how to determine your maximum heart rate for running

The most accurate way of determining individual maximum heart rate (HRmax) is to have it clinically measured, usually on a maximal treadmill or bicycle stress test supervised by a cardiologist or exercise physiologist. HRmax can also be estimated from the commonly used formula: 220 minus age. Research has shown that the formula is not very accurate, especially for people who have been fit for many years or for older people. The HRmax-p score, however, predicts individual maximum heart rate value more accurately. This feature is included in most Polar running computers.

If you have done some hard training in recent weeks and know that you can safely reach maximum heart rate, here is a simple test you can take.

You should consult your physician before undertaking this test. We also recommend you take the test together with a training partner.

Step 1: Warm up for 15 minutes on a flat surface, building to your usual training pace.

Step 2: Then choose a hill or stairwell that will take you more than 2 minutes to climb. Run up the hill/steps once, building to as hard a pace that you can hold for 20 min. Return to the base of the hill/steps.

Step 3: Run up the hill/steps again, building towards a pace you can just about hold for 3 km. Note your highest heart rate. Your maximum is approximately 10 beats higher than the noted value.

Step 4: Run back down the hill allowing your heart rate to drop 30 to 40 beats.

Step 5: Run up the hills/steps once again at a pace that you can only hold for 1 minute. Try to run half-way up the hills/steps. Note your highest heart rate. This brings you close to your maximum heart rate. Use this value as your maximum heart rate to set training zones.

Step 6: Make sure you get a good cool-down of a minimum of 10 minutes.