Middle Age Max Heart Rate (Read 136 times)


The Irreverent Reverend

    I'm training with a heart rate monitor chest strap for the first time in my life. I recently ran a full effort 5K and topped out at 177 BPM. I'm a 44 year-old male, so this squares with the 220-age rubric. I feel that with better strategy I could probably run a better 5K, and thus maybe eke out a little more, but not much more. My resting heart rate is 46.


    Does this square with the heart rate range of other middle age folks here?


    For any who have run with heart rate monitors for years, has training allowed you to increase max heart rate, even incrementally?


    Any other comments on heart rate training?


    Thanks, all.

    Husband. Father of three. Lutheran pastor. National Guardsman. Runner. Political junkie. Baseball fan.


    Caffeine-fueled Runner

      Everything I've ever read has said the following on some form or another....your maximum heart rate is yours, not someone else's.  It's likely governed by genetics and as you train you are unlikely to be able to raise your maximum heart rate.  Your pace at a given heart rate can get faster as your cardiovascular efficiency increases (and is already indicated by a low resting HR unless you have some underlying heart rate issues that result in an abnormally low HR).  You might see a slight change in LTHR, but even that doesn't change much even though you might see a significant increase in running pace.  Your max (safe) HR might decrease as you age, but I have to question why you would seek to increase your maximum HR.


      There is a way to find your max HR and it involves doing a run to exhaustion (usually on a treadmill) under medical supervision.  Your body will go highly anaerobic and you will be close to passing out (if you don't pass out and collapse, which is why it should be medically supervised.

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      Maniac #11112, Fanatic #14276, Double Agent #2335

        +1 to everything that gsaun039 said.


        My max heart rate was 184 in a treadmill test at age 51.  Two years ago, at age 65, I hit 175 while doing some intervals.  I am sure that was not my maximum.  Anybody who wants to find their maximum heart is well advised to do it on an empty stomach.  Then you will only dry heave at the end.


        Mmmm Bop

          The 220 - age is just a rough guideline and not necessarily accurate for everyone. Using a HR monitor is just an additional running tool that can help with pacing. I’ve never had an accurate clinically measured max test, but would guess it’s around 180bpm from the data I’ve accumulated over the years. I don’t think my max has gone down a great deal in the last 10 years (I’m 53) and still average around 160bpm for an all out marathon.


          You can do a (less accurate) max test on the road - eg, 2min hill repeats with each repeat getting faster etc.

          5k - 17:53 (4/19)   10k - 37:53 (11/18)   Half - 1:23:18 (4/19)   Full - 2:50:43 (4/19)

            If you want to come close to finding out your Max HR,  I'd do it when well rested or take the Max Heart rate attained over a mile or 5K race which would be close enough if raced all out.  During training with tired legs, it takes a lot of effort and will power to even get to around 95% MHR.


              As noted above, the 220-age is a very rough guideline.  I am surprised how often I see this guideline quoted in the running and fitness community - even though it's only a rough approximation.  I am a 55 year old make who has been running for 30 years - and I've got a resting heart rate of 45, and a max heart rate somewhere in the neighborhood of 180.  I began running with a heart rate monitor with a local running club in the 1990s. Since many of us were using HR monitors, it became clear to our group that while the 220-age is a useful approximation, it is nothing more than that.  There were many examples of people who were older than me with a higher max HR and vice versa!  As noted below, max heart rate is entirely an individual thing depending upon a myriad of things including your heart, build, fitness level, weight, etc.   If you added 50 or 100 pounds to your frame do you think your max HR would be the same?  Of course not.


              The only way I am aware of testing your max HR is some form of running hard.  Many years ago, my running club used to run repeats on a track (to near exhaustion) to get an idea of our individual max HR.  While it did not give you a true number, it did give you an idea of your max HR range.




              not bad for mile 25

                For the record, I'm 66. The formula would give me 154. I routinely hit the 180s, and not at all-out effort....unless my Garmin (wrist) is way off when I'm running. Casual, sitting tests have verified its accuracy, anyway.  My resting HR is around 48.

                  56, avg HR for runs is in the mid to high 130's, low 130's for long and ez runs. Max I've noticed is 168, but I can't do hard speedwork due to achilles issue. Hard 5k avg in the upper 140's. Resting HR is lower 50's. I recover from >150 to <100 in about a minute of walking.


                  In college when we would check our HR during repeats/intervals using the 6 second count X10, I was often at 260-280.


                  I'm guessing, without reading anything, that runners in decent shape have trained their bodies to pump more blood via higher HR during hard efforts, but unlike "average" people this high HR is not a sign of health problems because it recovers to low levels quickly. Sustained high HR after hard effort might indicate a cardiovascular problem.

                  60-64 age group  -  University of Oregon alumni  -  Irreverent and Annoying

                  Resident Historian

                    Like other posters to this thread, my HRMax is considerably higher than the 220-Age formula. My cardiologist, a runner (with >200 marathons) now in his 70's, says that reasonably trained runners will estimate closer to their true HRMax using 200 - Half Age. For me at age 70, that generates 165, which is probably very close. But as gsaun039 said, your HRMax is your own; I've seen some studies suggesting a standard error of ~10 bpm with this formula.

                    For the OP: That trained-runner formula says 178 -- better get to work for that last 1bpm!  Actually, you've probably got it already, and a few more, as HRMax is better determined on the final sprint of a series of all-out 400's with short recoveries. HR at the end of a 5K may be held down by fatigue factors. 

                    But I'm not going to be hitting HRMax anytime soon. For the last year, I've been battling A-fib (which seems to be becoming the aging endurance athlete's disease). After ablation surgery a few months ago. I'm still on a drug that holds my HR down (and saps a whole lot of energy). But (touch wood!) I think I've got rid of it now.


                    “Some people will tell you that slow is good – but I'm here to tell you that fast is better. I've always believed this, in spite of the trouble it's caused me. - Hunter S. Thompson

                    Seattle prattle

                      Your barking up the wrong tree.

                      As fitness increases, you would see your resting heart rate change, not the Max. HR. 
                      Look into that.

                      BUt it sounds like your goal is to run a better 5K. With that in mind, what you would want to do is to work at increasing your time you can maintain running at your Lactic Threshold. Additionally, you would want to work on pushing into the anaerobic zones during some workouts.

                      Another words. most runners would turn to an integrated running plan to achieve the goal you mention, and many of these have a heart rate monitoring component.


                      Are we there, yet?


                        BUt it sounds like your goal is to run a better 5K. With that in mind, what you would want to do is to work at increasing your time you can maintain running at your Lactic Threshold.


                        Shouldn't that be VO2Max rather than LT?  A 5K is run at faster than LT pace.

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                           A 5K is run at faster than LT pace.


                          And at slower than VO2max. For most normals (not elite runners) the limiting factor at 5k is LT, not VO2max.

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                          The Irreverent Reverend

                            I'm more familiar with with resting heart rate ranges than I am with max heart rate ranges, so that was the source of the question. And having pretty good data helps me understand my zones (ie, where is my 85% HR zone, vs. my 60% zone).



                            Husband. Father of three. Lutheran pastor. National Guardsman. Runner. Political junkie. Baseball fan.

                            Seattle prattle

                              I would just use your high number (177) from the recent 5K to base all your other HR Zones from.

                              You can't go off of anything having to do with other people's MHR (Max. HR).

                              HR monitoring is not an exact science. On any given day, the same effort may yield different HR responses and this is due to inaccuracy of the equipment (i.e: cadence lock, for one), how rested you are, heat and humidity, previous workouts, etc.That's why it is a good idea to start correlating your HR data with perceived exertion levels. It is common for runners to start to get familiar with this and eventually discard the HR monitoring in favor of the perceived effort.

                              For me, i record the HR data to look at later, but perceived effort is what governs my workouts while i am doing them.


                              Are we there, yet?


                                And at slower than VO2max. For most normals (not elite runners) the limiting factor at 5k is LT, not VO2max.


                                5K pace is roughly 98% of VO2Max.  That number is not likely to improve, so to improve one's 5K time, one would have to improve one's VO2Max.  Obviously this applies to runners who actual race hard and not those who stay within their comfort zone.

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