If you already use a heart rate monitor for training, one way to know your maximal (or peak) heart rate is to base it on the highest HR number you've seen over the last 18 months. This will have usually occurred during a race or a group interval session.
To get a good idea of your maximum heart rate, do this field test with a training partner. Use a heart rate monitor and note the highest heart rate you can reach. This is your maximum heart rate.
Warm up for 15 minutes on a flat surface. Build up to your usual training pace.
- Choose a hill that will take more than two minutes to climb. Run up the hill once, building to as hard a pace as you could theoretically hold for 20 minutes. Return to the base of the hill.
- Run up the hill again. Get your heart going at the best effort you could theoretically maintain for 3 kilometers. Observe your highest heart rate on the display. Your HR max is approximately 10 beats higher than the now-noted value.
- Run back down the hill. Allow your heart rate to drop 30–40 beats per minute from where it was.
- Run up the hill once again at a pace that you can only hold for 1 minute. Try to run halfway up the hill. Observe your highest heart rate. This brings you close to your maximum heart rate. You can use this value as your HRmax to set your training zones.
- Make sure you cool-down for a minimum of 10 minutes.
Doing a maximum heart rate field test while unprepared is a surefire way to end up in maximum distress. If you are unsure, consult your physician before undertaking the test.
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