In order to take advantage of the many benefits of HR training, you must first calculate your Max HR. This is then used to calculate your HR Zones (1–5).
There are two main ways to calculate your maximum HR.
1. THE 220 METHOD
You can estimate your max heart rate by taking 220 — your age. For example, I’m 23 years old, so my estimated max HR would look like: 220–23 = 197
Equipped with your max HR, you can then calculate your HR training zones with the following percentages.
- Zone 1: 50–60% OF HRMAX
- Zone 2: 60–70% OF HRMAX
- Zone 3: 70–80% OF HRMAX
- Zone 4: 80–90% OF HRMAX
- Zone 5: 90–100% OF HRMAX
My HR Zones looks something like this:
- Zone 1: 98.5–119 BPM
- Zone 2: 119–140 BPM
- Zone 3: 140–158 BPM
- Zone 4: 158–178 BPM
- Zone 5: 178–197 BPM
2. The 180 Formula (MAHR)
A similar and equally as useful method is to instead calculate your MAHR (Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate). MAHR is essentially the maximum HR you can train at and still be in an aerobic state. Since the goal is to train mostly in Zone 2 (to train aerobically), MAHR is extremely useful. Dr. Phil Maffetone created an extremely popular formula to estimate your MAHR. Here’s how to do it:
- Subtract your age from 180.
- Adjust this number according to your overall health and fitness history:
a) If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.
b) If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.
c) If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems in (a) and (b), keep the number (180-age) the same.
d) If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems in (a) and (b), and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.
For me, this looks like: 180–23 = 157–5 (b. regressed in training) = 152
Then from there, Maffetone suggests subtracting 10 from you MAHR and keep the majority of your training between that range. For me, that means I need to keep about 98% of my training between 142–152 BPM.