HR Max | Uphill Athlete

HR Max

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  • #23520

    Should I care what my HR max is? The reason I ask: Yesterday I noticed on Training Peaks that on May 19 my HR hit 177, 5-7 bpm higher than what I thought my max was. There were some other workouts that showed even higher HRs but I’m dismissing them as “glitches.” The 177 reading might be correct. I’ve not paid any attention to the max heart rates on any of my workouts which is why I didn’t notice that until yesterday.

    I’m not sure if the increase in my estimate of HR_MAX should influence any of my training at all? I am mainly wondering about AnT.

    My AnT is at least 162. With AnT at 162 and HR_max at 172 I didn’t feel a lot of compulsion to push on AnT since there didn’t seem to be a lot of room for improvement. But, if HR_max is 177 or higher then it seems like I do have some room to improve AnT. Maybe I should try to push on it a little? Nearly all of my winter’s training was long snow hikes in Z1/Z2 to build aerobic base. Lately I’ve been ramping up muscular endurance training doing hill sprints and water carries.

    (1)General fitness
    (2)Summit Gannet Peak around July 23
    (3)Finish Pike’s Peak Accent (PPA) August 23 in less than 6 1/2 hours

    My Training Peaks CTL has been in the mid 90’s for about 6 weeks so I think I’m on track. I would like to improve my performance for the PPA. I did the first half of the race up to Barr Camp in 2:45 the other day. I want to improve my pace on the PPA as much as possible with the remaining time.

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    Anonymous on #23521

    Should I care what my HR max is?


    If you have another (more useful) benchmark, then max HR doesn’t matter very much. The best reference is the aerobic threshold. Next best would be anaerobic. If you have either of those, then your max HR becomes a cocktail party metric similar to VO2 max.

    If max HR is 177 and AnT HR is 172, then you have little to no room for improvement in terms of heart rate changes. That would put AnT HR at 97% of max which would be unusually high. However, if the highest heart rate you’ve seen wasn’t done in a max test, then I suspect your true maximum is higher.

    It’s also worth noting that changes in threshold heart rates are “first wave” responses to training. Even after threshold heart rates have moved as far as they will go, threshold speeds can improve for years afterward. (For example, my max, AnT, and AnT heart rates haven’t changed in fourteen years, but my threshold speeds are much improved.)

    So… if you’re curious what your true maximum is, get a VO2 max test done. If fitness is your main concern, then continue training the way you have been with most of your training time in Z1/2.

    johnepearson on #23522

    I had a gas exchange test done at elevation 5,200′. They reported AeT=142 and AnT = 152, HR_MAX=171 and VO2_max=40. I felt like I was suffocating though. Exhalation was impeded by the mask.

    The next day I went home and climbed a hill from 7,900′ to 8,900′. My HR averaged 162 for the 30 minutes that hill climb took so I think the 162 at elevation ~8,500′ is a better estimate than the 152 at 5,200′ the gas exchange at 5,200′ gave. I think that must have been substantially low as the 2,600′ elevation drop should have given me an even higher AnT than the 162 I got going from 7900-8900′. I sort of trust their 142 for AeT and the 40 for VO2_max. I did trust the HR_Max until yesterday when I noticed the May 19 number. I’ve never used HR_max but it did seem to put a ceiling on things that now seems to have been raised a bit. I’ve also not used VO2_max. Even so, it was satisfying that from October to April it increased from 30 to 40 according to my Polar watch (with the 40 confirmed by the gas exchange).

    AnT is around 162 not 172 so it is 91% of the 177 HR_max.

    I’m not totally sure what my main concern is. I’m kind of a waffler. After PPA I’ll do something else. I finished a 50K 11th in my age group and would like to do the next one faster. At 64 I’m not going to break any speed records. I hope to finish the PPA and hopefully not in last place for my age group. I might climb a largish mountain some day if I can find one that appeals that doesn’t have crowds. Something like Amne Machen: big enough to be interesting, seldom climbed, no crowds.

    Anonymous on #23536

    Ack. Sorry. My mistake with the threshold numbers. Too much coffee this afternoon.

    Even at 91%, that’s still a healthy portion of max for an AnT. I’d be surprised if there’s much more to gain above it.

    In contrast, if 142 is AeT, then there’s definite gains to be made by closing the gap between the two.

    I don’t have enough experience with altitude to comment on that HR versus the test though. I’ll ask Scott J. To weigh in.

    johnepearson on #23540

    The literature suggests that the HR_max, AeT, and AnT heart rates decrease with elevation but that HR_resting increases. This is what I would expect intuitively as well. Resting heart rate rises because your heart has to pump faster to provide oxygen to itself. HR_max, AnT and AeT are related to one’s ability to perform work and that drops with elevation. I’ve seen people get confused about that and think that because HR_resting increases everything else increases too.

    Given the elevation dependence of the thresholds, the question becomes what is the elevation dependence of the ADS diagnosis? I think that AeT has a greater dependence on elevation than AnT which means that people can go in and out of ADS simply by changing elevation unless one changes the definition of ADS to include the effect of elevation.

    The definition Scott and Steve use for ADS diagnosis in my language is:

    AnT-AeT < eps AnT means NO ADS

    with eps = 0.1.
    [eps is short for epsilon which I take to be a smallish (compared to 1) non-negative number.]

    If AnT-AeT > eps AnT means ADS

    One could include elevation effects by placing elevation dependence in epsilon. Maybe epsilon should increase a few percent for each 2,500 meters or something like that. For example if the change in epsilon was 2.5% per 2,500 meters then at sea level eps=0.1 and at 8,000′ eps = 0.125 etc. . That might sort of work, but variability of individuals response to elevation might mean a simple alteration of the definition like that might not be useful unless the altered definition deals explicitly with the variability. Perhaps the ADS diagnosis should only be made at sea level ?

    Anonymous on #23544


    I agree with everything that Scott S. has said concerning the above but will add a few things.

    I don’t like to use gas exchange tests as the last word for the determination of AnT with the very reason that you saw in your personal experience: The field test you did was in disagreement with the lab test. I think a GET is the gold standard for AeT determination. But the field test is really the best test for AnT. AnT, LT, MLSS, FTP (Functional Threshold Pace), CP (Critical Pace) are all attempts at defining a persons endurance limit: How fast/hard can you go for how long. The definitions vary to some degree but they all attempt to define this limit. So, why not just go as fast as you can for as long as you can in a field test? That’s is going to be a true measure of your performance. Hence the description of this self administered AnT field test .

    I coach some athletes that train at distinctly different elevations. I have them do both an AeT and AnT test at home and at the mountain locations. You could do the same by using this AeT test and comparing it to the lab result. We find 95% correlation between those tests.

    Then you’ll have real actionable information to adjust your AeT and AnT HR zones for the different altitudes.

    I want to reinforce a couple of Scott S’s points:
    Forget maxHR. It it serves no purpose in zone interpretation if you know AeT and AnT.

    Your speeds at AeT and AnT is really what you care about. No HR. YOU want improved performance not necessarily improved HR. Speed/performance improvements will continue long after HR improvement as plateaued.


    johnepearson on #23558

    I put some tables in this that were munged by formatting. I am trying to correct that.

    As fast as you can for as long as you can? Isn’t the protocol for the AnT test: go as fast as you think you can go for 30 minutes? My AnT field tests tend to have plateaus. The last one I did began with a 14 minute plateau with HR=161, then a 5 minute plateau with HR=162 then a 7 minute plateau with HR=167. (The missing 4 minutes were between the plateaus.) The overall HR average was 162. I conclude that 162 is a good lower bound for my AnT HR at that elevation and that 167 is likely a good upper bound. I used 162 in my training.

    The drift test has some fairly serious issues independent of altitude. I personally don’t think it is trustworthy.

    Issue 1 is rounding error. This is minor and can be easily fixed.

    For whatever reason Training Peaks, Polar, and Suunto all report heart rate averages to the nearest beat per minute. They shouldn’t do that. They seem to think they are suppressing something they call “false precision” which doesn’t actually mean anything. They should report the average heart rate to four or five significant figures. The reason is that if you’re doing a drift test you’re going to take a difference and the difference you get has a two bpm spread because of rounding. That two beat spread in the difference can affect the conclusion. Here’s an example of what I am talking about. I like to think in terms of the actual number of heart beats as I am fairly certain those devices report it.
    TABLE 1
    Number of heart beats true reported
    first 30 minutes HR (bpm). HR(bpm)
    4215 140.5 141
    4214 140.46. 140
    second 30 minutes
    4425 147.5 148
    4424 147.46. 147

    In table 1 the true HR is the number of heart beats over 30 minutes divided by 30 minutes. The reported HR is the integer HR average after rounding. The calculated difference between the rates that rounded is between 6 and 8 beats per minute.

    TABLE 2
    beats in 1st interval beats in 2nd interval reported % difference true % difference
    4214 4424 (147-140)/140=5.0% 4.98%
    4214 4425 (148-140)/140=5.7% 4.98%
    4215 4424 (147-141)/141=4.25% 4.95%
    4215 4425 (148-141)/141=4.96% 4.96%

    The true per cent difference is, to good approximation, 5% in all 4 cases, as it should be. The reported per cent differences run from well below 5% to well above whereas the true percent difference is very close to 5% in all cases. Talk about false precision!

    This is easily remedied though. All they have to do is report the average heart rate correctly without rounding. Seems like a big deal to me because if you see a drift of 5.7% you’re likely to think you were too fast and if you see a drift of 4.25% you’re likely to think you were too slow. You might get by saying if the drift is between
    4% and 6% then your starting heart rate is an adequate estimate of your heart rate at AeT. But then there’s Issue 2.

    ISSUE 2 this one is more serious and why the procedure is not trustworthy.

    The drift rate drifts. Say you stay on the treadmill for say 100 minutes. Take the heart rate time series that began at T=20 minutes and ends at T=80 minutes and compute the two 30 minute heart rate averages. Then assume your warmup ended at T=25 minutes and take the two 30 minute averages beginning then. In that 5 minutes my drift dropped from 5% to 3.5%. Which one should I use and why? The choice is arbitrary and is going to have a significant impact on my training.

    All the treadmills that I’ve been able to use had time limits of 100 minutes which also causes problems if you want to look at how much your drift drifts. What I do is warm up for 25 minutes then shut the treadmill off and restart it as quickly as I can and warmup for another 5-10 minutes until I’m back at the same work load and my HR has stabilized again. Then I can do 3 30 minute intervals to see how much the drift changes over 90 minutes. The drift between the final two 30 minute intervals tended to drop to near zero with the work loads I’ve used. The first 30 minute drift was usually substantially higher than the second.

    Below is some data from one of my drift test attempts.

    # r(t) is defined as the 30 minute average heart rate from t to t+30 minutes
    # dr is defined as r(t+30)-r(t)

    t(min) r(bpm) dr(bpm) dr/r(%)
    20 138 7 5
    25 141 5 3.5
    30 141 5 3.5
    33 142 6 4.2
    35 143
    50 145
    55 146
    60 147
    63 148

    johnepearson on #23560

    I was trying to edit my tables back into coherence and posted a comment to that effect which apparently disabled further editing on that post. There’s a numerical error in the table under issue 2 but it doesn’t change my conclusion that the drift test is a dubious procedure.

    Anonymous on #23570

    I love a good mathematical rabbit hole as much as the next guy, but… precise heart rate training is an oxymoron at best. It’s “fudgy”. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be precise to be effective.

    You said:

    Seems like a big deal to me because if you see a drift of 5.7% you’re likely to think you were too fast and if you see a drift of 4.25% you’re likely to think you were too slow.

    Not really. If a 5.7% drift makes you slightly slow down, there’s no downside. The adjusted speed will be close enough. And a drift of 4.25% shouldn’t make you speed up. The goal isn’t to train at a speed that elicits an exact 5% drift. It’s to avoid exceeding your aerobic threshold unintentionally.

    For example, I’ve been tested and tested myself so many times that I have a very good idea of where my AeT is both by bpm and ventilation. I don’t need the drift test, and I never use it. Its purpose is to find AeT, not arrive at the “right” intensity with each workout.


    In that 5 minutes my drift dropped from 5% to 3.5%. Which one should I use and why? The choice is arbitrary and is going to have a significant impact on my training.

    It won’t have a significant impact at all. Like I said above, the goal of the drift test is to have a rough idea of where AeT is so it isn’t unintentionally exceeded. Once you have that rough idea, you then intentionally undershoot it.

    Anonymous on #23571

    My suggestion is to focus on closing the gap between your AeT HR (~140) and AnT HR (~160). Until then, I wouldn’t worry too much about precision intensity.

    Participant on #23574

    John, you keep talking about “serious” issues in your post.

    But you are missing one important step in deciding whether the observed differences are serious – or even have any significance on the outcome:

    What is the sensitivity between your chosen heart rate and the resulting drift?

    Let us assume that you do the test 21 times at initial heart rates ranging from 130 BPM to 150 BPM in steps of 2 BPM. Then you plot your heart rate drift from each test. How would the curve look around your 5% drift HR?

    If the curve is very steep in this area, your observed differences have insignificant influence on the final result.

    In my case, that is the point. I can’t say that I have done 21 tests, but I have done enough tests to have some understanding of what my curve looks like:
    At initial HR 120 BPM or lower, I have zero drift. Perhaps even slightly negative!
    At initial HR 123 BPM, I have 8 % drift.
    At initial HR above 123 BPM, my drift increases rather slowly.
    (In the above, “initial HR” is my average HR during the first 30 minutes.)

    So I get an 8%-points drift increase over a range of 3 BPM. And you worry about differences of 2%-points. These 2%-points may not even represent 1 BPM of AeT difference!

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