TRAINING HEART RATE NOT TARGET HEART RATE
Busting some myths is harder than others. Busting the target heart rate theory is more difficult than keeping off the twenty pounds from the last diet. Few succeed at keeping the weight off, but we’ll take a shot at target heart rates anyway.
The target heart rate zone is generally described as 70%-85% of your maximum heart rate. This is the standard training zone or aerobic exercise prescription that is recommended by most professionals. The purpose of this one zone is an attempt to use important physiological criteria to set safe, simple, and effective training load dosages of exercise. The problem is having only that one zone. It still doesn’t focus on or support benefits of Zone 1 and Zone 2 or Zone 4 and Zone 5.
If I followed the age predicted formula, I wouldn’t be able to run, I’d just have to walk to be able to stay at the low 120 bpm edge of the contrived target zone, and I would not get enough exercise for my goals. I would be able to run at 146 bpm, but that pace is so easy for me that it’s like being on cruise-control. I would be training too low to meet my racing objectives, and I would be terribly unhappy and unsatisfied. I’d probably quit. The error in all of the formulas is just too great and is simply unacceptable to use any formula.
One of the only times that it is fun to have an inaccurate age-predicted maximum heart rate is when I workout on a cardiovascular machine that is heart rate programmed and presets my zones for me if I give it my age. Because of the huge error in the arithmetic formula, I get to enter my age as 33 years old so it will set my zones correctly for my true maximum heart rate.
When training at an athletic club in a Chicago suburb last year, I was on a cardio-machine called the “Cross Trainer.” The woman on the Cross Trainer next to me was in her mid-thirties and her control panel showed a heart rate reading of 195 bpm. She was working hard but not hurting herself. The heart rate number was flashing to indicate she was out of her machine-set target heart rate. I asked her how she felt about that large a heart rate number. She said, with great trepidation, “I am really, really worried that I am training too hard. But this is comfortable for me, and I don’t know what else to do but do a workout that feels like I am accomplishing something and ignore the heart rate number.” Clearly, she had a high true maximum heart rate, and the age-predicted formula had failed her as it had failed me.
The benefits of exercising below 70% of your maximum heart rate are substantial. It is simple to understand why so few people have been successful at exercising particularly in the one zone – 70%-85% range – they haven’t been told the correct information. Being able to get into a zone that is 70-85% maximum heart rate is extremely difficult for the unfit to accomplish. It is too high and too strenuous, so why exercise when you can’t do it anyway?
For people who are fit, the single zone is simply too easy. It may seem odd to people struggling to get into the zone, but one of the most common complaints at health clubs is, “I’ve been taking aerobics for one year – or two or three – and nothing is happening.” It’s also a complaint I hear from joggers, who are working hard, but not getting the results they anticipated.
The problem is the same for both groups: there is no such thing as one target heart rate range. Do you want the truth? There are multiple zones that provide multiple benefits – not one zone for everyone. There are at least five different max zones, and they are clearly identifiable by their physiological framework.The five zones are part of a continuum, beginning with the health zones, passing through the middle, fitness zone, and ranging all the way up to the performance zones.
More to come ..
Keep your eyes peeled as we continue to release excerpts throughout upcoming weeks. If you want to read the entire book, make sure to swing by our online store and grab a copy: The Heart Rate Monitor Guidebook.
I’m perceiving the opposite to be true with fit vs unfit. During the COVID pandemic, I allowed myself to gain weight and get out of shape. I recently started working out for the past month about 3-4 times a week. The fitness club has the option to purchase a HR monitor, which displays participants HR zones on a large monitor on the wall. As an overweight 41-year old male, the app calculated my max HR to be 184. I’m always the first in the class to reach 90% max HR and it’s not uncommon to see my zone between 95% and 100% Max HR during the hour class. Everyone else who has been going to class longer than me rarely get above 90%, and I swear they are doing far more reps than I’m doing. I often take a breather when my HR goes above 95% Max while everyone else keeps working out. I asked others about this, and they said getting into the 90% used to be easy for them when they first started working out, but over time has been getting harder and harder for them to max out. I assumed this was because their heart got stronger and was more efficient with continued exercise. After about 15 classes the past month, my ability to quickly reach max HR still persists. Since I’m not seeing any indication of improvement in that area, I’m starting to wonder if there is something wrong with my heart. Hopefully I’ll see some changes when I go back down to pre-pandemic weight.
Great question, Hanna. In days gone past, maximum heart rate was the anchor point for establishing your personalized and individual goals. Since that time, Heart Zones developed, patented, and is a leader in developing a better methodology — threshold training. I’d recommend that you try for yourself threshold training and you can read blog and other articles on our website about the field tests to establish your T1 (low threshold) and T2 (high or second threshold) and forget the maximum heart rate methods. You can also read a white paper that I wrote to explain the differences titled “The One-Size-Fits-All Age AdjustedMaximum Heart Rate Equation Fits No One”.
Thanks for asking — and workout with heart. Sal Edwards, the Queen of Hearts
On the Heart Zones Website:
White Paper: The One-Size-Fits-All Age Adjusted
Maximum Heart Rate Equation Fits No One