Max HR and HR training zones (Read 658 times)


    I have just started training with a heart rate monitor, and am wondering how to interpret and use the HR data it collects.  


    I am 30 years old, so by most calculations my max HR should be around 185-190bpm.  I have found that on my 10km training runs I have an average HR of 160, which would equate to ~85% of my max HR.


    So my question is, how do I use the heart rate monitor and heart rate training zones to help me train smarter?

      1. You'll need to do some sort of field test to estimate your HRmax or LT HR or whatever reference point you want to use. (HRmax is most common.) Different tables are used with different reference points. The age-based formulae are ok for an average person, but can be horrible predictors for an individual (unless average). (it's about 20bpm low for me, which makes a huge difference in zones)


      2. I'd get a book and read up on heart rate training and its idiosyncrasies. I've used Burke's Precision Heart Rate Training, Livingstone's Healthy Intelligent Training, and Joe Friel's Total Heart Rate Training. This has some info


      but most treatments on the web aren't very good (or I'd link you there).


      3. You can also look up "talk test" and see how that relates to various % or HRmax.


      When you were doing your 10k runs, could you talk in short sentences/phrases, not at all, or in long sentences (say, 20 words)?



      Some people prefer to just use the talk test rather than dealing with the HRM and its issues. Some of us like numbers to play with. Your choice.


      One of the questions to ask is if there is a reason for using hrm - either health issue or maybe you never run on flat, dry surfaces where pace works ok. (looking at data after a run or race is a perfectly good reason, but some people are using them for health issues)

      "So many people get stuck in the routine of life that their dreams waste away. This is about living the dream." - Cave Dog

        You need to actually get your maxmimum HR to start.  My maximum HR based on the formulas comes out to 178, but my real maximum HR is 194.  Quite a difference.


        To do so, you need to work at it.  Even then you will fine tune that number as you finish your first few races.  When I started out I did the steps to calculate my max HR and I think measured it at 188.  Then I ran my first race and at the finish my HR ended up hitting 192, then I ran another race and my HR ended up hitting 194.  Pretty simple really, your max HR is your max HR. 


        Until you know your max HR you really don't know what zone you are training in.  If your max HR is 210 then 160 would be just over 75% of your max.  If your HR ends up being 185, then 160 would be just over 85% which would seem a little high for everyday training to me.  It's all speculation until you find out your max though.


        As far as training zones and fun stuff like that they world is full of different options.  After bouncing around a little bit, I ended up sticking to a low HR training method and it has worked well for me.


        There is a forum here specifically for those doing Low HR training if you are interested.




        Good luck.  Nathan


        P.S. - HRMs are a little controversial around here.  Some folks think they are the devil.  I really enjoy mine as it gives me a much more objective measurement than "easy", "moderate", etc.  Starting out I thought I was running easy, but my HRM told me a different story.  I slowed way down and have stayed injury free and my race times have improved dramatically.

        Age: 49 Weight: 202 Height: 6'3" (Goal weight 195)

        Current PR's:  Mara 3:14:36* (2017); HM 1:36:13 (2017); 10K 43:59 (2014); 5K 21:12 (2016)


          Thanks guys, that is helpful.  I will look up some of those resources that you have mentioned.  I haven't seen the test talk - on my 10-15km runs I would say I can usually talk in short sentences throughout.  I also have a couple of races coming up (half and full marathons), and some pace training before then, so I will keep an eye on what my max HR is during these.