Many runners can tell you the time and distance of their last run. Just ask them, or check their most recent tweet. We religiously keep track of these stats, because it is an easy way to see improvement. It also motivates us to work harder. But how many of us consistently monitor our running heart rate?
Although we run for many reasons, I think it would be difficult to find someone who doesn’t include ‘health’ on their list. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends exercising within certain heart rate thresholds in mind, in order to achieve proper cardiovascular health. So how do we calculate this?
The AHA recommends calculating your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 (male) or 226 (female). For example, I would calculate my maximum heart rate by solving the following formula;
220 – 43 = 177 beats per minute (bpm).
This number represents the approximate upper threshold of my body’s aerobic capacity. If my heart rate climbs above that, then my body is working beyond its limits to bring oxygen to muscles. Although you will occasionally train above this level, it is wise to keep your heart rate below this threshold for the majority of your workout.
The AHA further recommends that your exercise heart rate should fall between 50% – 85% of your maximum heart rate. For me, this would equate to;
177 X 0.5 = 89 bpm and 177 X 0.85 = 150 bpm
So I would strive to maintain an exercise heart rate between 89 and 150 beats per minute. If you recently started exercising, stick near the lower end of the range, and progress toward the upper range as you become more fit. When I run, I maintain about 125-135 beats per minute, or about 70-75% of my maximum range. With a little simple math, you can calculate your range.
Next, you have to monitor it. I measure my heart rate the old fashioned way. When I complete my run, I place my index and middle fingers over my wrist, find my pulse, and count beats for at least 20 seconds on my trusty wrist watch. I then multiply this number by three in order to determine my heart rate. This is fairly accurate, since I have a slower recovery time than stronger runners. For example, an extremely fit runner probably sees their heart rate drop dramatically when they begin their cool-down period. For these kinds of runners, a heart rate monitor might be beneficial. Either way, you should be able to know if you are running within your target zone.
These targets are recommended for relatively healthy people. It is important to note that certain medications and conditions can change these thresholds. If you take any type of medication that affects your blood pressure, or have any type of cardiovascular or other health condition, you need to consult a doctor.
So next time you are out counting minutes and miles, try counting beats. It could help improve your Personal Record (PR) for longevity.
About Ken Storen
Ken is the proudest father of the greatest little 7 year old on the planet. In order to keep up with her infinite energy, he likes to take long, slow jogs. It is the only way he can remain in shape to play hour after hour of ”Catch the Cheetah”. He also did and does a lot of other stuff.