Three Reasons To Rethink Heart-Rate Training

2. Lack Of Concrete Data Needed To Establish Training Zones

Another inherent drawback to heart-rate training is how difficult it is to establish your max heart rate and the accurate training zones that result from that figure. While a quick Google search reveals a myriad of formulas to help you find your max heart rate, the problem with formulas is that they are based on an average. What if you’re not average? Not only that, but is maximum heart rate really the best predictor of training zones?

RELATED: How Long Before I See The Benefits Of A Workout?

Starting With Accurate Measurements Of MHR

In order to establish proper training zones, an athlete must first determine their maximum heart rate. Unfortunately, a majority of runners use simple formulas (does 220 minus age ring a bell?), which have a high degree of error.

To get an accurate measure of your maximum heart rate, you should partake in a graded exercise test, but locating a facility that can accommodate this type of testing isn’t easily found.  Likewise, a graded exercise test isn’t going to be appropriate for a beginner runner who can’t handle such a stressful workout.

Therefore, many runners who control their effort by heart rate may be doomed from the start by using faulty max heart rates.

Training Zones And Correlation With Lactate Levels

Training with a heart rate monitor requires adherence to a specific set of heart-rate zones, each of which is designed to elicit a particular exercise intensity. Unfortunately, maximum heart rate is not the ideal way to measure the body’s response to exercise. Rather, blood lactate levels are more accurate.

In fact, research has demonstrated that there is no predictable relationship between heart rate and lactate threshold. Lactate threshold tends to occur at around 90% of maximum heart rate in well-trained runners, but it can occur at 50% of maximum heart rate for beginners. Therefore, your optimal training zones could be far outside what traditional heart rate training advocates suggest.

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