Zone 1 & 2 rides by HR

Listening today to a Velocast podcast, around 21-ish min Stephen Seiler recommends and discusses doing the long slow rides/zone2 by HR rather than power as the power is a measurement of what’s happening to the bike rather than the body and doing these by HR better achieves the goal of reducing cardiac drift over time.

Thought it was an interesting point and I may convert some of my z1-z2 plan rides to HR rather than power zone targets.

I found the MAF guidelines to work well for doing this.

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I seem to remember @chad in a very early podcast saying this would be acceptable for Traditional Base for someone coming back from a serious injury who couldn’t do a FTP Test.

I’m just picking up running again after 6 months or so off and was considering using MAF for a base period.

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@WTriathlete MAF feels really slow at first but it does build quickly. I think the main benefit is that it promotes sustainable training aka consistent training with a lowered injury risk.

Welcome back!

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@ExpertOrBust in a sentence what’s MAF?

@c-h-a-d which podcast? Just need some more context is why is ask. Long rides using HR to see drift is normal at a constant power. The more aerobically fit a rider is the less uncoupling (avg HR 1st half of ride compared to 2nd) will happen. Long rides at constant HR mean decreasing power over time. The less power drop the more aerobically fit the rider. The ultimate is using both, but again, I’m not sure what he is talking about? Sounds like he is talking about something all together different. No/yes?

The one in the OP (red tex = link)


Using the Phil Maffetone approach of training at a HR = 180 - age +/- some adjustments for fitness and injuries. There is good information about being a healthy athlete there.

In practice I found that 60% rides worked. I used them extensively last November and December to build a base after minimal riding and training in 2018. Doing just 30-60 minutes is humbling when you are coming back, As my fitness has improved so has my MAF capacity: e.g., Perkins-1.

Here are some other forum discussions:

The whole search:

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@ExpertOrBust thanks mate. So LSD rides. Got it. As far as I can tell the cycling specific aerobic training/testing tracks decoupling as a metric to measure aerobic function. I can dig that. Joe Friel and others say the same thing. Here’s a quote from the White Paper:

The MAF Test tracks the change in an individual’s aerobic speed (at the MAF HR) across time. Increases in speed at the same heart rate indicate aerobic development, while a decrease in speed signifies that aerobic function is impaired. Continuous decreases in MAF speed indicate that the aerobic system is beginning to atrophy. The MAF Test allows its user to easily and accurately measure aerobic function in real time, and adapt their training or lifestyle accordingly. (Other measurements can also be used for the MAF Test, including power/watts, time, laps, etc.)

All these years and I had never heard “MAF”. Looks like some good info. Thanks again.

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The MAF thing is largely running focused based on my limited exposure. As such (and with no research on my part, so I apologize if this is already addressed), but I can’t help to wonder about the differences in applying a running focused system to cycling and the likely differences.

Essentially, we engage far fewer muscles in cycling when compared to running and that often leads to a lower heart rate for a similar effort. As such, I wonder if there would need to be an adjustment from the MAF method when applied to cycling?

Maybe it doesn’t matter as much since it is essentially focused on the Z1/Z2 Endurance end of things, but I still think there might need to be some changes to get the best results when applied to cycling.


Good observations.

Interesting…as you know Z2 via traditional cycling methodology is approx 69-83% LTHR. MAF is 180-age unless I’m mistaken. I’m not into anything as arbitrary as a number minus age however, the going easy for a block and the whole decoupling as a measure of aerobic fitness I’m good with. So many ways to slice the bread.

Yeah, the HR variability from person to person is something I have seen in person, and another reason I dislike the MAF approach. Again, might be less of an issue at the lower end vs Max HR where I see more of the issue, but I don’t think the possible impact of variability should be ignored either.


Ultimately what you’re trying to get at is your aerobic threshold.

In addition to @mcneese.chad comments about cycling, even in running using MAF is problematic. Best case it should just be used to confirm a rate of exertion you found another way. Otherwise I wouldn’t touch it.

I often approach endurance work with a power target with a heart rate cap. My cap by coincidence falls close to MAF so it makes for easy math while I’m exercising. But I use rate of respiration, RPE, prior experience, and ability to carry on a conversation to ultimately determine what it should be. Conveniently, it doesn’t change really at all (sure, over years, but…you know what I mean) so now I just know it. For you triathletes, it’s roughly your Ironman pace.

For those of you who might have done INCSYD testing, it is smack dab in the middle of your FatMax zone. For me, that’s 195W, or 68-69% FTP. I wouldn’t rely on using %FTP for it any more than using 180-age, but it will get you in the ballpark in order to validate/back up your subjective experience.

Another caution about using MAF is that you might actually be going too slow and creeping too much into Active Recovery. You’re not getting much endurance benefit out of that with the limited number of hours we all have to train. This is less of a concern for runners, likely for reasons @mcneese.chad points out. Hard to go too easy when running, VERY easy to go too easy when cycling.

For runners, MAF provides a poor man’s way of ensuring that you’re not overtraining, but honestly so does every modern coaching philosophy. You will go faster at the same low heart rate if you stick to it for a few months, but this isn’t a result of Maffetone method. It’s the result of common, widely accepted approach to running where volume is built primarily at lower intensities.


I agree a bit with @mcneese.chad that the MAF seems running oriented, and I admit my research into it was cursory. My interests start and end with cycling and I was intrigued by this HR focus being advocated for those rides. Correct for the response indicating the power would slip over the course of a long ride, he does address that in the podcast. With Z2 rides being prescribed with the general purpose of aerobic benefit rather than muscular progression, it seems ideal to me.

Full disclosure for the forum, I only use TrainerRoad in winter indoor and follow FasCat plans in outdoor season which do include some z2 prescription in the various plans I follow. What are your thoughts on applying the HR zone2 toward aerobic-focused rides anytime the prescription is less than SST? I have done some reading in the past on decoupling and do use trainingpeaks so that measure is readily available to me. The promise of decreased cardiac drift via this method is appealing though I have some unfounded doubts about the effectiveness when this is a small portion of a 10-12hr plan and not a full-fledged application during the LSD method of base training.

You should not see any drift during Z1. If you are worried about drift during Z2, pin your Z2 watts and take note of your AVG heart rate. If you notice your heart rate climb during the second hour and beyond, reduce watts and ride to the AVG heart rate from the first hour. This also may be a flag that your FTP is not set correctly.

As a rule of thumb, using 5-10 bpm less than the MAF HR should get you in the same zone. It would only be the same if your max HR was the same cycling as in running, which is true for some people depending on their fitness relative to the other. Since I’ve been injury free, I have an allowed MAF of 145, but that is the cap, not the average, so I put a 135ish cap on my endurance rides.

I think using the 70-75% of max HR goal is probably more accurate for most people since it is based on their max, not just age.

Indoors, it’s a lot easier to train to a power target, I just know what my power target is to achieve my HR target… Outdoors for me at least, it is easier to train to HR with so much variable terrain, and my garmin doesn’t even display power.


Good stuff. Thanks for the validation and detail that leads to more useful guestimates on training related to bikes.

I agree overall, but I’m not so sure that it means your FTP is set incorrectly, just that your aerobic threshold is low, Z2 as a percentage of your anaerobic threshold is going to vary quite a bit between athletes, and within an athlete’s periodized training. Some aerobic decoupling is common and lower decoupling for intended race durations is a sign of fitness


Totally agree. It MAY be a red flag :slight_smile:

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Was just expanding on the potential cause if its not an incorrect FTP, i did see the may part

You are correct and I should have included the bit about low aerobic fitness.

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