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MAF Zone for LSD?

Drawing of a heart

We runners LOVE our acronyms. For example, on Saturdays (or Sundays if you prefer – these workouts are flexible) my Team in Training crew will be doing a GTS LSD with TNT. Translation: Group Training Session, long slow distance, with Team in Training. Ha! Love it?

The other acronym you will see in conjunction with GTS and LSD is MAF or Maximum Aerobic Fitness. This refers to a particular heart rate that reflects optimal aerobic training, and a number which, when exceeded, indicates a rapid transition to more anaerobic training. This number (and 10 below it) is the ideal training heart zone for athletes building their aerobic system, just like you will be.

So, how do you find out what this magic heart rate number is without going to a lab and paying a bunch of money for a cool but expensive test that measures the amount of lactate in your blood by pricking your finger (or earlobe) every few minutes while you run on a treadmill? Well, you use this awesome formula developed by Dr. Phil Maffetone.

Calculate Your Own Maximum Aerobic Training Heart Rate

  1. Subtract your age from 180.
  2. Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:
    a. If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.
    b. If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.
    c. If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same.
    d. If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are thirty years old and fit into category (b), you get the following: 180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm). In this example, 145 will be the highest heart rate for your aerobic training. This is highly aerobic, allowing you to most efficiently build an aerobic base. For this individual, the MAF zone would be 135-145bpm with the goal being to stay as close as possible to 145.

The next obvious question is – what if I don’t own a heart rate monitor?

Well, then we’ll have to use the old “Perceived Exertion” scale or PE. The best way to test your perceived exertion is to try and carry on a conversation (or sing a song) while you are running. If you are in your LSD or MAF zone you should not have any trouble speaking in full sentences. If you are huffing, puffing or otherwise having trouble speaking clearly, you are running too fast. That is all there is to it! And although this sounds easy, I would prefer that everyone have a heart rate monitor. Garmin makes some excellent GPS enabled watches as does Timex, Nike, Adidas, Polar and so on. This is a great website to research a product before you buy it


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