Determine your maximum heart rate (HRMax)

Determine your maximum heart rate

Heart rate data can be measured during exercise or a run using a heart rate monitor. To use it efficiently, you need to determine 2 factors: your maximum heart rate (HRMax) and your heart rate at rest. We recommend that you determine these factors every 6 months, as your body will adapt the effort and these parameters will evolve.

Why should you determine your maximum heart rate (HRMax)?

Your heart rate, measured in beats per minute, is a vital indicator in sports, notably in running. Utilizing heart rate data not only accelerates your progress but also enhances the quality of your workouts.

By determining your maximum heart rate (HRMax), you can effectively establish your training zones. For instance, while jogging, it’s typical that your heart rate won’t surpass 70% of your HRMax. So, if your maximum HR is 200 beats per minute (bpm), you should aim for a heart rate no higher than 140 bpm during such activities.

Additionally, understanding your HRMax is essential for monitoring your Maximum Aerobic Speed (MAS). Here’s a calculator to help you accurately gauge your heart rate in relation to your MAS.

How can you determine your maximum heart rate (HRMax)?

determine your maximum heart rate : how ?

Maximum heart rate is reached at your greatest effort. The famous Astrand “220-age” formula (if you are 40 years old, your maximum heart rate is most likely 180 beats per minute) is based on statistical data, but is by no means a universal truth. In practice, it is sometimes difficult to reach your maximum heart rate because it is necessary to achieve maximum performance.

You can try to reach your maximum heart rate by doing a treadmill test with a cardiologist – a doctor who specializes in sports – or by doing the MAS test. It is also possible to reach your maximum power on an incline (ideally an incline that isn’t too steep, about 4 to 5%). For example, you can run as fast as you can for 2 or 3 minutes, or do interval training, such as 12×1 minutes on an incline (see video below).

To measure your maximum heart rate, you will need a heart rate monitor, preferably a heart rate bell, to get more detail, as optical capture devices are less sensitive to brutal changes in heart rate, e.g. during interval training.

Calculate your theoretical heart rate

Calculate your theoretical heart rate
Age :
years old
Theoretical HRMax:
0 bpm

In addition to age, maximum heart rate can change due to training, fatigue, diet or tobacco use. 

How can you determine your heart rate at rest?

As the name implies, resting heart rate (RHR) is the heart rate you reach at rest. In practice, measure your heart rate at rest, preferably in the morning before each activity. Repeat this 2 or 3 times a day and keep a record of the lower value as it can fluctuate depending on the day.

All you need is a simple timer to take your pulse for 30 seconds (just multiply the value by 2 to get the rate per minute). You can also measure the pulse with a heart rate monitor to get more accurate information, especially if you want to know the variability of the pulse.

For more information about the heart rate monitor in running and to know your limits, I recommend you read the article How to use my heart rate monitor in training?

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Mailis Durif-VarambonMailis grew up in the mountains, where she went hiking and biking every weekend. She loves outdoor activities where she can relax at the end of the day. At RunMotion Coach, she is responsible for communication management.