Tag Archives: Phil Maffetone

On the Perils of Padded Shoes

I’m a believer in Phil Maffetone‘s approach to aerobic training, which is basically that you should do most training at no more than 75% of your max heart rate.

This doesn’t mean I don’t ever do anaerobic work, or speedwork, or anything else that elevates your heart rate past that. I just default my aerobic training to that lowered maximum. It’s also similar to the 80/20 approach that Matt Fitzgerald vouches for.

Maffetone is also in that esoteric ‘do everything barefoot’ camp, and it’s a key reason the Primal Blueprint’s Mark Sisson aligned with his beliefs in writing Primal Endurance. I don’t subscribe to that mostly because I live in cities where soft ground is often littered with hidden sharp objects, many of which can be very dangerous. I’ll trade the benefits of barefoot running for the needed safety of wearing shoes during exercise, thanks.

But I bring up Maffetone to talk about this piece on shoes that I’ve long since had loaded on a browser tab for discussion. Much like how Sisson wrote his “I hate endurance training BUT if I were to train for a marathon…” piece, Maffetone is anti-shoes but here he writes a piece on what kind of shoes you should get if you need them.

I’m always a supporter of the “not my thing but here’s a good way to do it if you must” perspective. I like being open minded to different approaches, even when I have convincing reasons not to follow them. I know others will follow them, and long as no one’s getting hurt or killed in doing so we’re typically better off helping each other maximize those efforts.

But, as I do, I digress. Maffetone raises a good point about what I call “The Hoka One One Problem”: We like padded shoes, but they’re not good for us.

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Heart Rate: Should It Be Tied To Pace?

Many running guides, metrics, coaches, etc, will talk about your pace in relation to your heart rate, namely your maximum heart rate and what percentage of your maximum heart rate corresponds to a given effort or pace.

What to do in accordance with your heart rate depends on who is giving the advice, from Daniels and other coaches recommending a given heart rate for every pace, even suggesting your fastest runs be done at 100% of your max… to the Phil Maffetones of the world recommending you never run above 75-80% of your maximum heart rate… to coaches like the Hanson Brothers who won’t really discuss heart rate at all, focusing solely on your pace.

And this never minds that few can seem to agree on how to determine your max heart rate. Presuming you don’t shell out for an abusive VO2max or heart rate test, you’re often left to estimate using methods no one can agree on. The conventional ‘subtract your age from 220’ formula has long since been proven inaccurate. Runner’s World floated the result of a 2001 study as proof that the formula is close to (207 – (your age * 0.7)).

Scientists in Norway have found that an accurate formula is (211 – (your age * 0.64)). That’s the formula I use. The max it gives me (currently 185) seems more attainable than other results.

But anyway…. Personally, because I’m a fan of not dropping dead, I tend to avoid trying to hit my max heart rate even when running hard.

The closest I have gotten according to my Fitbit tracker is 184. My Blaze once said my heart rate had hit 187, but that could have been a blip. In neither case did I feel anywhere close to death: They were random occurrences during otherwise typically tough runs or workouts.

In most of my speed workouts and races, my heart rate may reach the 160’s, occasionally the 170’s. In my fastest 5K’s my HR has tapped the low 170’s for a short spell, but otherwise I never get above the high 160’s… even if technically I should be able to hit 185.

I do begin to wonder if along with my aerobic endurance my lower body muscles have sort of a ‘solid state hard drive’ strength to them, where my heart doesn’t need to pump at a maximal rate to keep everything going, where the muscles have the strength and energy systems to keep going with a more high-normal rate of circulation.

Even when running at closer to threshold effort or pace, I find I don’t always get to what Daniels would consider a threshold heart rate. It’s often closer to a marathon effort heart rate, maybe a half marathon rate. Even when I PR’d last year’s Lakefront 10, my heart rate never hit the 160’s until the final couple miles, when I was kicking for a strong finish.

Sometimes during my regular runs I hit the 140’s, but often my heart rate is in the 130’s. On my long runs during the last training cycle, I even hung in the recovery-territory 120’s for much of those runs.

I don’t know if I’m doing things differently, or if my body is wired differently, or what. But I certainly don’t mind seeing results even if my heart’s not having to pump at the rate that experts say it should be for me to get those results.

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