Part II – The Maffetone Method

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Time to jump right in to the continuing series on the case for low-intensity exercise.  As those who are familiar with me know, my stance on exercise has moved continually in the direction of higher intensity exercise after looking at everything from the vantage point of metabolic rate.  And, more and more research continues to pour in that shows that vigorous exercise will give you a lot more in terms of fitness, strength, fat loss, sex drive, aerobic capacity, growth hormone, and other factors associated with youth and athletic performance.  With a narrow and limited hormonal research perspective, there seems to be no compelling reason to do light activity at all.  In fact, it looks like something that should be avoided at all costs to get the best results.  Indeed the best explosive athletes are probably those with the poorest endurance as Mike Boyle suggests in a video that pretty much summarizes what my investigation has led to believe over the last several years…

But there are other ways of looking at this.  Phil Maffetone is one of the kings of old-school endurance training.  He was one of the early pioneers of using heart rate training and heart rate monitors to excel in endurance sports.  He originally got into it because of his interest in keeping people free from injuries and also free from having a run down immune system and worn out body.  In the interest of those pursuits, he was led towards training at much lower heart rates and building what’s generally known as an “aerobic base.”  His conclusions are more of the antithesis of the current trend towards higher intensities, and goes so far as to recommend exercise that is easy enough that when you’re done you should feel like you could turn right around and do the same workout again – if you wanted to. 

His method, described by Maffetone in Want Speed? Slow Down!, is to basically subtract your age from the glorious number 180, and maybe cut that back by another 5-10 if you are really out of shape or recovering from some illness.  And then, you try to train at that heart rate steadily.  Over time, the speed at which you travel at that heart rate should increase dramatically.  When training at this level you produce very little lactic acid, you are breathing moderately and not even having to open your mouth and suck in air, and you are not exerting at a level requiring any self-motivational tactics to push yourself any harder than that which is comfortable… more or less. 

In Diet Recovery 2 I talked about how building some base fitness by trying to increase speed and therefore overall work capacity in a set amount of time was probably a good way to make and track progress.  And it very well may be.  But it’s a little bit more of a crude measure of continual progress, as increases in effort can falsely show improvements in time when no real increase in fitness has occurred.  Maffetone’s method is much more precise, as you work at exactly the same intensity level every time, and then track speed.  If you increase your speed by 25% while working at the same heart rate level, that’s quite an improvement.  The idea is to get really fit without ever having to strain, and I have no doubt it works. 

Maffetone recommends spending 3-6 months working on attaining a strong base in this fashion, and then, after such a healthy base has been constructed, it is possible to segue into more intense anaerobic training – circuit training, interval training… that kind of thing.  He recommends this primarily for health, as those who aren’t prepared for anaerobic training but jump right in are the ones most likely to get ill and injured.  He’s probably on to something there. 

Plus, as I have discovered, I FEEL my best in a variety of ways from just generally being physically active on a daily basis doing a blend of light activities.  Of course, it is pretty natural for humans, and most animals, to spend a lot of time doing moderate activity, and this is one of the lifestyle traits of those with exceptional longevity (for whatever that’s worth, probably nothing as that’s really not a very good way to determine individual needs at all). 

Unfortunately Maffetone has gone on to overstate the benefits of his training methods by saying that people with a low respiratory quotient are healthier with lower rates of obesity and diabetes – not true, that refined carbohydrates impair performance when the most refined, rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates on earth are thought to be amongst the most powerful performance enhancers, and so on. 

But aside from any academic arguments, what matters, as an individual, is finding and doing what makes you feel good, is enjoyable, safe, empowering, uplifting, and effective.  And that is widely variable depending on an a person’s metabolism, exercise history, health, age, and more, which is why I’m taking the time in this series to help us remember the exercise options that have been left behind.  The Maffetone Method, for some, seems like the path of least resistance to substantial improvements in one’s fitness.  But I don’t know how much you can trust a guy who looks like Malfoy’s dad.


  1. great article, all training is specific to the results you are trying to achieve…

    • Agreed Lucy. And, I’d also add “…to the current state of the given individual”.

      Unfortunately, and this happens more often than not, some goals just do not lend themselves well to what a trainee can currently tolerate.

      Coach Abel put it best today on a FB post: “An exercise is only as good as the context within which it is implemented […] and a collection of workouts does not equate to an effective program-design.” – Some people get it – sadly – so many do not.”

      Simply substitute “program” for “exercise” in the first sentence, and that pretty much sums up what I am getting at :)

  2. Oh boy!! I’m number 2!! Number 2!! How cool! Yippee! Okay, maybe I need to back off the brownies or something, but I’m number 2! (not to be confused with BEING a number 2! thank you very much!!)

  3. I train for power-lifting and have recently included some light running into my training. I find it has really helped me to have some decent aerobic capacity both in the gym and outside of it. I really think everyone should be able to do some aerobic work, not endurance work, but I think it’s perfectly normal for humans to need to go somewhere on foot fairly quickly.

  4. When I was training for the 2011 Boston Marathon, I focused a lot on HR Training. I was 39 at the time and had been pretty healthy, so my number was 146. I tried to stay between 136 and 146 on my training runs…

    …which was REALLY challenging at first! It took a while to adjust and I spent a fair amount of time staring at my Garmin trying to make sure I didn’t spike up to 150. But, the more I did this, the faster I did get…I ended starting this running between 10:00-10:30/mi and I got it down to 9:30-10:00/mi. Interestingly, I was able to maintain +/- an 8:30 pace per mile up until the 30K mark…and then, well, not so much. ;-)

    If you’re willing to put the time in and don’t care about your time (as it relates to running), I would definitely suggest giving it a try. You could adapt it to any cardio activity, I suppose; it just so happened I was a runner when I stumbled up on.

    Thanks for touching on this, Matt. I like how you roll with the changes (quoting an REO Speedwagon song here, because I know how much you like the 80’s).

  5. This is all well and fine, but pales in comparison to the Waffletone method, which is my preferred method. Lift fork. Take large piece of buttery-syrupy waffle. Lift and insert into mouth. Chew vigorously. Repeat for as many reps as possible until nausea or exhaustion.

  6. Running sucks!!!

    Unless you truly enjoy it and have aspirations of becoming a better runner or a professional athlete, I recommend the majority of people stay away from it. For various reasons. Most, first off, don’t even know HOW to run. They believe it’s as simple as slipping into a new pair of shoes come spring time and running out the door, putting one foot in front of the other. Grave mistake. Not to mention here also that most women, in fact, are simply NOT built for long-distance running (biomechanical reasons).

    Then, there’s the myth that there is this distinguishable part of the human organism called the “aerobic system” that needs to be trained distinctly and irrespective of everything else. Once you understand that your heart doesn’t care how you call upon it, it becomes quite clear that you are cutting yourself short of real health gains by spending any amount of time doing “cardio” exercise. The peripheral adaptations that come with running are specific to running. The SAID principle dictates this. That’s the reason why, as you get “fitter” for running, you also get less “fit” for other activities or, at the very least, this “fitness” doesn’t transfer over. Even to very similar movements. Ask a swimmer to complete a VO2max test on a treadmill and, likewise, a runner to do a VO2max test in the pool (or even on the bike). In fact, several experiments were conducted unilaterally (one limb only) to show this. Following a few weeks on program geared towards improving aerobic capacity, results showed improvements only on the trained side, with no improvements on the untrained side. The point I am trying to make here is that there is nothing “magical” about neither of these. Part of it is due to skill (most of it, in fact, when swimming is considered), part of it is specific to peripheral adaptations that occurs with each given sport.

    I would encourage everyone to think this through… The number of orthopaedic injuries from running and improper running (or unpreparedness) is no small issue. What long distance running does to the body, over the long term, is simply not worth the effort. The risk/benefit-to-reward ratio is simply not worth it.

    Go for a walk or a hike instead. A cross-country ski. A bike ride. A swim. And, go easy. Save the high-intensity efforts, as health permits, for the strength portion of your training.

    My “controversial” professional 2-cent :)

    • I LIKE to run. Especially on trails. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. Other workouts just aren’t the same in terms of how I feel, keeping me fitting into my clothes, and mood. I also like to strength train. I bike and I swim, but those do not give me the overall feeling of wellbeing that running does, and do not keep me as lean. I don’t consider my running “high intensity” in terms of speed, but I seem to do well when I get 30-50 minutes in. If I get to 60 min or more with running, I start to not feel that great the next day. Most women will tell you that some combination of pilates, yoga,strength, and running is what keeps them looking and feeling good. Having tried it all, that is my 2 cents worth.

    • That’s basically what this whole series points to Eric – that most regular folks should be engaged in a variety of activities that challenge the body in a variety of different ways. That and the fact that many people recovering their metabolisms from various stressors may not be ready for hard exercise until they have built up a base of fitness – or, perhaps because of the way their nervous systems operate due to past experiences, traumas, age, gender, body type, etc. they may not respond all that well to higher intensity stuff… instead embarking, with an open mind, to find for themselves what is the best fit. A lot of this series was prompted by my 69-year old father’s experience. He tried many high-intensity exercise varieties over the past couple of years and each one of them made him weaker, more tired, and fatter.

      • I hear ya. And, I like what this series brings to the table and where it’s going!!!!

        Some people, sadly, can never exercise intensely again. The long-term abuse has gone on for so long that, even with everything perfect (sleep, food, movement, mental state, social environment, etc.), it never takes much to get them out of balance again… At least, that’s been my experience and that of a few other practitioners I’ve known as well…

    • Eric, I agree: running sucks. However, I’ve recently reduced my weightlifting to twice a week. I do the Big-Money lifts but can’t justify doing 3 or 4 times per week workouts. Just too sore. So I am looking for some different activities.

      So what do you think of Maffetone’s idea about the 180-(age) formula as a way of scaling your activity? I am thinking of wearing a heart monitor during sex. When I approach my threshold heart-rate, I’ll just slow it down a notch. I am entertaining myself imagining the surprised look on my partners face when I announce that I am approaching my optimal heart-rate. I see no reason why daily or 4-5x week sexual activity could not be used in this way. Sorry, but it sounds like a helluva lot more fun than gardening or running a flipping marathon with people who look like emaciated zombies.

      • Most heart rate monitors beep when you go outside of your “zone,” so you won’t have to explain anything. Just let the beeps be your guide to sexual pacing.

      • Haha… You got me smiling Thomas. I don’t know man. Sex with a heart rate monitor, to me, that sounds like weighing and keeping track of calories and macros; takes the pleasure out of something that should happen naturally. ;)

        That’s just me though…

        • I am joking, of course…at least about wearing a heart monitor.

      • He actually has a cartoon with two people in bed joking about that somewhere on his website. I’m hardly experienced in this (I’m referring to maffetone method not sex when I say ‘this’), but all of my reading leads me to think that if you’re going to do it, it may be worth the effort to undertake a structured regime and follow your progress.

      • Hey Thomas,

        First, don’t wear the heart rate monitor on your boner…trust me, it’ll cause problems.

        Secondly (and for serious), you might consider adding a 3rd training session where you only do Turkish Get Ups (and back down). It’s my own latest training fad. I do isometrics & statics on Monday, regular lifting on wednesday, TGUs on Friday.

        I’m even incorporating the TGU & Press, and hope to one day be able to do it as well as this guy:

        • Cameron, TGUs are a good idea. I hate running (except for sprinting). I hate swimming. I like bicycling ok, except I fear the negative consequences it could have upon my testicular health. So TGUs are definitely a good idea. Over the years, I’ve added them in to my routine from time to time.

    • Eric,
      Thank you for posting this! I HATE running with a passion. I tell people that if there is a hell, running would be a part of it. Just so they understand how much I despise it haha. Most of my girlfriends that want to lose weight automatically look to running first. The negatives just far seem to outweigh the positives, and it’s interesting that you say women aren’t designed for it.

      • Yeah, sadly, a very large proportion of the population that “runs” are people who, by default, think of running as the way to lose weight when, in reality, that should be the last group of the population that should take up running. That was the first thing that came to mind when I commented above… Running is basically a low-level plyometric activity repeated over many foot contacts. I doubt any sane trainer would ever ask a person that needs to lose weight to do a few thousand low-level jumps and call it a day. Well, I actually don’t doubt some have in fact done that but, that’s another issue altogether…

        If someone insists on running because they won’t otherwise do anything else, then, if they want to remain under my guidance, they’d have to undergo a complete revamp of their technique and follow my strict guidelines for progression. Otherwise, I’d have nothing to do with it… Same thing with competitive runners in fact, the only other segment of the population, like I said, that should (and obviously needs) to run…

        • What exercise would you recommend for weight loss? There’s so much out there it makes me head spin…and I’ve never been into exercise because I was always naturally thin.

          • Strength training using an assortment of variables. It will build lean mass, (ultimately, the best “sink” for glucose and fatty acids), empty glycogen stores to make room for more and in many cases even cause supercompensation of stores, have an amazing effect on insulin sensitivity, take care of strength, endurance (muscular and cardiovascular) and flexibility all in one, be safe on the joints when done correctly, be time-efficient and the list goes on. Coupled with as much low-intensity activity as desired, and a sound nutritional approach supportive of the metabolism, I can’t imagine a better combination.

      • I’ve always hated it, too, never been good at it, either– even when I played high school tennis, I could barely do the warm-up run. Sprints were no problem for me, though. Even though I’ve always exercised, I have a problem with too much body fat, it comes on easily and goes away never it seems. I always thought this was because of my thyroid problems, but I now question whether my underdeveloped aerobic system may be involved. My friends that run seem to have a lot less of a problem. So, In the sense that one should train their weakness, I’ve made it a goal to, at the very least, be able to run a mile without much effort. I’m not so sure about the women and running thing, though. As distances get longer, women are about as good as men– ultramarathon female runners are neck and neck with men. IMO, they look pretty healthy, but looks can be deceiving. This is why I like Maffetones tact– he is very conscious that over-developed fitness can mask ill health. The biofeedback of heart rate monitoring is designed to develop and monitor health alongside fitness. He himself says that a lot of people who begin exercising were healthier when they were couch potatoes.

    • In my experience running can be pretty dangerous. I have two friends and know one yoga teacher that all have long term damage from running. Two have persistent knee/hip/back issues that have caused significant pain and have never really gone away. One has a degenerative disk which basically means the sac of fluid between two vertebra popped. It is often painful and not treatable with current technology.
      I did one half marathon and developed a problem with the IT band on my right knee which persisted for about eight months. I remember watching the marathoners coming in to the finish line. Most of them did not look happy. I stopped long-distance running after that, long before reading this blog and long before I met people with long term damage.

  7. You mean that’s not Malfoy’s dad?

    • The first pic is, indeed, Malfoy’s dad. The 2nd is Maffetone. Malfoytone?

  8. Maybe worse, but he looks like Luna Lovegood’s dad to me. You know, the crazy one who was actually right?

  9. “Take ‘er easy, Dude…”

    Good advice from The Big Lebowski.

    I am liking the last few posts and the shift away from high intensity, extreme lunacy.

    It has been dismal for me.

    For some reason,. in college, I got into great great shape by doing *high* rep weights and tai chi.

    I figured as long as I was adding weight, who cares how many reps I was doing? I would do very slow, long reps – about 25 – and just gradually, slowly, increase the weight over time.

    My body seemed to really like that a lot better than the low rep, high intensity madness. Same with other forms of exercise.

    It seems like everyone is crazy about stressing the body via starvation (“fasting”) and extreme forms of exercise. Sure, you’re going to get – at first- a hormonal reaction from that, but over time, it’s still a big stressor. As we are all discovering, short-term gains vs. craping out your metabolism over the long term is not a winning strategy.

    SO…, drink, be merry, and take it easy. All good things will come in time….

  10. The maffetone method worked for me when I took up running. First I could hardly run 10km without feeling like I was nearly dying. Discovered his book, followed his advice and went out and ran 10k the next day without feeling like I’d done any exercise at all. It was at a much MUCH slower pace, but it felt really good. Fast forward 6 months later and I was able to go from 60min for 10k at my maffetone heart rate, to 43min, without any injuries or feeling like I was working hard at all.

    It definitely works. If you’re into running that is.

    Having said that, if I’d known he looked like Senior Malfoy, I may not have have taken him seriously!

  11. That’s a real person? Wow. He’s really committed to that hair. That would be quite a frizz fest come summer…

    Dollars to donuts, that dude seems like he was on HBO’s (now defunct) Real Sex in the late 90s. He looks like he’d run one of those “let’s all go masturbate in the woods” retreats that they were quite fond of documenting.

    • He’s got creepier pics, but I think he lives in Arizona. Friz free down there, as long as you don’t get entangled in any cacti.

      • His pictures are fairly awesome; but, if my hair were that shiny and glossy, I may go for some glamour shots, too. To me, he looks more like a silver fox version of Larry from three’s company. The guy who’s playing the jazz flute at the Regal Beagle. His interview persona is not anywhere as creepy as his still shots. But, despite how he comes off, this guy has trained champion athletes– Mike Pigg, Priscella Welch, and Mark Allen being the most famous probably.

        So, I stumbled upon Maffetone from 2 different directions in late January. One was that I was trying to find validation for my 3x week Hiit hill running and wondering if the reason I was not getting leaner, faster, etc… was that my weights weren’t heavy enough etc… I found some paleo site that was talking about how aerobic work makes you fat — the reason you’re fat is too much running, etc… and I was like, hell yeah, because it totally validated what I thought and wanted to think about aerobic work– especially running. Anyway, someone responded in the comments section and was basically like ‘bullshit… most weightlifters have to watch every bite they eat, whereas aerobic machines like Michael Phelps down 12,000 calories indiscriminately.” That made me think of those twin bodybuilders Matt poked fun at once which got me thinking… then, a few days later I was flipping through a Tony Robbins book and he mentioned Maffetone and the key to creating energy, high metabolism, is to get your aerobic system fires burning– now, I love Tony Robbins as much as the next infomercial watcher but I usually don’t really listen to his advice, but, this time I looked into it and downloaded Maffetone e-books and began my training at the beginning of February.

        Having begun it, I can tell you that even in the past when I thought I was doing aerobics, my HR was almost certainly much higher and not in the ‘aerobic zone’ because when I started going at 130-140 hr, I was really really slow. Slower than I would ever choose to go naturally. It just didn’t feel like much of a workout, but I did sweat (which I’ve mentioned before in comments was something I rarely did). Anyway– closing in on 8 weeks later, I’ve knocked 1:20 off of my mile, I’ve lost 2 inches on my hips, (as of this morning 1.5 inches off my waist, but I find that my waist fluctuates) and one inch off of my thighs. I took these measurements 3 different times in early January. Admittedly, I began my 180 carb fest about 6 months ago and had gained almost 15 pounds, so maybe that is turning around now, too. But my temperatures are averaging 1 degree higher in the last month and I’ve actually hit 99 degrees many days. I have not actually lost much weight though ( I think 3 or 4 lbs). So, that’s my story so far. I’m also kind of having these strange desires to be an ultramarathoner which is hilarious because I’ve never run more than 2 miles in my entire life. I’m keeping it up, though, because I enjoy it. I would really love to get to a point where I could run a 5k in my heart rate zone. Oh, and I also lowered my HR by 5 beats, because I noticed that I was having a less comfortable gait at the higher end. That’s another thing that Maffetone points out– people lose their form as their HR gets too high thus leading to injury.

        • I agree with his opinion about losing your form at higher HRs. I have found that I am the happiest and most relaxed just cruising at a comfortable aerobic pace rather than pushing it. My form just smoothes out naturally. I feel good and I also find that I lose weight in the thigh and hip area.

  12. (accidentally posted this under Part I…oooops!)

    Hey Matt,

    Long time, no see…sorry for the long hiatus but I don’t have time for anything anymore LOL! I saw this on Facebook and had to comment. Saying that high intensity should be done instead of low intensity is like saying that protein should be eaten rather than carbs (not that that was the gist of the article). Both types of exercise have their own benefits. A good combo of each will yield the best result. Although high intensity will yield better results in fitness and fat loss, too much (and it doesn’t take much to reach too much) will result in poor sleep and impaired immune function. And while low intensity is a far second in fitness and fat loss, it improves immune system function. In my opinion, high intensity exercise needs to be sprinkled here and there with the majority of the time a more moderate intensity exercise employed for your health. Overtraining in intensity will result in poor sleep while overtraining in volume will make you tired all the time…a nice and easy barometer of what is going on. The approach I take is my 3x per week weight training in a heavy/light/medium program, with a little daily work in the morning, and everything else just keeping the body moving. I have a desk job and work from home, so every hour or so I do a minute or two of jumping jacks or split jacks just to get my heart rate up. I do this maybe 1 to 3x per day in addition to my morning and lunchtime workouts. Don’t do one instead of the other; rather, combine the two with a proper ratio; just as a recipe with 3 pounds of beef with a teaspoon of salt isn’t going to yield the same result as 3 pounds of salt and a teaspoon of beef. I started looking into this when I first read about the higher incidence of cardiovascular disease related to a sedentary job, even if you work out at lunch time. I even set up my nordic track and keyboard so I could work while walking, LOL! I didn’t lose a pound walking an additional 5 or 6 hours per day for 2 weeks, but that is not the result of that type of exercise. I overtrained doing rack pulls with around 400 pounds for 17 sets of 3 reps…geez I was sore the next day…which then turned from soreness to bodyaches…I wound up sick for almost a month. Should heavy, high intensity exercise be avoided? NO! It needs to be properly dosed. We can’t take an either/or approach…it needs a more holistic view. Just a quick rant. :-)

    Thanks for all you do Matt!!!

    The REAL Will

    • Nice to hear from you Will. All sounds good to me. Although one point I want to reiterate is that not everybody has the same experience. I have never lost an ounce of fat doing high-intensity exercise, except for maybe a few pounds doing MET. I have always lost weight doing large amounts of moderate exercise, but found I had to do so much of it to lose fat that it couldn’t be sustained forever, and always experienced fat regain.

      • Yeah, I think my experience is more along your lines Matt.

        And in response to these post re low and high intensity :
        In my experience of experimenting around with exercise for many years I have found too much high intensity or long term high intensity creates systemic fatigue and injury susceptibility.
        A bit is nice.

        Too much steady state cardio can also create a low lying fatigue, though not as intense.

        Neither really helps in the fat loss stakes for me in terms of losing and keeping fat lost!
        I think exercise only helps with fat loss if you have not done it before, and then you add it to your regime and it creates an energy deficit your body is not used to , so it drops fat.

        • Nola…EXACTLY. Back in December Dr. Mercola had a post that included one of the TED speakers, Dr. James O’Keefe, who was a runner, and talked about how prolonged high intensity exercise can damage the heart. If you haven’t seen it, here it is…

          So I agree 100% with you…high intensity exercise needs to be “sprinkled” into your life, and it should be short and infrequent. I also think that the human body wasn’t meant to sedentary, so the rest of the time it should be moving about or standing…not necessarily exercising…just not motionless. One of the researchers studying the Okinawan centenarians noted that even though some of these older folks weren’t “exercising”, they sit on the floor and would get up and down off the floor many times a day. They were moving around. Even sitting on the floor has an active component to it versus lounging around in a chair or on the couch. Thanks nola.

      • Exactly! You can’t take a 69 year old guy and dump him into the midst of HIIT and expect him to morph into Adonis (unless the guy has a Jack LaLanne background). A year or so when I was getting back into working out after getting super sick from overtraining, I started back with some Body Rock type workouts, and even thought I was losing fat, I was limping around on a tweaked ankle that was swollen for months. Current physical state and background has a lot to do with it. After some good progress with the Body Rock workouts, I tried a well-known purchased program and during the two weeks that I did it, my fat loss came to a grinding halt…it was pretty intense every day and it was just too much for me.

        Right after I wrote my post above, I got sick…after I went all winter without anything, through all the strep throat, flus, colds, etc., my kids brought home, I now have pink eye and a cold. Happened on deadlift day, LOL! I had also been slacking on my moderate exercise and trying to implement these 1 to 2 minute bouts of exercise throughout the day instead (although short, they were still intense). I have a thick head. I HAVE to get back to doing some moderate exercise for my health. I was only doing 5 to 10 minutes at a time a few times a day and I had a great winter. I can’t make any progress when I’m sick, LOL!

        Just as an update Matt, my adrenal and thyroid issues are pretty much gone. Still take some supplements but am feeling 1000x better than “the bad years”. I can recognize when stress is taking it’s toll on me, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional and USUALLY can head it off. :-) Thanks for all of your help!

  13. With hair like that, anything is possible.

    He looks like Data from Star Trek.

    • I thought it was Thranduil from Lord of the Rings but it’s actually the evil British dude from “The Patriot” with a blond wig.

  14. As an off subject side note matt – thanks again for this website! My mum is critical of most I do and on the phone to her last night she told me to cut down on red meat or entirely cut it out its bad for me- based on her information that I had steak Monday and then yesterday (grass fed :D ) and baring in mind she knows I suffered with anorexia my entire life and have only just managed to achieve functioning as a woman at the age of 25!! She still feels the need to tell me what I should and shouldn’t eat, proclaiming all she eats is seabass lately- which is great for her but My body does not allow me to eat fish- I have an allergic reaction to most except crustaceans- and I mean a true allergic reaction…! It was quite triggering what she said and made me feel bad about it, but I remembered your website and your so balanced in your perspective about listening to what your body wants that I’m sure I won’t swear off red meat entirely as I had vowed to do to myself last night as I panicked about my meat consumption..!

    • Lucy – my Mum is critical and in the past has been one of my worst triggers-
      always commenting on weight, appearance, food eaten, etc,
      sometimes these kinds of Mums need to be ignored for a long while! ..
      in the nicest possible way..

      It was many years before I came to realise how many hang-ups my mother had around weight and food etc,
      and to detach and not take the things she says to heart-
      or make them my reality!

      Within the space of two weeks ,
      she told me I was too skinny,
      and that I could do with losing weight!
      How can you go from needing to lose weight to being too skinny in two weeks??!!
      After that I came more to the realization that she was not wholly rational about this

  15. That’s not Maffetone’s pic. It’s the guy that ran the Area 51 operation on “Independence Day”.

  16. Matt!
    Started Eat For Heat in December and it led to something so profound for me: I only eat or drink anything for as long as it tastes good. And I decided as that was happening that I’d never go on any diet or “health plan” again because it felt good to finally buy cookies or ice cream and have it be around in my house for maybe a month or more! That kind of peace was worth anything I weighed. And then, when I wasn’t looking, I went down 2 pants sizes! This is craziness Matt. It’s always been hardest for me to lose weight in my midsection so going down pants sizes was always the last thing that happened. If ever!

    30 days ago, I was feeling enough energy to start practicing my inner-alignment/core work and that may have helped. I feel like I want to start taking walks. Whether I do or don’t..It’s all coming together.

    I could just hug you right now.

    • i forget the word, but there’s a term for that “eat only until the flavor diminishes” way – the there’s a wildman in hawaii that eats raw food that way – including live chickens. a book “instinctual eating” ….. i don’t take it that far though….

  17. What about doing both? But either way, we still haven’t touched on volume or frequency.
    For frequency, I’d guess:

    HIT @ 1/week
    MAFF @ 2/week

    No clue on volume.

    • HIT 1-2x a week + walking on other days. Why do a low-intensity as a “method”? Simple walking works, you kinda autoregulate your speed based on your fitness without any tools or measuring.

      • Makes sense!

  18. Is that Phil Maffetone or Severus Snape?

  19. I also don’t like to run. My running biomechanics have always been “off” and I tend to develop shin splints if I run regularly. Walking works for me on low-level activity, but doesn’t really get my heart rate going.

    My solution: Walking with a weighted vest.

    An easy walking distance turns into a challenge that needs to be paced when I add another 30 pounds (YMMV). It’s like jogging, but without the plyometric stress.

    (Granted, your neighbors will think you’re weird, but since I am incredibly weird, I don’t care. )

    • Have you tried sled or prowler work? Another good option.

      • I haven’t really tried a prowler. Always something more important to buy. :)

  20. Idk, I don’t track my heart rate much, but sounds interesting.

    I think Maffetone def looks Slytherinish but nicer than Malfoy.

  21. Yet the human animal is one of the best endurance ‘runners’ around been able to gradually decrease out speed, rather than going from a run, to a trott like most animals have to do. Our two legs make us very efficient for long distance movement, and our sweat glands, lack of fur, and ability to carry water, also provides us with great ways of removing heat as it builds up. One of the earliest ways to hunting prey was for us to literally run it down. So if we are going to aim to eat foods we are evolved too, shouldn’t we also take into consideration our exercise regime too?

    • Some people are built better for running than others. But just because we had to undergo the stress of running down an animal doesn’t mean that if we mimic it now it will yield health benefits. In my experience, really long runs on a frequent basis cause gender reassignment. I wouldn’t aim to eat foods we evolved to either, since it’s well-known that modern foods like dairy and grains, as well as cooked foods, are the most superior of all foods specifically because they are advantageous over the menu we evolved with. Give any species cooked grains and dairy and they will likely grow faster, become bigger and stronger, and reproduce at a higher rate – regardless of what diet they evolved with.

      • Matt, do you have any links on the “feed any species grains and dairy” bit? Or a book reference? I’d like to read more about that.

        • Catching Fire is the name of the book I think – talking about the big evolutionary advantage humans experienced when we began cooking our food.

          • Thank you Matt for your polite and well considered reply. Rare to find someone who doesn’t bite back at criticism these days. It’s an interesting argument that you propose and I have often wondered that if people believe in natural selection, and ‘primal wisdom’ (whatever that means) then why did it suddenly stop 10000 yrs ago, cultivating plants into big fat nutritional masses surly was very wise.

            Now my main concern with what you propose is you need to be careful to not mix reproductive rate with health. I am a research scientist who studies animal ecology and supplying enough calories to reproduce at a higher rate at the cost of long term health is a much more viable strategy than trying to increase longevity at the cost of reproductive rate. Life history strategies are always a trade off and species will often have to give up on longevity in order to reproduce more. In a very basic way – your body investing in reproduction means it is not investing in processes that extend life it can’t do both.

            And although I technically agree with your argument that adding grains and dairy may have been advantageous this may not have been in a promote health way, but promote reproduction and feed the masses. Just some food for thought. I also don’t think a statement such as species who eat grains or dairy became stronger because there are millions of species each with different physiologies and that is a pretty broad statement. The fish I work with probably wouldn’t benefit too much from eating grains even if you could get them to eat it.

  22. I don’t know if anyone is still playing along; however, for the past week, I have done some experiments with my workouts. A typical workout for me was always high-intensity intervals, heavy weights, plyo, the whole bit. But I wasn’t losing any weight, my body always hurt, I was always friggin tired, and felt like crap overall. So…

    During the past week, I “dumbed down” everything: instead of an 8-in step bench, I didn’t use a riser or do any intense intervals; instead of sprinting on the treadmill, I keep it at an even 4.9 mph for 45 mins (and the same with a spin bike, never letting my heart rate above 148). Well, the calories burned for the same time period were only about 100 calories below the high-intensity, and some days they were the same amount of calories. I would have never thought that would be the case. I was so scared of doing steady state cardio that I’d given it up entirely for a few years; but my body obviously needed something easy breezy for a change. I’m going to keep it the low impact/lower heart rate training for a while methinks…

  23. Let me start of by saying that I am in the minority of people on here. I enjoy running very much. I however in terms of time spent am new to it. I have only been “running” for 2 years and am currently 38. I got into running because I was training for my first obstacle course race and was never concerned about the obstacles but mainly the running aspect of it. I never ran growing up and probably would only voluntarily do it if I was being chased by rabid dogs or the police. I started off small and simply went for longer runs and never worried about time. At some point along the way I fell in love with it. I love being outside and in the air. I can’t stand being cooped up in a gym. However, I knew and have always read about the damage running can cause if not eased into and with proper form. That is when I discovered the book Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot by John L. Parker Jr. This book is essentially everything that Maffetone speaks of but written for runners from the novice level all the way to competitive runners. It teaches you the idea of running to your heart rate and not your time. What I find great about it is that I can enjoy running without the punishing effects of it on my knees, back, etc. but can still compete in races and come in at a respectful pace and with dignity.

    One of the mantras of this method is to truly run at or below your 70% Heart Rate Recovery Ceiling on easy days. Trust me in the beginning of this training there isn’t much “running” involved to hit 70%. This is the point in which lactic acid build up begins to happen. This is what Maffetone is talking about when he talks about finishing an exercise and being able to do it again. It was truly liberating being able to run longer distances and not feel wiped out for the rest of the day. The issue many runners have and one I was guilty of was that we use the hard/easy method of running. Except, what runners are doing is running at 90% of their max heart rate for x min. Then the next day running at 80% max heart rate for x min. thinking they are taking it easy when in reality they are still taxing their systems and producing lactic acid. So at the end of the week they never truly ran an “easy” day . This in turns leads to frequent injuries, sickness, stress, etc.

    That’s just my two cents from someone who actually enjoys running. I will note however that I also mix weight training into my running training. I enjoy running but do not want to look like a distance runner. I also need to maintain upper body strength in order to perform in obstacle races which I also enjoy.

  24. Chuck, (this is a little late of a response, so maybe someday you’ll read the reply). Thank you for this. I’ve always been a terrible jogger (pretty good sprinter) and I’ve always relished information that running was terrible for you to justify my complete inability to do so. But since beginning maffetone training, I’ve really got this jonesin’ to be able to run long and slow over trails. For a girl or guy, I think a runner’s body is much more attractive than a bodybuilders (my opinion only). I also agree that what most people consider easy, steady state cardio is probably far more intense than Maffetone recommends. Unless, you use the HR monitor, you won’t realize how slow you need to go. It’s a very pleasant way to workout and I’m definitely picking up speed. I’m beginning to agree with the notion that you may not like to run, but you should be able to do so without coughing up a lung.

  25. Im trying Maffetone. I used to be a cardio queen (mainly joggin& elliptical) and gave it all up about 1.5 years ago due to fatigue and lack of results. I think my new job at the time was causing me so much stress and glued me to a desk for past 2 years instead of my previously …BUT looking back I was at my happiest and best body weight when I was working out 30 mins a day, dancing intensely 2-3 times a week with some practice, and walking my dogs daily. I don’t think 30 mins of reginpmented exercise per day is bad for the thyroid/body as long as you work on the whole system.. I’ve thought really hard about this. If you aren’t moving around much at all, because of job or whatever which is my case, then some low intensity cardio can’t really hurt. I also got rid of the high stress job.

  26. I love the Maffetone Method, and have subscribe to Dr. Maffetone”s site and The whole point is essentially the same as 180degreehealth — to repair broken systems, and to prevent them from breaking again. Dr. Maffetone’s specialty is treating endurance athletes who have damaged themselves through overtraining, but it has carryover to general health. Workouts at MAF (the 180 formula) are so gentle, that they almost feel like not exercising at all–that’s the most frustrating thing. Many runners simply have to walk at first to keep their HR low enough. But gradually, the body adapts, you start speeding up, *without working harder*–an incredible thing!

    While I believe that Dr. James O’Keefe’s talk mentioned above is important, I don’t believe it applies to practitioners of the Maffetone Method, or others who carefully monitor themselves to prevent overtraining. The vast majority of runners train way too fast, fairly close to their race pace, (and in over-built shoes that imbalance them and promote injuries). A runner using the 180-formula is never stressing his cardio system that way during training runs; he saves that for races and short speed-oriented workouts only. The difference between constantly fast running vs. gentle aerobic running is apples and oranges: Constantly taxing your system, or gently coaxing it.

    I agree, Maffetone seems a little carb-phobic, and I prefer Matt’s dietary advice, especially since I lean to vegetarian.



  1. Ferf Bytes - [...] this intense form of training are excellent. I recently read an article about pure cardio exercise here and …

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