How many of you triathletes out there are using this formula? Put up your hand and admit it, I can't see you through cyber space. :-)
If I receive one more email that says an athlete is using the 220-Age formula, I am going off the DEEP END! Athletes, this is not correct. It may work, but chances are very slim it will work for you. Of course the 15 people that it works for will email me that it does work, but my point is that for the MAJORITY, this formula of 220-AGE = MAX Heart Rate, DOES NOT WORK!
Your best bet is to get some lab testing done to find out your Lactate Threshold. If you don't have access to a lab for whatever reason (location or $), don't fret. We have field tests that you can do and the only thing you need is you, your Heart Rate Monitor and some 3 D's: Desire, Determination, and Discipline.
*Before You Perform a Field Test!*
First and foremost, before starting any exercise program, please get medical clearance from your Doctor, If you haven't exercised before in your life or in the past year, PLEASE let him/her know you will be exercising and that you would like to check back with them in a month, just to make sure that you are not doing damage to yourself.
If you are new to exercise you will want to forgo the testing for a while (it is rigorous) to prevent any kind of injury but instead wear a heart rate monitor to observe your HR at various points of exercise. For beginners, I have had them do as little as starting out with 5 minutes of walking, this may be as simple as one lap around a track. Or I may have them start riding a recumbent bicycle in the gym, use the elliptical machine, or the Stair Master.
One way to observe your improvement in fitness is to watch to see how fast your HR comes down when you stop exercising. Time how long it takes your HR to drop about 20-30 beats as soon as you stop. When you first start exercising it may take over 3 minutes, but as you get more fit, it may drop as quick as 1 minute. Everyone will vary; everyone will have different HR's and don't get caught up, my friend can get their HR higher type of competition. It's very rare to find someone who has the same HR as you!
I hope this gives beginners a better understanding of starting a program. Once you have been exercising for awhile, only then should you perform these tests.
When to perform an LT field test to determine your zones?
New to Endurance Training?
The "Beginner" plans we sell on D3 have no HR training or LT testing as of the above warnings. If you are new to endurance type training, DO NOT perform these LT field tests until you are well into a plan.
Already have a Few Years of Training Under your Belt?
If you are starting any of the other "HR-based" plans and have been maintaining fitness upon starting (meaning the first week or two of the plan is no-problem as you have been training at those volumes already), then you can take the LT test to re-determine your zones at the beginning or a week or two into it.
Coming off of a Recent Injury or Less Training
BUT if you are starting any of the HR-based plans after a few weeks off of training-or coming off of a recent injury, only do a LT test after you have gotten several weeks into the plan consistently so you can get a reliable measurement.
Other then that, the HR-based training plans will have LT testing noted periodically in the plans or you can do one every 4-6 weeks.
Bike and run training efforts are based on heart rate zones and perceived exertion. For swimming we will use pacing, as it is difficult to determine heart rate zones in a pool.
Determining Swimming Pace
In swimming we want to find out what our "average pace per 100 (meter or yards)" is. In order to determine this number we can do a number of tests. The simplest test, in my opinion, is the 1,000 yard (or meter) Time Trial (TT). In the TT your goal is to swim a fairly hard effort for the entire distance. The key is to not slow down in the second half of the swim. It's best to start out at an effort that you can maintain by the end, but you must also be able to push yourself the whole way. You should finish knowing you gave it everything you had.
Swim test protocol:
Johnny swims 17:45 for his 1,000 yd TT. This tells me Johnny's swim pace is 1:46 per 100/yds. His 1:46 is called his T-pace. Now that we have the T-pace of 1:46 we can create swim workouts adjusted to this pace. For example: a very hard set for Johnny might be 10x100 @T-5 seconds on 20 seconds rest. This would mean Johnny's goal is to swim the 100s at 1:41 pace. An easier set might be 10x100 @T+10 seconds on 30 seconds rest. Johnny's goal for the 100 is 1:56. Another set might be 10x100 T-pace on 10 seconds rest. This means Johnny's goal is to swim the 100 in 1:41.
Field Test for the Bike and Run:
Determining Bike Training Zones
In biking we want to know our heart rate training zones. To make this as easy as possible, we will use a standard 30 minute TT. From this TT we will be able to determine the correct training zones. I do advocate doing both an inside and outside LT tests.
Bike test protocol:
In running we want to know our heart rate training zones as well. To make this as easy as possible, we will use a standard 30 minute TT. From this TT we will be able to determine the correct training zones. This is best if done on a flat uninterrupted path or trail.
Run test protocol:
What if I train indoors during the winter on a trainer? Does it require a different LT test?
The best way to do a test for LT is to do the same as outside, unless you have a Computrainer, Wahoo Kickr or a 'smart trainer' and then the test would be different. The key is to get a good warm up, do some sprints to get the HR up, and really work up a sweat before starting. Personally, I don't use a fan on the trainer either, and usually wear a long sleeve shirt. This helps me stay warm and get the HR up into the right zones.
Once you have the results, these are the HR numbers you'll use in your indoor workouts. I firmly believe in having an indoor and outdoor LT for both the bike and run.
As you can see there are many variables and many workouts we can derive from that TT. It is recommended that you re-test your TT every 4-6 weeks.
I hope this helps you understand a little better about HR training and how its important to get accurate heart rate zones for your training. Otherwise you could become very frustrated by training too hard or too easy and not seeing results. Get on a plan, calculate your HR zones based on my recommendations above, and start training smart!