Can I use the Maffetone Method to help my rowing?

The Maffetone Method – you might have heard of it, but can it really be applied to your rowing training? This question has sparked curiosity among a wide range of athletes, from recreational rowers to professional competitors. The answer, while not straightforward, is rooted in understanding the intricate relationship between endurance training and rowing performance.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the potential application of the Maffetone Method, a unique approach known for its focus on heart rate-based training, to enhance your rowing prowess. We’ll dissect the science behind this method, provide real-world examples of its application, and offer step-by-step instructions on how you can incorporate it into your training regimen.

Whether you’re just starting out with rowing or you’re a seasoned pro aiming to optimize your performance, this article is designed to provide you with an informative, practical, and accessible exploration of the Maffetone Method. So, are you ready to uncover how this unique approach could potentially revolutionize your rowing training? Let’s embark on this enlightening journey together.


What Is The Maffetone Method Of Moderate Running?

Fundamentally the Maffetone Method of Moderate running is a training scheme that manipulates your heart rate to help you stay aerobic when exercising rather than anaerobic. The schemes author was Dr. Phil Maffetone. Hence the name.

Dr. Phil Maffetone is a coach and medical doctor. During his career he has worked with professional athletes across a number of sports. His specialty areas are running and the triathlon. One of his, Mark Allen, is currently a 6 time Hawaii Ironman Triathlon Champion.

Mark states:

“The point is not to see how fast your body can move. The point is to change the way your body gets energy. You want to burn more fat and less sugar.

The Maffetone Method focuses on consistent slow runs to help you stay in your aerobic heart zone. Whilst your body is within that zone it will be burning fat instead of sugar. This is a good thing because your body has much larger fat stores to burn. Whilst exercising and using your sugar reserves, eventually you run out. At this point your body starts to shut the exercise down. Runners usually call this “the wall”.


How can you use the Maffetone Method?

The Maffetone Method is aerobic training that encourages you to observe your heart rate. All of your runs for example, or rows, will be performed while keeping your heart rate below a specific level. This will often mean that you pace has to be set at a much lower level. Whilst researching the MAF method it became clear that many runners struggles because of the slow pace it required.

When I am running (baring in mind I am over 300lbs and not made for running) I usually aim for 6:00 per kilometre. As I know my body quite well I know that to stay within the Maffetone limits I would need to slow down to over 07:00 per kilometre.

What Heart Rate Should I Aim For?

To determine the heart rate that you need to aim for there is a formula to use. The MAF 180 Formula. Dr. Maffetone talks about his formula inn the formula in his article: Want Speed? Slow Down!

I have put it down for you here:

The MAF 180 Formula

Find your maximum aerobic heart rate:

Subtract your age from 180 (180 – age).

Then modify this number by selecting a category below that best matches your health profile:

a.     If you have, or are recovering from, a major illness (heart disease, high blood pressure, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or you are taking medication, subtract an additional 10.

b.     If you have not exercised before or have been training inconsistently or injured, have not recently progressed in training or competition, or if you get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, or have allergies, subtract an additional 5.

c.     If you’ve been exercising regularly (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems listed in a or b, keep the number (180 – age) the same.

d.    If you have been competing for more than two years duration without any of the problems listed above, and have improved in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are 40 years old and fit into category b:

180 – 40 = 140, then 140 – 5 = 135.

So to interpret this information you would need to keep your heart rate within 10 beats per minute of the max heart rate, but not exceed it.

Using our last example, your max aerobic heart rate is 135, so you want to stay between 125-135.

Maffetone Tests

Maffetone Tests are an important part of the MAF method. The MAF test is a key component of the MAF Method of Moderate running. Dr. Maffetone explains:

 “A significant benefit of aerobic base building is the ability to run faster at the same effort, that is, at the same heart rate. A heart monitor can help objectively measure these improvements using a test I developed in the mid-1980s called the maximum aerobic function (MAF) test.”

To complete a MAF test you need to run 5 miles without a break on a track keeping your heart rate as close to your maximum as possible. Completing the test on a track helps to eliminate obstacles such as dodgy pavement and hills. Each mile you rune, your time per mile will inevitably slow. This is okay. Dr Phil, asks you to complete this test once a month to help you assess your progress.

When looking at your times, you should see an increase in average pace every month. If you see no progress then you may want to look at how you are recovering. Recovery is an important factor when looking to peak physically.

Here is an example of how your data might look. This table breaks down average ace. Remember that there are a number of factors that may result in an increase in average pace. Heat, weather, time of the year, to name a few.


Are Maffetone Tests A Good Indicator Of Performance?

Dr. Maffetone believes that the Maffetone test can be used to as a predictor when looking at future running performances.

In his article, he provides a table of Maffetone tests to race time. These times were taken from actual runners he has trained.

MAF Min/Mile5K Race Pace5K Time

Dr. Maffetone explains:

The above runners included those who developed an aerobic base and raced on a flat, certified road course or track.

Most did not perform any anaerobic training, and for most, this was their first competition of the spring or fall racing season.

Moreover, 76% of these athletes ran a personal best time for this distance! Similar relationships exist for longer events and for other sports.

Can You Get Faster With No Anaerobic Training?

The answer is plainly yes. His data shows us that without any anaerobic training his athletes got faster.

Should I Try The MAF Method?

This is where I want to relate it to us rowers. The Maffetone Method is there to help you build up your aerobic capacity as opposed to your anaerobic. If you are a rower who competes in more long distance races and competitions then this could be for you. If you just race distances less than 5km you will need to focus equally on your aerobic and anaerobic systems.