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Home>>Tips and Techniques: Calculating Your Training Heart Rate
High performance in any discipline—especially in elite athletics—requires measuring, recording, and tracking of key metrics. If you do not measure and track your performance it is hard to improve. Tracking and monitoring your heart rate does more than merely help you perform better--you can avoid over training and injury as well by having data drive reasons to take a "rest and recovery day".

This is the first of a series of articles discussing how to calculate a training heart rate, heart rate monitors, how to use your monitor to optimize your performance, and how to reduce the chance of injuries. Heart rate monitoring is also very important for High Intensity Interval training [HIIT] to ensure you are exercising in the zone you designed based on the type of interval training. Beyond strengthening muscles, interval training can elevate the point in which lactic acid begins to accumulate and degrade performance. Interval training can increase the level of intensity you can perform at before Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation (OBLA) is impacting your performance. Typically, this can be measured as the point that you can no longer sustain a conversation with a trainer partner [assuming you don’t have a heart rate monitor]. Intervals can take the form of timed bouts of work and rest like running quarters on a track or sprinting a known distance on your bike.

Heart rate calculation is useful because of the demonstrated close connection between VO2 maximum and heart rate values. Short of a treadmill stress test and using a gas analyzer, heart rate values as measured through a heart rate itor have been shown in research to be highly correlated.

This article will show you how to calculate your training heart rate using a formula that accounts for your level of fitness using your resting heart rate:

Training heart rate (THR) zones should be used when you are doing the aerobic part of your workout. Take your pulse* a few times during your workout to ensure you are training in your target heart rate zone. The training heart rate zone is roughly between 60% and 90% of your maximum heart rate (MHR).

Training heart rate is computed as follows: Take your pulse as soon as you wake up in the morning; this will be your resting heart rate (RHR). Subtract your age from 220; this number will be your MHR. Use the values obtained in the equation below to determine your target heart rate for training purposes. “%” is the percent of heart rate used to calculate upper and lower limits to the THR (i.e., 60% and 90%).

THR __________ = % (__________ - ___________) + RHR

You are 30 years old. MHR = 220 – 30 = 190. RHR is 60 (you determined this first thing in the morning. It best to take a series of these measurements and then average to arrive a more accurate RHR). Calculate the lower limit using 60% and the upper limit using 90%. Substituting the numbers in the equation yields the following limits:

Lower limit = .6(190-60) + 60 = .6(130) + 60 = 138

Upper limit = .9(190-60) + 60 = .9(130) + 60 = 177

Therefore, you should be training between 138 and 177 bpm to ensure the best results from your aerobic training session.

The MHR rate formula listed above is based on a body of research and sample population which translates to your MHR could be higher or lower than the statistics would indicate. Research conducted by Londeree and Moeschberger (1982) indicates that the MHR varies mostly with age, but the relationship is not a linear one. They suggest an alternative formula of MHR=206.3 - (0.711 × Age).  Using the Londeree and Moeschberger recommended formula and example calculations above the 30 year's MHR would be 185 vice 190.

Additionally, there are a number of field tests that you can perform to accurately determine your MHR based on your unique physiology and not statically derived from a large sample population.  A maximal treadmill test using your heart rate monitor or cycle ergometer at your local gym are method you can use to determine your MHR.

* Measure the pulse on the radial artery with two fingers for 6 seconds. Add a zero to the beats counted, and this is your heart rate in beats per minute (bpm).

CDC guidance on heart rate calculation

Target heart rate calculator (Simple calculation)

Heart Rate Monitors>>