goals and starting point. In my coaching, I typically include a few weeks of strength training and small amount of base, then more to more focused base (aerobic) training period of a few months that include some strength training a couple days a week, and a couple weeks a month. Then adding intensity based on the target events.

TL;DR No, small amounts of strength training will not invalidate MAF training, but may have some small negative impact.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Great post DouglyssRuns. Do you think the MAF works simply because it inspires people to add a lot more volume or is there something magical in the structure? In other words, if we held volume constant, is it any better than a 80/20 polarized structure for competition?
 

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Great question. 2 part answer.
First, it works really well in two cases. 1. For someone new to aerobic training. 2. For someone that seems fit because they are doing lots of intensity and are probably even good at shorter distances, but really suffer going longer. They often falsely assume that intensity is best or let ego dictate training and miss getting enough aerobic development, which ultimately limits their potential.
Second, 80/20 and MAF/base training are not separate. 80/20 is a fabulous approach. But you can't start at 80/20; you start at 100/0 building a strong base, then move up to 80/20 over time. The base is critical to build the intensity on top of, will improve your ability to recover between intervals and between days, and builds resilience. Every year you should start back and furthering your base again. You are never "done" building aerobic function. Use periodization to alter your workouts throughout the seasons, using workouts more similar to that target event as you get closer to the event.
 

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"I started to realise that all those people who say they know, they actually don’t know. Many of them don’t know, and especially those who say that they know, don’t know, because those who do know say that they don’t know". Anne Kiesenhofer, 2021 Olympic road champion.

Takes a bit to parse that quote.

In sports physiology nobody is sure about anything. There is no way anybody can know with any degree of confidence that strength training will interfere with other training. You can theorize, it but a good solid controlled test is nearly impossible to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I should also add that I'm not speaking specifically about weight training but any anaerobic training during the base building phase. Over the last couple years, I've been mostly polarised 80/20 but that is really only in the middle of the season. During the winter, I am closer to 90/10 or even 95/5. I have found that small amounts of anaerobic work helps me transition to the season quicker than no anaerobic work. Also, I tend to do more weights in the winter.

But the strictness of Maffetone's program got me wondering if the anaerobic work might be hindering peak performance even if the transition period is shorter. Perhaps there is not a solid answer to this question as LMN points out.
 

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I don't have an answer for your specific question, but a program using a HR formula based on a constant is a giant red flag for me. Humans aren't built consistently enough for that to be any more than vague estimate that is useless for a whole lot of people. For example, that formula would put my "max aerobic HR" (aka aerobic threshold) at 127bpm, which is 40+bpm below where my actual aerobic threshold is. For me, 127bpm is a recovery ride effort level. Maybe less than that.
I'm not sure how you are recovering or accelerating your recover at 127bpm. Assuming your MHR is at 170-185, that's zone 2. Which is a zone you should be riding 80% of the time.

Training with power and ignoring HR is a great way to OT. HR irregularity is a first sign of fatigue and should be more of a reason to monitor HR over power.
 

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In sports physiology nobody is sure about anything. There is no way anybody can know with any degree of confidence that strength training will interfere with other training. You can theorize, it but a good solid controlled test is nearly impossible to do.
This is a bit much. Gravity is still a theory and hasn't been proven to be a physical law. Are you going to jump off a building though?

We might not know everything in sports science with total 100% certainty but we know some things very well. Mostly just from coaches and athletes figuring things out.

Extremely hard anaerobic work and aerobic work are mutually exclusive. You can't be in shape to win the olympic match sprint and the olympic road race at the same time. Not possible.

when I mean anaerobic work, i'm thinking < 20 second efforts at maximum intensity. The kind of speed workouts most endurance athletes cant even comprehend in terms of intensity. These workouts are extremely taxing. olympic T&F sprinter typically take 1 min rest for every second they sprint during their hardest interval workouts. They might do 4 x 20 second sprints in one of these workouts and have to take the next three days easy. This type of workout will counteract any aerobic work you do and is mostly useless for endurance athletes in terms of very high risk/reward.

What most endurance consider "anaerobic" is anything that makes breathe hard and feel acutely bad. or above the lactic threshold or whatever metric you want to use. think anything over 30 second in length that you do for a long time. Even a 4 min interval, hard as your can, is like 90% aerobic. However, if you do too much of this work you fall off a cliff.

anyways, I'll stop my rant now.
 

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I'm not sure how you are recovering or accelerating your recover at 127bpm. Assuming your MHR is at 170-185, that's zone 2. Which is a zone you should be riding 80% of the time.

Training with power and ignoring HR is a great way to OT. HR irregularity is a first sign of fatigue and should be more of a reason to monitor HR over power.
My Max HR is 189. An extended FTP-level effort has me around 170. 155 is moderate tempo effort I can maintain for hours. 127 is not much above zero effort for me. This is how my body operates, and I'm not new at this. Also, I'm a lot of years past trying to train my body for max performance. I'm currently 52 years old. At the peak of my fitness in my early-30's, my max was 207, and I could do extended efforts in the low-190s.
 

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This is a bit much. Gravity is still a theory and hasn't been proven to be a physical law. Are you going to jump off a building though?

We might not know everything in sports science with total 100% certainty but we know some things very well. Mostly just from coaches and athletes figuring things out.

Extremely hard anaerobic work and aerobic work are mutually exclusive. You can't be in shape to win the olympic match sprint and the olympic road race at the same time. Not possible.

when I mean anaerobic work, i'm thinking < 20 second efforts at maximum intensity. The kind of speed workouts most endurance athletes cant even comprehend in terms of intensity. These workouts are extremely taxing. olympic T&F sprinter typically take 1 min rest for every second they sprint during their hardest interval workouts. They might do 4 x 20 second sprints in one of these workouts and have to take the next three days easy. This type of workout will counteract any aerobic work you do and is mostly useless for endurance athletes in terms of very high risk/reward.

What most endurance consider "anaerobic" is anything that makes breathe hard and feel acutely bad. or above the lactic threshold or whatever metric you want to use. think anything over 30 second in length that you do for a long time. Even a 4 min interval, hard as your can, is like 90% aerobic. However, if you do too much of this work you fall off a cliff.

anyways, I'll stop my rant now.
Perfect text book example of how to train Anerobic-alactic capacity.

Except in the real world match sprinters train in many different ways. Some train like you described, others are doing solid endurance sessions between intervals, others are doing intervals back to back. Success comes from many different ways.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
It's interesting that some of the proponents of the aerobic first training methods (I guess collectively called "The Lydiard Way") say to avoid anaerobic workouts during the base building period but are ok with all out sub-10 second sprints dispersed through an otherwise easy run. It seems these are not considered anaerobic and can be used throughout the year. This just gets more confusing the more I read lol.
 

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are you referring to race pace or just daily riding? Holding anything above 160 bpm is pretty tough for long periods of time, even 160 is pretty hard. Assuming that riders does not take drugs.
This varies widely from person to person...even without drugs.

For you, 160 might be a pretty hard effort. For me right now, 160 is a "tempo" kind of effort that I can maintain for a long time. For me 20 years ago, 160 was considered pretty easy. Me being able to maintain a higher HR doesn't mean better or worse. Our bodies are just wired a little differently.
 

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This varies widely from person to person...even without drugs.

For you, 160 might be a pretty hard effort. For me right now, 160 is a "tempo" kind of effort that I can maintain for a long time. For me 20 years ago, 160 was considered pretty easy. Me being able to maintain a higher HR doesn't mean better or worse. Our bodies are just wired a little differently.
Well i was referring to the pace of the ride I can do 160 easy in daily casual riding but in race its different.
 

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Well i was referring to the pace of the ride I can do 160 easy in daily casual riding but in race its different.
You are talking about what you can do. My point is that HRs for people vary, and sometimes it's by a lot. You said "160bpm is pretty tough for long periods of time". That may well be the case for you, and that's fine. That's how your body works. A couple of days ago, I did one of my local rides that includes a pretty demanding 30min climb. My average HR for that climb was 171, with a max of 179. I was not pushing as hard as I would in a race.
 

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You are talking about what you can do. My point is that HRs for people vary, and sometimes it's by a lot. You said "160bpm is pretty tough for long periods of time". That may well be the case for you, and that's fine. That's how your body works. A couple of days ago, I did one of my local rides that includes a pretty demanding 30min climb. My average HR for that climb was 171, with a max of 179. I was not pushing as hard as I would in a race.
Then I guess keep doing what you doing? 😀🍟🍔
 
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