In order to train at the right intensity to reach your training goals, you need to establish your maximum heart rate to set up your heart rate zones. Get this wrong and you can end up training at the wrong intensity and killing your season. Get it right and you can train with confidence from the start!

Defining your maximum heart rate (HR max) is easy: it’s the highest number of beats per minute your heart can pump under maximum stress. Determining your maximum heart rate, however, is a little bit harder. There are several methods to calculate or estimate your maximum heart rate. Here are some of the most popular, arranged from the simplest to the most accurate.

  1. Estimate your heart rate max with the commonly used formula: 220 minus age. This formula works reasonably well at the population level but it’s unreliable at the individual level.  While a good starting point, research has shown that this formula is not perfectly accurate for all people, it’s pretty simplistic especially for Masters Rowers who have been fit for many years.
  2. Review your heart rate data on Polar or Garmin and run a maximum heart rate report from the last few months. Most heart rate brands are able to show your peak heart rates and average peak over time. Identify your maximum heart rate from the report.
  3. 6-minute maximum effort test. Typically rowing will give a high heart rate peak than other sports and the way you can identify this heart rate peak, is through a hard 6-minute test on the ergo. You won’t need any fancy laboratory equipment and you’ll still get an accurate and personal estimation of your maximum heart rate. The premise is simple: you warm up properly over 20-minute, activating each energy system and then do a 6-minute all-out effort that brings you close to your VO2 Max. 
  4. Sports Lab testing will provide the most accurate way of determining your maximum heart rate by clinically determining it in a sports lab. Whilst it may be the most accurate, by how much is the question and it’s certainly the most expensive and time consuming vs. the 6-minute max test.

How to get your Max Heart Rate Report on Gamin Connect

Now that you have identified your heart rate maximum, you can enter this value into the Polarised Heart Rate Zone template to identify your heart rate training zones.