Q: I’m a young athlete and should have a max heart rate of 196. When training in zone 5 I often go to 203. During an hour ling easy runs I can talk all the way through them at zone 3 which should be zone 1. Is this normal for my age?
A: The formulas used to calculate Max HR are very generic. Everyone is different and there are many variables affecting your HR. It is not uncommon to have your HR reach that high of a level. When I was training in college, the highest I ever saw my HR reach was 211. We are all different.
The “talk test” for level one workouts is also a very generic approach to managing your effort. I would stick to your HR based Level 1 over your ability to talk. If your Level 1 ends at 140bpm (random number i selected) you should try to stick within that zone at all times. It is important to stay at that lower exertion level for recovery purposes. With Level 1 training, you are trying to improve base fitness, while recovering for tomorrow’s harder workout. If you exceed your level one, you are stressing your body too much and will not receive the recovery you are looking for, while also not working hard enough to see a benefit in your Level 4/5 fitness.
It is possible that you have a higher heart rate than the average athlete your age. This was the case for me. My Level 1 went all the way up to 151bpm as was confirmed via blood lactate testing. Unless you do extensive physiological testing, it is hard to determine your precise training levels. Unless you are tested, I would stick to the generic heart rate ranges.
Sounds like you are getting ready for a big season! Go get it!