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Maximum Heart Rate Stress Tests

Maximum Heart Rate Stress Tes

Maximum Heart Rate Stress Tes

Many athletes who have a history of continual sport since their early teens have a higher maximum heart rate when compared to the mathematical calculation of their maximum heart rate based on their age. To be certain of finding your maximum heart rate a Stress Test should be conducted.

Maximum Heart Rate Stress Tests

Anyone who has undergone a stress test will know that they are not easy. A stress test although relatively short in duration does require you to push your body and your heart to the very limit. Before undertaking a stress test you should be certain of the following:

• That you have not suffered from any cold, flu, stomach bug or other illness in the last six to eight weeks. The body in this period could still be fighting the last of the infection and the effort of a stress test could leave you prone to a more serious infection. If in any doubt check with your GP.

• that you have not raced in the fourteen days prior to a stress test and at least four to six weeks following a marathon or more if you have not yet fully recovered from your efforts. A tired heart and body will not achieve maximum.

• in the final week before a stress test it is important to run easy – that is 70% maximum of your current age adjusted heart rate.

Do not undertake a stress test:

• With any hint of an injury. Ensure all old injuries are fully repaired before deciding to undertake stress test.

• If you have less than one years running experience and are sport active for less than three hours a week. It is possible you will not be fit enough to take the strain of a stress test let alone achieve a reliable result.

Any one who is overweight or over the age of 35 is advised to see their GP before under going a stress test. Hopefully you get the idea that a maximum heart rate stress test is not easy. It is the very limit of your heart and bodies capability and should not be treated lightly.

The tests will require you to wear your heart rate monitor (HRM) and preferable one that is capable of recording your heart rate. It is best to record your heart rate as often as possible – preferable every second or at worst every 5 seconds. If your HRM does not have a record facility it will be necessary to keep glancing at your monitor to find your highest heart rate. For both these tests it is important to warm up thoroughly.

Stress Test 1

For this test you need a good hill. The hill needs to take you about two minutes to run up it and of sufficient gradient to ensure you are breathing hard at its summit. The test begins around five minutes running time from the hill. Gradually accelerate towards the hill achieving 85% MHR (for the first time) at the base of the hill. As you hit the hill maintain your speed by increasing your effort. Your heart rate will rise and you will tire. Without falling over, keep an eye on your monitor and make a mental note of your highest heart rate as you work towards the top of the hill.

Stress Test 2

For those unfortunate enough to live in an area lacking hills (did I say unfortunate?) it is possible to carry out a test on a flat piece of road or at your local running track. The plan of attack is to run 800 meters very quick. For the first 400 meters run at up to your current 90/95% MHR (to be achieved by the end of the first lap) and for the last 400 go for it! During this second lap you should max out. Very fit athletes may have to repeat this test after a few minutes rest (minimum of 65% MHR) to be able to achieve a true maximum. This test is very reliable.

A stress test should be carried out every six months to ensure ongoing accuracy of your training zones. Many athletes do not achieve their actual MHR at the first attempt as they are either not fit enough or are running tired.

Article by Time-to-Run Cape Town resident coach Dave Spence

Reference: MACKENZIE, B. (1997) Maximum Heart Rate Stress Tests [WWW] Available from:

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