# Max heart rate

#### The Pirate

I recently received a new cycling computer with heart rate.
So my question is how do I work out what my max heart rate is ?? I would like to do it by the ramp testing method, not the formulaic way. I don't have a power meter either.
Everyone that I ride with/ask say that the ramp test is best but can't remember how to do it as it has been years since they did it.

Can anyone help or even give me a link ??

Thanks,
The Pirate.

#### David Suro

You are smart to want to determine your true max HR using something other than a statistical model. The formula of 220 minus your age simply is not accurate, especially for athletes.

The easiest way to determine your max HR is to go out and perform a max effort.

I like to evaluate mine by going for an easy ride for about an hour to get good and warmed up. Then I do a couple of moderately difficult intervals lasting about two minutes each to activate the body's glycemic energy producing pathways. Then I go to my favorite hill and start to climb it at a pace that I know I cannot maintain to the top. When I start to feel as though I am gasping for air and have a pretty good burn throughout my entire body, I stand and sprint as hard as I can until I completely blow up.

The max value you achieve during a drill like that is as close to your true max HR as anything you can determine.

It is not a comfortable test, but it's kind of psychologically fun to say at the bottom of a climb, "I am going to intentionally blow up before I reach the top."

Enjoy,

Dr. Suro

#### Alpe d'Huez

Excellent post David. I came to the same conclusion some time ago when I had dreams of being a physiologist in my youth.

Back in 1990 I had a full VO2Max test done, and I owned an old Polar Accurex HRM that matched the numbers. At the then age of 28 my max HRM was 196. Four bpm higher than the 220-age (192).

What I found most interesting is in 2007 I started using an HRM again, and found that my numbers, which in theory using the 220-age would be 175. Even with my higher than normal number, the theory would mean the max would be 179 or so. But I found that even though I wasn't super fit like in my racing days, after repeated training rides like you suggest, my max was about 186. This was so 'incorrect' to me that I contacted a physiologist I knew, and joked that I was some sort of mutant. I was told that the 220-age was a very rough gauge, and my numbers were very likely totally accurate, and that most people don't properly calculate their max heart rate or go to the depth that I did to determine it. Basically proving what you're saying - you really need to run your own ramp test, several times. One test won't do it, you need to do a few, as rest/recovery etc. will sway the number a few digits.

HRM's are great. They won't give you all the info a watt meter will on a bike. But if you're just into exercising and studying your body, especially if you do multiple sports, they are a great tool and you can really learn your from them.

#### Laszlo

I have found my max hr to be the same as it was in the mid 90's;and that max drops as my riding frequency increases- the only difference then and now is that I used to ride hard up to 100 hours a month, (in addition to working a full time job- no life); no with kids and wife, I just don't have nearly the time I did- so perhaps my current max is coincidentally equivalent to a fitness-reduced max then.

#### mattpro

Not sure what to think

I'm 48 years old. I have been riding for about 10 years. Never much of an athlete before that. I was out on my first outdoor ride of the year this past weekend. Without trying to do a max heart rate test, I came back with a 192 max on my ride. I probably was going as hard as I could, but I didn't 'blow up'.

Suggested by the formula, I should peak out at 172. Does anyone think this is a problem that it goes so high? Should I spend time in the mid 180's on a regular training ride? I feel fine in most other respects.

#### TheNJDevil

mattpro said:
Suggested by the formula, I should peak out at 172. Does anyone think this is a problem that it goes so high? Should I spend time in the mid 180's on a regular training ride? I feel fine in most other respects.

This is very typical of someone who is not in shape. I have a similar situation every March/April as I don't keep fitness over the winter. If you keep at it, by mid summer you will notice your max is much lower. The suggestion I'm sure you'll find most everywhere is to get as much base miles in as possible, no more then 70% HR max. Now, having said that...if you cannot get out for 2hr or more easy ride 5 days a week, I would suggest spending at least 20min at a higher HR. Having similar numbers as you, I will say try to hold 175 for the full 20 min (assuming good warm up). I nice 2.5mile, 7% grade does the trick for me. But nothing beats base miles for real fitness improvement.

#### David Suro

Mattpro,

Given your age and exercise history, your max HR is not typical. Just because it is atypical does not mean that it is pathalogical, but it is always best to be sure when it comes to the heart.

I would suggest you speak to your physician about having a base-line EKG study performed. The test only takes a couple of minutes, is completely non-invasive, and can either let you know everything is fine (continue to enjoy your cycling without restriction) or that further studies are indicated (proceed with caution).

Best wishes,

Dr. Suro

In a tough race last summer, when I attacked on a difficult climb, my heart rate monitor showed 198. I do think that was a wrong measure though, and my max heart rate is probably 3-4 beats lower.

#### Bike Boy

I'm almost 24 years old and I haven't raced for 5 years. Back in the days I was pretty confident that my HRM would be somewhere between 203 - 205 bpm. This winter I have been a little bit serious with the training again (actually all I have done is 3 hours of spinning pr week because of the cold wheather).
Nevertheless It's been a great shock for me to discover, that I'm actually able to go much higher than previously assumed.
The highest HR I have recorded this winter is 214 bpm but it was less that 5 seconds and it was really really hard so I wouldn't calculate my HR range based on that, but I have been as High as 209 several times. When I am fresh getting above 200 is actually very easy for me.

I have no certain explanation to why this sudden raise in HRM, but one logical reason why could be that I was training a little too much (back then).

My experience is that you could prepare well before performing a HRM test, yet somehow still end up with a result, that doesn't match you true HRM. The thing is you only get to know your body (and psyche) well, when you've pushed yourself to the limit several times.
Today I don't need to prepare before peforming a test, when ever I'm on my bike I will let the moment inspire me. I can simply feel it, when I have it in me.

#### Tapeworm

An herein lies the problems with HR - highly variable for a large number of reasons without correlating with actual performance. Sometimes the HR is beyond what you thought was your max and you're creeping, or its a bit lower and people are begging you to slow down. High doesn't mean good, and lower doesn't mean bad and vice versa.

Its a guide, and not much more.

#### Bike Boy

Tapeworm said:
An herein lies the problems with HR - highly variable for a large number of reasons without correlating with actual performance. Sometimes the HR is beyond what you thought was your max and you're creeping, or its a bit lower and people are begging you to slow down. High doesn't mean good, and lower doesn't mean bad and vice versa.

Its a guide, and not much more.

Yes if you thereby mean that a high HRM does not necessarily equal great athletic abilities, you are absolutely right, but I don't think anybody was getting that impression.

My resting heart rate has been recorded as low as 35 bpm so I have a very impressive heart rate reserve:

214 bpm - 35 bpm = 179 bpm

But that's based on my absolute limits, and it would really suck if I had to push my self that hard, during VO2 max intervals. It would quite literally be impossible.

When i calculate my heart rate target zones I always go by more human numbers:

HRM = 205 bpm
RHR = 45 bpm (40 bpm when in shape).

Which is still impressive, but it doesn't matter I will never become a pro rider.
Makes me wonder though, Bjarne Riis had a very low HRM (175 bpm I think).
Many of his competitors had a HRM around 200 bpm.
You can of course compensate for a low HRM by having a huge Stroke volume, but I find i hard to believe that Riis's stroke volume would differ so much from the rest of the top riders.
Of course I'm aware that it's not just about how much blood (hence oxygen) your heart can deliver pr minute it's also about how your muscle fibres deal with the oxygen delivered.
I'm no expert at all but if I would turn back to study one day, this is probably the topic I would consider the most. Very exciting I have to say.

#### Tapeworm

No. What I meant is that for a given individual if you post your highest HR ever this does not automatically correspond to a higher power output. And conversely a lower HR CAN result in more power output. Whilst there is a general trend it is not exact and can vary greatly.

#### Hoekstyn

About 20 years ago I went for a physical and asked to use the stationairy bike rather than the treadmill as I have bad knees. But the treadmill it was as they said it would get my heartrate up faster. The target was 160. 7 Minutes later, with the track@ about a 18% incline, I was and stayed @ 154. They could not believe it. At the time however, I was a weekend warrior and rode to work most days (15km 1 way), with a resting HR of 38 B/Min. The formula did not work for me either. Check it yourself at various times and that will give you a much better feel of where you are and should be at different training stages.

#### Bike Boy

Tapeworm said:
No. What I meant is that for a given individual if you post your highest HR ever this does not automatically correspond to a higher power output. And conversely a lower HR CAN result in more power output. Whilst there is a general trend it is not exact and can vary greatly.

Okay I entirely misunderstood you. I have no experience with SRM and all that cool stuff, so I have to believe you.
I have actually read something similar before. Can't remember the article but it stated that if you go out and do a TT aiming to be in a specific HR zone your power output would probably fluctuate inappropriately.

#### Tapeworm

Well sort of, TTing is a whole different ball game. You generally want a flat power output only if the course itself is flat, and no wind. Your power needs to fluctuate according to the terrain and wind, this is all due to the nature of aerodynamics.

I won't say for a second that you should not use HR. I do, usually with power but sometimes without and, of course, if doing non-bike activities. And it can be a good pacing guide for a TT, but don't let it control you completely. If your HR is at its max but you Rate of Perceived Effort (RPE) is low and you're feeling good note the HR and keep going.

Once you have worked out your HR then training within the various recommended zones can and has been a very successful method of training. Power is just a little better for nailing those zones, easier to track progress and better for shorter style intervals (especially for sprints and the like).

A

#### Anonymous

##### Guest
So what is the best way to use heart rate monitors during exercise.

My resting is in the mid eighties, usually around 85-88, partly through smoking, but also due to anxiety and medication. At 39 max heart rate is about the 180 region ish..

Edit: ok scrap that, ive just measured lying down and relaxing at its around 70bpm, but, due to the joys of anxiety my sitting up, typing on the computer bpm is 89, maybe i need to measure it a few mornings when i wake up.. what should i actually base my resting heart rate on?

I generally work at 50% 132, 60% 145, 70% 153, 85% 166 (thats based on 85bpm)
I calculate 50% 128, 60% 138, 70% 149, 85% 165 (based on 75bpm)

So how should I use these to judge exercise.. Im generally quite cagey, one of the joys of anxiety is that breathlessness isnt the greatest thing in the world and have my monitor set to 132 to 153 and it beeps at me outside those ranges.

Where should i target my exercise to be, do i just stay happily between those two figures (and will that do anything for me fitness wise), do i move the ranges up a bit, how is the best way to use one.

My HRM monitor is generally used to keep me in sensible ranges and tell me when to slow down more than anything, and when i need to calm it a bit and relax. As my health improves though I am pushing it a bit more, or wanting to push it a bit more.

how should i use the HRM most effectively? And what will be long term benefits, will i see my bpm drop by regularly keeping my heart at a constant rate during exercise etc?

#### Alex Simmons/RST

TeamSkyFans said:
So what is the best way to use heart rate monitors during exercise.
You can use your HRM to provide some guidance to general level of intensity when training (but that's about it). Use the HR level calculator here to provide some help with that:
Level 2 Calculators

You might like to note this thread as well, which talks about use of HR and Power. Here is my response on that thread:
http://cyclecoach.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=166#p166

One of the advantages over time when training with a power meter, you get quite good at knowing the sensations of "how hard is hard" and your internal "perceived exertion meter" is usually a pretty good indicator too.