Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Do Leaders Push or Pull?

If you are in the position of leading people; anybody - it's probably because you know what you're doing at a fundamental level, and you bring an "A" effort to the table on a consistent, if not a constant, basis.

Inevitably, every leader asks, "how do I get more from my team?", which is inevitably met with trial and error.

Being everyone's friend: morale is usually high, but productivity & profitability often plummet as your personal stress levels skyrocket

Doing everything yourself: leads to rapid results for many things, but then quickly juggling too much, a productivity log jam, and again, personal insanity; not to mention you can never replace yourself- if you're not there the place falls apart.

Paying huge wages: improves morale and may help you delegate a tremendous workload, but bankrupts most companies, especially in a down or highly competitive economy.

So what management style works the best? I'm not naive enough to write one answer. In my humble opinion, it's one part clear expectations, one part incentivization (not just compensation amount, but tying the compensation structure to the right results), one part support, one part accountability, one part creativity/ flexibility, one part each hard work and smart work.

On the hard work side - working hard enough to set the tone for others, but also demanding the same in return. This is where the push or pull question comes in. SMART hard work = pushing others at a reasonable rate that ensures continuity and progress, plus time to pull in for the occasional pit stop. You are behind your team SUPPORTING them, but holding them accountable.

Pulling means you sprint at your pace, loom back and wonder why everyone is miles behind, and yell "catch up"; which inevitably means running back to get your team and starting to spring again.

Pushing a heavy object; no different than pushing a large team - involves a period of slow inertia (policy/ value/ vision implementation) but if the effort is consistent enough & has great rhythm, pretty soon inertia becomes momentum and the heavy object begins to move with speed - and you have a team of people conditioned to sprint because they put in the time to crawl, walk, and run first.

My money is on "push" leadership.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I bet you did not know this!

A number of recent studies have shown that the development of osteoporosis, may be the result of taking in too much protein, rather than not getting sufficient calcium in the diet.

The explanation is as follows:

Consuming excessive amounts of protein causes the body to convert protein building blocks
(amino acids) into organic acids, and as a result, the kidneys start to remove calcium from bones and excrete it through the urine.

This could lead to osteoperosis, a disease in which the bones become extremely porous and are subject to fracture and slow healing.

Osteoperosis tends to more prevalant in women following menopause and often results in irregular spinal curvatures as result of vertebral collapse.

This is not to say that protein should be avoided or excluded from the diet, but rather, a moderate consumption (everything in moderation!), is the key for achieving optimal bone health and nutritional balance.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Op Ed: Home Training Programs

In my day to day world, I'm often asked about certain popular exercise tools, programs and trends - so I figured I'd weigh in with my two cents on a couple of the more commonly referenced fitness fads.

This week - the "Home Training Program".

First off, let me say that this is not directed solely at P90X... its simply one of the more popular options currently on the market. You can substitute any number of other programs for it - from the relatively benign all the way to the outright dangerous (Jillian Michael's Kettlebell DVD.... *shudder*).

I've heard it said that " least people are using them to work out...", but my response to that is the fact that most people are doing so with little to no education or understanding, and without any degree of coaching on proper form or technique. Again, sometimes not a big deal - unless the program is introducing the use of advanced exercises. To me, trying to use these programs is akin to having a shoulder injury and using a DVD to perform your own treatment... it's a recipe for disaster.

The other thing is that many of the "experts" that are being used for these DVDs actually have no qualifications. This is not to say that I think paper certifications are the be-all and end-all - I've seen plenty of bad trainers who were certified out the wazoo - but at the very least, they have a formal education as a foundation. Not to pick on Jillian Michaels (again), but she claims she has a "certification that doesn't expire" - which to me, suggests that her certification isn't worth the paper it was printed on. Tony Horton, of P90X fame? No certification - in fact, he's a stand up comedian. Would you want either of these people helping you to rehab an injured back? No? Then why do you trust them to not leave you with an injured back in the first place?

I understand the reality of the world - you may not be able to afford to have a private trainer for 2 hours a week directing and managing your program. But at the same time, perhaps try shifting your attitude a bit - go out for dinner three less times in a month, and use the money you save from that to pay for one hour with a professional trainer who can design a program and then teach you the way to implement it properly - then check in with them periodically once every month or two and receive an updated program to work from. Or, if you are determined to utilize these home programs - educate yourself first so that, at the very least, you can pick and choose which programs and exercises you should or shouldn't be doing. I recommend Michael Boyle's site, at for an unbelievable educational resource. In regards to getting started, consider Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove's The New Rules of Lifting for Abs, or specifically for women - The Female Body Breakthrough, by Rachel Cosgrove. Both books will get you started on the right path, and from there you can branch out into more specific directions based on what you enjoy...

Whatever the case, just remember - don't be snowed by the hype. Just like the guy or girl in the weight room who look super fit, and therefore are answering a lot of questions based solely on this fact (and may, in fact, know nothing), there are a lot of internet/DVD gurus who are all image and marketing - with no proper education and certification at all.

Bottom line - your health isn't something to be played around with, without applying the same diligence you would to finding a massage therapist, physiotherapist or dietician. You wouldn't hire a trainer who wasn't certified, would you? Then why would you allow them to program for you on a DVD?


Friday, March 25, 2011

Hitting Snooze

I read a great blog post from Rachel Cosgrove last week, that I would like to share with all of you:

The night before, you lay out your clothes and set the alarm for an early morning workout. "THIS TIME"'ll get up and do a workout and get your day started. As you get ready for bed, you are actually excited about your commitment to yourself and having tomorrow be "DAY ONE" of your fitness program.

Morning comes, alarm goes off, at that moment, when you are snuggled in the comfort of your bed (your comfort zone) every excuse creeps into your head and you tell yourself -

"I should probably get more sleep, lack of sleep has been shown to be bad for your health and obviously my body needs it ..."

"I'll work out tomorrow after work when I'll have a better workout anyway because I'll have more energy".

"I'll start tomorrow. One more day, then I'll start."

Or you just hit the snooze button and roll back over to sleep forgetting all of the commitments you made to yourself the night before.

Hitting snooze is the moment when you decide to stay in your comfort zone rather than get out of your comfort zone and and be uncomfortable for a short period of time to get the pay off.

When you think about it, the snooze button is something we hit daily. Maybe you committed that you are going to eat healthy and have no alcohol and then your friends call you up and right then you hit the proverbial snooze button and decide I'll go have a drink tonight ...

Or on your way home from work you committed to yourself to go to the gym and as you drive by you decide...

"I should go home and eat something first."

"I should probably start tomorrow morning."

Start to notice how often throughout your day you are hitting your "snooze button" and instead start to get comfortable being uncomfortable, a quote I think I first heard Bill Parisi say:

"Get comfortable being uncomfortable."

Know that when you are out of your comfort zone you are going to be rewarded. Get hooked on that uncomfortable feeling of getting out of bed before everyone else and heading to the gym to do something good for yourself, or skipping dessert, or not having your nightly glass of wine, or packing your food ahead of time.

This is also in your career or personal development. If you committed to reading everyday for 30 minutes, don't hit the snooze button and start tomorrow. Go pick up a book and stick to your commitment.

Remember the quote, "Successful people do the things unsuccessful people don't want to do."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do you know your body type?

When we talk body composition we tend to look at dimensions such as: percentage body fat, body mass, muscle and fat mass. Theses variables give us a basic picture of what the individuals body is composed of (keep in mind that there elements such as water and bone are often not accounted for).

The influence of body composition of athletic performance has been extremely well researched and documented over the years. It is easy to see that certain body "types" perform better in certain activities and sporting codes than others.

Tests of anthropometry (the study of human body measurement for use in anthropological classification and comparison), includes measurements of body size, structure, and composition. It is important to keep in mind the impact changes in these parameters has, or might have on sports performance.

For almost all sports, body size has an impact on performance - whether this be a positive or a negative one. Furthermore, body composition, such as the amount of body fat and muscle mass, can also significantly affect sporting performance.

Enter Somatotype: A measure which utilizes both body composition and body size measurements to describe the human in 3 dimensions:

Endomorphic body type: Adipostity

An endomorphic person (e.g. 711) is generally stocky, with a large round body, a short thick neck, short arms and legs, and with a tendency to store body fat. Sports people tend not to be in this category, being either more mesomorphic or ectomorphic
Mesomorphic body type: Muscularity

A mesomorphic person (e.g. 171) would be strongly built, with a broad muscular chest and shoulders, very muscular arms and legs, and little body fat. An example of a mesomorphic person in the sporting world would be a typical weightlifter
Ectomorphic body type: Linearity

Ectomporphs are generally tall and thin, with a narrow body, thin arms and legs, little body fat and wiry muscles. An example of an ectomorphic person in the sporting world would be a typical long distance runner.

Determing these 3 components is a matter of completing a few calculations, using measurements of different aspects of the human body.

Using the Heath-Carter system of Somatotyping (the most commonly used), we measure the following parameters:
  • Height (cm)
  • Body mass(kg)
  • Skinfolds:
    - Tricep
    - Subscapular
    - Supraspinalis
    - Medial calf
  • Upper arm and calf girth
  • Epicodular breadth of the Humerus and Femur bones
and then, using some equations, can calculate a numerical value for each one of the 3 components.

Calculated values range from 0.2 - 7, with values between 0.2 and 2.5 being classified as low, 3 - 5 medium and 5.5 - 7 as high.

We are now able to name the individuals body type. The way we do this is fairly simple: Highest value is second, second highest value is first.

Endomorphic value: 4.9
Mesomorphic value: 3.0
Ectomorphic value: 2.7

This individual is an: Mesomorphic Ectomorph

For a visual representation, we can now plot this data onto a 3 dimensional chart:

We use this data to look at normative date pertaining to athletes participating in the same sport, which can then assist us to better prepare our athlete for competition at the highest level.

For example, in the sport of Triathlon, at the Elite level, we would like to see the following values:

Endomorphic value: 3.1 VS 4.9
Mesomorphic value: 3.8 VS 3.0
Ectomorphic value: 2.8 VS 2.7

We now know we need to focus on reducing the athletes body fat % and body mass, which will lower their Endomorphic component value, and at the same time, increase their Mesopmorphic component.

The definition of this body type would be a: Ectomorphic - Mesomorphic.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let's Get Strong

I've had a couple of items pop into my frame of reference lately that have forced me to take another critical look at society's perception and view of women... including those from women themselves.

The first was this nonsense program that Tracy Anderson is hocking through celebrity endorsements - specifically Gwyneth Paltrow. To begin with, the suggestion that Gwyneth's fragile-looking build is somehow representative of a healthy body that women should strive for is leading us all back down the path towards the "skinny is beautiful" nonsense. But all of that aside, what's most disturbing about it is how inherently unhealthy (and misinformed) the program is. Essentially, it's living off a diet of 700kcals a day and exercising for 1-3 hours, six days a week. While this is almost a sure-fire way to lose weight, a) it's nothing brilliant or new, b) if you can't fit in 5 hours a WEEK of exercise at this point, why do you think you'll be able to on this program, and c) most importantly, it's a dangerous prescription for an even greater misperception of one's own body image (to read about one women's efforts and results, read the article here).

This was followed by the release of a picture from the freshly cast "Wonder Woman" for the David E. Kelly series. Now, aside from the fact that the very name of the character is sorely out of date, and her brutally designed S&M pleather costume does nothing to add credibility... I can't help but look at the actress and think "she does not look like a woman who's been raised as a warrior. She looks like a skinny (albeit attractive) Hollywood actress."

Which is what prompted this blog. While I'm glad that we've moved away from the aformentioned "scrawny-waif" ideal, I think we can take it a step further. Women should not be afraid of looking (and being) strong - and guys, a lot of it starts with us. Don't let your own low self-esteem stop your sister/girlfriend/wife/mom from being seen as tough and fit.

Let's get rid of all of the "get toned - avoid bulk" crap that's out there, and start embracing an image not just of being the "correct" weight... but instead, one of powerful athleticism.


P.S. One more note to the women's magazines out there - you're not helping the case by using fitness and figure competitors almost exclusively as your models. Let's get more athletes from other sports into your pictorials...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Luck of the Irish

I read a great post this morning about St. Patrick's Day and luck, and it seems like an appropriate time of year to share it.

St. Patrick's Day is synonymous with luck: shamrocks, leprechauns and pots of gold. Most of us seem to have a love/hate relationship with luck. On one hand we hope and wish for it, we buy lottery tickets and we encourage it with any number of lucky charms. On the the other hand we resent it for not showing up when we want it to and bemoan the fact that we just do no have any of it.

So what do we need to do to take full advantage of luck? Well, we need to be open to luck or if you prefer to call it, opportunity and be willing to accept the possibility of luck, it can be quite a gift. Luck can be that unexpected turn of events that lands you in exactly the right spot at the right time. Luck can be getting stuck behind a slow driver much to your frustration but maybe to realise that two minutes earlier would have put you in the place of the accident you just passed. Coincidence? Maybe, probably, or you could think of it as luck.

If you want to invite luck into your life you have to be ready to embrace the unexpected. We have a choice; we can see a sudden change of plans as a disruption or we can see it as luck's divine hand. Instead of fighting what could be seen as a diversion or detour, ask yourself what could come out of this unexpected turn. To embrace luck we must embrace possibility. Quite often it is after you let go of the plan that your ideas take flight.

So you need to believe in luck and oh yes, you need to be prepared for luck. It's no use just kicking your shoes off, sitting back and waiting for that lucky leprechaun to arrive at your door with a pot of gold. No, get up and get cracking so that you are ready when hard work meets opportunity.

There's one more thing about being ready for luck, you have to be present. Yes, you have to be out in the field bright and early to spot that four leaf clover. We simply can't sit back in our life bemoaning the fact the we never have any luck. Luck is not going to fund us unless we are actively engaged in all of our endeavours.

So as you experience the possibility of life changes, be willing to accept the possibility of luck. We need to leave room for luck in our lives as we navigate the twists and turns of our journey. Luck is a gift, perhaps from the leprechauns.

~ Courtesy of Toby Siverton, PhD and Bev McLagan, PhD.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Central Governor theory - a protective mechanism

I have a question for you: when you are running a race, who controls your output? Who decides how how fast you can and cannot go in the prevailing race conditioning?

Most of us would say that we decide on things like pace and output because it is our body we are pushing.

Well, think again.

Although this Central Governor theory, a term first coined by Dr. Tim Noakes at the Sports Science institute in South Africa more than a decade ago, has been around for a while now, it goes against much of what we have learned about the human movement and exercise physiology.

IN this interview, Dr. Thomas Rowland very succinctly describes exactly what the theory is and why it is relevant in less than 3 minutes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Beware the "Experts"

In the current climate of information overload, it's all the more important to become selective in whose advice you listen; and whom you seek out for counsel.

The "personal training" industry, in particular, has become one of the biggest breeding grounds for charlatans, shysters and snake oil salesmen. And while I truly stand by the attitude of "caveat emptor", or "let the buyer beware", I'm here to offer a few guidelines that should help.

First off, understand what you're hiring a personal trainer for. They shouldn't simply be one-on-one bootcamp instructors. They should be there far more as a coach - making sure that your form and technique are everything they need to be, ensuring that the day's program is modified/adjusted in whatever form is necessary to help you move forward, and above all else to teach. Someone who simply barks commands and helps you "get a burn" and fire up some calories is a waste of money.

Secondly - understand that the more people who are training with you, the less the hour is going to be about you and quality will take a hit because of it. So - one-on-one is best, semi-private is next, small group classes and finally large classes in order of efficacy. Bootcamps? Pretty much useless for anything other than burning calories and hurting yourself, unless you're a fitness professional yourself and know how to modify/adapt exercises to your ability. But hey - the physiotherapists love them, because they keep them in business.

Thirdly - if you're working out with a DVD, then all of the issues of the "bootcamp" apply, only now compound them by the fact that there is nobody with any degree of knowledge to help ensure you're doing it right. Plus, most of the programs are, if not lacking any true usefulness, in some cases dangerous and designed by people who actually have no degree or certification in the field.

Finally - make sure your training coach has the necessary pre-requisites to do their job. Some real-world examples: Jillian Michaels, at best, has a 17 year old accreditation that "doesn't expire". I don't know a single reputable certification that never expires, without passing relatively stringent recertification qualifications. Besides, if you've ever seen her kettlebell DVD, you know that many times she hasn't got a clue what she's talking about - I hope nobody seriously hurts themselves trying to follow it. Tracey Anderson, and her "fitness" program - Tracey lacks education in kinesiology, physiology and biomechanics. Tony Horton (P90X)? He's a stand up comic.

As I always say - you get what you pay for. But you're better off hiring a trainer 1x a month (a REAL trainer or coach), getting a program and receiving high level education on the program for the same cost as a month of "boot camps". You'll get far more out of it, and your odds of successful and safe completion just go up exponentially.

And when you are hiring that trainer - make sure they're certified. Ask them what governing body they've earned the certification through - some of the most recognized are the American Council for Exercise (ACE), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP).


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Future...

is coming... and it's not like the attached picture.
You don't take a convenient off-ramp to greener pastures when you are ready for your future.
It hits you like a ton of bricks because it's coming, period- and we had all better be ready.

Example 1: "I want to work so I can live, not live to work". No one I know would rather work than enjoy a vacation with their best friends or family. The fact is, someone (YOU) needs to pay for said holiday, plus the rent/ mortgage while you're away, etc etc
Result 1: By following that mentality, you'll have the life of Riley in your 20's; only to be forced to work way harder than you want to in your 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's. We all need to put in the work, the question is when we choose to do it.

Example 2: "I'll be happy when I graduate/ get a job/ get married/ have kids/ get a raise/ when the kids move out/ when the house is paid off/ when I retire".
Result 2: If you have to wait until you retire to be happy, life isn't worth living, and you'll probably have a stress-induced heart attack long before then. Life is too short to waste, and too long to wait to be happy. If you don't learn to enjoy the journey, you'll never reach the destination.

Example 3: "I'll sign up for that course/ ask that girl out/ apply for that job/ etc tomorrow"
Result 3: The only guarantee you have is right now, this minute. Tomorrow leads to the next day leads to next week, month, year. Anything worth doing is worth doing right now. You can't do everything today, so you need to prioritize, but there is a night and day difference between delegation & de-prioritizing items, and procrastination.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Stretch to become a better ahlete

Stretching has always been a hot topic of debate in coaching and Sport Science circles.

It is a complex issue with no 100% accepted "truth" coming to the fore. For example, does stretching reduce the risk of injury? Does stretching reduce D.O.M.S (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)? Does stretching and improving flexibility improve athletic performance?

All extremely good questions, unfortunately none of them has no definitive answer.

We have all been taught that stretching (mostly static) is an essential part of reducing muscle soreness and injury and as a result, athletic performance will be enhanced. However, over the past few years, research has started to dispute 2 of these claims.

A recent article in the British Medical Journal showed that pre- and post activity stretching had not affect on the reduction of muscle soreness (D.O.M.S).

Another study in Australia reviewed five previously conducted studies which all investigated the impact stretching had on muscle soreness.

An interesting statistic from this review was that muscle stretching prevented one (1) injury every 23 years. Obviously this was fairly small sample size and the results should not be taken to be gospel, but interesting none-the-less.

So how and why does connective tissue become injured?

More often than not, in the athletic environment, muscles and tendons become damaged because the force applied to them is greater than their ability to tolerate that force. It is logical therefore that in order to reduce injury we should rather spending time strengthening these muscles.

Where stretching does play an important role in athletic performance is by increasing (or maintaining) tendons length which in turn allow a greater torque to be produced on the joint to produce more force.

This increased force production capacity of the tendon translates into:
  • running faster and longer
  • moving more quickly
  • increasing agility and reaction time to help you run faster
  • jumping higher
  • throwing further
In other words - become a better athlete.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Enough Talk

So - our government is going to open a "national dialogue" to address the obesity epidemic in our nation's youth (

Great. That's just what we need - more discussion.

Seriously - what is there to discuss? Our children are obese because they eat too much, they eat badly, and they don't exercise enough - simply a reflection of their parents. Furthermore, when statistics are showing that the majority of our kids (and our adults, for that matter) are not getting enough exercise, Health Canada - in it's infinite wisdom - simply lowered the bar (

You can help save the inevitable expense that's going to come out of this "dialogue" - I suggest trying the following suggestions (in order):
  1. Firstly, realize that being obese is not "okay", or something to be "accepted". To do so is embracing an unhealthy lifestyle. If people were to declare that "they smoke and they're proud of it" in this day and age, they would be villified - we need to take the same attitude towards the lifestyle that has created our nation's obesity epidemic.
  2. Next - if you have an issue(s) that drive you to eat, don't just use that as an excuse - seek help.
    Eat out a maximum of one time per week, and no more. That's right. Once.
  3. When you prepare food at home - actually prepare it. Don't reheat prepackage, processed crap.
  4. Stop using time as an excuse. Life is what it is - we're all busy. Either make the changes, or don't - but stop trying to justify it.
  5. Finally - start exercising... burn more calories than you take in. And no, not for 150 minutes a week - an hour a day. Too busy? See above.

There's no magic, no secret - it comes down to making your health a priority. After all, what's the point of life if you don't actually get to live?


Friday, March 04, 2011

50 Lessons Life Taught Me

I stumbled upon Maria Shriver's blog the other day and saw a post entitled, 50 Lessons Life Taught Me by Regina Brett and I thought I would share, so here it is:

  1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

  2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

  3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

  4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

  5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

  6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

  7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

  8. It's okay to get angry with God. He can take it.

  9. Save for retirement starting with your first pay cheque.

  10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

  11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

  12. It's okay to let your children see you cry.

  13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

  14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

  15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

  16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

  17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

  18. A write writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

  19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

  20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

  21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

  22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

  23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

  24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

  25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

  26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words : "In five years, will this matter?"

  27. Always choose life

  28. Forgive everyone everything.

  29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

  30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

  31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

  32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

  33. Believe in miracles.

  34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

  35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

  36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.

  37. Your children only get one childhood. Make it memorable.

  38. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

  39. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

  40. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

  41. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful, or joyful.

  42. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

  43. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

  44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

  45. The best is yet to come.

  46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

  47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

  48. If you don't ask, you don't get.

  49. Yield.

  50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Determining maximum heart rate

On the heels of last weeks post on staying in the correct heart rate zone, this week I have decided to spend a little time looking at the concept of maximum heart rate (HRmax).

Maximum heart rate is defined as the highest number of times the heart can beat in 1 minute. It is an individual number, and one that cannot be trained to be higher.

There are 2 methods which can be used to determine HRmax:

1: Field test: Sample field test or Exercise test: Simple Lab test

Both of these tests are best performed by a qualified Exercise Physiologist or Sport Scientist as they require the athlete to perform a maximal test specific to their sport or event.

Tests are traditionally incremental in nature, meaning they progressively get more challenging as the test progresses. In the laboratory setting, other parameters are also tested in conjunction with heart rate, including: VO2max and Anaerobic Threshold.

For the majority of us who do not have a personal Exercise Physiologist, training coach or access to a lab, the old HRmax prediction equations make an appearance.
Predicting HRmax.

2: Age based prediction formulas
I am sure that the majority of you have heard of the old: 220 - age formula.

Well it interesting that there is very little scientific literature on this equation. In fact, no one is 100% sure from where the equation was actually derived. It has, over the decades, just become an accepted method of predicting HRmax.

Many have been extremely frustrated because it is in fact a very inaccurate and unreliable predictor of HRmax, and there are few (if any) citeable sources that validate the 220-age equation.

HRmax = 220 – age (males)
HRmax = 226 – age (females)

My predicted HRmax using 220 - age is 185b/min.

Over the decades a little more investigation was put into creating a more reliable and valid predictor of HRmax. Researchers from around the world have come up with numerous variations on the 220 - age equation, and the accuracy has become far superior to compared to what it was.

These more recent methodolgies far more accurate predicted HRmax values (not nearly 100% though).

HRmax = 208 – (0.7 X age) - 183.5b/min
HRmax = 205.8 – (0.685 X age) - 183b/min
HRmax = 206.3 – (0.711 X age) - 181b/min
HRmax = 206.9 − (0.67 × age) - 184b/min
HRmax = 191.5 − (0.007 × age2)- 183b/min
HRmax = 163 + (1.16 × age) − (0.018 × (age.age)) - 182b/min

Using the above equations to predict my maximum heart rate I get values of between 181 b/min and 184/min. So even through 220 - age has no "real' foundation it is still fairly close to the values calculated using the more up-to-date equations.

My tested maximum heart rate is 179 b/min so this is about 3 - 6b/min lower than the predicted values. Not enormous, but enough to make a difference when setting up heart rate training zones.

For most people using heart rate training for their training, I would recommend using the most recent (and accurate) equation of the lot:

HRmax = 191.5 − ((0.007 × (agexage))

This equation has been shown to be within 2 - 5b/min of tested values - pretty much as close you are going to get, with out performing a maximal test.

Happy training
Coach James

James is a veteran training coach at Innovative Fitness in Kitsilano. He hold a post graduate degree in Sports Science and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the NSCA. He also coaches Endurance athletes of all disci
plines from triathlon to cycling and running