Friday, 3 February 2012

Maximum heart rate

When I'm training on the treadmill I occasionally grab the sensors to see what my heart rate is.  Having done this quite a few times over the months and years I can pretty much predict what it's going to be and it's useful to apply this to running outside.

This is really great but it is also slightly troubling.  While there are a number of popular calculations or formulae around, arguably all giving a similar answer, it is worth looking into.  It is, at this point, worthwhile for me to remind you I'm not a Doctor or qualified in anyway to give health or sports training advice to anyone out there.  All I'm doing is commenting on these things from my own perspective.  Okay, that's got that out of the way.

The popular formula is this:

220 - Age = Maximum Heart Beat / minute

For me this works out to be 170 and I know that the recommended rate for improved aerobic exercise is about 80% of the maximum heart rate - so my ideal maximum should be around 136bpm .  When I run at a steady 7 to 7.5mph it feels quite comfortable and I can have a coherent conversation and yet my heart rate is around 170bpm and will rise up to 185bpm  if I run as fast as I can.  In theory puts me into a danger zone but it feels fine to me.  I think I'm in good shape; I don't smoke, drink alcohol or eat much cheese and my resting heart beat is about 50bpm.

A quick trawl around Google shows an excellent article by Dr Alison McConnell, sports and exercise physiologist, which is worth checking - click here - where she argues you can push yourself if you're in good shape already.  It seems good reading.

So although I enjoy having a blast over short periods where my heart rate is 180-190 after a considerable warm up, I think I need to restrain myself to more reasonable limits as I don't want to keel over for the next 50 years.  Alternatively, just a short blast is okay to gradually improve the heart's capacity to grow further.  

It's also strangely satisfying seeing my heart fall back to normal once my high speed blast is over.  Sometimes I finish the run with a high speed sprint in the last 2 minutes where my heart rate will run over 180bpm and then, during the cool down, it falls back to 120bpm within a minute.  It's important to do that, you know.  It is kinder on the heart and lungs and also helps pump out any lactic acid from the muscles.

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