85% HR training and what to do when getting fitter?

Hi I've been training for 3 months based on heart rate, doing 1 hills and 1 interval per week (plus a long run) taking my HR to around 85% and its working really well as I'm getting pb's when I have previously found it difficult to get faster. But lately I'm finding it difficult if not impossible to get my HR to 85%, particularly on the hills. I know this is good news as it means I'm getting fitter and find the hills easier as my heart needs less strain to get up them but where should my HR training go from here? Should I just push myself harder to still get to 85%? Im not sure this is possible as yesterday I was really going for it on the hills but only reaching 80% whereas 3 months ago I could easily hit 85-88 as I got to the top. So should my new training HR be 80%? Or should I adjust my max HR so that its lower and my current 80% becomes my new 85% ? I thought max HR never changed tho and we're born with one? Maybe I just need to find some more challenging hills and my HR will hit 85 again? Who new that running could be so complicated! Thanks


  • Did you do a test for your MHR or is it a calculation ? Its possible your 85% is too high for your real MHR ? It shouldn't be THAT hard to hit it ?

    You need to increase the intensity of exercise as you get fitter - otherwise you'll plateau.
  • I'd put it down to the length of hill and time taken to reach the top. If you can find a hill that takes 2-3 mins to climb.....and you run it repeatedly at good effort I'm sure you'll more than hit 85%.

    Whether it be hills, intervals or a tempo run.....it can taken several minutes to reach 85% of max heartrate or higher.

  • A few years ago I did 3 diff calculations for maxhr (found online) and they all came out similar with the average being 180. They took in age, sex, resting hr etc

    Since then I have hit 180 (never higher) so realised these calc are inaccurate. I then heard that a good way to get 85% hr is to take avg hr during a race which took 45-90 mins to run so my avg for a 10k pb was 162 which puts my max at 190 which sounded sensible as its 10 bpm higher than my heart has ever gone.

    I'm not an athlete to it seemed a bit extreme paying maybe 100's of pounds to find it out properly.

    Btw I'm female age 37 resting hr 41. What would you put my max at?
  • Jamie - I'm doing short hills, prob 30 secs to get up, steep tho. I may have to find some longer ones then now I'm getting fitter.
  • Calculations are bobbins. Its like trying to calculate my height. Or buying a flash watch and then setting it according to the sun.

    MHR tests are simple - You can pay me ??100s to test if you want - but all you need to do is -

    Be rested

    Have a nice long warm up.

    Find a hill that would take you a minute or two to run up.

    Run up the hill as fast as possible.

    Jog back down.

    Run back up.

    Repeat until you're close to throwing up/blacking out.

    Make a note of the max HR you hit.

    It can help to have someone shout at you - I'm also available for that image
  • Cougie, I tried that on a treadmill once as I'd heard I could get mhr by really pushing myself during short intervals. I really went for it running as fast as I could 90 secs I think it was, then slow for 90 secs 3 or 4 times and the highest my hr got was 175!! I was flat out. My heart has previously got to 180 so the test didn't work.
  • Also I believe it's impossible to reach true mhr as it = death! Our bodies shut down before we reach it.
  • stutyrstutyr ✭✭✭

    I don't think you can really test you MHR on a treadmill - you need to find a proper hill outside to get the gradient etc (and remove the little bit of assistance a treadmill gives you).

    However, MHR is a slightly different topic to your original post.  For your original post, I suspect you are stagnating as you are repeating the same training.

    Try doing a few weeks of base training or similar as you've been concentrating on speed for the last three months, so now you need to add endurance training to boost your perfromance.  Maybe replace your intervals with a tempo session as well?

    I'd recommend the "Advanced Marathoning" book by Pfitzinger & Douglas, even if you're not training for a marathon.  It explains the science behind each type of training session and also uses the concept of meso-cycles within a training plan, where instead of looking at 18 weeks of marathon training it breaks it down into four  sub-sections with each section focussing on one particular area.  

  • Thanks stu, that book sounds good.
  • Why would true MHR = death ? Thousands of athletes have pushed their hearts as much as they can in countless races all over the world - and how many have dropped down dead ? That really is an old wives tale.

    As Stu says - the treadmills not the best, and I don't see that 4 runs would have taken you to the max anyway.
  • 85% is around the bottom end of my marathon pace HR once I am into steady running, well inside my aerobic zone. If I was doing intervals to improve my VO2 etc, my heart rate would be well into the low to mid %90s. For hill reps I keep them at about 90seconds long and will be around 90%+ by the end of each rep. I would guess your max heart rate needs to be determined, or more effort is needed.

    No problem in doing a max heart rate test on a treadmill - most formal lab tests are carried out on treadmills including VO2, MaxHR, Lactate Threshold. For max heart rate tests on a treadmill, there are lots of protocols available such as the Bruce test. Some protocols need someone else to assist, others you can carry out yourself. It really does help to have someone shout at you (or encourage you?).

  • Just to update, I did longer less steep hills this weekend (rather than my usual short and steep) and easily got my HR to 85%.  So it was a case of my body getting used to the usual shorter hills.

  • Perfect! Even under duress (as in the case with short hills), your heartrate can take time to get to the higher levels. Looks like you've found the answer....

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