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The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing Paperback – September 22, 2010
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"Dr. Maffetone shares his lifetime of experience in helping athletes of all abilities become better." ----Dr. Tim Noakes, author of "Lore of Running"
"If you don't read Phil Maffetone, you're turning your back on one of the most powerful, probing minds in endurance sports. The brilliance of Maffetone's work is his re-discovery of the ancient understanding that the human engine doesn't need to be fueled on suffering, and that pain is only the penalty you pay for back-burnering your brain. The best advice you could give any athlete, no matter what their level, is to read Maffetone and start over." ----Christopher McDougall, author of "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe"
"In the over-populated world of fitness and health books, what does this new one have to offer? The first thing that springs to mind is authority. Methodology is another element that sets the book apart. Because of its tailor-made approach, the book is good for beginners and for those who've read and seen it all, but who are still not performing their best." --Lava Magazine
About the Author
Dr. Philip Maffetone is an internationally recognized researcher, educator, clinician, and author in the field of nutrition, exercise and sports medicine, stress management, and biofeedback. He was named “Coach of the Year” by Triathlete Magazine and honored by Inside Triathlon magazine as one of the top twenty most influential people in endurance sports worldwide. He is the author of more than a dozen books on sports, fitness, and health.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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* The principle that fat utilization must be maximized for peak endurance performance
* Dietary principles of reducing excessive carbohydrate intake and eliminating allergenic foods (such as gluten) for optimal health
* The appeal of an relatively easy-intensity way to good health and peak performance
As one who'd tried higher intensity training efforts for amateur running and cycling, I found Maffetone's message very appealing. I especially gravitated to it after cutting the carbohydrate in my diet which limited my access to higher intensity training. I tried adhering to his heart-rate based formula to keep my training intensities within the prescribed training band and started, after 3 months, to see slivers of success in training. On the treadmill, over time, I eventually saw a 0.5 mph improvement in pace at the same heart rate. On the bicycle trainer, a 30 watt improvement at Maff heart rates. These changes were very gradual, however, as I train only 3-4 hours / week. In fact, for 3 months, I saw virtually NO improvement at all. Now, I was not a perfect adherent to the principle of NO anaerobic work; I did weight train, but only 2x a week and only for 30 minutes at a time (actual time in the act of weight lifting was likely only 15 min a week with rest-between-sets time factored out). Does this invalidate my results? I should hope that the human body is not so frail that a mere lifting of something heavy a couple of times, on off days, is enough to completely destroy aerobic adaptations. What a weak species we would be. Consider that I'm not training 10-15 hours a week as many, more dedicated runners might be doing. Either way, you should know from where I'm coming from. Maffetone does indicate that he considers any aerobic training in excess of his prescribed heart rate formula or weight training of ANY kind (regardless of the heart rate) to be `anaerobic' work that could interfere or destroy aerobic adaptations. Nevertheless, I do feel that my training schedule, overall, was light enough that I was exercising well within my recover abilities. Nevertheless, my results on his program were modest at best. I sleep well, eat fantastically healthy compared to the average Joe (frutis, vegetables, low carb diet, omega-3s daily, lean meats, healthy amounts of good fats --- you get the point). Even though I did see what could be regarded as "significant" improvement in a couple of markers, I found that very little of this translated during races. As such, let me summarize the issues I've come to see with the Maffetone method:
* The 180 formula does NOT take into account individual variations in heart rate stroke volume or muscle physiology for different sports. Maffetone does not consider maximum heart rate nor resting heart rate to be significant. Instead, his formulas are purely a function of age and a few modifiers that have nothing to do with your heart's individual characteristics. This seems to fly in the face of common sense and science. If you have a larger heart with a greater stroke volume, then you will be pumping more blood at 140 beats, doing more work and feeling a higher level of perceived exertion (and likely have a lower max heart rate) than someone with a smaller heart who, at 140 beats, might feel as though they are barely working. This is why most heart rate-based programs factor in maximum (and some resting heart rate) - the level of exertion for someone with a max hr at 170 will be different than someone with a max of 200. In addition, Maffetone does not consider "perceived exertion" which varies between sports at a given heart rate, to be significant: one Maff heart rate for all. Really? A swimmer should use the same heart rate as a runner though we know that the muscle composition of the upper body is likely very different than the legs (which are designed for long-range locomotion)? Isn't that why you would likely have a higher perceived exertion at a given heart rate in swimming or perhaps cycling than running - different muscle fiber composition? I should think so but Maff believes that the same metabolic demands are being made so the training effect is identical. I dare to say that this is likely to be proved wrong by science but I only dispute it today by my intuition that "perceived " exertion is a real phenomenon that is being ignored by Maffetone. He does not present a cogent explanation for ignoring it other than saying that weight bearing sports produce a higher perceived exertion. Weak. It certainly doesn't explain the difference between cycling and swimming which are both non-weight bearing but generate different perceived exertions. I strongly suspect that more sugar-burning aerobic fibers are involved in swimming given the use of upper body muscles and, hence, the higher perceived exertion than running (which uses muscles with a higher % of red muscle fibers) at a given heart rate but that's' for a physiologist to work out. I don't buy Maff's explanation at all, however.
* There is absolutely no guidance with regard to training volumes for different sports what-so-ever. Inexcusable. On the one hand, we're given, effectively, a simple one-size-fits-all 180 heart rate formula that does not take into account anything substantive in the way of individual cardiovascular physiology - yet we're told that training volumes are largely and individual matter. OK, fine, but can you give me a suggestion for the minimums here? A range? Can I improve at such low heart rates training 3x a week for 30 minutes a day? No guidance. Let me save you some suspense here - unlikely. For a book about `racing', there's an almost total lack of any sort of even semi-structured program regarding durations and frequency for ANY sport (save one small and not very useful example of a triathlete schedule)- just a lot of sidebar anecdotes of people training for unspecified periods of time and having "success" or reducing volumes, when specified, from 18 to 12 hours a week (volumes far in excess of many amateurs I know). While it might vary from individual to individual and given your goals, I think we can all agree that training 1x/week for 1 minute will get you nowhere. So there, that's a lower boundary we can all agree on. Extreme case? Yes - but the point is one can and ought to give a lower limit from which to start a training program to see progress and then principles upon which to evaluate whether volume should increase or decrease.
* Heart rate variations are not thoroughly discussed. There seems to be this implicit and rather impractical notion that you can train up to the maximum prescribed heart rate and just hold it there - as if it is some number that can be reached and held. If my maximum "aerobic" heart rate, as prescribed by the 180 formula, is 140, I can guarantee you it will drift to 141, 142, even 144 and then back to 140, 139, 138 within any given 2 minute period of time - I know, I've seen it happen all the time. At such low heart rates, my body is so relaxed that if I so much as *think* about something a little exciting, my heart rate will spike. How much variation around my max Maff heart rate should be tolerated? We're told, none. So, given the natural variation in heart rate that occurs in training (i.e. I see +/- 3 beats, routinely), best to play it safe and shoot for Maff -3 so as not to exceed it for even a brief period. All in all, at such low heart rates, it is subject to considerable "noise" from your state-of-mind, thoughts, ambient temperatures, etc.
* Mis-use of the term "aerobic". Maffetone clearly defines what he means by "aerobic" early on to refer to that which uses predominately fat for fuel while fully acknowledging that, technically, sugar is burned aerobically as well. Nevertheless, anything that uses sugar, predominately, for fuel, is deemed anaerobic for purposes of discussion in the book. Fine. However, later in the book, he seeks to emphasize the value of his training principles by pointing out that the aerobic system provides 99% of the energy for long distance aerobic events. OK, wait a minute. Now, yes, that's true, but that involves both the sugar and fat burning systems (and sugar burning would actually account for a larger portion of that 99% than fat at higher intensity aerobic events) but he "implies" that it's the fat burning system providing that 99%. Let's keep the discussion about "aerobic" system straight here and acknowledge that the sugar-burning component IS a critical system for racing success as well.
* Results. Bottom line, if you train for modest volumes (read: 5 hours / week or fewer), I think your success will be modest at best. I conducted 95% of my aerobic training with Maffetone principles and, while I've seen some improvement, it was absolutely dwarfed, in comparison, by my prior success with programs such as Smart Coach provided by Runner's world wherein, training at more moderate intensities for most of my longer runs and doing just one speed workout a week resulted in a 9 minute improvement in my half marathon time in just 3.5 months of training (40s/mile improvement in pace). My average training week was only 18 miles/week (3 hours/week) when using the program prescribed by Smart Coach [and I weight trained....]. Compare that to training for 4-5 hours / week using Maff and I've seen - I don't know,....maybe 1-2 minutes of improvement for a half marathon- if you squint. In fact, Chris Carmichael has pointed out in his book "The Time-Crunched Cyclist" that, if you have less than 8 hours / week to train, traditional, lower-intensity programs just don't work for such folks. That's the only guidance I have right now and I would pass that on to those considering the Maff approach.
So, while I think there is some value here, I think a follow-on book with much more specific guidance is needed. Realistic training expectations need to be established based on possible training volumes. Actual training programs should be indicated with clear discussions of "frequency" and "duration" for running, cycling, swimming and triathlons. Different distances could be discussed as well. Given the size of this book, the actual intellectual content could have been condensed to 1/3 the size. That leaves 2/3rd of relative fluff that could have been used to address the aforementioned gaps in concrete training advice and coaching.
With his methods I've achieve a sub 2:35 marathon in 4 decades and we've even opened a small running and walking store in a small rural community teaching his principles ([...]
We are also trying to transform how the US Air Force approaches fitness and help them achieve success in their annual fitness tests and their demanding jobs. This, of course, involves Maffetone principles.
Mark Cucuzzella MD, Assoc Prof of Family Medicine West Virginia University and Lt Col USAF Reserves
While researching a "100-Ups" drill on McDougall's website, I stumbled across McDougall's endorsement for Dr. Maffetone's book. I bought the Kindle edition and started reading "The Big Book on Endurance Training and Racing" and was hooked by the first few pages of the introduction. I learned that the biggest hurdle I had to get over was my male ego. I was pushing too hard and running too fast. My running partner and I were both suffering from aerobic deficiencies that we could measure with our heart rate monitors. While we could run moderate distances in the 8's and 9's, we were locomotives causing injury in our anaerobic zones, and excess weight just wasn't coming off. So, while skeptical, I decided to give the Maffetone method a try and only a month later, I am happy to report to all of you I have seen amazing improvements in my aerobic function by slowing down and following Maffetone's advice. Here are summary results from my two actual MAF tests 1 month apart. To demonstrate just how deficient my aerobic zone was, I had to slow down from my usual 9 min/mile pace to 12:37/mile average in my first 4 mile MAF test. Talk about a blow to the ego! But in the book's sidebars, you will learn that you are not alone, that even elite athletes have suffered from the same aerobic/anaerobic imbalance. So, 1 month later, at the same aerobic heart rate, my average time in my most recent MAF test has improved to 11:28/mile.
Additional benefits of training aerobically and teaching my body how to burn fat is that I have lost a total of 10 pounds so far. I have left that demon behind in the dust, and I am now running a ½ marathon every weekend with plenty of gas left in the tank, and I will run my first marathon in the spring. I can even run back-to-back runs if my training schedule calls for it, which is a miracle for me considering where I've come from. And when I need to pick the pace up on race day, I find that my AHR is lower than it used to be, even when I am in the anaerobic zone, and I can gradually pick up my pace as the race progresses. I feel that Maffetone is teaching me how to build this much needed, and often overlooked base.
While McDougall's book provided the inspiration for the paradigm shift I so desperately needed, I honestly believe that Maffetone's book was the missing piece to the puzzle. Get this book, get a good heart-rate monitor, set the ego aside, and enjoy pain-free progress in your running. I cannot recommend it enough.