I have been working on developing my aerobic base using Phil Maffetone's aerobic base training method for the last 3 months or so. My sport of choice is hiking so that requires a lot of endurance, beside conditioning and strength. I was looking for some help on working the uphill endurance portion of hikes.

I am 42, so I keep my heart rate around 140 for my conditioning workouts according to the Maffetone guidelines.

My training usually involves 3 session of work in the gym during the week (stairmaster for 45 min @140 bpm + some weights) and then one longer hike each weekend--say 8 miles, 1200 foot elevation gain. So that can involve 4 miles uphill at a time.

My biggest challenge is still doing the long uphill hikes. That really does zap my energy and I feel terrible. Certainly I am feeling a lot better since using the Maffetone method. But I want to improve my uphill performance.

I was not clear on this, but should I be training some of these long hikes at the low intensity or below 140 heart rate level? It does feel crazy slow, considering that both the strength and conditioning needs of going up hill. I was just trying to get these hills conquered through. Usually the long hikes are with a group and so the pace is set by the group. Anyone have suggestions on the right kinda training plan for hill training to develop endurance.

1 Answer 1


I too am a hiker who is using Maffetone's method. First, your MAF number is 138, not 140, assuming you take no prescription drugs or nonprescription supplements and have zero injuries. Maffetone argues that even 2-3 bpm (beats per minute) can make the difference between success and failure. And if you have any health issues at all, your MAF HR is less than 138. Second, Maffetone is all about periodization. You should NOT be doing strength training when you are building your aerobic base. Third, you (I am in the same boat) cannot do group hikes when you are building your aerobic base if you are going to exceed 138 bpm. I am currently building my aerobic base so I have stopped hiking with others and I have only been hiking easier trails because my MAF number is a measly 107.

  • Thanks for the info. Yep, I have been following MAF method for a while. And after the first 3 months I did notice a really big improvement. Like you said, I did have to hike on my own for those first 3 months or so, but now I am back to hiking with a group--and not huffing and puffing like before :). I still do training hikes on my own sometimes, but I am amazed at how persistent the MAF adaptations are--meaning that aerobic base will stick with me even if I don't hike for a couple of months--as was the case during the fires and rain here in California.
    – krishnab
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 19:20

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