HRM advice for the long-term please

by Littlesox   December 30, 2012  

I am 50 and returned to cycling this year, after a 12 year lay-off.

I have a new bike and Santa delivered a Garmin Edge so am raring to go for 2013.

Have a qustion about Heart Rate and would apreciate any views or experience, taking account of my situation.

When I was doing TT 15 years ago, I trained and raced with 220 minus age as max.

Now, bearing in mind that I have to start laying down basic fitness again, my view is that as the miles get covered over the coming months, my max HR will change as fitness develops. In other words, my max HR now will be based on 12 years relative inactivity, but in 6 or 9 months time it will change as fitness builds.

My brother is staunch 220 minus age, and will not accept any other.

My view is that it may be worth working on max HR readings (warm up, long hill, top gear, you know the sort of thing) as it should change throughout the year, whereas 220 minus age remains a static figure.

Has anybody got a view?

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It's great that you are getting back to cycling! Here is an article on max heart rates. It gives the method you gave but also a more accurate one and some statistics too!

Trying not to bonk!

Hypoglycaemic's picture

posted by Hypoglycaemic [22 posts]
30th December 2012 - 8:51


first up, I'm not an expert or physiologist: just another mamil with a new shiny Garmin Edge like you.
From what I've read and heard from people who know more, the 220 minus age formula is a gross generalization. There are other generalizations that are apparently a bit closer to the mark, like 210 minus (0.65 X age) or 217 minus (0.85 X age)
They are all just estimates based on population means though, so your own MHR is not likely not to be exactly on any of those. For my own readings, I've got my heart rate a good 8 pbm over any of the estimates.

The assumption you make about your MHR increasing with fitness: I don't know whether that is true or not. From what I've ready think it's a relatively stable figure; what changes is your efficiency, so your power output at a given HR will increase with fitness.

Hope that's a little help.


posted by uglybovine [11 posts]
30th December 2012 - 10:28


Yes, it will improve. I returned to cycling after a 21 yr absence and first used the 220 minus age formula. As the workouts became easier I felt that no matter what I did, I was not working at right level to improve, so I got my VO2 max tested. I came away from that test with HR zones that were marginally higher than the 220 range. I trained in those ranges for several months and fitness improved. I also used Chris Carmichael's book 'Time Crunched Cyclist' which brought on more improvement to my fitness. I recently had a VO2 retest (about 15 months after 1st test) and my HR ranges had improved fairly dramatically. My top end by 6 and tempo fat-burning range expanded greatly. Part of the fat-burning capability increase is due to the change in my diet. What is not so good in my case is that I don't use all the oxygen I can take in very efficiently which means my aerobic base is not as strong as it could be and it will take a few years to develop a good base! Now, 70-80% of my training needs to be at tempo range which is fine with me as intervals are hard!

I'd say that 220 minus age isn't a bad place to start but I would encourage you to have a look at Carmichael's book as well as Joe Friel's, 'Cyclist Training Bible'.

Hope my little story helps. Apologies for clerical errors as typing on phone is difficult.

Pepita rides again!

posted by pepita1 [186 posts]
30th December 2012 - 10:33


Thanks for the info, just starting to look into heart rates ec myself also.

Beginner roadie, purely for pleasure. Loving those Shropshire lanes Smile Riding from London to Brussels via Amsterdam for charity in May. 2013

posted by lob [18 posts]
30th December 2012 - 20:14


At the age of ....(let’s just say more than my biblical allocation), I have had several ‘golfing’ breaks, followed by the inevitable return to cycling; my experience might help you understand what to expect.
First off, get yourself a coach and have a full discussion regarding lifestyle and cycling ambitions. It doesn’t have to be expensive; £40-£50 per month. Then listen and learn.
Making your own way and trying to work out training zones? Use your current resting HR and calculate your max HR as it was twelve years ago less 12; that will give you a starting range. Your max is unique to you and will reduce by one beat per year whatever you do; 220 minus your age is a guide for general populations.
After a couple of months have a ramp test (DIY on a suitable long drag) do not expect to increase your max as you train. Your heart will get fitter/larger and pump more blood at the same BPM. As you train, your resting HR will reduce and your training zones change slightly.
Use your morning, resting, HR as a ‘wellness’ indicator. If it’s what you expect, carry on training. If it’s more than 5 beats higher, slow down. DO NOT OVERTRAIN, 8 hours a week will soon have you back in shape
After that, it’s a matter of specificity; train towards your chosen discipline. If you are lucky enough to have a track near you, get on it. Keep the gear low/medium and the old zip will be back very quickly.
Enjoy yourself.

Make mine a Rourkey

posted by Vince Freeley [1 posts]
31st December 2012 - 16:28


Maximum Heart Rate varies from person to person it does not conform to a specific formula.

That formula gives you a average, most people will be a couple of beats either side of it, a few people outside that range and it will be wildly inaccurate for others.

I am 52, on beta blockers which lower my heart rate, my max HR after taking the tablets in the morning is effectively 140. Yet give me a race in the afternoon and in the final sprint my max is 175. Which is well above my supposed 168.

One the other hand one of the guys I race with, who is not on performance decreasing drugs and is a good 10 years younger tops out at 151.

Go do a few hard rides or races, you will quickly spot your max HR in the ride files.

posted by nickobec [261 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 6:18


Would agree with the comment above about getting tested; but not immediately. This is an example of a provider Just getting out there and not overdoing it will provide good results initially. From experience it takes a lot longer to get fit than it did Crying I have not got myself tested, yet, it is not cheap but as stated above everyones HRM is different. I would also take the time and trouble to learn about the different training zones and how to use them effectively; otherwise a pulse meter is just a toy.

posted by SideBurn [855 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 7:36