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Training Slower to Get Faster: Rediscovering a Legendary Triathlon Coach

6 Apr 2015
by Dan Meyer

by Dan Meyer

Dr. Phil Maffetone was the coach behind Mark Allen’s 6 Hawaii Ironman Championships. Dr. Maffetone’s coaching philosophy, “The Maffetone Method” isa holistic approach based on the idea that training in a low aerobic zone
teaches the body to better use fat as a fuel, thus improving endurance
performance at events from 5k to Ironman.
This “less is more” approach includes training for 3-6 months at a heart
rate determined by Dr. Maffetone’s own formula which is akin to zone 2. No
anaerobic workouts or strength training are done during this period.
Athletes are encouraged to eat more fats, proteins, vegetables and fruits and
to avoid all refined foods.  

Maffetone encourages athletes to run barefoot or at the very
least in flat, zero drop shoes.  He also
suggests participating in “respiratory feedback” sessions, 10-15 minutes of deep
diaphragmatic nasal breathing while listening to music, prior to work outs and
races.  About every 6 weeks, athletes
conduct a maximum aerobic function test to determine progress.  After a minimum of 3 months of aerobic
training, athletes can either participate in B and C priority races as a
substitute for speed work or spend 4-5 weeks doing a minimal amount of interval

When I first started training using the Maffetone Method, I
found it very difficult and frustrating to train slow enough to keep my heart
rate down. It took months to get comfortable training this way, but my
performance slowly improved to the point that I could keep my heart rate down
and run or cycle at a reasonable speed. My body fat percentage also improved,
and when running or riding long, I don’t need to take in as many calories as I
did before. I also have far fewer aches and pains.

After about 4 ½ months of aerobic training, I have just
started anaerobic training in preparation for the 3 sprints I am doing in the
first half of the season, including my favorite, Tri The Mountains, directed by
my teammate, A.J. Petrillo. I am interested to see whether the Maffetone Method
will lead to improved performance in these events and plan to continue to use
the Maffetone Method to prepare for Ironman Chattanooga in September of this


Dan at Blalock Lakes Triathlon in 2014 

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