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How to Calculate Max Heart Rate: 4 Ways to Measure It

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How to Calculate Max Heart Rate: 4 Ways to Measure It

Understanding your max heart rate (MHR) is crucial for optimizing your training and improving your running performance. Your MHR is the highest number of beats per minute (BPM) your heart can achieve during maximum effort. Knowing this number helps you set training zones, monitor your intensity, and avoid overtraining. In this blog post, we'll explore four ways to measure your max heart rate, why it's important, and how to use it in your training.

Why Knowing Your Max Heart Rate is Important

Max heart rate is a key metric for designing effective training programs. It allows you to:

  1. Set Training Zones: By knowing your MHR, you can create personalized heart rate zones for different training intensities. This helps you train more efficiently and achieve specific fitness goals.

  2. Monitor Intensity: Using heart rate to gauge your effort ensures you're working at the right intensity for each workout, whether it's a recovery run or a high-intensity interval session.

  3. Prevent Overtraining: Keeping track of your heart rate can help you avoid pushing too hard and reduce the risk of overtraining and related injuries.

How to Calculate Your Max Heart Rate: 4 Methods

  1. Age-Based Formula

The most common method is the age-based formula:

MHR = 220 − age

For example, if you're 30 years old:

220−30 = 190 BPM

While simple, this method can be inaccurate for individuals with atypical fitness levels or unique physiological factors (aka: most athletes).

  1. Karvonen Formula

The Karvonen formula takes into account your resting heart rate (RHR) for a more personalized estimate:

MHR = 220 − age

Target Heart Rate = RHR + (MHR−RHR/100 × desired intensity)

For example, if you're 30 years old with a resting heart rate of 55 and want to find out your zone 2 - 60-70% of your max.

60% = 55 + (190-55/100 x 60) = 136 bpm

70% = 55 + (190-55/100 x 70) = 150 bpm

This method is more precise and useful for setting training zones. However, Lactate testing is the most precise.

  1. Field Test

A field test involves running at maximum effort to find your MHR. Warm up thoroughly, then run as hard as you can for 2-3 minutes on a flat surface. Note the highest heart rate you achieve. This method provides a real-world measure of your max heart rate.

4. Heart Rate Monitor

Using a heart rate monitor during intense workouts can help you find your MHR. Perform a high-intensity interval session and check your heart rate during the final, hardest intervals. The peak heart rate during this session is a good estimate of your MHR.

Using Max Heart Rate in Your Training

Once you know your MHR, you can set training zones to optimize your workouts:

  • Zone 1 (50-60% of MHR): Recovery runs and warm-ups

  • Zone 2 (60-70% of MHR): Easy runs, building aerobic base

  • Zone 3 (70-80% of MHR): Tempo runs/sub Threshold, improving endurance

  • Zone 4 (80-90% of MHR): Threshold runs, increasing lactate threshold

  • Zone 5 (90-100% of MHR): High-intensity intervals, building speed and power

Using these zones helps ensure you're training at the right intensity to meet your fitness goals without overtraining.

Understanding your max heart rate is a powerful tool in your training arsenal. By using these methods to measure your MHR and applying it to your workouts, you can train smarter, improve your performance, and stay healthy.


These calculations are great - however if you really really want to know what is happening in your body, and what your exact training zones are = Lactate Acid testing is the answer.



  1. American Heart Association. "Target Heart Rates Chart."

  2. Mayo Clinic. "Exercise intensity: How to measure it."

  3. Journal of Sports Sciences. "Heart rate monitoring: applications and limitations."


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