If you have dreams of becoming a cop, an elite soldier, a fire fighter, or even a professional athlete, then you may have an idea of how stringent their organizations are in terms of physical testing. But there are some times when—as a certain sappy song states it so distinctly—you best just isn’t “good” enough. Most of these groups have a standard to maintain when it comes to the testing of their applicants. And those standards also mean that you have to be in the best shape that you possibly can, or otherwise, you’ll have no choice but to try again. So this is where the heart rate max (HR Max) training comes in. As you will soon read below, this is one bad mother where the term “stretching every fiber of your body” just doesn’t do it justice. But if you want to be the best, then, more often than not, you just have to beat the best.

Okay, so before we start, we have to put certain things into perspective first. A “Heart Rate Max” quite simply means, yes, the peak heart rate that you can humanly achieve. Well, what else did you expect? There are varying ways in how you can compute for your maximum heart rate, but per the rule of thumb, all you need to do is to subtract your age from the fixed number of 220.  You also have to compute your “resting heart rate” as you wake up from bed (basically, this means that you have to take your pulse for a whole minute without you having done anything, so the figure can be more precise).  Now, subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate, and the resulting difference should serve as your “working heart rate”.

Now, an HR Max training usually depends on the percentage of the heart rate training zones. In a nutshell, the heart rate training zones are the “baseline” percentage on how hard you should push yourself when you’re running. For example, you have a maximum heart rate of 174, while your resting heart rate is at 65. 174 minus 65 should net you 109, which indicate that this is your ideal working heart rate for now. If your trainer tells you that you have to run 70% of your working heart rate, then your heart rate then should measure about 76 beats per minute.

There are four training “zones” which have been calculated according to how much each of these can affect your body. The first, which is the recovery zone, is where we have derived our above example; a 60% to 70% rate is enough to supply the necessary energy for your muscles. Coincidentally, this is the recommended rate if you’re aiming for a weight loss. The second, which is the aerobic zone, is where things get slightly more serious; you should utilize 70% to 80% of your working heart rate, and this also means that this is the part where you are now training for your cardiovascular system. The third stage, the anaerobic zone, borders on 80% to 90% of your working heart rate, and basically trains you for the “endurance” that your body needs to maintain its speed. If you’re able to achieve the anaerobic zone, then you’re set to take most physical tests given your way. However, if you really want to “push” then the red line zone is designed for your “pleasure”. Obviously, this is where you exert your fullest effort, and is only indicated usually for professional “runners” who need to develop both speed and endurance.

Of course, you can’t take all four of the tests and expect to succeed on them on each try. You are technically training for this, so it’s better if you let your body get used to the strain of running at a designated rate for now. Good luck!