Low Heart Rate Training works!

James Young · May 11, 2015

In late March, I decided to change over my exercise regime to use the Maffetone Method - a low heart rate training regime intended to increase aerobic capacity.  Essentially, you ensure that all your exercise stays within a specific heart rate range, and never break out of that range - even if you have to walk to stay in it. The theory is that as your aerobic capacity increases, the intensity of activity you can sustain and stay within that heart range will also increase (ie, you get faster and faster at the same heart rate).

Take a look at this.  It’s a Strava matched run set from a bunch of runs I’ve done on the same route since November;

LHR Progress Chart, Nov '14 - May '15<figcaption id="caption-attachment-815" class="wp-caption-text">LHR Progress Chart, Nov ‘14 - May ‘15</figcaption></figure>


Point A corresponds to a run in January at nearly the same pace as today’s run (point D).  That run was done at a much higher average and peak heart rate than today.  Point B corresponds to my fastest ever run on that course, which had an average heart rate of 161.  Point C is where I first started LHR training, hence the massive dive in pace.

Now, you can clearly see that since starting LHR training, there’s been a continual improvement in pace over time, and the pace line is overtaking previous paces done without regard to low heart rate.

In short, low heart rate training works.  I’m running more often, further, with less injuries and fatigue, and I’m getting faster and faster.  At this rate, it won’t be long before I’m meeting or exceeding my previous best times - at a target heart rate that’s comfortable and sustainable.

That all said, the Maffetone method is pretty humiliating when you start off, you’re practically having to walk and being overtaken by everyone.  It requires determination and grit to stick with it.  But at that graph above shows, it works in the end.

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