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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi,
I'm a 50 year-old male recreational runner, can't call myself competitive, just for the fitness/enjoyment, although entered my first 10k last year (I forget my exact time but managed a mud-caked sub-50) and ran the GNR (my first half) last Sept (1:54:39). Just getting back into it after winter laziness, now been running 3x per week for about 2 months.

Decided to give heart rate zone training a try and would like to ask whether anyone else who's done this has found their heart rate zones seem to be markedly 'out' from what is typically described.

I'm using the Polar zones (Z1 50-60% max, Z2 60-70% max etc). I initially calculated my max as 173 using the Tanaka formula. However, I noticed last year my rate would very often be over 160 for long periods when I was running at what felt like Zone 3 (breathing "fast but controlled"), and for the GNR it averaged 172. Last year I was using a Fitbit Ionic, and now use a Polar H10. I've compared them side by side and they are equally accurate, at least on me (pale skin, bony wrists, and a nice thick vein right under the Fitbit, so I may just be lucky there...!)

It's gone as high as 190 when pushing into Zone 5 for short bursts. I find it virtually impossible to run slowly enough to keep my bpm within Zone 2 (106-121), and have to resort to a brisk walk. When running in Zone 3 (122-138) - I say "running", it's more like a lazy jog and I really have to work to keep the bpm in zone - I can speak comfortably in long sentences, which I read is a marker for Zone 2. Only when running in Zone 4 (139-155) is my breathing "fast but controlled", which I read is a Zone 3 marker, and I can run at that rate for well over an hour. It seems that each of my zones is "shifted down" in terms of breathing and sustainability, relative to heart rate. Following this, I have adjusted my max bpm to 189, which has had the effect of matching heart rate to breathing and sustainability (at least as they are described). I chose 189 because each of my zones is about 15-18 bpm wide and that's 16 above my 'Tanaka' 173, and my highest bpm (sprinting) has been 190, so it seems to fit. I tested it out and lo and behold, bpm and breathing/sustainability now match.

I'm a primary care clinician so I've a reasonable understanding of cardiac physiology and patho-physiology and have no symptoms either during normal activity or during exercise, indicating any abnormality, and have a normal resting ECG. However, I'm not a sports physiologist so my knowledge doesn't extend into exercise physiology, and without a treadmill test and/or exercising ECG I cannot say there is no asymptomatic abnormality, which is something I intend to have investigated once lockdown is lifted sufficiently.

My basal rate is usually 46-48, and my daytime resting rate is usually 52-54. Together with my relatively low - although not 'out of range' - BP of 115/75, this gives me a decent cardiac reserve, which is the only thing I can attribute as a cause of the high ceiling on my exercising rate.

Has anyone else, particularly if you have low resting rates and BP, and perhaps similar age, experienced anything comparable? If so, has a treadmill/VO2 max test revealed anything that would explain it? And finally, what has been your 'solution' in terms of setting training zones?

Many thanks for taking the time to read, and for any input you can offer.

Cheers,

Jason
 

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The short answer is that the formula is an average with wide variation bars (The standard Deviation is about 10.) This might not matter if one only ever did easy trots, since the bottom bands are wide. For faster work you will need to google a good way to estimate your true max. For the time being your observation of 190 could be more accurate, so long as you check the graph in case it was a noise spike.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hi Steve,

Thanks for your reply, much appreciated.

What you say about the lower bands being wide does fit my experience - much easier to stay in range down there than when things get faster; the sensitivity seems to increase. I think I've seen a method of calculating bands that has the lower couple 10% wide and the upper ones 5% wide, which sounds something like what you describe, so I'll take another look.

I'm going to work with the 190 for now. I did a field test on Tues (6 increasingly fast laps of a 400m track, all-out on the final lap), and my max was 183, although it was very hot and I kept a bit back as I'm carrying 5 spare kilos and am not quite fit enough yet to want to push to the limit. I'll repeat it at intervals of 2-3 weeks. I've hit the upper 180s/190 a number of times during hard efforts in the past, so I think 190 is probably fair. I did have a 205 on one run, but have to put that down to a spike - I'll go and look for it again and see what the rate was either side, and for how long, but don't expect to see it being a 'true' max.

Thanks again - keep well.

Jason
 

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Good luck with the testing - it!s hard! When you say «in the past» don't forgot you can estimate to lose a beat a year off the top whether you exercise or not, so if that 190 was a few years back you might not be able to reach it now and should adjust accordingly.
 
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