Heart Rate

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Anonymous's picture

I have a HRM now and I noticed yesterday that my HR was really high. Like it was 170+ while I was coming back from Nyack, rolling at 20-22 mph. It would go up to 180 on hills such as hudson and churchill. Over all, I ended up spending 1h40min in my target HR zone (138-158) and 1h40min above my target zone.

2 questions:
1) Am I headed for a heart attack? (I'm 26)
2) Does this mean I'm pedalling too hard? (I didn't feel particuliarly put out at any time during my ride except at the end when I basically ran out of steam)

Any toughts?

Anonymous's picture
Michael Casey (not verified)
your target zone may be wrong

If you calculated your target zone using a formula like 220 minus age, it may be wrong. This seems particularly likely if you were above the zone and (1) able to stay there for the better part of two hours and (2) not feeling like you were working too hard.

Anonymous's picture
ted (not verified)
Seems normal

>Any toughts?

My T(h)oughts.

1. Sounds pretty normal to me.

2. Buy that heart rate training book that everyone sells. If I remember correctly, Sally Edwards is the author. It will help you understand what you are seeing, and maybe how you can use it.

3. Go over to roadbikereview.com or bicycling.com and search around a bit on the message boards. You will see that heart rates are very different between people. There are always posts by people with their first HRM that push it above 220-age, which is published everywhere as a rule of thumb for your max HR. (It isn't worth much more than a rule of thumb)

Anonymous's picture
Smiley (not verified)

Try another formula that uses your resting heart rate (check it 3 days when you wake up in the morning, take the average), it's a little more reliable.

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)


The temperatures were unusually warm yesterday. This could push your heart rate up a bit. Also, what is your baseline reference?

Anonymous's picture
<a href="http://www.OhReallyOreilly.com">Peter O'Reilly</a> (not verified)
2 questions, 2 answers

1) Heart attack - no. As John alluded to, it can be heat related or even psychological stress, like getting cut off by a car or trying to make it back before dark, or both can elevate the heart rate.

I experience both while riding the stationary bike in the gym after someone decides to close the window in front of me because they are too cold while running on the tread mill behind me.

2) Pedalling too hard? No. More like you are ready to be riding with the A-23 STS. ;-)

Anonymous's picture
Fendergal (not verified)

"No, your heart is not going to explode.

A HR by itself is merely a number. It means nothing by itself. It means only something when in reference to what you're trying to do in a workout, what your max is, what your resting HR is. You're pretty young, so your max is probably pretty high (which, again, by itself means nothing; one can have a high max HR and be fit or not).

I'm not sure what your ""target HR zone"" is supposed to be. I assume it's just a precalculated percentage based on what the average (i.e., sedentary) person should be aiming for. (I read somewhere that an average person can't maintain something like 65 percent of their max HR for a half-hour, which is pretty depressing.)

If you didn't feel as if you were working hard, then you weren't. Your numbers are specific to yourself. Everyone is different, everyone responds to different stimulus (heat, stress, dehydration, overtraining) differently. By using your HRM regularly, you can see what your numbers mean, and how you feel based on those numbers.

By the way, are you using a HRM to train for a specific goal?

When you say you ""ran out of steam,"" did you start to approach a bonk-like state (as in you didn't drink or eat enough?), or was it more due to a sub-par level of fitness? Just wondering."

Anonymous's picture
JP (not verified)

Yes, what was said above!!

If you are using 220-26 = 194 MHR (which may be inaccurate), your target rate is zone 3: 70-80% of MHR, roughly. The aerobic zone. It is not unusual to go to zone 4 or even 5 while road riding. Higher speeds, coupled with your turn to pull, a headwind, a hill … you’re over 80%.

To spend ½ of your ride in the aero zone, as you did, is fine. Going over zone 3 is a part of faster paces. As long as you recover somewhat, you will be able to go above your target zone more and longer, and eventually maybe increase your thresholds. And at 88%, you are at race levels, at least as far as HR is concerned. If you are doing that for extended periods, keep going. Of course, you are burning fuel quicker at those levels and building more lactic acid. You will … run out of steam as you say. Solution – keep up the riding and get even better, eat and drink on the bike, recover at any chance (downhill, sit in and miss a couple pulls).

Also, remember, training simulates road riding/racing. On a trainer you do intervals, which represent attacks, surges and pulls in actual road riding. Staying in a zone 3 target while on a trainer or a slow pace ride is easier than at high speeds on the road, with all its variables and hammerheads.

Also, what was your overall average HR for the ride? I bet within or close to your target zone.

Good luck,

Anonymous's picture
Greg Faber (not verified)
Thanks for the replies

I don't have the formula in front of me but it was basically 220-26=194 Max HR and then my target zone was like 60%-80%.

When I ran out of steam it was basically not eating enough (I was STARVING when I got home). I love knowing how many calories I burn thanks to the HRM, which of course I'm sure isn't really accurate, but damn 4000 calories is a lot. As anyone who's seen me knows I'm in great physical condition :-)

I'm not really training for any particular reason other than being able to go fast and one day go on one of those fast john zenkus rides.

So if I ride and stay at a high HR for a long time, I'll eventually be able to have the same power output at a lower HR and therefore use less energy and produce less lactic acid? So then when I am in the 180 bpm zone again I'll be going faster? I guess that's the point...

Anonymous's picture
Paul (not verified)
The forumula was written by lawyers

The only way to determine your max heart rate is to put yourself under stress and monitor your heart's highest rate. At 37, my MHR should be 183, but in fact it's 204, which was confirmed during the end of a 5K I ran last fall.
Your MHR will decrease over time, so it's good practice to validate it once every year or so.

There's a write up on heart rates on this site, so you may want to read that. I believe it recommended shooting for ~70-75 MHR on regular rides.

Anonymous's picture
Susan Rodetis (not verified)
Was concerned 'bout my HR on Perkins Drive (& many other hills!)

"Don't have HR monitor, but last year my heart for sure felt like it was going thru the roof many times while I was pushing up long/steep hills, particularly on hot days.

Asked my v. good doctor ábout it during my physical this past Fall - - if there was a limit I should not hit, and what to look out for, particularly as I age.

My ""takeaway"" from her response is that basically it is almost like a stress test to be going up the hills, and as long as it doesn't hurt (the heart area), there's no cause for concern.

Please to say that with a new lighter bike this year (the other one was 28.5 lbs with day trip gear, plus vintage 1987) plus being in better shape - - there's less huffing and puffing and I'm going up faster! YAY for progress.


Anonymous's picture
Scott Urista (not verified)

Even when hammering up heartbreak hill or waltnut st, my heart rate hasn't gone above 185 or so. When I play hockey, it is regularly over 195, and I've hit 206 a couple of times.

I have no idea what that means, but I thought it might be interesting.

Anonymous's picture
PLee (not verified)
Varied Max Heart Rates

It's normal to have different max heart rates for different activities. My max heart rate while biking is consistently 10 bpm lower than when I'm running.

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