Calculating your Ideal Training Level

Training should be a mix of easy and hard workout sessions. In some training sessions you will go flat out, and you need to do this occasionally in order to build your anaerobic conditioning, but you also want to make sure you don’t over exert yourself too often.

Remember that when you are training, you should be aiming on working at no more than an average of 75 to 80% of your maximum capacity.

httpv:// The idea is to build your conditioning without exhausting yourself so much that your body needs time to repair itself. Most running injuries occur due to over exertion or poor running style.

You’ll need an experienced running coach to help you with your running style, but over exertion is something you can easily manage yourself.

As a general rule of thumb you can monitor your level of exertion by keeping an eye on your heart rate. The easiest way to do this is with a heart rate monitor, but when you have used one of these for some time, you will get to know your body and you’ll be able to feel when it has reached the level of performance you are looking for.

How to work out your maximum heart

As we get older our heart rate slows down, so this is different for everyone. There is an easy formula, which is 220 minus your age. So if you are 20 years old, your maximum heart rate around 200 beats per minute. For me at 49 years of age, my maximum heart rate should be around 171 beats per minute.

So in training, I’m looking to do no more than 80% of that. This will help to ensure that I don’t overdo my training and that on the day of the event, I’ll have a little in reserve to be able to put in a better performance.


Update April 2013

My City2Surf Training Program is now an eBook

‘How to Break Your Fitness Slump and Comfortably Finish a Fun Run’

My full City2Surf training program is now available as an eBook from all leading online bookstores and contains a link to download the training schedule as an iCal file, so you can import it into your calendar.

Also, feel free to join my free Facebook training group the City2Surf 100 day Challenge.




  1. Hi Chris – good post!

    I also like to monitor my runs via heartrate, but one of the issues I have is that my training courses have quite a few hills. Hence my heartrate tends to stay well below 80% max on downhills, but frankly sometimes I’d have to break into a walk to keep it below 80% on the uphills, and I often let it go up to 85%+. So do you think it OK to *average* no more than 80% over the entire run, or do you rather think its better to avoid going over 80% at all (apart from during occasional anaerobic workouts)?

    • Hi Graham,

      My rule of thumb is to average around 75 to 80% over the course of the run. When I’m running uphills my heart rate often goes above the 85% too but as you say, on the downhill your heart gets a well earned rest.
      I think a lot depends on the length and grade of the hill. If you have a very steep hill, even a very fit person can reach 80% or more of their max heart rate just walking up it.
      There is no shame in walking up a hill if your heart is doing 80%+ because you are still getting the aerobic benefit but you also need to run some of the hills to work your muscles. The running action needed for hills is different to the flat, so I think of hill running as being more about working the muscles than for it’s aerobic benefit.


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