There has been a lot of talk amongst my running friends about heart rate training recently. Of course, the No. 1 thing we all want to know is how do you determine your  maximum heart rate in order to get your target heart rate?

Online, you’ll  find how to calculate target heart rate using calculators, like this one from Active.com. Just enter your age and what percent of your maximum heart rate you want to be at. For example, if you’re aiming for an intense workout, you’d want to be between 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Click on this link to learn more about intensity levels from the CDC.

Target heart rate calculators are okay, but the numbers are very general. It is based on the old calculation: (220 – your age) x target heart rate percentage = target heart rate. If I go by this equation, my target heart rate (85% of my maximum) would be 157. I happen to know from past experience that there is no way this is 85% of my maximum. If I went by this formula, my training would be very off. Some even say that this equation was created with men in mind. (A PopSugar Fitness article shows a more recent and a little more accurate “general” equation for determining women’s heart rate zones.)

So, how do you really calculate target heart rate?

Well, the best way is to get a cardiac stress test done on a treadmill and monitored by your doctor. Unfortunately, we can’t all do that.

You can do your own test, although a doctor visit to make sure your heart is healthy before you do it, is advised. And go with someone just in case. Below, I’ve linked to a few different articles explaining ways to get your maximum heart rate. You’ll need a heart rate monitor and a friend for these.

At the Track

This short article in Runner’s World explains how to get your maximum heart rate by yourself using a heart rate monitor.

On a Hill

An article in CompleteRunning.com suggests maxing out your heart rate on a gradual hill, and with a heart rate monitor.

On a Treadmill

This article on Slowtwitch.com describes how to find your max heart rate on a treadmill with a heart rate monitor. (Definitely get a friend to help you.)

If you are really interested in training correctly, try finding your own individual maximum heart rate. The calculators could have you training 15-20 beats off where you should be!