Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Heart Rate Training

I'm finally sitting down to do some solid research on heart rate training.  I've talked about this before, but I haven't actually ever "finished" the task because there is a lot of seemingly conflicting information available on this subject.  It's going to require a lot of decisions on my part and I'd much rather have someone else just tell me what's right and what I need to do.

You might think talking to my doctor would be the best, and I did, in fact, do that.  She did some "research" and told me, according to the American Heart Association, I should train between 90-135 beats per minute.


On my first day of training, my heart rate was 113 when I stepped outside to start my walk.  The average for that first 30 minute, easy, 3.5mph walk (in 12 degree weather mind you), was 146.  Since I started "training" in January, my average heart rate (during walks/walluns/rulks/runs) has been 142, with an average max of 178.  The highest it's ever gotten to was 194, and that would have been at the end of the "race" where I sprinted to the finish.

I've said all that to say I think my doctor is WRONG...and also to emphasis the fact that I don't believe cookie cutter numbers work for everyone.  This is the whole reason I'm sitting here pouring over facts and figures and trying to determine what's actually best for me.

To be perfectly clear, let me say I am not a doctor, I don't even pretend to play one in bloggerdom.  You should not take anything in this post as "advice".  I'm writing more as a way to sort out all the information I've found.  Do your own research, talk to your doctor, make up your own mind about how you want to train.

The "standard" max heart rate (MHR) is supposed to be 220-age.  (The numbers my doctor gave me were based on this MHR and using 50%-75% as the training range.)  This site has a variety of calculators for different ways of determining MHR, but it doesn't have the Karvonen method (which relies heavily on your resting heart rate).   However, my personal favorite site for determining MHR (because it told me what I wanted to hear) is this one.

I have to say the reason this site "told me what I wanted to hear" is because there are several methods of arriving at the magic number, that all line up with what I already believe really is my MHR.  (Okay, to be honest, I haven't done all the tests, but the ones I have done line up with what I already thought it was.)

So, armed with a "definitive" number for my MRH...the question becomes how to use that information to set up a training plan (in conjunction with the mileage goals for each week).  That's actually harder than getting the number in the first place....because it requires me to decide what it is I hope to achieve with my training.

Am I out there to burn fat and lose weight?
Am I trying to strengthen my heart?
Am I training for endurance?  Speed?

What if the answer is "all of the above"??

I'll explore training plans tomorrow.  I're so excited you can't stand it, right??!!

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon.


  1. I'm definitely no expert on this, but your doc's numbers seem low to me too. I believe that as a regular runner, you probably have a relatively high VO2 max, which means that your body uses oxygen pretty efficiently. This will make your heart rate naturally a little lower, and your THR a little higher. I had to take a silly "fitness for living" class last semester for the physical/mental health requirement in my major (secondary ed). From what that class said, young athletes have higher MHRs and THRs, and the numbers your doc gave seem pretty low compared to the advice they gave. My MHR is something like 172, which I don't know that I ever reach, but I also tend to avoid speed workouts like the plague. :)

    Also, on an unrelated note, I love the lemonade song!

  2. I'm definitely excited about your plans!!!!

  3. Very interesting blog. I don't check anymore my HR because I found boring having often a look to the monitor. Perhaps I am wrong but my Garmin is ... enough!


Don't hold back, tell it like it is....