Maximum heart rate test.

I hate pushing myself hard when I run, I don't like the feeling. Most of my training is on a "see how I feel on the night" basis. As a result of this, I hardly ever do fartlek, efforts, speedwork, tempo runs. I do easy pace runs and, if I am feeling really adventurous, I do slighty quicker than easy pace runs. However, on my recent 2 week holiday in Cornwall (during which time a ran at least every other day!!) I was running along the coastal path and a I could see a perfect place to try and find my maximum heart rate. I had done a 20 minimum easy pace run so far (no suprises there!!) and I than went mad and ran as fast and far as I could up a 1:5 hill and then jogged down for 1 minute and then repeated the effort twice more and then took my heart rate. As I still haven't sent my HRM off for a new battery, I to resort to the finger on the pulse method. I literally could not count quick enough. It was way over 220. The generally accepted rough guide of 220 minus my age works it out as 181. Has anyone else found that they deviate from the standard as much as this?


  • Rob,
    You sure you can rely on your counting when you've just maxed out? Serious question! - you weren't able to give an exact figure!
    The subject hasn't come up on the new forums, but there was plenty of evidence on the old ones that loads of runners have significantly higher max HRs than that tired old Karvonen formula predicts.
    Both MartinH and I did a bit of digging on the Web on the subject of MHRs and he in particular found some stuff that suggests the accepted "wisdom" is a bit suspect.
    How soon did your HR recover to something more "normal"?
    Where were you in Cornwall btw? I had a "nice" route along the southern coastal path between Mevagissey and Gorran Haven.
    One other point - I know that running repeatedly up a steep hill is one of the "recommended" ways of doing a MHR test - but I wonder whether it's the most effective? The reason I question it is that the slope must slow your legs (and your arms) down - so maybe an alternative method (e.g. 800m hard, 1 minute recovery, 800m flat out) is more effective?
  • Mike,
    You are right about the counting, I found it very difficult. I actually counted what a thought was 60 beats in 15 seconds but you've got me thinking that it may have been 20 seconds which is much closer to the 220-age method. I was so dizzy that I found it hard to remember when I had started to count. I suppose this means I shall have to have another go!!! Anyway, I was very, very near to you. We were camping at Boswinger. I would run from there to Caerhays, then along the costal path to Hemmick Beach and on to the big cross at Dodman Point, on to Penare then back via the lanes to Boswinger. If I went just on the lanes (still looking after my ankle) I would run to Gorran Haven and back. What a wonderful part of the country. We'll be back next summer. We are off to the Isle of Arran on Saturday, some fantastic running up there.

  • I just ran as far as I could in 17 minutes towards Gorran Haven along the coast path from the hotel we were based in at Polkirt (hilltop between Mevagissey & Porthmellon). This took me past Chapel Point down to a beautiful secluded little beach, then up, up, up the cliffs to just past the highest point on the way to Gorran Haven. Bit hazardous in parts - I didn't dare run it the one day it rained!
    Effectively, it was like an interval session (for strength rather than speed) with 4 efforts.
  • I did a VO2 max test a few weeks ago that was not a pleasant experience, but it also determined my max heart rate in the process that was 197. According to the formula it should be 196. This involved 3 minute stages at a controlled speed (about 11 km/hr) on a treadmill at varying inclines. The test lasted about 12 mins in total, and I was away with the faries by the end, and I could not stand up at the end, let alone take my heart rate by hand :o) It is not something I would like to repeat for a long while.


  • FF

    Following up on reply from MikeS I did indeed do a bit of digging and found that the 220-age formula is a best a guess and at worst totally inaccurate. The inaccuracy is a) because it is just that, an average; and b) there is a suggestion that trained athletes may differ from the norm. My own example illustrates this - I am 37 suggesting an age related max of 183, actual max (seen to date) is 195 (seen at the end of a race).

    From what I've read it would seem that having a max HR higher than average is not significant (as opposed to a low HR which can be some measure of fitness - although again subject to broad fluctuations). What is important is to know you max and your resting rate so you know which training zone you are in.

    On the other hand if you're happy doing long slow comfotable runs then don't worry about it - however experience suggests that many runners want to get faster, and using HR training is excellent at ensuring you train AND rest at the "right" level.

    It is as you identified almost impossible to measure your max without an HRM as trying to count whilst fighting the effects of lactic acid build up is likely to prove prohibitive!
  • Ironman as a matter of interest how much did the test cost?? I'm looking to do a half ironman next year and would like to know the zones I should be working in...there are so many contrasting formulas on the net that I'm starting to get confused.
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