The first amazing thing about the MAF method is that I’m still sticking with it, 3 months in. ( The green bars are a MAF session) Anyone who has been following my blog for any length of time ( thank you, you crazy people!) will know that consistency has not been my strong point. I download a training plan or whatever and before long I haven’t been able to keep it up, I’m behind plan and my goals accelerate into the distance and over the horizon without me.
So why is MAF different and how is this succeeding where other plans have failed? I suppose the simple answer is because I’m achieving what I wanted to achieve and it doesn’t cause me pain! It sounds too good to be true, but I think that finally I have tapped into something that works for me.
So what did I want to achieve? I wanted to be slimmer, fitter and feel good. Ultimately I would like to be able to run in events and enjoy them. So why did I think that running could do this for me? Because initially it did: when I first started doing couch to 5k , I dropped a few pounds, I felt more comfortable in my own body, my heart didn’t sink at the prospect of a single flight of stairs and I felt happy because I was achieving something new. Running a 5k was a massive achievement. Not long after that I ran a half marathon. It was a great achievement but I didn’t feel the same surprise and achievement as I did when I reached 5k!
Then something went wrong. I hit a plateaux. I kept trying to run more, but I wasn’t getting faster and I’d stopped losing weight. I tried to lose weight by calorie counting, trying to get a balance of 1200 per day but it didn’t seem to work, I was often hungry and I ate more than I used up through exercise. I tried ‘strength training’ but never lasted than more than a couple of weeks with the exercise regimes. I tried running plans with fast runs and long slow ones. It became a chore to try to fit in a run, tired before I started, depressed and disappointed if I missed out runs from my plan. I set a goal of running a marathon, but despite desperately trying to keep up with the training plan it all got too much and without realising it I gave up, exhausted.
What made me start MAF? I started with the diet. I’d already given up sugar 6months earlier and had felt the benefit of not constantly craving a sugary fix, however in March I lapsed and had a complete chocolate biscuit/cake fest. I gained 4lb in 2 weeks. Somewhere in my internet browsing/reading I’d read about the maffetone method and decided to do the ‘2 week test’. He calls it a test because the aim is to see how intolerant of carbohydrates you might be. I’m not into fad diets, I’ve never understood people who go along the ‘no wheat , no dairy route’ as seems to be popular with ‘celebrity ‘ types. however maffetone was proposing no processed food, which I do understand, so I dropped flour products like bread and pasta along with the sugary stuff. I didn’t lose a lot of weight, like some people report, just a couple of pounds but I wasn’t hungry and I felt OK so I decided to continue with this lower carb diet. For the first time in years I indulged in full fat (plain) yoghurt, butter and cheese, along with meat, fish and a lot of veggies. I actually felt good on it, and stopped getting reflux and other digestive irritations. Oh and not hungry. If I’m hungry I eat something! No restriction on volume of food, it just has to be high quality nutrition!
Then it was time to get back into the running. As I hadn’t run at all for 3 months I thought that it would be better to go right back to the beginning, with no expectations. So as I wasn’t planning/expecting to run fast or far it seemed appropriate to do it the MAF way, using my aerobic HR threshold and building an aerobic base. At first it was a shock to find that I couldn’t really run at my aerobic threshold, there was a lot of walking involved!! But if that’s what it takes, that’s what we do.!! Also it was a bit frustrating, I didn’t make the same rapid improvement that I did when I first started running ( using the keep going until you can’t breathe any more method!).
The good side however, I was enjoying it. Now that I had ‘permission’ to walk I refused to let myself run above my HR, ignoring what onlookers might be thinking. When it doesn’t hurt you can enjoy the scenery more, appreciate what’s going on around you. It’s possible to walk/run for an hour or more and arrive back home feeling perfectly fine thank you, no need to collapse on to the sofa, Hoover the contents of the fridge and so on. And the next day you feel fine, you can do it agian. No procrastination as body and brain gird themselves up for the effort of ‘push push push’ to keep going mentally and physically. Without the procrastination it becomes possible to think, ‘oh I’ve got half an hour , I’ll just nip out for a run’. And before you know it, well actually about 2months later, a new lifestyle is born.
i was determined to stick to this for 3 months and I have a week to go. During that time my average pace for run/walking has gone from 17 minutes something to 15 minutes something, which suggests that I’m getting a bit more running into the run/walk. I have lost 6lb in weight and my BMI is 25.4 so almost into ‘normal ‘ range. And finally my body fat % has shifted a bit too, reluctantly dropping a percentage point.
So what next? Like a lot of people doing MAF (there’s a Facebook group) part of me misses the pushing myself/testing run. So I have decided to celebrate the end of my 3 month induction with a Parkrun! Maybe next week, maybe the week after. Obviously part of me wants to get a PB! I set my PB in May 2014. Given that I haven’t run 5k without a walk for some considerable time I am giving myself a talking to about not raising my expectations!
For today though, my plan was to take a walk/run up the hill next door. When I got up we were shrouded in mist, and I thought that this might not be a good idea as I don’t yet know where the paths are! However it is clearing now so it should be safe. Maybe pictures tomorrow!