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Old 10-02-11, 02:59 PM   #1
angel1058
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Is Max Heartrate Really Just 'Max Heartrate'?

Sounds stupid - but I want to know my 'real' max heart rate. Using the 220-age, it should be 179. But out on a ride, on climbs, I hit 186. I haven't seen it go above 186 on a ride, or on the turbo - so should that be my max? Or doesn't 7bpm make much difference to the HR zones?

Golden Cheetah also reports that on a 1hr 36m ride, I spent 1hr 12minutes at V02Max - 168 - Max. Surely that can't be right?
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Old 10-02-11, 03:20 PM   #2
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Actually, knowing your maximum HR is not that useful. You'd be better off doing the anaerobic threshold test that is described in a sticky in this forum, and basing your calculations on that.

The 220 minus your age formula is bunk, people vary. My own max HR is in the region of 185 when the formula says that at my age it should be 163. I have a riding buddy who still sees numbers in the 190s although he is 45.

If you really want to test for max, go out and warm up hard for a half hour. Then do some interval training, say 6x 2minutes at maximum effort with 30 seconds recovery between the efforts. On the sixth interval imagine someone in a Ferrari is chasing you with an axe. At the end of that interval, if you don't feel you are about to throw up you haven't gone hard enough. If you do think you're going to throw up, check your HR and take that as being close enough to your max to serve your purpose.

But the threshold test is more useful.
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Old 10-02-11, 04:34 PM   #3
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See if your local gym offers metabolic assessments. We do ours on our bike on a trainer (feels weird to take our bike INTO the gym). Tells us our own personal HR zones. Very useful for training.
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Old 10-02-11, 06:08 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
Actually, knowing your maximum HR is not that useful. You'd be better off doing the anaerobic threshold test that is described in a sticky in this forum, and basing your calculations on that.

The 220 minus your age formula is bunk, people vary. My own max HR is in the region of 185 when the formula says that at my age it should be 163. I have a riding buddy who still sees numbers in the 190s although he is 45.

If you really want to test for max, go out and warm up hard for a half hour. Then do some interval training, say 6x 2minutes at maximum effort with 30 seconds recovery between the efforts. On the sixth interval imagine someone in a Ferrari is chasing you with an axe. At the end of that interval, if you don't feel you are about to throw up you haven't gone hard enough. If you do think you're going to throw up, check your HR and take that as being close enough to your max to serve your purpose.

But the threshold test is more useful.
This.
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Old 10-03-11, 10:59 AM   #5
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I pretty much agree with chasm54 and chinarider about the anaerobic threshold test. Having a decent idea of your anaerobic threshold comes in pretty handy. I use something like it on hill climbs. I know the intensity that I can sustain and when I am pushing "too hard". Nothing worse than blowing up on a climb and slowing down to almost 0 mph. Knowing you max heart rate is really not that useful.

As has been mentioned many times before on these boards, the 220-age is not really a good estimate. I used to ride with other guys. My max heart rate was in the mid 190s and at that time the age adjusted max heart rate was 170. The other guy once hit about 215 one day and his age adjusted max heart rate was 175. The third guy was lucky to break over 160 and his age adjusted max heart rate was 160. So the esimate is not really useful. It gives you an idea of the fact that there is a considerable amount of variation on this figure. Also, the max heart rate does not seem to indicate fitness or cycling strength. Our max heart rates did not seem to change when we got fitter. Also, I had the middle number but I was a far stronger rider than the other two.
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Old 10-03-11, 12:10 PM   #6
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Unfortunately, many training plans still calculate zones off MHR, so it does come up, even though LTHR is more useful. One way of estimating MHR is to find your LTHR accurately, and then divide by .9. This is surprisingly accurate for most folks. My preferred method is to do a very long climb, starting with a good warmup of a couple hours, then climb maybe 45 minutes at LTHR, then take it up 10 beats for 5-10 minutes, then sprint all out. I need a lot of stimulation to get my HR that high. YMMV. It seems to me very unlikely that the OP has reached MHR.
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Old 10-10-11, 06:18 PM   #7
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Yeah the formula is inaccurate, My max should be 204, but I have hit 236 before
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Old 10-10-11, 06:29 PM   #8
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Yeah the formula is inaccurate, My max should be 204, but I have hit 236 before
It's an average with a standard deviation of 12. There's only a 34% chance that your real maximum would be somewhere between 192 and 216, 14% for somewhere between 180 and 192, 14% for 216 to 228, 2% for 168-180, 2% for 228-240, etc.

That said, to agree with many previous posters the number is fairly useless. LTHR is a better starting point for setting zones if you don't have power.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 10-10-11 at 10:43 PM.
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Old 10-11-11, 04:23 AM   #9
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I agree with Drew, but just to address the OP's question:

If you're going to set up your training zones using maxhr, you need to use your actual maximum, not the calculated value. You've seen 186 and the formula predicts something lower, so you know the prediction is wrong for you specifically. Whatever your true max really is, you know it's at least 186, because you've experienced that. Using 186 as the "anchor" for training zones is better than using the value you get from the formula.
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Old 10-11-11, 04:32 AM   #10
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For what it's worth, I base my heart rate zones on my actual observed max. Not difficult to find in a race or race oriented group ride. Or the above mentioned Ferrari with an ax scenario.

Also for what it's worth, my actual observed MHR is 30 points higher than 220-age. It's so out of whack that the predicted MHR is not even as high as my actual LTHR, as determined through a blood drop test. Which means that if I used the predicted figure I would be training at such a low level I'd probably never see any training effect.
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Old 10-11-11, 03:34 PM   #11
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I'll hit MHR on a steep hill on my normal training loop if conditions are right. Same number as a maximal stress test years ago, 187.
There is a 6 mile warmup. It takes me about a minute to struggle up that hill, alternating standing/sitting, wrestling the handlebars, grinding up cadence around 40, breathing ~30 times a minute. While cresting, my head feels like it's going to float off my neck, my muscles want to wilt, my lungs and aorta want to explode and I'm on the verge of losing control of the bike. Only my sense of accomplishment and the steep downhill make me want to live

MHR would probably only be sustainable for a matter of seconds, not minutes. It just uses energy faster than your body can produce it.
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Old 10-12-11, 08:35 AM   #12
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Just going to add to the topic.....my MHR is 166. I have often hit 185 on hills during hot weather. Yesterday I hit it again after a brisk 5mi ride 18-22mph on the flats and going into steep hills. About the 4th hill my legs started tiring and the pulse went up.

Also, aggressive stair training (outside) with a 40lb backpack has the same effect as does being a wrestling coach and sparring with your heavies

MHR figures are just not enough to tell the story and if heeded, just might keep you from your best.
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Old 10-12-11, 08:38 AM   #13
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Just going to add to the topic.....my MHR is 166. I have often hit 185 on hills during hot weather. Yesterday I hit it again after a brisk 5mi ride 18-22mph on the flats and going into steep hills.
I don't understand. If you hit 185 your MHR is at least 185, not 166. Or do you mean that the 220-age formula would put it at 166? If so, I'm not surprised.
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Old 10-12-11, 10:31 PM   #14
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Max heart rate can be a challenge to find, have friends who can get close to 200 and others equal it fitness barely crack 170.. My number is right at 180.. True max should be gauged on a trainer with 2 of your closest friends standing next to you yelling expletives about your manhood and when you get close to passing out, that is your max.

BTW, your friends are there to catch you in case you actually do pass out.. I have seen more than a few people pass out.
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Old 10-13-11, 05:05 AM   #15
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Max heart rate can be a challenge to find, have friends who can get close to 200 and others equal it fitness barely crack 170.. My number is right at 180.. True max should be gauged on a trainer with 2 of your closest friends standing next to you yelling expletives about your manhood and when you get close to passing out, that is your max.

BTW, your friends are there to catch you in case you actually do pass out.. I have seen more than a few people pass out.
That sounds about right! Maybe enemies might work even better! I tried a solo ramp test, and could not go as high as I could in a coached ramp test.

Seems that a basic misunderstanding is present. Does "maximum heart rate" mean the maximum you are in physical reality capable of, or does it mean the maximum you SHOULD ride? And does the formula (or formulas, since there are a lot of them out there) have anything to do with either one?

The maximum physical capability can't be found without finding it, by riding hard (for example, the time-honored time trial method) or training hard (the ramp test, for example). If you do it several times and find different values, the most-correct one is the biggest one, barring experimental or equipment errors. If the tested values are bigger than what you calculated with some equation, it only illustrates that the equation does not tell the whole story, and that it IS NOT a valid predictor for most individuals.

What is it good for? According to my cardiologist who uses it to set up stress testing, the docs know darn well it is not an accurate predictor for athletic performance. What it does is provide them a norm to use in standardized stress testing, that they can use for everyone. I didn't get any info out of him about how health assessments might be different if actual maxes were used.

Does the formula value have anything to do with accurate or optimal training zones? I'm not a coach but an engineer, but if the difference between the basic prediction is nearly 20 bpm, that's huge. Training programs that you pay big $$ for and which promise excellent results, run by widely recognized experts, use tested results, not the results of hand calculations. That strongly suggests to me the tested result is to be preferred.

Despite all this, AT should probably be used rather than MHR, at least it just seems to make more sense. I'll defer to the real experts on that point. I only stay in Holiday Inns.
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Old 10-13-11, 10:09 AM   #16
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What is it good for? According to my cardiologist who uses it to set up stress testing, the docs know darn well it is not an accurate predictor for athletic performance. What it does is provide them a norm to use in standardized stress testing, that they can use for everyone. I didn't get any info out of him about how health assessments might be different if actual maxes were used.
This doesn't make any sense to me. With the caveat that I'm not a Dr., if the norm doesn't fit the person, how can the result mean anything. IOW, if my max is 200, but the doc bases my test on a formula that says it's 160, it seems to me that I could have problems which would go undiagnosed. Conversely, if the formula says 160, but my true max is 130, it could result in the doc falsely thinking I have a problem and ordering tests and limiting activity simply because I couldn't reach the predicted norms.
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Old 10-13-11, 09:40 PM   #17
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This doesn't make any sense to me. With the caveat that I'm not a Dr., if the norm doesn't fit the person, how can the result mean anything. IOW, if my max is 200, but the doc bases my test on a formula that says it's 160, it seems to me that I could have problems which would go undiagnosed. Conversely, if the formula says 160, but my true max is 130, it could result in the doc falsely thinking I have a problem and ordering tests and limiting activity simply because I couldn't reach the predicted norms.
I would immediately lose all respect for any cardiologist who used the 220 minus your age formula. But I don't have much respect for most of them anyway given the way they have been brainwashed to push liver poison (statins.)

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Old 10-16-11, 10:44 AM   #18
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Don in Austin,

Find out what yours uses. That's how I learned what I learned.

When they administer a stress test, they try to stress you up to "95% of max." Already used to HR training, I knew from the way it felt that they had me nowhere near what my tested value should have been (176). They wouldn't tell me my actual number. But they evaluate your performance (EKG and echocardiogram) based on norms established by using that formula. They also look at your actual performance in terms of proper cardiac behavior, and evaluate it. I don't think I'm in any danger because of the cardiologists using this as a norm.

If you want to improve the quality of medicine in the world, become a cardiologist, write a research proposal, and shop it around to hospitals and the Feds to get research money. Then do the work, publish, and defend your work to your peers; it might then become accepted science. Meanwhile, if you haven't even asked a cardiologist, you have less ground to stand on than I do.
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Old 10-16-11, 11:35 AM   #19
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When they administer a stress test, they try to stress you up to "95% of max." ... But they evaluate your performance (EKG and echocardiogram) based on norms established by using that formula. They also look at your actual performance in terms of proper cardiac behavior, and evaluate it. I don't think I'm in any danger because of the cardiologists using this as a norm.
This is from the NYT article I've cited numerous times in these discussions:

"Dr. Michael Lauer, a cardiologist and the director of clinical research in cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation pays no attention to the standard formula when he gives treadmill tests. More than 40 percent of patients, he said, can get their heart rates to more than 100 percent of their predicted maximum. "That tells you that that wasn't their maximum heart rate," Dr. Lauer said. The danger, he said, is that when doctors use that formula to decide when to end a treadmill test, they can inadvertently mislead themselves and their patients. Some patients may be stopping too soon and others may seem to have a heart problem because they never can get to what is supposed to be their maximum rate. 'Some people are being pushed and others are not," Dr. Lauer said. "In my view, that is unacceptable.' " (http://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/24/he...ea9017&ei=5070)

Makes sense to me.

Last edited by chinarider; 10-16-11 at 11:39 AM.
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Old 10-19-11, 07:22 PM   #20
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Yes, I agree it does make sense, I especially agree about the risk for so-called "low beaters." I still think it's worthwhile to ask a cardio or two. One thing: in the first stress test I had there was an phd exercise physiologist as part of the team, and I was wired up for about 20 channels of data. They were watcing closely for any sign of stress, and they imaged me before and after in the MRI. For the second one the team was less extensive, but they still watched all the real-time data. My docs were not doing it by rote, even if they didn't know my actual max.

To find my true max they'd have had to test me for it, or believe what I think is my true max. If my cardiac health is in question when I walk in the room (I had complained of a possible symptom - twas a negative), they are not about to test me to my limits.
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Old 10-20-11, 12:27 AM   #21
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I find it very useful to know my (actual) maximum heart rate, and to wear a heart rate monitor while pushing it on rides. Maybe if you are quite fit it is less relevant, but when climbing steep hills, if I hit my maximum heart rate and keep riding, I end up having to stop for several minutes until the feeling I'm going to puke or pass out abates. With the heart rate monitor, I can back off just short of maximum, or I can pause, wait 30 to 60 seconds for it to come down to a more moderate level, and continue on up the hill.

But--what they said. The formula are bogus.
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