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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi All,

I am just wondering if it is possible (or likely) that my maximum heart rate is actually increasing with my improving fitness?

Here is my situation. I am 45 years old, and up until recently I have been using 180 bpm as my max heart rate. I obtained this number while on my trainer last year and working as hard as I could for 2 minutes. It is also very close to the theoretical MHR calculation you see published all the time (220 minus your age). In my case that means 220 - 45 years old = 175 Max Heart Rate. So far so good.

Now last night my heart rate monitor registered a MHR of 188 bpm on a 32 mile club ride. I also rode the longest steep hill of my admittedly short cycling career (Ohio St. in St. Paul, MN), as well as the steepest short hill (Ramsey Hill, St. Paul, MN). I am sure that I hit the 188 bpm mark on one of these hills.

Now my question is, has my MHR actually increased due to my increasing fitness, or did I just not actually catch my MHR last year on the trainer? I know the "220 less you age calculation" is just a basic approximation, so I am not considering that "gospel", but just as a starting point or as a basis for comparison.

Your input is appreciated.

Thanks,

Jay B.
 

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Max HR (basic) calculation

The baseline calc I always thought existed for max HR was 220 - age. I don't know what type of math is used to get "125 - 45 = 180" ???????? Using any/all the math I ever was taught, 125 - 45 = 80. :)

I am no expert, though if you aren't really fit to begin with, I would think it reasonable that your max HR could go up as you get more fit, or perhaps that your max HR isn't necessarily higher, but that you would be able to endure the same max HR as you become more fit. A fitness / exercise expert probably knows more about this than I do.

I am 49, have a HRM, and a month ago, I hit 181 during a hilly century, after not riding for 12 days. Normally, no matter hard I go, I won't exceed 170 by much, if at all (baseline from formula, for me, 220 - 49 = 171). So for me, after I ride a bit, my max HR comes down, compared to what it is when I haven't ridden for a bit. Just a note, I have been riding seriously for 17+ years, about 40,000 miles, with about 12,500 in last 3+ years.

My 2 cents,
Doug

Treker said:
Hi All,

I am just wondering if it is possible (or likely) that my maximum heart rate is actually increasing with my improving fitness?

Here is my situation. I am 45 years old, and up until recently I have been using 180 bpm as my max heart rate. I obtained this number while on my trainer last year and working as hard as I could for 2 minutes. It is also very close to the theoretical MHR calculation you see published all the time (125 minus your age). In my case that means 125 - 45 years old = 180 Max Heart Rate. So far so good.

Now last night my heart rate monitor registered a MHR of 188 bpm on a 32 mile club ride. I also rode the longest steep hill of my admittedly short cycling career (Ohio St. in St. Paul, MN), as well as the steepest short hill (Ramsey Hill, St. Paul, MN). I am sure that I hit the 188 bpm mark on one of these hills.

Now my question is, has my MHR actually increased due to my increasing fitness, or did I just not actually catch my MHR last year on the trainer? I know the "125 less you age calculation" is just a basic approximation, so I am not considering that "gospel", but just as a starting point or as a basis for comparison.

Your input is appreciated.

Thanks,

Jay B.
 

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Your max heart rate did not go up...You just never hit it the first time...

Your max HR is just that a max. Figuring out your max is extremely painful and I highly doubt most people really know what their true max is.

You can not train your Max HR, you can train yourself to work efficiently at a higher HR...I believe this is lactic threshold training...

BTW I've noticed the same thing...my max has always been 185, but one day I hit 189...So now I assume my max is somewhere in the 190 range...
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
DBtheCyclist said:
The baseline calc I always thought existed for max HR was 220 - age. I don't know what type of math is used to get "125 - 45 = 180" ???????? Using any/all the math I ever was taught, 125 - 45 = 80. :)

SNIP!
You are correct on the MHR baseline calc. When I was writing it I was thinking 225 the whole time while continuing to write 125. Oh well, I must be starting to loose my mind in my old age, while at the same time improving the fitness of my body... I guess I will just end up as an old senile fit guy. It's good to know what my future holds for me. ;-)

I have made the correction in my original post.

Jay B.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
rbart4506 said:
Your max heart rate did not go up...You just never hit it the first time...

Your max HR is just that a max. Figuring out your max is extremely painful and I highly doubt most people really know what their true max is.

You can not train your Max HR, you can train yourself to work efficiently at a higher HR...I believe this is lactic threshold training...

BTW I've noticed the same thing...my max has always been 185, but one day I hit 189...So now I assume my max is somewhere in the 190 range...
That's what I kind of thought was going on. But it is nice to know that my MHR is a little higher than what is considered average for a person of my advancing age.

Thanks for the feedback.

Jay B.
 

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The calculations for max HR are pretty worthless. They might be accurate for averages across large populations, but if you know what a bell curve (or other distribution) looks like you know there can be very significant differences among individuals in that average.

As someone else posted (a) your max does not increase. It is a constant for your given point in time and will generally diminish with time and (b) it is VERY painful to achieve. Take the absolute worst you've ever felt racing, a quivering, drooling feeling awful mess. Use that as about 95% of your max.

As someone else also said, you can train to increase your lactate threshold, so you can actually feel like you tolerate higher HRs if you're in better shape. This might lead you to believe you've increased your max HR. Also, a lot of people find that as they get older, and stay in condition, the gap between LT and max HR narrows quite a bit.
 

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Treker said:
Hi All,

I am just wondering if it is possible (or likely) that my maximum heart rate is actually increasing with my improving fitness?

Here is my situation. I am 45 years old, and up until recently I have been using 180 bpm as my max heart rate. I obtained this number while on my trainer last year and working as hard as I could for 2 minutes. It is also very close to the theoretical MHR calculation you see published all the time (220 minus your age). In my case that means 220 - 45 years old = 175 Max Heart Rate. So far so good.

Now last night my heart rate monitor registered a MHR of 188 bpm on a 32 mile club ride. I also rode the longest steep hill of my admittedly short cycling career (Ohio St. in St. Paul, MN), as well as the steepest short hill (Ramsey Hill, St. Paul, MN). I am sure that I hit the 188 bpm mark on one of these hills.

Now my question is, has my MHR actually increased due to my increasing fitness, or did I just not actually catch my MHR last year on the trainer? I know the "125 less you age calculation" is just a basic approximation, so I am not considering that "gospel", but just as a starting point or as a basis for comparison.

Your input is appreciated.

Thanks,

Jay B.
Many here will argue the point, but I believe using the 220-45=175 gets you in the ballpark of what your max is. And for what it's worth, that's all that really matters. In my (and many others) opinion, resting HR and recovery rate are better indicators of your cardio fitness.

I've found that after I've ridden several days straight there's one climb where (on a good day) my max is above 160, but because there's a level of fatigue, I may only max out in the low 150's. Am I less 'fit' that day? No. I'm tired (and old). Temperature has an effect on my max rate, elevation as well.

I've never bothered to get scientific about my recovery rates, I just monitored how long it took to drop back down to around 150 +/- (my average on flats) from a climb. Same with my resting HR. In the summer months when I'm out riding whenever possible, it's around 49-52. In the winter when I'm relegated to the trainer, 52-56.

But if max HR is that important to you, do as rbart suggests. Use the highest number you've recorded, and that's your max!
 

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Mostly what has been said is right - you didn't hit your max. And while you can't train your max (much) you can train yourself to be near it, longer.

Truth is, max HR is a pretty worthless number, even for those (like me) who believe in the value of HR-based training. It's only used to establish a number that one takes some percentage of to establish training zones. But that's unnecessary, because the zone boundaries themselves can (and should) be empirically defined.

Just watch out for way big numbers - like starting to pull 198 against an expected 180 or so. Usually it's just some interference from a powerline, but if it ain't, you don't want it.
 

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Good question and good thread. I'm 64 and my max (the highest recent number) is 176 up from 165 3 years ago. My threshold (1 hour max average heart rate) has also risen from 148 to 155 during this period. The length of time I can go at 90% has nearly doubled as well.

Most of this improvement came after having a stent placed in my coronary artery. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with it because I also got more serious after that operation.

One thing I've also noticed is that my max heart rate seems to be highest when the weather is very warm.
 
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