How to Calculate Your Maximum Heart Rate

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Amelia Phillips

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Training using a heart rate monitor is a wise idea. You can accurately determine the fat burning and fitness building zones to train in. You know when you’re overdoing it, or when you need to ramp it up, and you can easily measure your improvements along the way. The heart never lies isn’t that what they say! The same goes during your workout, even if you feel like you’re dying but your heart rate shows you’re ok, keep going!!

Training with a heart rate monitor watch and strap is the easiest way to measure your heart rate, but simply taking your pulse and counting the beats works fine too. Count the beats over a six second period and add a zero to get your beats per minute. Why don’t you try it right now in front of the computer? Find your pulse in your wrist or your neck. Count how many beats you have in 6 seconds. Lets say you had 6 beats in 6 seconds. Add a zero and that means you have a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute (bpm). You would do the same thing in a workout.

To calculate your correct training zones, there are 2 methods, the easy method and the hard method!

The easy method:

Men: 220  minus your age
Women: 226 minus your age.

From there you just use a simple calculation to determine the percentage zone you wish to train in. 60-75% for fat burning and if you will be training for over an hour, and 75%-95% for fitness building, shorter more intense workouts.

The hard method:
It’s called Karvonens formula and you need to know your true resting heart rate. To determine this, you need to lay on your back for about ten minutes, eyes closed, fully relaxed. Count your beats over a 60 second period and that is your resting heart rate. However your heart rate falls to its absolute lowest at around 4am (unless you’re still out partying of course!).

You may want to know your true maximum heart rate which would require you to either do a VO2max test or an all out sprint for a few minutes until you physically couldn’t go any further. This is only recommended for elite sports people. For the regular punters, stick with 220 or 226 for women.

To calculate your training zone using Karvonens formula click here

What do I do with the results?
Use the results to check that your current exercise sessions are effective. If you walk 3 times per week for weight loss, make sure your heart rate is between 60-75% of your maximum (preferably at the 75% mark). Pause throughout your workout and take your pulse for 6 seconds. If it’s not hard enough, swing those arms, find some hills, or speed up! If you’re smashing it out in a spin class and your legs are dying, take your heart rate. Is it high? If not, maybe your fitness is good but your muscle endurance in your legs is not. Back the resistance off and pedal faster.

Another great tip is to measure your recovery rate. Let’s say you have a similar routine that finishes with a little spike at the end (see the best treadmill workout ever), take your pulse at the end, then cool down for 60 seconds and retake your pulse. As you get fitter, the top heart ratemay not change that drastically but I bet your recovery rate does. If it drops 20 bpms or more in that recovery minute, you are doing well. Training with your heart rate is not just for the experienced, everyone can benefit from the extra knowledge gained from understanding your ticker.

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  • Anonymous

    Hi,

    When I exercise my heart rate goes up really fast and is much higher than the stats you gave me. What does this mean, and am I hurting myself exercising at a high heart rate?
    Andrew

  • PeterJ

    Thanks I did the test and will now use it in conjunction with my geart rate monitor!

  • http://www.ameliaburton.com.au Amelia Burton

    Hi Andrew,

    No you wont be hurting yourself, but you may have a different resting heart rate than most of us. Measure it for 60sec in the morning while you are still in bed. Let me know what it is and I’ll do some calculations for you. But remember if you feel ok, then you wont be overdoing it.

    Amelia

  • http://www.ameliaburton.com.au Amelia Burton

    Hi Peter J,

    I would always suggest doing your cardio sessions with a heart rate monitor. Good luck!

    Amelia

  • ken Naldo

    57 years of age.
    pre season football training , with monitor, heart rate max has shown 191,198, 212bpm. hard work, but feel no dizziness or tingling. Breathing recovers quickly. Is this a real danger?

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