Back on the road after the Spartan Sprint in Semenyih with the IJM Duo Highway Challenge.
After all the training I’ve been doing for the Spartan race, I am pleased to note that I have come back to my regular activities feeling a lot stronger. I still remember when an “easy” 10km on a Sunday would knock me out for the rest of the day. Now I can carry on and my day is not wasted, lying in a coma on the couch. While I must admit that I did take it easier than I did for the SCKLM 10km, I still felt pretty good most of the way. Pity my heart stats disagree…
…which leads me to something that has been bothering me for a while. Despite the fact that I have been training quite consistently and actively for the past year, my heart doesn’t seem to have acclimatised to any of it. Every cardio workout still sends my heart rate rocketing to the 180s and up to 200 if I push it.
DH keeps telling me to take it easy because he’s worried I might kick the bucket. Yeah, he’s what we call “kiasi” (read: “afraid to die”). Except in this case, he’s afraid for me, and he’s infected me with his fear. So every time my heart races, I wonder if I should be slowing down.
The thing is, I don’t feel like I’m overly taxing myself. Well, okay, 200 is hard, but I can run at 180 without feeling like my heart is going explode. So is that a good thing or a bad thing? But more importantly, if my heart rate is so high, how do I improve my running speed without pushing my heart rate off the charts?
Then there’s DH who can run at the same pace as me and hover around a heart rate of 130 to 140, give or take. He’s also the one with a resting heart rate of 40, while mine hovers on 70 and refuses to go any lower. DH is the guy who smoked nearly half his life at two packs a day during his highest consumption while the most I ever did was passive smoke!
There’s something else I’ve been wondering about… DH has been active in competitive sports all through his schooling life. The only physical thing I ever did growing up was PE and that was because it was compulsory. I’ve read a lot about how neural pathways get hardwired in the brain through repeated use. It is especially sensitive while a child is growing up, all the way through the teenage years, even. If that’s what happens in the brain, then why not the heart? Would cardiovascular training have a bigger impact on the heart when our bodies are still growing? Well, it’s all academic now anyway since I can’t exactly go back to change the past.
The real question that’s been hovering in my mind is whether this is bad for me – working out at such a high heart rate?
Most websites refer back to the old “220 – Your Age” rule when calculating max heart rate which hasn’t exactly been helpful. A number of other people seem to agree that this doesn’t work for a lot of people. So what are the alternatives?
Dr. Church says that except for elite athletes heart rate monitoring is not very useful and can distract from finding an exercise program you enjoy and will stick to. “Everyone kind of has their own natural pace,” Dr. Church says. “If you like to work a little harder, then work harder. If you like to work less hard but a little longer, then do that. Find what works for you.” – New York Times
In other words, we’re all different, listen to your body and work to what you feel comfortable with. That said, it’s probably still a good idea to get your doctor’s okay before your run ahead with that plan:
While there is nothing inherently dangerous in or wrong with reaching one’s maximum heart rate during workouts (and this certainly is a workout), and some people actually routinely reach or exceed their maximum (the formula is flawed in that it is designed as a “one-size-fits-all” measurement), it’s never a bad idea to have at least a cursory cardiac workup and clearance from your doctor before embarking on a serious fitness or athletic regimen. – Doctors Lounge
Built Lean also agrees that the max heart rate formula doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. They noted the following points which I found to be noteworthy:
- Your max heart rate is the maximum heart rate that you can attain that is based on your genetics.
- A high, or low max heart rate does not predict athletic performance, or even fitness level.
- The max heart rate calculation formula is a great way to find your ball park figure for most people, but it doesn’t work for everyone because some of us fall on the extremities of the bell curve.
What are some other ways to figure out your max heart rate?
- If you are in pretty good shape, you can run on the treadmill for 15-20 minutes, than at the end really sprint hard for 1-2 minutes. Whatever your heart rate shows at the end of that sprint, add another 5 beats per minute and that’s a pretty decent estimate of your max heart rate.
- Another even easier way is if you are breathing extremely hard during a workout so that you can’t even talk at all, you’re probably within 5-10 bpm of your max heart rate.
I guess that’s what I’ll be doing to check my max heart rate…