There are two popular general equations for calculating target heart rates: Age Adjusted and Karvonen. Age is the key factor in each of the heart rate equations. Typically, age is subtracted from a fixed number to determine your maximum heart rate. Choose the method you are most comfortable with.
The following is a brief description of each equation presented on this page:
Age Adjusted = (220-Age) * % of Max
You’ll notice that this equation is very simple and can be easily memorized. Unfortunately, it can also have large prediction errors, oftentimes greater than 10 bpm.
Karvonen = ((220 - Age - Avg. Morning Resting Heart Rate) * % of Max) + Avg. Morning Resting Heart Rate
The heart rate calculated in the Karvonen method is a more personalized figure closely tied to your fitness level. It follows that your resting heart rate is unique to your body and essential to determining your maximum heart rate. Find your average morning resting heart rate by measuring your pulse in the morning before you get out of bed.Do this for several mornings in a row and determine your average.Every few weeks or so, reacquire your average resting heart rate as it will change with your training efforts. (The Karvonen method is named after Dr. M. J. Karvonen who did research in the concept of heart rate reserve and published the results in 1957.)
Heart rate monitoring is essential for maximizing the effectiveness of your training. Your heart rate gives you a gauge to quantify how much effort your body is putting into a workout. Too many factors can interfere with your mind’s ability to subjectively measure exercise intensity.
The easiest way to begin heart rate training is to purchase a heart rate monitor (HRM) from your local or online sporting goods retailer. Read the instructions and strap the monitor on before your next workout. The more you use the HRM the more you will develop a sense of how your heart beats throughout various stages of your workout.
You should know your maximum heart rate to establish boundaries during training. Most recommendations suggest targeting a heart rate between 55% and 85% of your maximum heart rate for a period of time, say 30 minutes, to build your aerobic base.
50% - 60% = Beginner or Recovery Zone.
Maintaining a heart rate in this zone is ideal for comfortable exercise to improve overall health. Start here if you are new to exercise or are in need of a recovery day between intense workouts. It is also a good zone for overweight people to begin burning fat. The effort level is low and allows time for the muscles and joints to wake up and prepare for a more active life.
60%-70% = Heart Health and Weight Loss Zone.
If you get “winded” walking up a single flight of stairs, start training in this zone. With your heart beating between 60% and 70% of your max you are conditioning it to pump more blood. Better circulation efficiency is the key to delivering more oxygen to your muscles. Stored body fat is the primary fuel in this zone. Your long, slow, distance workouts are in this level – with emphasis on slow.
70%-80% = Aerobic Zone.
If you can’t run the soccer field like you used to, it is probably because you are not spending enough time in this zone. Training in the aerobic zone will improve cardiovascular fitness. Your body will more effectively transport oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. Your 30-mile road ride will begin to take less time. Your 10k’s will improve, etc.
80%-90% = Anaerobic Threshold Zone.
When your heart is beating in this range, your body is producing lactic acid at levels it cannot effectively remove. Sprint workouts are designed to push your anaerobic threshold. Training in this zone conditions your body to tolerate lactic acid for longer periods of time. This will lead to muscle growth and significant improvements in athletic performance.
90%-100% = VO2 Max Zone
VO2 Max is your body’s maximum oxygen consumption level. It is measured in volume/time units. You may reach this zone only for very short bursts of time. When you go into oxygen debt by racing your buddy to the finish line you have reached your VO2 max. Your lungs can’t keep up your body’s demand for oxygen and lactic acid floods into your muscles. Training in this zone increases enzymes in your muscles responsible for anaerobic metabolism.