Understanding Training Heart Rates

Have you been asked by your coach to do a training effort at 50%, 70% or at Anaerobic Threshold? In reply have you asked the question, how do I know if I am training at that intensity or how do I work out what my percentage intensity is?

Your training heart rate zone is a critical element in training smart and training properly so by taking your pulse and calculating your heart rate during the training session is one of the primary indicators in ascertaining the intensity level at which you and your heart should be working.

The Karvonen Formula is one of the most effective ways of calculating your training heart rate and subsequently your training intensity. The formula factors in your resting heart rate, therefore, you will need to determine your resting heart rate before you can pull the rest of the information together in the Karvonen Formula.

Resting heart rate can be determined by taking your pulse prior to getting out of bed in the morning. To help assure accuracy take your pulse three mornings in a row and take the average.

You will need these figures to complete the calculations.


Maximum Heart Rate220subtract _______(age)=_______(MHR)
Resting Heart Rate=_______(RHR)
Reserve Heart Rate______(MHR) subtract_______(RHR)=______(ReHR)

220 – Age = Maximum Heart Rate

Reserve Heart Rate x Intensity + Resting Heart Rate = Training Heart Rate

50%= ______ (ReHR) x 0.5+ ______ (RHR) = ______ (THR)_____ beats / 10 sec
60%= ______ (ReHR) x 0.6+ ______ (ReHR) x 0.5= ______ (THR)_____ beats / 10 sec
70%= ______ (ReHR) x 0.7+ ______ (ReHR) x 0.5= ______ (THR)_____ beats / 10 sec
80%= ______ (ReHR) x 0.8+ ______ (ReHR) x 0.5= ______ (THR)_____ beats / 10 sec
AT*= ______ (ReHR) x 0.9+ ______ (ReHR) x 0.5= ______ (THR)_____ beats / 10 sec
100%= ______ (ReHR) x 1.0+ ______ ReHR) x 0.5= ______ (THR)_____ beats / 10 sec

By dividing the Training Heart Rate (THR) by six will give you the number of beats you need in 10 seconds. This is an easy way to periodically gauge your intensity level during a training session without having to use a heart rate monitor.

Typically, the easiest the location for taking your pulse is on the side of your neck, the carotid pulse. Be sure not to press too hard on the carotid artery or you will get an inaccurate reading. Count the number of beats, always begin with zero, for 10 seconds.

A suggestion for craft athletes and boat rowers would be to put a strip of sports tape on the craft or in front of your seat which is easy to see and write on the tape percentages and beats per 10 seconds as a reference guide.

Runners and swimmers could write this information on a piece of paper inside a waterproof sleeve and leave it at the end of the running track or swimming lane.

AT * – The initial AT is an abbreviation for the word Anaerobic Threshold. This is the point when the intensity of exercise is such that more lactic acid is being produced than can be used or removed by the body, so that it starts to accumulate. This occurs when the intensity is causing the athlete to feel uncomfortable. For an average athlete it occurs at 85% of maximum heart rate and for elite athletes it occurs at 90%.



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