Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Quest for the Maximum Heartrate

Quick note before I start my actual post... How bout team USA soccer, huh? Some people say that watching soccer is boring because of the low scoring, but you can't really beat the excitement of a buzzer beating goal in the 91st minute to win the game and the group and send your team to the next round!!! Plus, I've been known to sit down and watch entire marathons on Universal Sports and my favorite professional sport is baseball so soccer is right up my alley! Anyway, on to my post...
It’s been over a year since I’ve come anywhere close to maximum heart rate, a 190 bpm effort during my finishing kick at last years Steamboat Classic 15k. These days I’m lucky if I hit 180… even during my most recent 5k PR I only was able to achieve 181…
Not that this is a problem by any means... in fact I take is as a positive because I assume the fact that my heart rate peaks so much lower than it did a year ago can be attributed to my drastically increased level of fitness.  Also, peak heartrate during a given run is more or less meaningless...

So why am I talking about this?  Because last Sunday I called my father (who’s also a runner) for father’s day and he wound up going into a story about how he had recently went to the cardiologist to get his heart checked out… They put him on a treadmill for a stress-test and eventually he gets his heartrate up to 183, which he holds for over a minute (meaning that his actual max is probably even higher). 183?!? Did I mention that the dude is 63 years old? So much for 220 minus your age (which would put him at a max of 157)…

That got me thinking… what if my max heart rate is actually higher than the 193 that I’ve been estimating it at???  That could really change-up what my heart rate zones are!  Only one way to check… time to head for the hills… And wouldn’t you know it, I had 6Xhill repeats on my schedule for the week!

So today, I jog a 2 mile warm-up over to Reservoir Hill (pictured above) for some top quality hill work...  The hill is about a 7% grade and 300 meters in length and so I decided to approach my workout like this:  For the first three repeats I'd run the entire 300 meters at a moderate pace, turn around, and jog back down the hill.  Then for the next 2 repeats I would increase the pace but only run 200 meters of the way up the hill, thus maintaining a similar overall intensity but shortening the recovery period.   Then for the last repeat I would keep the same intensity as my previous 200 meter repeats but when I hit the 200 meter mark, instead of turning around and jogging back down, I would sprint all out for the last 100 meters up the hill.

On the right you can see a Garmin chart of how I did... I covered nearly 2 miles (about 1 mile up and 1 mile down) and ultimately achieved a peak heartrate of 191.  One thing I found interesting about the graph was that both my peak heart rate and minumum recovery heartrate on each hill seemed to increase  basically linearly.

So ultimately today was a success!  I achieved a 191 recorded heartrate, one bpm higher than my previous record... on the other hand it doesn't seem to indicate that my actual max is any higher than the 192-193 bpm's I originally thought it was, so I guess I didn't inherit by dad's beast heart...  then again, I wonder what might have happened if I had tried just one more hill repeat after I had hit the 191???  Seems like a sequel to this saga might be in the works... not anytime soon though... my heart, body, and mind have had enough for now, especially with weather conditions like these!!!


  1. Really they won? I'd have to joust for the TV with the rugrats off's all Hannah Montana around here.
    Cool experiment and holy crap whatta dad!

  2. There are several awesome parts to this post. First, like Teammarcia said, what a dad!! Its awesome that to talk running you can call your dad. Wow.

    My daughter ran Cross Country in High School. We got to share some special Father/Daughter moments there and we did her first 5-K together. I'll post that on my blog and write about that more this fall. I'm saving that for a fall special. She graduated so I'll be hurting this fall when she isn't running.

    Also, so many people just go out and run mindless mile after mile. Way to be scientific and go about things with a plan. Keep working hard!

  3. How cool is your dad? And great job on pushing it like that.

  4. Dude, your dad is sick and the best part is you have his genes. That's awesome.

    I'm a recent convert to HR training and it has a helped tons, especially when managing increased distances...

  5. Dude your dad is rad and the best part is that you have his genes.

    I'm a recent convert to HR training it's been especially helpful in managing distance increases..

  6. Hill repeats are fun! Awesome that your dad is still so fit, good sign for you.

  7. Firstly I really enjoyed the last half of the USA soccer game....I was running at the gym and enjoying the was a good day yesterday ;)

    That's great about your dad and looks like you are following suit. Some good genes running around there!

  8. The soccer game was intense, dude... A lot of frustration caused by missed opportunities, followed by a shot of adrenaline to the heart in the 91st minute. HAHA!

    Great job pushing yourself to the limit... or was it the limit??? We shall see.

    Also, saw you were an engineer. Just wanted to see what kind and where you studied. Take care.

  9. So basically your old man is in better shape huh ;-)

    we runners sure can't complain about boring sports... You make a valid point about watching marathons on TV!

  10. WOW, I can't believe how linear your graph is. I can only assume that is a good thing!!

    The really interesting thing would be if you do this again in 6 months and see where you're at.