Heart Rate Monitor Confusion

Using the Runners World beginners schedule I could run 30 minutes without stopping in February sometime. However I lost motivation (probably because I didn't have a realistic goal). To try and motivate my training I bought a Polar M51 HRM. Using my new toy I set my activity level to 'High' and it predicted my training range should be 137 to 157 bpm (supposedly 70-85% of my maximum). I had a shock when I tried to train below 157 bpm as I was only moving at a very slow jog (covering 3.5 miles in 39 minutes).

Does this mean I have been overtraining previously (about 9-10 minute miling). I would like to do a 10K perhaps this year but if I use the HRM as a guide my pace will be very slow.

Can anyone give me any advice (and motivation).


  • Andrew - how old are you? The HRM is probably using a basic calculation of 220 minus your age to figure out your maximum training heart rate (that would make you 24-25 if I am right and the range you stated would be 70-80%)

    To work out your true max. you would at least have to train to the point of exhaustion for around ten minutes and at best have blood removed from your ear every minute. Use a judgement of how you feel to set your pace (gasping for breath is possibly too fast for a training run) and don't forget that you can manually adjust the range on your new toy (my partner and I have both increased the targets on ours).

    Don't lose heart - if all else fails, just leave the damn thing behind!
  • Runner Bean - Thanks for the advice. I am 42 (but feel younger at least), 6' 5", 210 pounds with a resting heart rate of around 56 bpm. I think my maximum hr would be higher than 214 - (0.8*42) (180 bpm) if I trained to exhaustion. Not sure about the blood bit though!!
  • Well I guess I had the right numbers in your age, just the wrong way round!
  • Andrew

    How was the training range set? Did you use the OwnZone feature? (The watch measures your heartbeat while walking very slowly, at a medium pace, briskly, jogging, etc., before setting the range.)

    Perhaps you should give this a/another try?

  • Jake - Yes I have used the OwnZone feature twice and it has given similar results. It is difficult to know if I was overtraining before or if the hrm is giving me too lower range and making me undertrain. I must admit I feel very comfortable at the slower pace but if I entered a race I would probably finish last at that pace.
  • Andrew
    If its any help..I went through this and found/said exactly the same. I did a Max Heart rate test with my trainer and found my max HR was different to the one produced with the equation. I now run the the zones defined between resting and max. I have found over the last 6 months that I can run the same distance with the same heartbeat....faster.If you send me an email address ill email you a self test max heart rate test...pls have someone with you when you do it...no blood but there is a very (very very) small element of risk.

    best wishes
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