Knowing your Maximum Heart Rate allows you to set more accurate custom heart rate training zones for the highest level of effectiveness and enjoyment. It can also show improvement over time and training, giving you critical feedback on your fitness level.
Your Max HR can be affected as much as 10bpm at times by factors including age, physical size of the heart, heat, personal hydration, and more. It can also change as fitness levels change. Many experts recommend doing a Cardio Fitness Assessment once every 4 to 6 weeks for the best results.
Basic: Use your age to determine approximate Max HR and related zones. See below for calculated Max HR results based on a variety of methods developed over the years. For many, this method may not provide satisfactory results, however it is a good place to start.
Good: Measure your Max HR using a Cardio Assessment. There are a variety of ways to do this, all with increasing accuracy. You can get very close using some real-time measurements of your own body and perceived efforts.
Best: Get a Metabolic Assessment from a company such as New Leaf Fitness. This will give you a pretty exacting definition of your zones measured in a highly scientific method.
Calculating Your Maximum Heart Rate
Enter your age to see some theoretical Max Heart Rate values for your age.
The formula deemed least objectionable. This was found to have a standard deviation that, although large (6.4 bpm), was still considered to be acceptable for the use of prescribing exercise training HR ranges.
The 2010 research conducted at Northwestern University revised the maximum heart rate formula for women. According to Martha Gulati, et al., it is:
HRmax = 206 − (0.88 × Age)
Advanced Topics: Lactate Threshold
Heart rate training experts will often say there is no such thing as a Maximum Heart Rate- instead, it is the point where your body starts to operated at its’ Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR) that you should be paying attention to. For ease of comparison, we equate your Lactate Threshold to be the 85% Max HR level, or the middle of Zone 4, for most people in good shape. The less in shape you are, the more potential your LTHR is less than 85%. From a perception standpoint, your LTHR is the point where you can't speak very easily anymore while you are working out.
For a great workout to determine your Lactate Threshold see the uber-heart rate training expert Joel Friel blog on the subject (requires running 30 minutes at race pace). While the assessment is intensive, it should provide, especially over multiple times, an excellent basis for determining your heart rate training zones.