What You Should Know About Estimated Maximal Heart Rate

March 21, 2017

We are so lucky to be part of a community of MYZONE users who engage with us, ask smart questions, and strive to improve their fitness and understanding of heart rate training! This blog is inspired by the MYZONE community as a whole and by the fitness staff at the Village Health Clubs & Spas in Arizona, who we recently had the opportunity to meet.

In this blog, we’re going to review a key concept of heart rate training using MYZONE – estimated maximal heart rate (MHR). If you’ve been keeping up with our Fitness Friday broadcasts and previous blog posts, you have probably heard us talk about this before. However, we want to cover it again here because we receive many questions on this topic.

Understanding estimated MHR will not only help you with using your MYZONE belt (or teaching or training with it) but with improving your fitness and heart rate training as well. Let’s jump right in.

Heart rate training with MYZONE

Introducing Estimated Maximal Heart Rate

Your estimated MHR is a very important piece of heart rate training because it dictates your relative exercise intensity, or percentage of estimated MHR. MYZONE breaks percentage of estimated MHR into beautiful color-coded zones (GRAY = 50-59%, BLUE = 60-69%, GREEN = 70-79%, YELLOW = 80-89%, RED = 90%+).

We train in each zone for different reasons and to achieve different goals. Thus, if your estimated MHR is incorrect, your training in the zones may not produce the results you’re looking for.

Fear not – MYZONE uses an algorithm to estimate your MHR that is accurate for most people. However, it is worth it for all of us to ensure that our estimated MHR is correct.

How Can We Check If Our Estimated MHR Is Correct?

We can determine if our estimated MHR is correct by comparing our MYZONE zones to our rate of perceived exertion (RPE) during cardiorespiratory exercise. That last part – “during cardiorespiratory exercise” – is important, because RPE doesn’t always match up with exercise intensity during muscular fitness or resistance training.

Rate of perceived exertion uses a scale of 1-10 (1 = lightest intensity, 10 = maximal intensity). One thing we love about MYZONE is that the zones align with RPE during cardiorespiratory exercise. For example, you should feel like you’re at about a 6 on the RPE scale when you’re exercising in the BLUE zone (60-69% of estimated MHR), and you should feel like you’re at about a 9 or 10 on the RPE scale when you’re in the RED zone (90%+ of estimated MHR).

If you’re a new MYZONE user, pay attention to your MYZONE zones and your RPE during your first few cardiorespiratory workouts. Do they align closely? Is there an obvious discrepancy?

If your MYZONE zones and RPE are closely aligned, your estimated MHR is likely accurate for you. We tell our clients that the zones should match the RPE score exactly or be within 1 RPE score. For example, if you’re in the BLUE zone at 62% of your MHR, an RPE score of 5 or 6 would be appropriate. If you’re in the BLUE zone at 68% of your MHR, an RPE score of 6 or 7 would be appropriate.

We also recommend that you perform a submaximal exercise assessment to assess the relationship between your RPE and MYZONE zones. Trainers – this is a great one to do with your clients! You can find all of the steps here and here.

heart rate training and MYZONE belt

What If My Estimated MHR Is Incorrect?

If there is a discrepancy between your MYZONE zones and your RPE, your estimated MHR may need some adjusting. Here’s a good rule of thumb:

  • If your RPE is high and you feel that you are exercising at a high intensity, but your MYZONE zone indicates low-to-moderate intensity, your estimated MHR may be too HIGH. It would need to be adjusted DOWN to be accurate for you.
  • If your RPE is low and you feel that you are exercising at a low-to-moderate intensity, but your MYZONE zone indicates high intensity, your estimated MHR may be too LOW. It would need to be adjusted UP to be accurate for you.

What Are Some Telltale Signs That My Estimated MHR May Be Incorrect?

There are several obvious signs that your estimated MHR may need an adjustment. If you are a trainer or instructor and see one of these signs, we encourage you to approach your client or class member. It might be time to have a conversation with them about their estimated MHR.

  1. Your RPE and MYZONE zones do not match during several cardiorespiratory workouts.
  2. You are in the GRAY and BLUE zones even though you are putting in a lot of effort.
  3. You are in the RED zone for several minutes at a time and feel that you could continue exercising without needing to stop.
    • Remember, the RED zone should feel incredibly challenging and should not be something you can maintain for more than a couple minutes at a time. The exception to this is highly trained individuals who have a very high anaerobic threshold. You can learn more about the RED zone here and here.
  4. You keep hitting 100% of your estimated MHR without putting in maximal effort.
    • If you reach 100% of your estimated MHR and hold it for at least 10 seconds, MYZONE will automatically adjust your estimated MHR to the heart rate you were able to hold above 100%. In this case, you will receive an email from MYZONE notifying you of this adjustment. If the adjustment was made in error, please contact MYZONE support.

How Do I Adjust My Estimated MHR?

While MYZONE users cannot adjust their estimated MHR on their own, MYZONE Support can help. Contact MYZONE support via email (support@myzone.org) or through your MYZONE app. Click on “Settings,” then “Support” in the app and you will be able to contact support via live chat or via email.

In your message, explain the discrepancy between your RPE and MYZONE zone and ask them to adjust your estimated MHR accordingly.

We hope this post provided you with a greater understanding of estimated MHR and heart rate training! Be sure to check out our Fitness Friday broadcasts every Friday at 8 am PT, 11 am ET to learn more. We always welcome your requests for specific topics or workouts.

Let us know how your workouts are going by using the hashtags #myzonemoves and #effortrewarded when posting to social media. And check out the MYZONE Moves Podcast on iTunes and Google Play.

Keep Moving Forward!

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