Desktop Subscribe180 minus Age (180-age)

For years I’ve trained all out, that is until recently when I came across Phil Maffetone’s formula of 180-age which gives you a maximum heart rate to reach whilst you are training if you want to train aerobically.

I doubt until recently that in the last 25 year I’ve ever had a training session that has kept my heart rate this low, and for the last 2 months I’ve been sticking to the 180-age formula and by taking my foot off the gas whilst I train to build a ‘stronger aerobic base’.

I’ve been keeping my hear rate in and around the 134 mark (for more the vigilant amongst you now you know how old I am) because in theory a lower heart rate in this range stops the stress hormones getting released, keeps me more relaxed and allows my body to favour burning fat as fuel.

My aim is not to train my body to be so totally reliant on carbohydrate as fuel, and why am I doing this you may ask? well the reason is I’ve got a marathon coming up, I want to run a good time yet previously I’ve always run out of steam before the finish line, because despite carbohydrate loading, feeding along the way with gels and sugar filled drinks I’ve always run out of the carbohydrate stored in my body. But by getting my body to utilise fat as a fuel in theory I should be able to the finish without hitting the wall or bonking.

By keeping my heart rate of 180 minus age whilst training I keep my training in the fat burning range and in a range where there is enough oxygen to burn fats efficiently, because below this heart rate there is enough oxygen delivered to my muscles and the by this fact the training is said to be aerobic in nature.

Whereas by pushing it a little harder I would leave aerobic range, their wouldn’t be enough oxygen to go around and I would start burning my glycogen stores, build up an oxygen debt, start breathing heavier and start burning carbohydrate as a source of fuel.

The Theory is that by giving yourself at least 2 months training exclusively building an aerobic base you are actively stimulating your ability for your muscles to burn fat more efficiently and as your aerobic base grows you can get faster and start stretching your legs again without your pulse rate topping 180-age.

Recently runners have called the ability to utilise fat stores as being ‘fat adapted’ where they can dip into their fat stores to keep them going even when running in a fasted state, being fat adapted means your body has the ability to burn fat as a fuel source and fuel your slow twitch aerobic muscle fibres which is the type of muscle that needs to be trained if we want to run any kind of endurance race.

There are other benefits of running fat adapted, you don’t build up as many free radicals in your training which can damage your body because fat burns more efficiently, you also maintain a healthier autonomic nervous system reflected in a higher hart rate variability, (I will blog about this some other time) and you’re not as tired after training.

More importantly training in this way effects your body not just when you are training, because coupled with a lower intake of carbohydrate intake in your diet you can step right off the carbohydrate roller coaster all together, generally you are not as hungry, you don’t crave food or carbs. as much as before and the reason for this is with your new ‘fat burning aerobic base’ you can tap into your fat stores more effectively if you were to miss a meal, and I forgot to mention you also will find it easier to lose weight.

The only draw back for the first few weeks of training at 180-age in order to keep your heart rate low you will be walking up the hills and feeling like you are crawling on the flat, but for me getting left behind by my 12 year old whilst running a 5K was inevitably going to happen soon but also being overtaken by my 9 year old in the same run seemed a bit extreme.

As with any article I write about exercise or diet I may be a doctor but I’m not your doctor so please seek advice from your own physician before starting on an exercise program or making major changes to your diet.

For more information about the 180-age formula I would use the following resources;

I would recommend you read Maffeton’s book ‘The big book on Endurance Training and Racing’ found at;

For a similar approach read Primal Endurance written by Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns; 

Or look at the recent work of Tim Noakes the author of the original definitive book on running ‘Lore of Running’  who is now looking at diet in a totally different way;

180-age was written by Dr Jeff Stoker an experienced physician, runner and triathlete.  

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