Exceeding your "maximum" heart rate

  • Squarejaw

    Posts: 1035

    Oct 18, 2007 2:10 AM GMT
    I wear a Polar heart rate monitor while doing cardio and regularly exceed my “maximum” heart rate (which is ~175 at my age).

    I crank the treadmill up to a 13.5% grade, walk for 4 minutes at 3.7 mph and run for 1 minute at 6.5 mph (if that doesn’t sound fast to you, try it at 13.5%). I’ll repeat this for half an hour and eventually my heart rate gets up to about 176 by the end of the running minute.

    I’ve heard it’s dangerous to go past 90% of your maximum heart rate. I’ve also heard the maximum heart rate concept is based on shaky science. Does anyone have any research-based information to guide me?
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    Oct 18, 2007 3:23 AM GMT
    How did you determine your Max HR to be 175 BPM?

    Did you get tested or did you get the number from a chart or equation?
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    Oct 18, 2007 5:06 AM GMT
    I would sometimes exceed my MHR on my Polar when really cranking up the treadmill for speed intervals. I'd heard from one coach that you could add 6 to the basic 220 minus age formula for when you were on a treadmill as compared to being on my bike. I think the following paragraphs made more sense to me though ...

    "It's possible that the maximum heart rate theory that's widely used may not be as accurate as we've come to believe.'

    "In an article that appeared in the New York Times on April 24, 2001, this very subject was addressed. Back in 1970, two doctors preparing for a meeting wanted to determine how strenuously patients with heart disease could exercise. They gathered information from ten studies using people of all different ages who had been tested for maximum heart rate. They plotted the subjects' maximum heart rates on a graph, drew a line through the points, and determined that the heart rate maximum seemed to be, on average, 200 beats per minute (bpm) for a twenty-year-old, 180 bpm for a forty-year-old, 160 bpm for a sixty-year-old, and so on. Based on these findings, they came up with the equation that MHR = 220 - age (in years). However, many subjects in these studies had heart rates that varied widely from the formula. Many variables also weren't accounted for. The tests used in determining this formula were far from perfect as well. Somehow, though, this equation, 220 - age, became entrenched in cardiology departments, fitness centers, and textbooks. According to Dr. William Haskell, one of the doctors who observed this relationship: "The formula was never supposed to be a guide to rule people's training." '

    "So, what does this mean for you and others whose heart rates don't seem to fit into this equation? First, you need to discuss your observations about your heart rate with your primary health care provider. Let him or her assess any other conditions that could affect your heart. Barring any problems, you could focus your training in two other ways. One is by using a scale termed, "Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)," in which you rate how hard you feel you are exercising. It's recommended you assign a number from 0 to 10 to rate your exercise intensity, 0 being no exertion and 10 being most difficult. A major benefit of this system is that it gets you in touch with how you feel while you're exercising. Also, you don't need any special equipment or devices. If you already have a heart rate monitor or enjoy counting your beats, you can use RPE along with your heart rate. Try comparing your perception of exercise intensity to how hard you actually are working. This method will help you establish a new frame of reference for your exercise intensity.'

    "Another useful measurement of fitness is how quickly one's heart rate falls when exercise is stopped. (Don't just stop completely — that can be dangerous.) This measurement is probably best done with a heart rate monitor. Check your heart rate while at the very end of a vigorous routine. Begin cooling down, and then check your heart rate one minute later. As a person becomes more fit, her or his heart rate returns to resting faster than an unfit person. This is called heart rate variability. Recent studies have shown that people whose heart rates fell less than 12 beats per minute after vigorous exercise had four times the risk of dying in the next six years compared to those whose heart rates dropped by 13 beats or more! Most healthy people's heart rates will drop about 20 beats in a minute. You can measure progress in a fitness program by improving the number of beats your heart rate goes down in one minute. Tracking this can help you chart the effectiveness of your aerobic training.'

    "The moral of the story here is that we all don't fit into a neat package (or equation, as the case may be).'
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    Oct 18, 2007 1:05 PM GMT
    when I was 20 I got my heartrate up to something like 202. My max heart rate was supposed to be 199 or something
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    Oct 18, 2007 2:13 PM GMT
    ok, so i defntly have this happen on a regular basis. It mainly occurs when Im cycling or doing the eliptical.Usually at about the 20min mark it starts hitting over the 170's and then i take slow down at about 25 andbreak for two min. then finish strong. I usually never feel bad afterwards, I always just assumed that it was perfectly natural for it to be that high for the amount of effort i was giving.
  • art_smass

    Posts: 960

    Oct 18, 2007 3:48 PM GMT
    You're not that different in age or build than me, so I'll put in my two cents.

    When I do intense cardio, my heart rate also gets onto the high side. It's because I've been doing intense cardio for a long time and also because I try to push it into those upper extremes. When you do a sport or activity that involves moving a lot of muscle (like rowing or cross-country ski racing) you naturally work at a higher heart rate. If your body has adapted to that activity, it's reasonable to assume that you can work comfortably at levels when most guys your age would be going into cardio arrest.

    Allgood's post is correct; all people do not fit into a neat package. If you're feeling good, you should be okay. If you have undue discomfort during the recovery phase while doing cardio intervals, you may want to ease up. If you see stars in the periphery or get nauseous, you do want to ease up. However, if you can work at higher levels and recover comfortably, you're probably just a forty-five-year-old guy with the cardiovascular fitness of a much younger man. That's a good thing.
  • Squarejaw

    Posts: 1035

    Oct 18, 2007 8:21 PM GMT
    Thanks everybody!
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    Oct 19, 2007 3:30 AM GMT
    There is another method of calculating max heart rate (MHR) called the Karvonen Method:

    Karvonen method
    A method of calculating the training heart rate, which is equivalent to a desired percentage VO2max. It involves adding a given percentage of the maximal heart rate reserve (maximal heart rate—resting heart rate) to the resting heart rate. The maximal heart rate is commonly assumed to be 220—age in years. Therefore, the following equation is used to calculate the training heart rate for a work rate equivalent 75% VO2max: training heart rate = 0.75 max HRR + resting HR; where max HRR is the maximum Heart Rate Reserve, and resting HR is resting Heart Rate. A target heart rate range for training is commonly set at values of between 50 and 85% of VO2max, i.e. 0.50 × max HRR + resting HR to 0.85 max HRR + resting HR.

    or more simply 220-age = MHR
    resting heart rate (taken when you first wake up or after sitting down for a while) = RHR
    Max heart rate minus resting heart rate = HRR
    (MHR - RHR)= (HRR) x desired% (eg 75%) + RHR

    220 is the number of beats your heart beats per minute when you are born. The theory is that you lose 1 beat every year, that's why you subtract your age from 220. However, there can be a variance of (+-)24-26bmp with this scale.
    Sorry for the book, but I hope it helps

  • pjc315569

    Posts: 19

    Oct 21, 2007 12:13 PM GMT
    I don't have any specific information on this but I was exercising the other day and was at 180 beats/minute for a while, and barely felt like i was really exerting myself that much. According to the widely used formula, 180 is about my max heart rate (i'm 37 now), but as others have stated, this may be flawed science or just a generality, because each individual is different. I would push it as long as you feel ok, and if you're concerned just see a cardiologist and so long as nothing is wrong with your heart, I wouldn't worry about it.
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    Oct 21, 2007 3:22 PM GMT
    Squarejaw, all of the formulas, heart rate monitors, counting heart beats, etc. are TOOLS to help you determine if you are working in an effective range. None of them are as accurate as going to the doctor or sports medicine facility and being hooked up to a EKG machine and VO2 monitoring device and being put through a stress test. How many of us have access to that on a regular basis and can afford it?

    You are the best judge of what's too much for you. If working at 90+% or your estimated MHR doesn't cause you any ill effect....dizziness, shortness of breath (excessive), nausea....you are fine and if you've been doing it a while then all the more so. With my clients I use a combination of the Percevied Exhaustive method and a measure of their heart rate for 10 seconds. If they can have a conversation with me while they are doing their cardio without gasping for breath, then they could actually work a bit harder so I'll make adjustments and let them do their thing. Periodically I'll double check myself by doing the heart rate count and based on estimates for their age, I'll make sure they are in a good range.

    Whatever you are doing is working for you.....I've seen you in the gym, you look great! Keep up the good work. I'll say hey next time I see you!

  • Squarejaw

    Posts: 1035

    Oct 21, 2007 5:05 PM GMT
    Thanks Scott, be sure to do that. I suck at recognizing guys from pictures.
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    Oct 27, 2007 8:37 PM GMT
    I've never really caculated my max heart rate but I've gotten up to 186 before... and I've seen others say that they didn't feel like they weren't really excerting, I know I was.

    Good luck.
  • Squarejaw

    Posts: 1035

    Oct 27, 2007 8:47 PM GMT
    ERBrandon, because of the differences in our ages, 176 is much higher for me than 186 is for you (putting aside for the moment that all these numbers and limits are just general approximations)
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    Oct 27, 2007 11:24 PM GMT
    Square I have a Polar also and I think allgood gave some good advice!

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    Nov 01, 2007 1:58 AM GMT
    Square, check out the link below for methods to determine your max HR based on excercise rather than mathematical formulae. Details are from Sally Edwards who's written an excellent book on training with HR monitors.


    Like you I tried to train using HRs based on 220-age and found I was exceeding my supposedly max HR. My measured max HR is 204 and resting heart rate is 42 so using the Karvonen method formula:

    THR = ((HRmax – HRrest) × %Intensity) + HRrest

    my 90% intensity HR is ((204-42)*0.9)+42 = 187

    Your training zone heart rates will also vary depending on the type of exercise you're doing. I find for cycling and kayaking I don't get to nearly such high HR levels as I do running.

    Your gym might be able to recommend somewhere locally that can measure max HR and advise on training zones for the specific training results you're looking for and in the sports you're participating in.

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    Nov 03, 2007 11:17 PM GMT
    There is an apparantly proven theory that if you exceed ur max recommended heart rate on a regular basis you are as likely to have a heart attack as someone that takes no exercise!!!

    There is a calculation variant covered in a book which is to do with the Maffetone method which provides a much lower recommended work out range which in long term use is more complimentary to peak workout performance.

    Keeping in a sensible heart rate range is also very important if u are suffering or think u are suffering from Adrenal Stress Disorder.

    Glad this is not a confusing subject!
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    Nov 04, 2007 12:39 AM GMT

    I workout with a polar heart monitor and if I should follow the calculations that are accepted as being the basics, I should be dead! I am 45 so my max. should be 175. I have seen 200, 215 in full training with my bike going up hill. This year, I have exceeded the max. 175 many times. My trainer told me that his wife, who is a nurse, has seen heart rates up to 250 without death in medical scenarios. I went for a full cardio medical two weeks ago and my score was 190/200 on the
    treadmill going max. speed. So... ;-)