Finding my max heart rate

I've been running for a bit over a year and recently bought a polar heart rate monitor which connects to my phone. It's been really good and feels reliable.

To accompany this I borrowed a book on heart rate training and there is a section on finding your MHR. I followed the instructions (basically involving a warm-up followed by running flat-out for 400-600m three times then taking my finishing rate in the final piece as MHR.

I took this pretty seriously and sprinted for as long as I could. The end reading was 182bpm which I 'rounded up' to 185 to err on the side of caution. I then used this as a basis for my subsequent training (using the Karvonen formula).

However, since completing the test I've run a couple of 5K ParkRuns where my average heart rate has been 180 but the the max was 190. See graph (pink line) for more detail...


What am I doing wrong? Would my 5k result not suggest my MHR should be perhaps 195 not 185? Or perhaps even higher? This seems unlikely as I'm a 39 yo man and 'average' bpm would be expected to be around the 220 - 39 = 181.

Any thoughts? Any heart-rate experts out there?


  • By the way, some other personal data if useful... I run 3-6 times each week, varying from 5K up to 18K presently, am 6ft 3, circa 13.5st. RHR 55-57bpm. Unsure about LT threshold as not tested (yet).

  • Also-ranAlso-ran ✭✭✭

    If the heart rate recording was accurate on the parkrun (no equipment glitches / spikes) then use that result.

    As for 220 -   Formula, it is a statistical formula. I think the standard deviation was something like +- 15bpm, before even considering you don't fit the statistical norm. Leave that formula for lazy fitness coaches to use

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    If you have got up to 190 on a couple of parkruns then that should be your max.

    Using the 220 formula mine should be 185 although I've sneaked over 200 a few times in 5k races. .
  • Clearly your max HR is the highest HR you've seen. So your test didn't push you as hard as the parkrun did. I'd go with the 190.

    The calculation is bobbins. About as accurate as calculating your weight from the average population.
  • I have had a go at trying to get max HR on my own, on a track. Sure it was hard, but clearly not hard enough. The max I have achieved was from shorter races, and a 5k seems to fit the bill, especially if you are racing a rival. One thing that I noticed was that the peak was not in that final sprint for the line. It was immediately after crossing the tape. I guess that it's like flooring the throttle on your car and then depressing the clutch.

    Anyway, the 220-age is a starting point rule of thumb. On here people are generally reporting that they need to add a few beats. (I add 5) Of possibly more value is the working HR as the basis for your efforts. Because your training will gradually improve the efficiency of your heart and its minimum, the resting HR will be lower. The max HR you will be stuck with.

    For Cougie's information, more than half of the UK population don't believe that they are any more than average weight.

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