On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Times is at it again

Remember last week, when the Times exposed that most studies of athletic performance are done on men? Well, they're at it again.  This time, it's our heart rates.

Basically, the old adage of 220-your age to calculate your max heart rate doesn't work for women.  Instead, the new study suggests, a better estimate is 206-.88(your age), or 206 minus 88% of your age.  For me, the old formula yields a max heart rate of 187.  The new formula yields 177.  This, then, has an impact on your heart rate when you work out (if you're trying to achieve goals like maintaining 85% of your max, for instance).

Interesting, but in my opinion ultimately not that useful.  Everyone is different and this guideline is (at best) a weak recommendation.  If you're wearing a heart rate monitor to exercise - which you probably will be, if you're one who pays attention to staying in your goal range of 85% - you probably have some idea of your typical heart rate range.  And if you're not wearing an HRM and you're exercising by feel, what does this change for you?

Or, as one of the doctors in the study says,
“Everyone kind of has their own natural pace,” Dr. Church says. “If you like to work a little harder, then work harder. If you like to work less hard but a little longer, then do that. Find what works for you.”
I do like the media focus on the physiological differences between men and women, but I also look forward to the day when even more scientific knowledge can be more readily personalized to each individual.  I'd love to know more about my metabolism, my VO2 max, my max heart rate.  At best right now I can only roughly estimate these things.

Does anyone else have Hilary Duff in their heads right now?

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