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Question about max heart rate
CREATED: 04/23/12 by coachlane REPLIES: 3
coachlane    JOINED: 10/1/11    POSTS: 36
Question about max heart rate
POSTED: 4/23/12 8:49 PM

Question for anyone with a background in physiology (or who is better with google searches than I am):
Resting heart rate varies widely from person to person, especially between athletes and non athletes. Yet most max heart rate calculations seem to simply be (220 - age). Do individuals with low resting heart rates have lower max heart rates, and if so, should heart rate zones be adjusted to account for this?

JessO's ravatar JessO    JOINED: 6/16/09    POSTS: 66
RE: Question about max heart rate
POSTED: 4/24/12 6:18 AM

Good question. Your max HR is mostly a function of age and (to a lesser extent) genetics. No amount of training will really alter your max HR, so that’s why most refer to the 220-age equation. Still, that equation has its limits, especially when outside of ~20-50 years. Some research shows 208 – (age x 0.7) to be more accurate in estimating max HR. A lab max test is nice for actually measuring it, but many simple field tests can also determine it. Also – something to keep in mind…while you only have one true max HR (usually found running), you will likely have trouble ever reaching this max in the water & possibly on the bike. Because of this, some people like doing field tests in the different disciplines to determine more accurate zones for the 3 sports.

In terms of calculating HR zones, most prefer the Karvonen method, because it does account for individual variation (ie. training effects) in resting HR. If you’re not - a quick google search should pull up the equation (or shoot me an e-mail!). Hope that helps! All of that said…I no longer use HR zones and just go by feel. :)

kst718's ravatar kst718    JOINED: 8/29/11    POSTS: 105
RE: Question about max heart rate
POSTED: 4/24/12 7:37 AM

I've also heard that you can't raise your max heart rate, but by lowering your resting heart rate, you have more of a range to work with, which is advantageous.

Speaking of "training effects," I notice some high-end Garmins that boast this feature. Same thing? Helpful? See for example

JessO's ravatar JessO    JOINED: 6/16/09    POSTS: 66
RE: Question about max heart rate
POSTED: 4/24/12 3:27 PM

yes--that's exactly right. Endurance training lowers resting HR, so it essentially increases a person's HR range. The decline in resting HR can be pretty significant, which is why I don't recommend that athletes base their HR zones solely off their max HR. By using heart rate reserve (Karvonen method) instead, you take this lowered resting HR into consideration: Intensity (%) x (HR max - HR rest) + HR rest

re: Garmin's "training effect" feature...I love my Gamin, but put zero faith in this value. It is designed to provide you with a single # (from 1-5) that accounts for the accumulated "load" of a workout. They base it off the duration & intensity (HR) of your workout, as well as the limited info you entered into the user profile. To give an example, it would classify a very hard effort of ~45 min as "overreaching" for many people. Most folks reading this forum would probably snicker at that! I feel it best serves people who've been pretty sedentary, & are just starting a new CV training program. -Jessica

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