Friday, December 12, 2008

Discovering my new maximum heart rate

For years I ran several days a week and became a heart rate monitor junkie in my goal of becoming a better runner. I always wore my heart rate monitor when I ran and afterwards recorded my average heart rate and highest heart rate statistics in my training journal. I don't run as often as before but I'm still curious about my heart rate training effort.

Heart rate monitor training is a great way to objectively measure and improve your cardiovascular fitness. It's all based on training at a certain percentage of your maximum heart rate (MHR) depending on your fitness goals. I've learned that my MHR varies from fitness activity to activity and that my MHR for lower-body fitness activities is about 10-13 bpm higher than upper-body fitness activities.

The most basic MHR calculation method I know suggests that your MHR is 226 minus your age for women and 220 minus your age for men. This method is suggested for beginning runners who have been leading a sedentary lifestyle. Using this method gives me a MHR of 167 beats per minute (bpm).

There's another calculation method that is very similar but preferable for those who are already quite active. For this formula, simply subtract half of your age from the number 205. Using this method gives me a MHR of 178 bpm.

A third calculation method subtracts 80% of your age from the number 214 for men and 70% of your age from the number 209 for women. Using this method gives me a MHR of 177 bpm. There are other calculation methods I've read about. They generally take into account age, resting heart rate and sex. I'll not describe them here.

The best way to get closer to your MHR truth is by conducting an actual test of your MHR through physical exertion while wearing a heart rate monitor. You can give yourself a personal test or pay and have one administered to you in a laboratory setting. I've determined mine through a personal test and discovered that my MHR is higher than the than all three of the above calculation methods.

A good personal test to determine your MHR is to sprint up a hill for 20 to 30 seconds at maximum effort and note your MHR at the end of the sprint. Jog back to the starting point and repeat 6 to 8 times. Your highest recorded MHR during this test is a good measure of your actual MHR. Lately, I've ran one mile as fast as I can and noted my highest heart rate, considering that to be a good measure of my MHR.

For years I have considered 185 bpm to be my MHR based on several past maximum-effort running workouts. Yesterday in the gym, while running one mile on the treadmill as fast as I could, my MHR was 191 bpm.

At this point, I don't know if I am ready to consider the 191 bpm my new MHR truth or merely a heart rate monitor anomaly for the day. I'll continue testing myself in an effort of discovering my new maximum heart rate.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

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