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Old 05-29-10, 06:52 PM   #1
gkk2001
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What is the 'Proper' Heart Rate

I splurged and got the new Polar CS500 computer/HRM and like it alot. It is truely a very nice unit that I think was well worth the cash. I am still on a learning curve because of all the features but know most of the operation after just a couple days of use.

At 59 and a newbe cyclist, I thought I better know what level my heart was doing on the rides I am taking.

It turns out, to reach the workout intensity that I feel is correct for me, my heart rate is easily going to 140 - 145 (occassionally even 150) while the guideline calculation says it should be 133 max for my age. (220-59) x 0.80 I enter my age into the Polar and it will not let me set the max heart rate above 133 for it to monitor the time that I am in my proper heart rate zone. I know I am not as fit as I want to be but my resting rate is 60 so I am not that bad off and my weight is down to a good level as well (158 at 5'11").

I have approached this thinking the heart rate zone calculation is just a guidline and that it is OK for me to run higher than the recommened zone. What level heart rates are you running to during training? Am I looking at this the wrong way?

Greg
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Old 05-29-10, 07:13 PM   #2
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The best way to find your max HR is to keep going faster and faster until you can't push your HR any higher. Works best for me going up a gentle grade, where I can upshift and keep pushing harder and harder - gradually. Ballpark estimate is 220 minus your age, but that's highly variable.

Once you find YOUR MHR (Max Heart Rate) then you can calculate 90%, 80%, etc. Rule of thumb for me is, a hard ride will have significant time in the 80-90% zone, with several brief forays into the 90+% zone.
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Old 05-29-10, 07:15 PM   #3
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Before you go above recommended HR's for your age, you really should have a good workup and stress test to set your baseline. ou may find you can run it up to 22o, or you may find out that you have an underlying undiagnosed heart issue and can't run it above 100. BEtter to be safe than sorry. I'm coming back slowly from heart issues, I had a coronary event occur on April 9 with no previous warning. The day before, I had my standard RHR of 48-54 BPM, and the next day, I was leaving class in the AM, had a funny little blip of pain, threw up, and hit the floor. Woke up in the hospital in AFIB, with a HR that was irregular, and cycling between 165 and 220, missing beats, throwing PVC's and SVT's.

It can sneak up on you after 50.
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Old 05-29-10, 08:28 PM   #4
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actually as long as my heart rate is above zero and not doing anything funny I'm happy. that being said you should be asking your doctor and not a bunch of us here.
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Old 05-29-10, 08:38 PM   #5
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I don't train with a HRM and am one of the heretics who doubt how useful they really are.

My belief is that its biggest value is to keep you from going faster than you ought to. It helped me I guess when I ran. When I MTBed it was worthless because I would very quickly peg out and could not avoid it unless I just dismounted and walked by my bike. For road biking its not very helpful either, not with all the rollers I do routinely.

I don't need a HRM to know when I'm close to redlining it. I just start to feel like puking and back off.

The racers probably find them helpful but for the rest of us it generates numbers to geek out about.
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Old 05-29-10, 08:57 PM   #6
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As was stated - get a stress test.
We have discussed HR zones here - the 220-age is a guide and not a rule. My max is about 190. I routinely cruise at 145. I can stay at 160 for long climbs and sprint at 185. I use the HRM as a tool during training run where I am have difficulty with motivation low up too early.- to push myself or on some training runs to hold myself back so I don't blow up to early. The doc who did my stress test said my chart looked like the perfect text book plot, so he was not concerned.
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Old 05-29-10, 09:57 PM   #7
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The 220-age formula is an average ( and even at that is suspect) and can be way off for any particular individual. For all practical purposes its useless. For some interesting history on the genesis of the formula and it's limitations see this (you may have to register with the NYT to read, but it's free and worth it).

If you're in good health, I don't think there is much risk in doing a self test. YMMV. Obviously, if you develop chest pains stop and seek medical attention. Be forewarned tho, a test of MHR is going to be uncomfortable. However to effectively use a hr monitor, you really don't need to know your MHR. Your hr at lactate threshold is more important and useful. The Friel and Carmichael books each have ways of testing for this and give you workouts based on that number. This is a sub-maximal test, so doesn't carry the same risk as a test of MHR. There is also a sticky in the Training & Nutrition forum that gives a threshold test. There have been numerous threads there about HR training, so if you do a search you'll find a lot of info.
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Old 05-29-10, 10:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Stormcrowe View Post
Before you go above recommended HR's for your age...(
Problem is, if the "recommended" HR is based on 220-age it can just as easily be too high as too low. As I said in the post above, the "formula" ( or any other age based "formula") is really useless for any particular individual.

Hope you're doing better, btw.
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Old 05-29-10, 10:22 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by gkk2001 View Post
I splurged and got the new Polar CS500 computer/HRM and like it alot. It is truely a very nice unit that I think was well worth the cash. I am still on a learning curve because of all the features but know most of the operation after just a couple days of use.

At 59 and a newbe cyclist, I thought I better know what level my heart was doing on the rides I am taking.

It turns out, to reach the workout intensity that I feel is correct for me, my heart rate is easily going to 140 - 145 (occassionally even 150) while the guideline calculation says it should be 133 max for my age. (220-59) x 0.80 I enter my age into the Polar and it will not let me set the max heart rate above 133 for it to monitor the time that I am in my proper heart rate zone. I know I am not as fit as I want to be but my resting rate is 60 so I am not that bad off and my weight is down to a good level as well (158 at 5'11").

I have approached this thinking the heart rate zone calculation is just a guidline and that it is OK for me to run higher than the recommened zone. What level heart rates are you running to during training? Am I looking at this the wrong way?

Greg
I am 64 and recently hit 173 at the top of a steep hill. I am not at all scared to do it again. Those formulas are discredited and worthless.
Perhaps you could lie about your age when punching data into the heart monitor.

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Old 05-30-10, 04:47 AM   #10
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I agree and even addressed that. That was the primary reason I recommended a complete workup, because of individual differences.

I'm doing az lot better, and am even back on the bike now, primarily doing short easy rides on the Fixed Gear.
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Problem is, if the "recommended" HR is based on 220-age it can just as easily be too high as too low. As I said in the post above, the "formula" ( or any other age based "formula") is really useless for any particular individual.

Hope you're doing better, btw.
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Old 05-30-10, 08:59 AM   #11
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I am your age. I really don't figure I am warmed up unless I am over 130. I can cruise easily from 140-150. Over 160 is a bit intense. Over 170 is pretty intense. I generally use my heart rate monitor for indoor spin bike sessions to give me feedback on intensity. On the road, I have plenty of other things to keep me amused so I don't use a monitor then.

As others have said, the 220-age is not really that helpful. It is just a starting place. If you want to know your max heart rate, you can ride just as hard as you can and then push harder and see what you get. Once you have done it a number of times, you should have a good feel for your maximum rate. But it isn't really necessary.
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Old 05-30-10, 09:47 AM   #12
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Do not forget that humans exhibit a wide range of characteristics and statistics. I suspect those of us with low resting heart rates probably also have somewhat reduced maximum rates. If you fee comfortable pushing yourself beyond what your HRM says, just lie about your age.
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Old 05-30-10, 09:48 AM   #13
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Tom, I'm 62 and had my bypass a couple of years ago. Like a lot of guys my heart's OK (very slight damage) but it was the arteries that were the problem. I own a HRM and a Blood Pressure Monitor. I used both quite a bit after the event just to learn how my body operates - you get to see the effect various activities have on your body. It can also teach you how to lower your BP/HR with your mind and your breathing - kinda interesting. After awhile you can set your own parameters based on how you feel.

Now I use it occasionally just to see where I'm at. I've set a personal max of about 170 - I don't feel distress at that level, but I get a tiny warning that "that's enough" and back off. Cruise at 125-130, hills at 140-150.

Incidentally, are you on a Beta Blocker? Since the operation my resting HR runs a little high, so I'm on a small-dose twice a day (although I often skip the evening one if the HR's normal). They're a bit limiting, depending on how long before exercise you took one, but I find I can 'blast through' it if I really want to push myself.
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Old 05-30-10, 10:04 AM   #14
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I read all these notes reporting HR and am amazed.

resting for me 55, riding comfy 124, once in a blue moon and seeing spots before my eyes 150 or so. I usually can't go much beyond 148 normally even on a long hard up hill climb. I usually poop out as I hit about 148.

my suggested HR Max 155. I might have made it once in my two year's + commuting.

I did have a stress test but bailed before I reached that magic 155 number and the doc's said to keep riding and working out and to check back in a year or two to see if I can't go further. right.

these HR numbers really are individual and can't be entirely generalized I think. Variables must be more variable than the averages would suggest. ball parks are nice to visit but I don't live there.

get yourself to a doc and get the test so you don't run into unknown territory before you know it. rides in the ambulance are highly over rated.
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Old 05-30-10, 11:14 AM   #15
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actually as long as my heart rate is above zero and not doing anything funny I'm happy. that being said you should be asking your doctor and not a bunch of us here.
+1
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Old 05-30-10, 12:13 PM   #16
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I suspect those of us with low resting heart rates probably also have somewhat reduced maximum rates.
I don't think that there's a connection. My resting hr is in the mid 50s and I figure my max is about 200. I'm 57. I've seen 190 on some hills this year, last year I saw 198. I was tested in a physiology lab at 207 when I was 43. I generally cruise at 140-150 & can sustain hi 160s to lo 170s for a long time, but If I get over mid 170s I don't last long. I figure threshold is about 173. Again, those heart rates don't say anything about ability. They are just an individual variation. If I let myself be controlled by 220-age, I'd be way undertraining.
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Old 05-30-10, 01:34 PM   #17
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Yeah, as well as HR regulators like Toprol and Pacerone, and Warfarin to prevent clotting, since I have a screwed up SA Node, and my HR gets irregular and starts Atrial Fibrillation if I exceed around 120 BPM right now. I also have problems with cardiomyopathy in the L Atrium, L Ventricle and Right Ventricle, due to the SA node issue and attacks of tachycardia and fibrillation now. On the good side, I have excellent valve action and coronary arteries the size of Los Ange,es Water Mains with no blockage whatsoever.
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Tom, I'm 62 and had my bypass a couple of years ago. Like a lot of guys my heart's OK (very slight damage) but it was the arteries that were the problem. I own a HRM and a Blood Pressure Monitor. I used both quite a bit after the event just to learn how my body operates - you get to see the effect various activities have on your body. It can also teach you how to lower your BP/HR with your mind and your breathing - kinda interesting. After awhile you can set your own parameters based on how you feel.

Now I use it occasionally just to see where I'm at. I've set a personal max of about 170 - I don't feel distress at that level, but I get a tiny warning that "that's enough" and back off. Cruise at 125-130, hills at 140-150.

Incidentally, are you on a Beta Blocker? Since the operation my resting HR runs a little high, so I'm on a small-dose twice a day (although I often skip the evening one if the HR's normal). They're a bit limiting, depending on how long before exercise you took one, but I find I can 'blast through' it if I really want to push myself.
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Old 05-30-10, 02:37 PM   #18
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If you take a guideline- then 220 less your age is a good place to start. If you want to get serious- then a stress test should be the next step after consultation with the doctor or medical experts.

I had a bypass 10 years ago and Had a stress test a year later. This was as near as dammit- the same as the 220-age. I treat my max as 160 at 63 now and occasionally reach it but that has to be after a lot of exertion and a very good reason to do it. I also have to be in peak fitness to get there so after a long winter- I will not be hitting it shortly.

But there is a good Non-Technical way to see how hard you are working. If you are breathing hard and can only get out short sentences to a rider by the side of you- Then you are probably about 75 to 80% of your max. IF Those---Sentences--- have to---be broken---for breaths, then you are probably around 85 to 90% of your max. And if you have to get off the bike and lie down before you fall down- Then you have gone over the top.
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Old 05-31-10, 11:31 AM   #19
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I don't see much problem in having a stress test if you are concerned. BUT, be aware that there are false positives that can really mess up your life if the cardiologist isn't first rate or if he has his pocketbook as his first concern. Had I not been knowledgable and assertive I would have been put on a life altering regimen and drugs after one of those false positives. But, working through the situation was time consuming and expensive.

If you are healthy and are, as your post says, only concerned with maximum heart rate, nothing else I'd approach the need for further diagnostics very carefully. Understand your provider may not be able to give you any better answer and may subject you to expensive testing for liability protection reasons only.

Maximum heart rate can change over time. Mine has increased 20 bpm in the last three years as my fitness has increased. When I started running years ago I was taught to do most of my exercise in the Aerobic Zone. That is I could always comfortably talk while exercising. But there were periods of Anerobic Activity where I literally was gasping for breath to develop greater capacity. The combination worked for top flite runners then and still is a valuable tool.

In short, don't pay much attention to maximum heart rate except ast an aid. The best thing is to pay attention to breathing.

Understand, this advise may, just like most internet advise, be worth exactly what it cost.
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Old 05-31-10, 12:14 PM   #20
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Latitude's advice, free or not, is good. The general rule of 220 minus age, like all generalisations, tells you nothing about your particular circumstances. I'm 55 going on 56 and have touched 186 in the last year. My resting HR is around 52, and I regularly go over 160 without feeling I'm working too hard. On a climb I'll start to back off at 170 because I know from experience that I can sustain that level for only a few minutes and then I'm blown.

I have friends who find it difficult to get their HR above 150, and others who average over 160 on a fast ride. If you're worried about it, talk to a doctor as others have suggested. But generally speaking, I'd suggest that you proceed on the basis of what feels OK, as opposed to some hypothetical number.
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Old 05-31-10, 01:07 PM   #21
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Maximum heart rate can change over time. Mine has increased 20 bpm in the last three years as my fitness has increased.
I pretty much agree with everyting you wrote, except this. I think it's well accepted that you can't increase MHR, although your ability to push hard enough to reach it may increase as you become more fit, giving the illusion that MHR has increased. On the other hand, MHR will go down as one becomes older tho not as fast as the 1 beat per year predicted by the formulas. This decrease can be substantially slowed down if we remain fit, but some decrease from the aging process is inevitable.
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Old 05-31-10, 02:54 PM   #22
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Can't increase MHR? I'm not sure about that and would appreciate links that show that. As you get more fit you ...get more fit...your heart gets stronger. A year ago when I went all-out to the point of breathing very very rapidly and being ready to collapse I would hit 161. Last week I was able to push up to 172. Previously I could simply not make my heart go any faster and that has to pretty much be the definition of MHR. For a 55yr old person to hit 186...that's impressive and a resting HR of 52 shows he is really good shape. I venture to say if he became a couch potato for a year his MHR would drop considerably. I can sustain 144-148. I can go for a while above that but not sustain it. When I started working out a year ago I was topped out around 135 and couldn't hold 145 for any length at all. Time on the bike and attention to your breathing vs. heart rate will tell you what you need to know over time.
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Old 05-31-10, 03:32 PM   #23
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Digibud, I think chinarider was making the point that you max HR isn't just a function of the efficiency of the heart muscle itself, but a product of general aerobic fitness- but I agree that for practical purposes it's probably academic.

I'm not persoanlly convinced, however, that one's HR is all that informative about one's fitness. Yes, resting HR is generally lower in the fit than in the unfit. But I have a cycling buddy, 12 years younger than me, whose resting HR is similar to mine but who rockets up into the 150s and 160s with effort. When we ride together he routinely averages 150+ while I'm averaging in the 130s, but he seems no more distressed than me and can still outsprint me at the end. He is a crappy climber though, if that means anything...
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Old 05-31-10, 03:50 PM   #24
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That 220 minus your age isn't very good. If I went by that, mine would be 150. Where in the real world it's 170.
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Old 05-31-10, 04:01 PM   #25
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Can't increase MHR? I'm not sure about that and would appreciate links that show that.
Here are a couple I came up with quickly, but if you do any reading on the subject, I'm sure this will be confirmed.

This is from Sally Edwards website:
Your maximum heart rate (Max HR) is a specific number, the maximum number of contractions per minute that your heart can make. There are a number of basic facts about Max HR that we need for reference:

. Max HR is genetically determined; in other words, you're born with it.
. Max HR is a biomarker, it's your individual number.
. Max HR does not reflect your level of fitness
. Max HR is a fixed number, unless you become unfit.
. Max HR cannot be increased by training.
. Max HRs that are high do not predict better athletic performance.
. Max HRs that are low do not predict worse athletic performance.


This is from a more scholarly source, an article about MHR in the Journal of Exercise Physiology:
Heart rate is arguably a very easy cardiovascular measurement, especially in comparison to the invasive or
noninvasive procedures used to estimate stroke volume and cardiac output. Consequently, measurement of
heart rate is routinely used to assess the response of the heart to exercise, or the recovery from exercise, as well
as to prescribe exercise intensities (3). Given that the increase in heart rate during incremental exercise mirrors
the increase in cardiac output, maximal heart rate is often interpreted as the upper ceiling for an increase in
central cardiovascular function. Indeed, research for the last 100 years has demonstrated that heart rate does in
fact have a maximal value (4); one that cannot be surpassed despite continued increases in exercise intensity or
training adaptations.


I think part of the confusion is that while MHR is an absolute value, you have to be at least somewhat fit and highly motivated to reach it.

Last edited by chinarider; 05-31-10 at 04:05 PM.
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