Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
Your RHR is the rate that your heart beats when you are at rest.
Your resting heart rate is not fixed and is a measure of your fitness. Resting heart rate can differ greatly between individuals.
Someone leading a sedentary life can have a high resting heart rate of 100. An elite athletes resting heart rate can be as low as 30 bpm.
It is a great measure of your improving fitness during an exercise program.
As your fitness improves your heart becomes a stronger and a more effective pump sending more blood around your body with each beat. This increased efficiency allows the heart to slow its rate while still supplying adequate blood flow to the entire body.
The best way to measure your resting heart rate is to take it when you wake up in the morning – before you get up or have any stimuli like coffee.
This may mean you putting your heart rate monitor on so you can get an accurate reading. It is worthwhile taking a couple of readings on consecutive mornings to make sure you have a more accurate reading.
An increase in RHR can indicate over training/chronic fatigue or the onset of the flu or common cold. In such a situation rest or reduced training is required.
Maximum Heart Rate
Your maximum heart rate is the greatest number of beats your heart can perform per minute (bpm). This is a genetically predetermined rate that cannot be increased and it decreases by approximately 1 bpm every year as you age.
The most accurate way to find your maximum heart rate is to exercise vigorously eg, running up stairs or on an inclined treadmill, for several minutes using a heart rate monitor and observe the highest number of beats per minute.
This should be done under supervision and after a good warm up.
This should be repeated a couple of times to ensure you attain your highest heart rate. This can also be done in a lab test but can be expensive. A health clearance should be obtained before this stressful test.
Alternatively, there is a simple formula which provides an approximation of your Maximum Age Adjusted Heart Rate (MAAHR).
MAAHR = 220 – age = bpm
Example: A 40 year old MAAHR = 220 – 40 = 180
Once you have your MAAHR you can work out your Training Heart Rate Zones.
These are expressed as a percentage of MAAHR, e.g. 50% – 60%, 60% – 70% etc.