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Slow Jogging and MAF Training are sibling training strategies

Slow Jogging is a form of exercise slower than jogging, and perhaps slower than the average walking speed.
Slow Jogging and MAF Training are sibling training strategies

Run Slow to Run Fast

How quickly you slow jog, be it a slow shuffle or a quickstepped, ball-of-your-feet, bopping along, really depends on how quickly or slowly you need to run in order to keep smiling, not get injured, and maintain the ability to chat without being out of breath.

This is completely relative. One man's Niko Niko, low-heart-rate, slow jog, can be much slower or faster than another—and both are absolutely perfect!

And, that pace and speed and distance per hour of effort should organically increase naturally as your body becomes more fit, stronger, more durable, and your heart and lungs and quads and calves and feet become more naturally used to the trauma and battering that running can inflict on a body that's not used to moving quickly.

Slow jogging solves it by saying that there is no such thing as too slow. That you can shuffle along on your forefeet even slower than mums walking their toddlers and that's OK. No shame. As long as you're out there putting in the time on the road, even if that doesn't even break a sweat or leave you panting (that's good!). I have slow-jogged as slowly as 16:00 minute miles and sometimes 13:00 minute miles. And sometimes faster but I don't even really care about that. What is slow jogging?

Unlike traditional training, that requires concentration and effort, slow jogging is more like taking a walk, at the intensity light enough to enjoy conversation or, if by yourself, to just smile. For most beginners it means jogging at a walking pace.

Always remember that the way of slow jogging is a lot like MAF training: Niko Niko is like MAF in that the "speed" and "pace" required to keep a low heart rate or to keep smiling and able to chat is not set in concrete or written in stone, it's directly proportionate to how fit you are and how much stress you can be under while still maintaining an absolutely sustainable and enjoyable level of running and jogging and movement effort. I just heard non-elite runner Kofuzi say that when he started MAF training (he's not a slow jogger and wants to go fast but he also wants to not get injured and wants to run a sub-3-hour marathon). MAF training isn't slow jogging but they're related. Either siblings or cousins. Here's the definition:

MAF provides simple exercise guidelines based on individualized heart rates that work for everyone from sedentary individuals to professional athletes. Tracking the progress of the aerobic system helps predict when strength and speed workouts can produce healthy gains.

MAF tracks heart rate as the indicator and Slow Jogging tracks body feel. And both of them suggest people focus only on the duration of time running rather than the pace or the number of miles.

Dr. Phil Maffetone had a similar idea: run for duration instead of pace (minutes-per-mile or minutes-per-kilometer) or mileage (miles or kilometers). Look at your Garmin, Polar, FitBit, or Apple GPS smartwatch and remove the pace and the distance from your running screen. Just wear a heart rate chest strap and link it to your watch and then only keep an eye on that heartrate and then only care whether your heartrate is within the limits recommended by the MAF Training Method:

Forget pace and speed. As a general rule your MAF heart rate is 180 minus your age. So if for example, you are aged 50 and are in good health, then your MAF heart rate will be 180-50 = 130. Your MAF range for training will thus be 120-130 beats per minute.

So, for me, my MAF heartrate is 130bpm, which is 180 minus my age, 50. I think I will try this while I am just doing Niko Niko. I will go into my Garmin Forerunner 920XT and remove everything from my run tracking watch face except duration and heart rate. I'll wear my watch and also sport my Yahoo TICKERX or Garmin HRM-Dual chest strap heartrate monitor, and then make sure I never work any hards, first, than my Niko Niko, my smiling, pace. Niko Niko is a central philosophy around Slow Jogging, and is Japanese and is interpreted this way:

The Japanese word “niko” means “smile”; following a common pattern of word doubling in Japanese, “niko-niko” has a meaning closer to “smiley”.

Then, after that, make sure that my heartrate doesn't exceed 130 beats-per-minute. I won't base my speed or quickness on my HR but on my happiness and my smiling and my ability to keep on running for an entire hour, for example.

Here's a very interesting, albeit long, interview of Mike Ko AKA Kofuzi, by Floris Gierman, about his experience, frustrations, and successes (and failures) of committing to a dirty MAF training regimen for over one-thousand days:


1. What is Slow Jogging?

  • Slow Jogging is a form of exercise that is slower than traditional jogging, sometimes even slower than walking. Its primary objective is to maintain a pace where one can easily converse or smile throughout the exercise.

2. What is MAF Training?

  • MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) Training is a method devised by Dr. Phil Maffetone, focusing on aerobic exercise while staying within a specific heart rate, typically calculated as 180 minus one's age.

3. How are Slow Jogging and MAF Training related?

  • They are sibling strategies, emphasizing low-intensity workouts, injury prevention, and aerobic capacity building. Both focus on individual comfort levels rather than pushing for speed or intensity.

4. What are the benefits of these methods?

  • Benefits include improved running economy, reduced injury risk, mental health enhancement, weight loss, and stress reduction.

5. Who can practice Slow Jogging or MAF Training?

  • Everyone from beginners to professional athletes can benefit from these strategies. However, it's always advisable to consult with a health professional before starting any new exercise regime.


  • Niko Niko: A Japanese term meaning "smiley". In the context of Slow Jogging, it represents a pace where one can easily maintain a smile.
  • Aerobic Exercise: Physical exercise that requires pumping of oxygenated blood by the heart to deliver oxygen to working muscles.
  • Running Economy: The amount of energy one uses to run at a specific speed.
  • Heart Rate: The speed of the heartbeat, measured by the number of contractions of the heart per minute.

Scientific Background:

Slow Jogging and MAF Training are rooted in the science of aerobic metabolism. Aerobic exercises help in enhancing the efficiency of the cardiovascular system. When you maintain a low to moderate intensity during workouts, you primarily use your fat stores as the primary source of energy, improving your body's ability to oxidize fat during exercise.

Health and Fitness Recommendations:

  1. Start Slow: Especially if you're new to these methods. Let your body adjust.
  2. Consistency is Key: It's better to jog or train regularly at a slower pace than to do intense workouts sporadically.
  3. Listen to Your Body: If you feel pain (not to be confused with discomfort), stop. It's a sign that something's wrong.
  4. Hydration: Drink water before, during, and after your exercise.
  5. Diet: A balanced diet complements your exercise routine. Consider consulting a nutritionist.

Warnings and Suggestions:

  1. Avoid Overtraining: Even if you're going slow, it's essential to give your body rest.
  2. Consult a Physician: If you have underlying health conditions or are new to exercise.
  3. Equipment: Wear appropriate footwear and use heart rate monitors when necessary to keep track of your heart rate.
  4. Weather: If jogging outdoors, consider the weather. Avoid extreme conditions.

By following these guidelines and understanding the underlying principles, anyone can embark on a journey to improved health and fitness through Slow Jogging and MAF Training.

Detailed Background on Slow Jogging and MAF Training

Origins and Evolution

Slow Jogging: Introduced to the wider public by Professor Hiroaki Tanaka in his book "Slow Jogging", this method originated in Japan. Slow Jogging is rooted in the Japanese concept of "Niko Niko Pace", which translates to a pace that makes you feel comfortable and allows you to smile throughout your run. Professor Tanaka's research at the Fukuoka University has been instrumental in shedding light on the numerous health benefits of this practice.

MAF Training: Dr. Phil Maffetone, an expert in nutrition and exercise, developed the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) method. Over the decades, he has worked with top athletes, using this method to increase their aerobic performance and prevent injuries. His philosophy emphasizes the importance of the aerobic system for sustainable fitness and longevity.

Core Philosophies and Principles

Slow Jogging:

  1. Pace: Slow Jogging is not about speed but about maintaining a consistent, comfortable pace.
  2. Endurance Over Speed: The objective is to build endurance and enjoy the process rather than push for speed or intensity.
  3. Smile Test: If you can't sustain a comfortable smile while jogging, you're probably going too fast.
  4. Injury Prevention: By not pushing the body's limits, there's a reduced risk of strains, sprains, and other common running injuries.

MAF Training:

  1. Heart Rate Focused: MAF Training uses a formula (180 - age) to determine an individual's optimal aerobic training heart rate. Training at or below this heart rate ensures maximum fat burning and aerobic development.
  2. Individualized Training: The formula accounts for age and offers adjustments based on health and fitness factors, making the MAF method tailored to each person.
  3. Aerobic Base Building: Before incorporating high-intensity workouts, MAF emphasizes building a strong aerobic base. This base building promotes health, stamina, and resilience.
  4. Regular Testing: Dr. Maffetone recommends regular MAF tests to track aerobic progress over time.

Shared Principles:

  1. Sustainability: Both methods stress the importance of building a sustainable exercise habit.
  2. Holistic Wellness: Beyond physical fitness, the emphasis is also on overall well-being, including mental health benefits.
  3. Listening to the Body: Rather than pushing through pain or discomfort, both methods encourage individuals to be in tune with their bodies and adjust accordingly.

Health Benefits and Scientific Backing

  1. Cardiovascular Health: Aerobic exercises like Slow Jogging and MAF Training improve heart and lung function. Over time, they can lead to lower resting heart rates, improved blood circulation, and reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  2. Metabolic Efficiency: Training at lower intensities, especially within the MAF heart rate zone, increases the body's ability to use fats as a primary fuel source, aiding in weight management and metabolic health.
  3. Mental Health: The sustainable and relaxed nature of both these methods has been linked to stress reduction, mood enhancement, and even improved sleep patterns.
  4. Reduced Injury Risk: The lower intensity levels mean reduced wear and tear on the joints, muscles, and ligaments, leading to fewer injuries.

In Conclusion

Slow Jogging and MAF Training challenge the conventional "no pain, no gain" approach to fitness. These methods, grounded in scientific research and years of practical application, present a shift towards sustainable, holistic health. By emphasizing individualized comfort levels, they encourage a lifelong and enjoyable relationship with exercise.

Final Thoughts

I think that slow jogging and MAF training are both great ways to improve your running performance and health. They are both based on the principle of running at a low heart rate, which allows you to train for longer periods of time without getting injured. Slow jogging is a bit slower than MAF training, but it is still a great way to improve your running economy and endurance.

Here are some of the benefits of slow jogging and MAF training:

  • Improved running economy
  • Increased endurance
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Improved mental health
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced stress
  • Increased energy levels

If you are looking for a way to improve your running performance and health, I would recommend trying slow jogging or MAF training. Both methods are effective and safe, and they can be tailored to your individual fitness level.

Here are some tips for slow jogging and MAF training:

  • Start slowly and gradually increase your speed and distance over time.
  • Listen to your body and take breaks when you need them.
  • Stay hydrated and fuel your body properly.
  • Find a running partner or group to help you stay motivated.

Both Slow Jogging and MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) Training are similar in their focus on maintaining a comfortable pace and prioritizing aerobic exercise to improve endurance and overall health. They share a common goal of building a strong aerobic base and avoiding injury by not pushing too hard or too fast during training.

Slow Jogging, as described in Hiroaki Tanaka's book, emphasizes the importance of running at a pace that allows for comfortable breathing, avoiding injury, and enjoying the process. The goal is to create a sustainable exercise routine that leads to long-term health benefits and increased fitness.

MAF Training, developed by Dr. Phil Maffetone, is a method that focuses on training at an individual's maximum aerobic heart rate. This heart rate is determined by a formula that takes into account a person's age and other factors. The aim is to improve aerobic capacity and overall fitness while minimizing the risk of injury and overtraining.

Both training strategies have similarities, including:

  1. Emphasis on aerobic exercise and building endurance.
  2. A focus on avoiding injury and overtraining.
  3. The importance of finding a sustainable and enjoyable pace.
  4. An individualized approach, recognizing that what works for one person might not work for another.

In conclusion, Slow Jogging and MAF Training can be considered sibling training strategies, as both promote a sustainable, enjoyable, and individualized approach to aerobic exercise and endurance training. The key to success with either method lies in finding the right balance that works best for each individual, taking into account their fitness level, goals, and preferences.

If you have any health concerns, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program.