Run Faster by Running Slower (and Much More)

– The MOVEMENT Movement with Steven Sashen Episode 096 with Dr. Phil Maffetone

Dr. Phil Maffetone’s credo is that “everyone is an athlete.” As a health and fitness trendsetter he has perhaps had more positive impact on a wider variety of people than anyone in modern history. From professional and Olympic athletes in virtually every sport, to average people from all walks of life, his system for achieving optimum human performance by tapping into the human body’s fat-burning system has helped millions of people achieve their goals in sports, business and life.

During his two decades in private practice and beyond, Dr. Maffetone has been a respected pioneer in the field of complementary medicine, bringing the latest advances to health-care professionals around the world. He is an internationally recognized researcher, educator, clinician and author in the field of nutrition, exercise and sports medicine, and biofeedback.

Listen to this episode of The MOVEMENT Movement with Dr. Phil Maffetone about running faster by running slower.

Here are some of the beneficial topics covered on this week’s show:

  • Why it’s vital for training services to be personalized to the person they serve.
  • How people can take seconds off of their running time by conserving glycogen.
  • Why the body’s metabolism changes to adapt to energy needs when intensity increases.
  • How people can get injured because of chronic inflammation due to increased body fat.
  • What the 180 Formula is and how people can use it to their benefit.

Connect with Dr. Maffetone:

Guest Contact Info
Twitter
@MAF_Method

Instagram
@maf_method

Facebook
facebook.com/MAFMethod

 

Links Mentioned:
philmaffetone.com

 Connect with Steven:

Website

Xeroshoes.com

Jointhemovementmovement.com

Twitter
@XeroShoes

Instagram
@xeroshoes

Facebook
facebook.com/xeroshoes

 

 

Steven Sashen:
If you want to run faster, here’s the best advice that you’re going to get. Run slower. What? You’re going to find out more about what that means on today’s episode of the Movement Movement, the podcast for people who want to know the truth about what it takes to have a happy, healthy, strong body, starting feet first, because those things are your foundation, after all. We break down the propaganda and the mythology, that was hard to say, sometimes the flat-out lies that you’ve been told about what it takes to run, or walk, or hike, or play, or do yoga, or CrossFit, whatever it is you like to do, and do it enjoyably, and efficiently, effectively, and did I mention enjoyably? I know I did. That was a trick question, but we’re going to dive into that.

We call this the Movement Movement because we are creating a movement, that involves you, and I’ll explain that in a second, about natural movement, helping people rediscover that natural movement is the obvious, better, healthy choice, the way we currently think of natural food. I am Steven Sashen, from xeroshoes.com, your host of the Movement Movement podcast. By the way, that part about being movement that’s involving you, this is a grassroots, groundswell kind of thing that’s happening as more and more people get hip to natural movement. The way you can help is really the obvious things.

Go check out the website, www.jointhemovementmovement.com. There’s no cost to join. There’s no actual thing about joining. Just, that’s the domain that I found. That’s where you’ll find all the previous episodes and all the different ways you can find the podcast wherever podcasts are found, and all the ways you can share the word, so liking, sharing, thumbs up, hit the bell icon on YouTube. You know how to do it. In short, if you want to be part of the tribe, please subscribe.

All right, so let’s get started. I am really, really happy to be having this conversation with someone who, you and I started talking not too long after we started Xero Shoes, so, Phil Maffetone, it is a pleasure to have you. I rarely do this, but I’m going to do this for you. Dr. Phil Maffetone, it is a pleasure having you here. Why don’t you tell human beings who you are and what you do?

Phil Maffetone:
Thank you, Steven. It’s really, really nice to be with you. Yeah, we started talking right after you launched. I got a pair of those sandals that I had to put together myself, actually, which was a treat. What a fun thing. I’m really bad with instructions, so it took me like a week to..

Steven Sashen:
But then you had the superpower of knowing how to make your own footwear.

Phil Maffetone:
Then, I could. My triple jump went from 38 feet to 57, I mean, what could I say?

Steven Sashen:
Didn’t your mortgage rate go down and your kids get..

Phil Maffetone:
It did, yes.

Steven Sashen:
Yeah. That’s what happens when you make your own shoes. Backing up to the who you are and what you do … I mean, look, I got to preface this with, when did your first book come out? Because that’s when I first found you.

Phil Maffetone:
Gosh, you know, I have a really, really good memory for most things. The first book was probably the early ’80s.

Steven Sashen:
Yeah.

Phil Maffetone:
I don’t know if it was the heart rate monitoring book. I wrote the first heart rate monitoring book.

Steven Sashen:
Okay, that wasn’t the one that I got. Keep going, because I can’t remember titles for things.

Phil Maffetone:
The next one, which ended up being like five editions, was called In Fitness and in Health.

Steven Sashen:
That one. I got that book in the late ’80s. Anyway, so, you’re the author of In Fitness and in Health, but say more about who you are and what you do. I’m going to stay out until you do.

Phil Maffetone:
Gosh. Now, I got to … Do I have a script or something?

Steven Sashen:
The pressure’s on.

Phil Maffetone:
I’ve said this before, my fear of when I travel is, I pull up to my seat on the plane, and I am getting my stuff up above, and down below, and the guy next to me says, “Hi, I’m Bob. I’m an accountant. What do you do?” I mean …

Steven Sashen:
Here. Let me get you started.

Phil Maffetone:
I wear many hats. 

Steven Sashen:
That’s true. Well, you’re a musician, but that’s not what we’re talking about. I’m going to give you one of your hats. I am not a haberdasher, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to use the word haberdasher or haberdashery in a sentence before, so I feel good about that.

Phil Maffetone:
I’m impressed.

Steven Sashen:
You do what you can.

Phil Maffetone:
I’ve never used it.

Steven Sashen:
Well, now it’ll be in your head.

Phil Maffetone:
Now, I will.

Steven Sashen:
Sometime during the next-

Phil Maffetone:
I’ll reference you.

Steven Sashen:
I didn’t make it up. You are one of the world’s leading experts on running, and especially on training for running long distances. Would that be an accurate statement?

Phil Maffetone:
Sure. That’s good. When I first began my career, I opened a clinic. I basically combined exercise physiology, biofeedback, brain and body biofeedback, physiotherapy, diet, and nutrition. Then, quickly afterwards, I realized that I needed to become a coach, because people were getting hurt. People were coming in who were hurt, and in asking them how they got hurt, I was doing a good history to figure out how they got hurt. I realized that their training is hurting them.

It wasn’t uncommon for me to say, after they’d brag about how they were a couch potato, and then they watched the New York City marathon, they bought a pair of shoes, and started … I would say, “You know, you would have been better off staying a couch potato. Look what you’ve done to yourself.”

Steven Sashen:
Besides, who doesn’t love potatoes?

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah, yeah. I was fortunate in that I could fix most of them up, get rid of their injuries. Then, suddenly, two, three months later, four months later, they’d come back with another injury. I’d say, “Well, what did you do between then and now?”

I realized, at that point, that I had to intervene. I had to be a partner with them to help with the training process. I was all about personalization. How can we individualize this therapy? How can we individualize food and the rest of lifestyle? So, I enlisted myself as their coach in this endeavor.

So, you can add coach to my résumé, if you want, but it’s not technically … I’m not the kind of coach that gives a training schedule, just like I’m not the kind of nutrition person who gives diets. I’ve never done that. It’s hard. People don’t understand that. You do nutrition. Can you give me a diet? No, I can’t. Can I get my training schedule now? No, no.

It was a real reeducation of the world. At that point, the running boom was booming. The mentality was, no pain, no gain. The track and field coaches who you and I know a lot about were coming over to the endurance world, because, as they got older and started retiring, they had nowhere to go. They brought with them the mentality of, you got to train fast to race fast. It was a tough sell, all of my stuff. I was called lots of names.

Steven Sashen:
Really? Really?

Phil Maffetone:
Even by publications.

Steven Sashen:
Really? I mean, like what?

Phil Maffetone:
Are there children listening to this?

Steven Sashen:
If there are, they’re about to learn something new, so go for it.

Phil Maffetone:
Just that when you buck the trend, whether it’s right or not, it’s a tough thing. It’s antisocial. Is this guy crazy? Where does he come up with this? There’s no science behind it. Of course, as the years went on, both the science caught up, and I started doing my own science to demonstrate the results.

If I could sum it up, it’s all common sense, because humans have been this way for millions of years, so what’s the big deal? Why is it so difficult to understand the concepts?

Steven Sashen:
I was literally having this conversation this morning. It’s like, human bodies are all the same shape. They all move the same way, and there are optimal ways of doing that.

But, the thing that’s amazing to me, or annoying, frustrating, fascinating, pick your choice of words, I was on a panel discussion at the American College of Sports Medicine. There was a guy from Brooks and a guy from Adidas. When asked, “What’s the future?” Their answer, both of them had the same basic answer, which is personalization. We’re going to make something individual for your unique, little, snowflake life.

I said, under my breath, “You guys are acting like you need one shoe for walking into the bathroom and a different shoe for leaving the bathroom because you weigh less.” Everybody likes the idea that here’s a special thing just for me, but we’re all the same basic thing. In fact, the better we get at that thing, the more alike we become, because we find optimal ways of doing things, but we’ll get back to that in a sec.

I want to back up. I just remembered, I don’t expect that you remember this, and I’m probably remembering it incorrectly, given my memory, but the way I’m remembering it now is probably good enough. The first conversation we had, I said, because there’s a couple counterintuitive things that you’ve taught since day one, so, one that I teased at the beginning about running slower, and we’ll talk about that, and it relates to heart rate and heart rate variability, which people very much don’t understand. The other is footwear.

From very early on, your recommendation was, go get the thinnest, cheapest pair of shoes you can so that it’s not interfering with your feet. The closest thing to barefoot you can get. This is decades before the whole barefoot movement kicked in in roughly 2009. One of the first things I said to you, and I’ll pretend that I’m asking you for the first time now, so you can answer again, was, “Do you feel vindicated or frustrated that it took so long for people to catch up with you?”

Phil Maffetone:
Good question. I mean, I feel good. My goal is to help people, you know? More people are being helped now because of all the folks jumping on the various bandwagons. So, I’m okay with that. I forgive the people that called me all kinds of bad names, except for a few, and I won’t tell you who, but they work at running magazines.

Steven Sashen:
Hold on. Just to say, not that running magazines are in any way tainted, but one publisher, I won’t mention them by name, but it rhymes with Flunner’s World, they put out a book called the Complete Guide to Barefoot and Minimalist Running, and I’m not in it. Xero Shoes is not in it, and we were the number one seller of minimalist footwear.

Phil Maffetone:
I doubt I’m in it.

Steven Sashen:
I haven’t looked. I’ll have to check. So, yeah, it could not be a less complete guide. Actually, here’s an epilogue. At one point, one of my best friends from college was the president of the company that publishes that stuff. When he became president, I called and said, “How come we’re not in the complete guide?” He got back to me, and he goes, “You didn’t pay for advertising, did you?” I said, “There you go.”

Phil Maffetone:

That’s the thing, and people don’t understand that. It’s just …

Steven Sashen:
There’s another thing you’ve been saying, and you even wrote a book about it that’s on … I have a bunch of your books on our Xero Shoes bookshelf or bookcase. Before we get into running slow to run fast, or any of the other counterintuitive things, one of your other books, 1:59, which is your ideas about what it would take for someone to run a sub two hour marathon, a legit sub two hour marathon, like in an actual race, not under the perfect conditions that were set up for Kipchoge. Let’s just dive into that and just share with people your thoughts about the possibility of human beings running a sub-two, and your thoughts about what’s happened with the Kipchoge race, and what Nike was doing with that product that he was wearing.

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah, yeah. I originally wrote an article called the 1:59 Marathon. I think it was 1998.

Steven Sashen:
Wow.

Phil Maffetone:
People, they thought it was a goof, one of those goof articles, but, okay, fine. Then, I wrote another version of it, and then a third version of it, and then eventually thought, gee, this would make a great book, and eventually got around to writing it.

Steven Sashen:
Wait, wait. When you did that first article, what was the world record?

Phil Maffetone:
God, I don’t know. 1998. I want to say-

Steven Sashen:
It’s got to be in …

Phil Maffetone:
… 2:05?

Steven Sashen:
I was going to say probably closer to 2:10, maybe, in ’98, but yeah, somewhere in that. I mean, regardless, 5 minutes or 10 minutes difference is massive, so I imagine people thought you were insane and then-

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah, but all you have to do is connect the dots. You look back at what happened, way back when. You look at how things progressed, and you theorize where we could end up. How could you not do that? How could you be emotional about it? I thought, it’s not about springs in your shoes or finding the fastest downhill marathon. It’s about breakthrough physiology, which was really not breakthrough. My feeling is that it was all about people understanding where we came from, as a species. The closer they could get to doing that again in their training, the sooner the two hour mark would be broken.

Steven Sashen:
Phil, can you say more about what that entails?

Phil Maffetone:
A big part of that has to do with fat burning. If we access the body fat, even the leanest of us has enough fat to go hundreds of miles, so we have virtually unlimited fat stores. The more energy we have, the faster we go. It’s like a steam engine. You throw some more coal in there or wood and the fire gets hot, it makes more steam, and the engine gets faster. By the way, you also conserve your glycogen, so that when you get to the last few miles, you could pick up your pace and really get a whole lot more seconds off your time.

Then, the idea of running with a gait that was natural was a big part of it, because when you start looking at, what does weight do in a marathon time? What do bad shoes do to your gait? They turn them bad. How is gait affecting your energy systems and your time? All of that stuff.

There was so many factors. It was the program I had developed really well, up to that point. It was just an application of it to the world’s best marathoners, and this is what they can do when they push the right buttons.

Steven Sashen:
Well, and one of the points you made in self-serving the … Well, I won’t even say it’s self-serving when I bring this up, because it’s a little departure from what we’re doing at Xero Shoes. You also suggested that it would be someone running on an appropriate course in bare feet.

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah. I mean, I just thought the best way to deal with the foot issue was to be barefoot. Simple.

Steven Sashen:
Simple.

Phil Maffetone:
There were people doing that. They weren’t getting much press. They were considered strange. I had run barefoot in high school. Half the time, they wouldn’t let me, but the simple idea that the human body is more efficient without gloves on, when you’re trying to type, it’s just common sense. So, that’s where it was. It was also that, okay, if you’re going to be running on a course that could have some dangerous things, or involve some gravel, or pebbles, and, okay, you could wear some shoes, some really flat, simple, light shoes, but spend a lot of time barefoot while you’re training, and of course, while you’re hanging around, because the barefoot state strengthens your muscles, and so that with the healthy foot, you put that into a shoe, and now you’re in much better shape than you were before.

Steven Sashen:
People forget, when Abebe Bikila ran the marathon barefoot, what they often overlook was that he was running on cobblestones. People think that there are certain conditions that are better or worse. That’s one of those conditions that people say, “Well, you can’t do that, because, you know, cobblestones.” He did totally fine.

My joke is, and then the next Olympics, he ran in shoes, and he did not win. Then, after that, he died, so clearly there’s a connection between wearing shoes and dying. It seems somewhat obvious.

Phil Maffetone:
Yes, and I’ve run on cobblestones barefoot, and it’s actually a lot of fun.

Steven Sashen:
It’s fun. There’s times where your toes get in just the right spot, and you get that little bit of grip, and push off. It’s a blast.

I think that’s the thing that’s so upside-down, is most people who’ve never experienced trying to run barefoot, other than to the mailbox and back, they immediately go to all the imagined things that they think would go wrong. I mean, why it is that people think that the world is just full of broken glass, waiting to puncture your foot, is a mystery to me. Even in New York City, where I have walked and run barefoot for dozens, and dozens, and dozens of miles, I never stepped on … Actually, I take it back. I probably did step on some broken glass. Never noticed.

In fact, even crazier. When I was first living in New York City in 1980, ’81, my day job, I was a street performer. The gig that I did, I walked on broken glass in my bare feet.

Phil Maffetone:
Wow.

Steven Sashen:
Who knew?

Phil Maffetone:
Man, I was down there then.

Steven Sashen:
Really? Man.

Phil Maffetone:
I should have come by. Were you playing music?

Steven Sashen:
No. I love the idea of being a musician. I’m a good technician. I’ve picked up a couple things where I can get competent, but then I realize the gap between being a technician and being a musician is a lot of time and different genetics, so that just didn’t happen, but sorry we missed each other in New York.

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah.

Steven Sashen:
Moving back, again, I was just saying, people imagine all these unpleasant things that almost never happen, but they forget the pleasant parts that everyone who’s done it describes just nonstop, how great it feels, how light it is, how natural it feels, how wonderful it is just getting all these different sensations, where you feel connected to the ground. If you’re hiking or on a trail, where you really feel like you’re part of the thing, instead of just walking over the thing. They don’t have that in their brain, even though all of us have experienced it at some point and remember, but that’s just not where people go after 50 years of wearing big, thick, padded shoes.

Phil Maffetone:
It’s a hard sell, and it was for me, in making these recommendations of being barefoot. A lot of the time, my recommendations were based on therapeutic reasons. I want you to be barefoot for therapeutic reasons, because your body is really screwed up. You need to retrain it. We’re going to do a number of therapies, and one of them is you’re going to take your shoes off, and start walking outside, and reestablishing this connection between your feet and your brain.

Steven Sashen:
There’s a previous episode of the podcast that I did with Dr. Sarah Ridge from BYU that I think I titled it something like The Stupidest Research in the world, something like that, because Sarah did research showing that if you just walk in a pair of truly minimalist shoes, which not all shoes that are called minimalist actually are, but if you just walk in a pair of minimalist shoes, you build foot muscle strength as much as if you did an actual foot strengthening exercise program. I said, “It’s amazing that you had to prove that …” It’s the dumbest science ever that we have to demonstrate what’s, like you said, such common sense.

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah, yeah. That was a while ago. When was that?

Steven Sashen:
Yeah, I don’t do time very well, either, so I’m going to say-

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah, I remember glancing at that, because I look at a lot of science stuff. I zip through all these, because there’s so much stuff that comes out. I zip through, and if I see something interesting, I read it. If it looks boring, I skip it. I looked at her stuff, and I thought, okay, yeah, nice.

Steven Sashen:
Right.

Phil Maffetone:
Great work she did.

Steven Sashen:
It was great work, and then, the bookend to that one is research that actually just came out not too long ago from Dr. Protopapas, which was showing the opposite, where if you put arch support in the shoes of healthy athletes, they get weaker within 12 weeks. Their foot muscle mass drops by like 17% or up to 17%. Again, not rocket science. You don’t move something, it gets weaker. We know-

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah. Those are old ideas. I’ve written a lot about this, and they’re not just related to the feet.

Steven Sashen:
Of course.

Phil Maffetone:
But we’re talking about an ankle bandage. We’re talking about a knee brace, a low back support, anything you put on the body to try to support the joint is going to result in the muscles working less, and they literally can get weak. I just cringe when I’m at a sporting event and seeing these people with … They’re all bandaged up. This is not a boxing match.

Steven Sashen:
Well, that’s actually a really interesting point, because people don’t understand the point of taping up in boxing, which is a whole different game altogether. We don’t need to get into that. Backing up, so, you wrote this very interesting book about running a sub-two marathon, at a time where that just seemed crazy. Now that Bikila did it, what thoughts do you have about that race? That race. It’s not even a race, about that run.

Phil Maffetone:
I thought it was a scam. It was a commercial. I thought it diminished running, professional running. What’s interesting was, it was done. The fact that it was done is always, in the past, the history of sports, has always shown a strong connection between when people are doing something, almost doing something, coming close to doing something, that’s when these big … When Bannister broke the four minute mile, all of a sudden, there were a lot of people doing it.

Steven Sashen:
My hunch is there were a lot of people who, had he not run that race, there was a bunch of other people who have would have been the first one to do it. They were ready to do it.

Phil Maffetone:
Sure. Without a doubt. Yeah. Without a doubt. I think the fact that, I think what happened was someone broke, even though it was a scam, someone did it. Now, in the minds of the few lead pack runners, there are probably a couple dozen of them, maybe, who have the ability to run sub two hours at a Berlin Marathon, or Chicago, or wherever, when all the conditions are right, now, it’s much more of a reality, so I think you’ll see that coming along pretty quick, here, too.

Steven Sashen:
One of the points that I’ve made about it is his world record at Berlin, prior to the sub-two, was 2:01:40, I think. I’m not remembering exactly, somewhere in the 2:01:40, 2:01:50. He only ran 40 seconds faster, roughly 40 seconds faster. Yeah, so it must have been that. It was like 48 seconds faster to run sub-two, which means he was running, basically, like 4.58 seconds per mile faster to break two, which is not a whole lot.

Phil Maffetone:
It’s not. You could say that in that circus even that they had, he didn’t really have that good of a race.

Steven Sashen:
Right. Yeah, that’s true.

Phil Maffetone:
Because he should have run a lot faster. He should have been down around 1:58, but he wasn’t. It apparently was a little struggle at the end, but he did it.

Steven Sashen:
Yeah. I’m very curious to see what happens next, if people really are inspired, and we really do start to see those numbers drop, or if people think of it as, it was a one off thing, and nothing changes. It’ll be interesting. I did like that, of course, Nike made it all about the shoes. Some number of months ago, Kipchoge was interviewed, and he was saying, “It wasn’t the shoes. It was my legs.” He was really mad about it, which I thought was brilliant.

Phil Maffetone:
I love it when athletes get annoyed by their sponsors. I have some stories. I won’t go into it, but-

Steven Sashen:
Man, come on. You got to give me..

Phil Maffetone:
Cutting out logos from their shoes, and gluing them on their other shoes that they’re going to wear in the …

Steven Sashen:
Yeah, yeah. I’ve actually met a couple people who have done that, sponsored by one company, wearing shoes from another, swapping the logos to make it look like it’s different. Then, people get mad, like, “I looked for that shoe. I couldn’t find it.” “It was specially made for me for that race.”

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah, specially made. They would use the specially made excuse. Yeah, they make them special. They sold out of them, they were so popular.

Steven Sashen:
That’s what it is. We sold out. Yeah. I mean, it actually is an interesting point, because a lot of runners are getting shoes made for them specially, and then people, for whatever reason think, that guy did really good in that shoe. I’m going to buy that shoe. What they’re buying, completely different than what that person was wearing.

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah.

Steven Sashen:
Let’s back up to where we teased thing about running slow to run fast, because this is actually one of the things, and heart rate, and heart rate variability, because this is, I think, one of the things where you really have staked a claim, if you will, and obviously been one of the early proponents of all of this. I think the only other person that I know of who was talking about doing slower training for speed at all was Lidiard. I don’t know where you were in relation to that, but when people think of you, most often, when I’m online, people are talking about heart rate-based training, slower training, etc., so let’s dive into that, shall we?

Phil Maffetone:
Sure. I was familiar with Lidiard’s work a little bit early on, and then I became more familiar. He became a patient of mine.

Steven Sashen:
Really?

Phil Maffetone:
I tried to show him the heart monitor. He was so averse to it. I finally got him to wear it, and we tested it out. I said, “Look, all of what you’re doing can be-“

Steven Sashen:
Quantified.

Phil Maffetone:
“… related, scientifically, with a heart rate. I would think you’d want that.” “No, no, no.” I mean, I’m all for letting the brain guide the body, but we are influenced so much in a negative way by society that we just can’t do it. For me, the heart monitor was a biofeedback device that would allow people to respond to the environment and adjust their, in this case, training intensity based on the body’s need.

Steven Sashen:
Can you say a little more?

Phil Maffetone:
It’s a pretty simple idea.

Steven Sashen:
Can you say a little more about explicitly what you’re doing with the heart rate monitor and how people are using that?

Phil Maffetone:
Well, specifically, finding a point in intensity. As your intensity goes up, the body’s metabolism changes to adapt to the energy needs. As the intensity goes up, at lower levels of intensity, we burn more fat, in a healthy person, we burn more fat and lower amounts of sugar. That fat burning, that high fat burning is a very healthy thing. As the intensity goes up, fat burning goes down, and sugar burning goes up rather quickly, actually. Now, we’re no longer burning fat. We’re burning a lot of sugar, so now, we’re risking reducing our glycogen storage.

In training, if your goal is to train with high intensity training, that can work, but if you do it every day, it’s a problem. Also, you’re not burning fat. What started happening, and I noticed this in the ’80s, what began to happen was that the athletes, all athletes who were training at higher levels of intensity were starting to increase body fat. If you increase body fat, number one, you probably weigh more, which is a problem. Even if you don’t, you have chronic inflammation, because excess body fat is associated with chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation means any little tweak that you have of an injury becomes more inflamed. You could get a full-blown injury because of chronic inflammation due to excess body fat. So, of course, the diet plays a huge role in that.

I did a study four years ago, maybe, where I looked at, Paul Larsen and I looked at the prevalence of excess body fat in the US. We found that 91% of Americans had excess body fat, a condition called overfat. There was some really good data that had just come out, and I jumped on it, and I grabbed it, and I said, “This is really good.” Part of that data was that they were looking at the exercise rates. Exercise rates were increasing, more people were exercising, but at the same time, people were getting more overfat.

Steven Sashen:
Interesting.

Phil Maffetone:
Which leaves the diet part. If we’re eating junk food, if we’re eating sugar, we’re going to store more fat, because sugar does a lot of bad things. One of the things it does is it impairs our ability to burn fat, no matter how slow and easy we train. Number two, it impairs the aerobic system, which is our fat-burning engine, and so we have problems. If everything in our life is wonderful, but we’re eating too much, we’re eating junk food, we’re eating sugar, we can’t be healthy.

Steven Sashen:
The way people are using the heart rate monitors and biofeedback devices, basically, as an objective measurement of intensity?

Phil Maffetone:
Yes. What my goal was, there were two things. One is to train the person in a healthy way, which mean, in most cases, training at a lower intensity, and then, that will help them get healthier, in addition to being more fit, but also use that same heart rate as a guide to show that we’re really doing something, we’re really making progress. That progress comes from the ability to get faster at the same heart rate.

In the beginning, people say, “Well, how could you run this slow? People are going to laugh at me.” I say, “Well, run at night when nobody will see you.” I mean, people, that’s a common question, you know?

Steven Sashen:
Yeah, I’m sure.

Phil Maffetone:
They often don’t say they’re going to look at … They say, “I can’t run this slow.” Then, I say, “I know what you mean. Run at night.”

I want to measure progress. I don’t want to assume that you’re getting better in your training, and we wait three, four, five months, and then you’re going to run your first big race, and we find out that you really haven’t done anything. I want to see that you’re making progress, it doesn’t have to be week to week, but month to month. That progress, in a runner, comes as faster paces at the same sub-max heart rate, what I call the MAF heart rate, which I’ve measured. That’s a heart rate that provides the best fat-burning state. It usually ends up being a slower pace, mainly because so many people are over-trained.

Steven Sashen:
That’s interesting. Say more about that.

Phil Maffetone:
Well, usually, if you’re just thinking, I’m going to start running. I’ve been walking for six months. I feel like I want to start running. Okay. Get a heart monitor on. You start jogging. You’ll be able to jog a little bit, really slow, which is understand.

But, if you’re a trained runner, and you’ve been training for a year, or 2, or 5, or 10, or 20, and you’ve run some PRs, but you haven’t lately. You’ve been injured a fair amount. You’re tired a lot. You say, “I’m going to start doing this low heart rate training,” you’re depressed. You’re running so slow.

This happens in beginners, and it happens in professional athletes, at every pace along the way. I had a podcast with Mark Allen the other day. He was reminding me how he felt when he first put the heart monitor on. He and I were running around the track in southern California, back in, I think it was ’83. He was just laughing. I said, “Yes, this is how slow.” He was like an 8:20 pace.

Steven Sashen:
By the way, Mark Allen, world champion triathlete. Very accomplished athlete. I mean, yeah, 8:20, that’s barely better than walking, for him.

Phil Maffetone:
When he got out on the roads, he was around nine-minute pace.

He progressed to 5:20, so that’s the point, is that you have to find your starting place. If you don’t find the starting place, your progress just doesn’t come. You make a little progress, but then you fall back. Then, you try it again. That’s how humans did it in the beginning.

Steven Sashen:
How do people, and part of this will be getting in touch with you and the things that you’ve done, but I’ll ask you anyway. How do people find that starting pace, that starting heart rate that they’re going to use as their baseline?

Phil Maffetone:
Well, in the beginning, I figured it out clinically, in my office. I would do an evaluation. I would do a history. I would do a master’s two-step test, where I would measure their resting rate, and have them do a high-intensity running in place, or stepping up on a bench for one minute, and then, where does your heart rate go, and do all that evaluation.

Then, I’d go out on the track with them. I would have them jog slow. I’d have a heart monitor on them. I’d have them jog slow, and I would see how their slowly elevating heart rate affects their gait. What’s interesting is at the low intensities, the gait is really pretty good, in a reasonably healthy runner. As it goes up, as your intensity goes up, as your pace goes up, when you have that switch from high fat burning to lower fat burning and elevating sugar burning, the gait starts to get screwed up.

Steven Sashen:
In what ways?

Phil Maffetone:
There’d be irregularities. You would sense fatigue, and you’d start over-striding. Depending on how long the person was running, but gait analysis was something I had been doing from my years in school. To get out on a track and watch people was pretty simple. It’s easy to see when you’re trained to do that.

What I did was I picked a heart rate that correlated with my physical findings in my office, and the heart rate that preceded the onset of irregular gait. I did that for a couple of years. I realized that there’s got to be a way to … It’s just mathematics. There’s got to be a way to do that without going through all this, so that people can do it on their own.

I came up with something called the 180 formula, which I tested for years after that. I tested the formula with my evaluation until everything was tweaked and it was correlating quite well. People can go to my website, look up the 180 formula. Probably in the last two years, there’s a newer version of it that adds a little more individual questions.

You have to answer questions about your health, about your fitness. You can come up with that MAF heart rate, which is your max heart rate for you to train aerobically in. Then, you want a 10 beat range, that’s your zone. That’s where you want to train for a period of three, four, five, six months, sometimes, doing no speed work.

Steven Sashen:
Very interesting. To reiterate, and what happens after you’ve done that is then … I mean, how much are people working at picking up their pace with that same heart rate or just finding that they’re picking up their pace at that same heart rate?

Phil Maffetone:
My focus with them is to relax. Just relax. It’s almost like a … It is a meditation. You’re out there. It’s quiet. You don’t have people talking to you. You’re not competing with your training partners.

Just relax. You really have to let your brain do the work. Just take the edge off the intensity, and in some cases, it’s a big edge, but whatever your body needs. As time goes on, like after the first month, you should see a noticeable improvement in your pace. Certainly, after two months, you should have a measurable change.

You might be running 30, 45 seconds faster after two months. I have something called the MAF test, where you go to the track, and now, with GPS, it’s easier on the road, if you have a fairly flat road. You’ll see that change from week to week. Then, you know you’re doing the right thing. If it doesn’t change, something is wrong, and that something is either you lied about the MAF formula, and I’ve had some crazy … The things people do … If you have this problem, and you have that problem, and if you’re on medication, you have to do this, not that, because there’s a health issue.

Steven Sashen:
I want to come back to that in a second, because I have another thought, possibly. What I love about what you’re talking about, there’s a certain irony. The irony is, it’s something we mentioned before, where everyone likes to think of themself as their own, little, unique snowflake, but when they’re looking to do training, they want to have something that is just laid out linearly, just paint by numbers, step by step, rather than recognizing they are a unique, little snowflake, and it’s going to be different every day. You are becoming your own coach, rather than relying on some external thing that has no relationship to reality, at that time.

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah, following a schedule, blindly following a schedule. There is a schedule for, you want to run a fast marathon? Do this for three weeks, and you’ll run your fastest. That happens to be on a headline of that, what was that magazine?

Steven Sashen:
Flunner’s World.

Phil Maffetone:
Yes, yes, yes.

Steven Sashen:
Yeah. My one other potential explanation, there were some guys in the UK who had done some genetic testing. One of the thing that, again, human beings don’t like is, especially people in the west, is thinking that there are limitations, not only for humans in general, but for themself, in particular. So, we know that there are some people who respond differently to different kinds of stimulus. These guys in the UK identified, I think it was 11 different genetic markers, and depending on what eight to nine of them show, you may be a VO2 max non-responder. You may not have the ability to improve your ability to use oxygen efficiently, and arguably, possibly, not getting results by doing slower training.

Now, the number of people who are in this situation, it’s a very small percentage. I am one of them, it turns out. Now, not surprisingly, I gravitate, and always have, towards sprinting. I never gravitated towards distance running at any speed. I don’t even like walking long distances. Not interesting to me.

But, now, I know, having said that, there are people who will use that as an excuse and go, “I’m a VO2 max non-responder,” which, unless you get tested, you don’t know that, but it is an interesting thing that there are these individual difference. One of my favorite thing about track and field, master’s track, in particular, is that you eventually have to come to a conclusion about yourself, which is, what’s the thing I’m good at? Am I a 50 meter, 100 meter runner? Am I a 200 meter?

I don’t even run the 200. I’m not a good 200 meter runner. 50, 60, I’m great. 100, I’m okay. 200, not my race. Anything longer, I can’t do that. Not my thing. There are people who are on the exact opposite end of the spectrum.

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah. Well, I have a theory. Well, I have a theory that we are always as good as our peers. If you want to know what you’re good at, if you did enough things when you were younger, you’re good at the same things today, relative to your age group.

Steven Sashen:
You know what’s fascinating about that? No, you don’t. I’ll tell you. I was a gymnast, way back when. Started in junior high school. One of my two closest friends, who also started gymnastics with me, his dad had eight millimeter film of us from the day we started till the day, six years later, we were graduating high school.

From day one, we were all ranked. I was the best, then Jim, then Rich. We got significantly better over the next six years, but you would never be confused about who was who. We stayed in that same ranking, if you will. We just improved what we already had inherent in who we were.

Then, in my 40s, I discovered something that my mother didn’t know, which was that her father, who I took after, was a gymnast in high school. No idea. No one ever knew that. Well, I mean, he knew that, of course.

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah, yeah. A quick note about the gene thing. People use genes as an excuse sometimes.

Steven Sashen:
A lot.

Phil Maffetone:
My grandparents were obese, or they were alcoholics, so I guess I’m going to be an … Come on. There’s something called an expression of these genes. In most cases, if you have the gene, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be whatever. It has to express itself. What expresses genes, but our lifestyle? Especially the foods we eat.

Genes can be expressed after a meal. This is really, really important. People need to get off the genetic bandwagon.

Steven Sashen:
Right. It’s a balance, I think, between recognizing the impact of your genetic history, and recognizing where you can or can’t take that. I watched a very interesting video recently just talking about steroids and how many people think if you just take steroids, you become huge, or whatever it is. Like, nah, not so simple. Here’s some people who have taken steroids who were non-responders. Here’s some people who took tiny bits of steroids and just blew up, because they totally responded.

I had this one coach, actually. He said, “If you’re going to do a steroid cycle, the first cycle you do, that will tell you everything about your potential.” It was very clever. I had never heard anyone talk about that, but yeah, that balance between recognizing the who you are, but the, let’s not call it the limits, the boundaries that gives you are pretty wide.

Phil Maffetone:
They’re very wide. There’s a couple of issues. One is, and I wrote a scientific paper on this, we need to not just be fit, but we need to be healthy. There’s so many athletes who are fit, but unhealthy. They retire early because they’re so broken down. They never reach their athletic potential, and the athletic potential issue is such that … I mean, you could take almost anybody out there, and improve their athletic potential, and have them run PRs in a relatively short period of time.

Steven Sashen:
There’s also, there’s another thing that’s happened over the years that I think affects people’s perception about what’s possible for themselves or anyone, and it’s just the number of people, and the availability about people who are doing some activity. Again, I’m thinking about gymnastics. I vividly remember being in a stadium, watching Nikolai Andrianov, who, when he did the first triple back flip off high bar, I mean, he missed the first two. Then, he did the third one. We actually have it on that eight millimeter film.

It was the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen. There’s high school kids who do it, now. There are strength moves that no one could do in the ’80s. Ks kids do it, now. With running, there’s so many more people running. The population of people doing this thing is so much bigger, there’s more people doing more amazing things, which skews your perception about what’s possible and who can do what.

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah, yeah. The other thing, and this is important for professional athletes, in particular, but it’s important for everybody. It’s that it’s all about you. Don’t go into this race thinking about, let’s see, who’s here, and this guy is going to … Think about you. Man, that sometimes breaks the mold and releases people’s abilities, because they’ve removed a stress from their life, and they run their own race.

Steven Sashen:
Even in 100 meters, it took me years to learn to ignore the guy who’s either shoulder I was on or vice versa. It’s very hard, when you hear someone catching up to you. It’s very hard, or when you’re-

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah. I mean, your gaits change.

Steven Sashen:
Yeah, exactly.

Phil Maffetone:
Because you’re sensing that. You see it in a longer race, where there’s enough time to do it. Even in a mile, but certainly in a marathon, you watch that lead pack?

Steven Sashen:
Yeah.

Phil Maffetone:
You see all these people. I try, and I play this game to see, who are they keying off? Then, if he changes his stride, how long does it take for them to change their … It’s really fascinating to see how that works.

Steven Sashen:
That’s so interesting. Do you think that’s just a mirroring, imprinting thing, or is it a little bit… 

Phil Maffetone:
That’s exactly what it is. Yes.

Steven Sashen:
Fascinating.

Phil Maffetone:
Mirror neurons in the brain, if I’m doing this, right now, your brain is contracting the muscles that I’m using to lift my arm, your brain is literally there, ready. It’s contracting them. You’re not moving yet, but the action is there.

Steven Sashen:
It’s funny, again, thinking of things that are just common sense, so we only discovered mirror neurons in the not too distant past, yet we’ve had the phrase, monkey see, monkey do for a very long time.

Phil Maffetone:
Yes, yes, yes.

Steven Sashen:
We’re just hairless monkeys.

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah, and there have been a lot of clinical things. Also, we’ve had the benefits of motor neurons. There’s a lot more complexity to that system, but the benefits we’ve used in mental imagery and have done so for decades. The high diver, who gets up, and stands there, and closes his eyes, and imagines the activity, which he’s spent hours, and hours, and hours working on, with video and …

Likewise, I just wrote an article, I don’t know if it came out, but called Imagination Injuries, or something like that, where I talked about when I was in practice, and my practice was in Westchester County, so I was near New York City and near Boston, so the marathon in New York and Boston were like, there was always a big buzz in the running community. The article talks about what happens when we watch these races, back then, on the TV, and we see people, and we think, God, I could run that way. The next day, you go out, and you over-stride like a Canyon, or whoever was on the lead pack. Then, they come hobbling into my office, and I ask them how it got hurt, when did it … I traced it back to them having this image that had nothing to do with their body, but they were going to try it.

Steven Sashen:
Right. This is something I say all the time when people, especially when someone says they’re comparing themselves to some Olympic marathoner. I go, “I don’t want to point out the obvious, but you’re a 105 pound Kenyan. I mean, maybe it’s just me, but you’re like two 105 pound Kenyans.” Actually, I say, “5’2″, 105 pound Kenyans.”

Phil Maffetone:
This is our society. We have a sick society, and one of the sicknesses is that we instill this stuff in people, in kids at young ages. They’re allowed to grow up with these ridiculous ideas that are just false.

Steven Sashen:
Anyone can become anything. I mean-

Phil Maffetone:
Well, anyone can become anything, yes. Mothers like to say that, and it’s not untrue, but that doesn’t mean you can run a 2:01 marathon.

Steven Sashen:
There was a local Olympian whose name is not coming into my brain right now but hopefully will by the end of this story. At a big panel discussion, someone asked him, “How do you coach kids to become the super-fast runners that you have?” He goes, “What?” They asked him again. He goes, “No, no. I go to the elementary school, and I look for the fastest kids. Those are the ones that I coach.” It’s like, got it.

Phil Maffetone:
Yeah.

Steven Sashen:
It’s very Russian of him, even though he’s not Russian, but that’s the thing. It’s like, again, when you have a bigger population to draw from, you start finding the genetic freaks.

Phil Maffetone:
Well, that’s, yeah. I shriek when somebody says, “My kid’s graduating high school. He’s got a scholarship at this university, and he’s going to see this coach, so and so.” I just, what’s their attitude is get a bunch of guys, run them into the ground. Whoever’s left, that’s your team.

Steven Sashen:
Yeah. There’s a coach who will remain nameless whom I know, and I’ve been on the track with him and his athletes. That is exactly how he coaches. It’s like, we’ll beat them all up, and last man standing wins. There’s a lot of people who could have had very promising careers that were cut short.

I think, actually, back in my gymnast days, in college, I knew these two women who were trained by their mother and father. They only trained three days a week. They were national champions. Then, they got to college, and they were training five days a week. Now, when they were only training three days a week, never had an injury. Five days a week? Constantly injured.

Phil Maffetone:
Again, look at Roger Bannister. If you look at his workout ethic, you wonder, what was he doing? He wasn’t even training. He was a full-time medical student at the same time, talk about stress.

Steven Sashen:
Right. Yeah, it’s a whole different thing. I want to bring this into the finish line, if you will. Is there anything that we missed, and just the things that you’ve experienced, the things that you discovered, and how they either have or haven’t yet caught up to the way you’ve been thinking?

Phil Maffetone:
Gosh. I’m sure there are a lot of things.

Steven Sashen:
Okay. I’ve only got time for one, dude.

Phil Maffetone:
Music and the brain, you know? I’m amazed that people don’t know that our brain is important in sports.

Steven Sashen:
In what context?

Phil Maffetone:
That’s it. In all contexts. This is where it comes from, here. It starts here. If we don’t have a healthy brain, we can’t have a healthy body that moves properly, so that is, of course, the brain is 60, 65% fat. If you don’t have healthy fats in the brain, it’s not going to work right. So, I could leave you with that.

Steven Sashen:
Well, let’s tease with that. Let’s use that as an excuse for you telling people how they can get in touch with you, and your work, and find out more. We’ve touched on the running part of things. We haven’t talked on brain and diet so much, but I know that that’s a big chunk of what you’re doing, so people can find that when they find you. How can they do that, Phil?

Phil Maffetone:
They can go to my website. I’m told there’s more than 400 articles about this kind of stuff.

It’s all free. My website is philmaffetone.com.

Steven Sashen:
Just for those of you who aren’t … I always love I like on NPR when they say, “We’re sponsored by so-and-so,” and they give a domain name that’s impossible to spell, because you have no idea what that is, so, P-H-I-L-M-A-F-F-E-T-O-N-E.com.

Phil Maffetone:
That’s great. I got to use you for my marketing or something. If you want to, I’m putting some playlists together. I’ve broken down. I haven’t given in, I’ve just broken down to create some playlists for exercise. I’ve always wanted people to not listen to music when they exercise. I’ve always wanted them to listen to their bodies. That’s what the brain is for. I’m going to listen to my body. There’s this little thing. I wonder why that is? If I slow down, it gets better.

But we did a survey, and we found 80% of the people were listening to music when they ran or biked. That was a little depressing. I just said, “Okay, so, we’ve got these great earbud heart rate technology gadgets for people who don’t like chest straps. The sound is incredible. Unfortunately, use case an also talk on the phone, which is the worst thing to do when you’re working out.

But, if you have to listen to music, listen to math music. That’s my tagline, I think, for my music website. My music website has all eight of my albums and some singles. It’s maffetonemusic.com, and you can download the music for free there, and make playlists, or use the ones I have, and it will be slow and easy in the beginning, so you warm up, and slow and easy at the end, so you cool down, and whatever it is in the middle.

Steven Sashen:
I like it. I think, giving it away for free, you’ll make millions of dollars in volume. That’s the way I work.

Phil Maffetone:
Without a doubt. Play my stuff. I didn’t realize it until the other day. There’s like 150 online streaming companies. I’m on all of them, and so, please play them, because I make about a half a penny every time you play a song.

Steven Sashen:
My god.

Phil Maffetone:
I get a check for $30 every month or something and …

Steven Sashen:
From some acting things I did 40 years ago, for years, I was getting checks for a $1, $1.05, $1.10. It was brilliant. So, Phil, total, total pleasure, as always. For everyone who’s here, if you have any questions, obviously, you can throw them in as comments, or you can just ask Phil directly via his website.

I just want to think you all for being here, part of the Movement Movement, the podcast for people who want to learn the truth about natural movement. Again, go to www.jointhemovementmovement.com for previous, to like, and share, and thumbs up, and leave comments, and subscribe to find out about upcoming episodes, and all those things that you know how to do. I don’t need to explain it to you. Most importantly, just go out, have fun, and live life feet first.

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