Thursday, June 4, 2009

Finding Your Target Heart Rate (The Old Fashioned Way)

Ever seen runners with that black strap across their chests? In case you didn't know that's a heart rate monitor. It used to be that only the elite used them, but now you see them everywhere. Women can even buy them already incorporated into a jog bra! Their popularity has increased because heart-rate training is a great way to monitor your performance and keep from over training. The monitors are also great because they provide on-the-spot feedback that you can use to evaluate your workout.

Today's technology is awesome, but if you're not technically inclined or just cash-challenged like me, you can still monitor your heart rate and use it in your training to track your performance. Basically, your goal is to keep your your heart rate between 60% and 80% of your maximum heart rate. But first you need to determine your maximum heart rate. For years this has been done by subtracting your age from 220 (Maximum Heart Rate = 220-Age). Fairly new research has shown that this equation is not very accurate. The original calculation overestimates rates for young adults and underestimates for older adults. A new formula corrects this problem.

New Maximum Heart Rate Equation
208 - (0.7 x age)
208 - (0.7 x 40)
208 - 28 = 180
180 = Max Heart Rate

Keep in mind that the above age-related equations only provide an estimated Maximum Heart Rate (MHR). Runners of the same age can have very different MHRs. The best and most accurate way to determine your true MHR is by having a stress test done. It's also good to know that your MHR declines as you get older from about 220 beats per minute for a child to about 160 beats per minute at age 60. Typically it decreases about 1 beat per minute per year. Extra training hasn't been shown to affect this decline in Maximum Heart Rate.
So, now that you know your Maximum Heart Rate, what do you do with it? You plug it into another set of equations to determine your Target Heart Rate (THR) or your training zone. Your THR is the range between 60% and 80% of your Maximum Heart Rate. There are several ways to calculate your THR. The most common way is to multiply your MHR by the intesity of your workout to find your target zone.

Calculating Your Aerobic Training Zone
Bottom End Target Heart Rate =
MHR x 0.6
Top End Target Heart Rate = MHR x 0.8
180 x 0.6 = 108 Bottom End Target Heart Rate
180 x 0.8 = 144 Top End Target Heart Rate

Takes a little time to do the calculations, but once you know your THR Zone you can start using it to monitor your training progress. To check your progress during a run, simply stop and immediately check your pulse for 10 seconds and then multiply by 6 to see if you're "In the Zone." Of course a heart rate monitor will do this for you and all you have to do is look at the monitor while running to check if you're in the zone. That's the advantage of the technology. Maybe once the kids are out of braces, I can get one.

Another tried and true technique is the Sing-and-Talk method. If you're able to sing while you're running, you're probably not working hard enough. If you can't talk while running, you're probably working too hard.

You can't increase your Maximum Heart Rate with training as you age, but you can positively affect your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) through training no matter your age. Most adults have a RHR around 72 beats per minute. Some runners can have RHRs of 40 beats per minute or lower. What that means is that your heart doesn't have to work as hard to pump the blood through your body. That's a good thing for the old ticker! It's not a bad idea to tell your physician you're a runner because they're often so use to seeing adult patients with much higher resting heart rates that when you walk in with a RHR of 50 or lower they often assume something's wrong with you. Sad, but true.


Running Through Life said...

That's a lot of calculating. Unfortunately if you have a heart rate monitor or not you need to know what the number means to you. Thanks for the detailed explanation.

I misplaced my monitor a few weeks ago and have been trying to figure out where I could have put it.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Running Through Life! Yep it is a lot to calculate, but once you've done it you don't need to do it again or at least probably not during your training for an event. Once you get that Zone range You're good to go. There are some THR calculators but I haven't seen one that uses this method that's supposed to be more thorough. If I find one, I'll definitely post it.
Hmmmm that monitor, is the neighbor a runner? LOL!

TammyRunsWV said...

So, is training at 90% bad? Lol, I'm worried now because on my long runs when I'm running an 11:20 pace, my heart rate is in the 160's, and when I do intervals it's around 175. My max heart rate, based on this equation is 191. So, it's like I'm always training at 85-90%.

Mel-2nd Chances said...

i did a lactate threshold test a few months ago as calculations didn't seem to match my perceived effort and my heart rate tends to be fairly high against the norm. while the test is a bit expensive for a recreational runner such as myself ($150), the info it provided cannot be any more personalized, and also gave me my accurate training zones, along with target speeds for each zone. :)

RunnerDude said...

Hey Mel-2nd Chances! That's great info and advice. You know my calcualations for the zone may be thrown off by using the new way to calculate the MHR. When I did Tammy's using the old way of finding MHR (220-Age)her numbers are right in line. Hmmm....Somethig to ponder.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Mel! I figured it out! The Karvonen Method uses a "true" MHR that's been measured in a laboratory or field stress test. That's why it ain't working! I'll rework the posting to reflect that. So glad you guys keep me on my toes!

Mel-2nd Chances said...

Right... and that's where my confusion was too... by my age, my MHR should be about 189... pffft, i'm almost that high when I wake up! Ok, not really, but didn't seem right. That formula doesn't take into account your health, level of fitness, and recovery! Are you over-training, fatigued... which all play a role in HR. The more I read about heart rate training... also note that perceived effort is also important, which you mentioned about the 'talk-test' -- there may be days where your HR is higher or lower than a previous run at the same pace..., but of course hills, wind, etc will no doubt elevate your heart rate. :)

RunnerDude said...

Hey Mel! Exactly right again. All kinds of conditions can affect your heart rate. These formulas should only be a gage and shouldn't be used for exactness. I modified the post and simplified it. I this will be more helpful. Thanks for all your input! Very helpful!

Mel-2nd Chances said...

Anytime, glad i could help... I read up a lot on the science of heart rate training at the beginning of the year, in a quest to better understand my body, and in an attempt to stay injury free.... a lotta good that did me eh? lol

One of the best articles I found is:

ok, i'll shut up now :D

RunnerDude said...

Hey Mel! No! No! Don't shut up! LOL! Good to share ideas! I'll check out that article. Thanks!

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