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  1. #1
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    Heart Rate: How high is too high?

    So the thread title gets right to it, how high of a heart rate is bordering on unsafe? First off, I realize that each person is different and that only a doctor should provide the guidance I seek, but I just wanted to get some of your folks thoughts.

    Some background info: I am pretty new to racing (only done four in the past 12 months) and I generally finish around the top 50% within my class Cat 3 30 Ė 39. I am 6í3 175lbs. I generally have a higher heart rate than my buddies while we ride, but my also tends to drop off quite a bit quicker than theirs. While slightly exaggerated, we likened it to their hear rate profile looking like rolling hills while mine looks like peaks and valleys.

    Due to work/family schedule Iím relegated to riding on the trainer 2/3 times a week and get out on my bikes only once a week. I try to put in around 6 hours a week on the bikes. I keep all of my heart rate stats for every ride whether itís on the trainer, road or trails. I generally tend to average around mid 165-170 bpm on my trainer which feels relatively rigorous. On road rides I average pretty much the exact same, 165 Ė 170 bpm with a max in the low 180s. Trail rides tend to average a bit higher at around 175 Ė 180 bpm with a max in the low 190s. My resting heart rate is typically around 55-59 bpm.

    My first race of the year (Bluff Creek Ranch, Ward, TX) was 7.5 mile sprint race where I averaged 185 bpm for the 41 minute race. Last weekend was my second race (Double Lakes, Coldspring, TX) where I averaged a ridiculous 195 with a max of 205 for the 12.5 mile 60 minute race! The weather conditions and trail type were about as different as can be, but Iíve never seen numbers like those at Double Lakes and frankly it was a hard race but it didnít seem that insane. :-)

    Afterwards I got to thinking that while itís great that I pushed myself harder than I ever have before, did I push myself too hard? While Iím certainly not a seasoned pro, I have spoken to enough riders to know that those are not normal heart rates and Iím just wondering if I should be concerned with the possibility of potentially pushing myself too far? How big of a factor does weather, hydration, etc play in heart rates?

    I havenít had a physical in a few years, so I planned on scheduling one here within the next week or so and talking to the doc about it, but like I said earlier, I was just hoping to get some thoughts and opinions from you all as I know many of you religiously track your physio metrics.

    Thanks for your thoughts!
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. ~ Albert Einstein

  2. #2
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    I too wonder this. My HRM at times goes over 200 and im wondering if maybe im pushing too hard?
    People ask me all the time "who beat you up"? I tell them "a tree". They just look at me funny....

  3. #3
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    There is no problem with having a high heart rate. Only if you have other symptoms with it: excessive dizziness, chest pain, etc. Then you should go see a doctor.

    I have two racer friends that have developed heart problems and they ride/race with HR monitors with upper limits programmed (doctors recommend that they shouldn't exceed XXX HR).

    But for the most part, in training, it seems that the most benefit is gained from longer-lower HR rides (below your LTHR).
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  4. #4
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    There is a significant variation in max heart rate. Seeing values around the 200 mark are not unusual. It is when you start to see values in excess of 220 that you should start to get excited.
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  5. #5
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    I often hit and spend short periods of time above 200 during races. I've even seen 209. 6'2" 175lbs, 21yr old

  6. #6
    dcb
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    As others have said, as long as you're healthy there's no issue. Your HR pattern is probably better than your riding buddies as it shows that you're responding and recovering to efforts better than they are. That assumes other factors are relatively equal.

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    That is only slightly higher than mine. My threshold is 180 so I can spend a fair bit of time above that and not blow up. I've seen 205 on my hrm before and am not worried about it.
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    On flatter races or races with no big downhills to really recover on, I'll spend the 95% of the race in Z4, which for me is ~175-195. My average for most races is in the 180's. Haven't had any problems so far...

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by kherron View Post
    On flatter races or races with no big downhills to really recover on, I'll spend the 95% of the race in Z4, which for me is ~175-195. My average for most races is in the 180's. Haven't had any problems so far...
    Good point, I hadn't thought of that... Double Lake is pretty much flat the whole time, I think there is only about 400 vertical feet worth of climbing so we're pedalling non-stop the entire ride. I guess it could partially be due to cardiac drift related to that effort.

    Thanks for all the responses so far... nice to hear that I'm not a total cardiac freak.
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. ~ Albert Einstein

  10. #10
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    Sometimes the heart rate strap/monitor can get false readings and can make your heart rate look higher than it really is.

    I have a similar heart rate profile. Max out around 174-ish. When I'm in the 170 range I'm working pretty hard and I can definitely feel it. My resting heart rate is in the upper 30's.

    I've seen "blips" in my heart rate data which suggests a false reading. I wonder if excessive sweating can cause this....

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by CBRsteve View Post
    So the thread title gets right to it, how high of a heart rate is bordering on unsafe? First off, I realize that each person is different and that only a doctor should provide the guidance I seek, but I just wanted to get some of your folks thoughts.

    I havenít had a physical in a few years, so I planned on scheduling one here within the next week or so and talking to the doc about it, but like I said earlier, I was just hoping to get some thoughts and opinions from you all as I know many of you religiously track your physio metrics.

    Thanks for your thoughts!
    Get the physical. Check your family history for heart problems. If something comes back regarding your heart, then it needs a couple of different medical opinions including a cardiologist before settling on a Max value.

    Heart rate numbers are just a number with no meaning *on their own.* I've been over 200 plenty of times for minutes at a time. Your body is self-regulating so any number of regulators will slow you down.

  12. #12
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    Based on my experience

    Your heart rate ranges seem pretty normal.

    The average of 195 seems pretty high but there are accuracy problems with heart rate monitors. During a race where there are a couple hundred people using devices that broadcast on the same frequency its pretty easy to pick up some errors.

    I would suggest (if you have not done so) doing a max heart rate test as well as a threshold heart rate test and keeping the values to compare to in the future.
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  13. #13
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    To make a long complicated story short.....

    If you have any reason to believe you have any sort of heart problem see a doc.....

    Tell him you want to go hard....if he says okay...

    Go hard

    Quote Originally Posted by CBRsteve View Post
    So the thread title gets right to it, how high of a heart rate is bordering on unsafe? First off, I realize that each person is different and that only a doctor should provide the guidance I seek, but I just wanted to get some of your folks thoughts.

    Some background info: I am pretty new to racing (only done four in the past 12 months) and I generally finish around the top 50% within my class Cat 3 30 Ė 39. I am 6í3 175lbs. I generally have a higher heart rate than my buddies while we ride, but my also tends to drop off quite a bit quicker than theirs. While slightly exaggerated, we likened it to their hear rate profile looking like rolling hills while mine looks like peaks and valleys.

    Due to work/family schedule Iím relegated to riding on the trainer 2/3 times a week and get out on my bikes only once a week. I try to put in around 6 hours a week on the bikes. I keep all of my heart rate stats for every ride whether itís on the trainer, road or trails. I generally tend to average around mid 165-170 bpm on my trainer which feels relatively rigorous. On road rides I average pretty much the exact same, 165 Ė 170 bpm with a max in the low 180s. Trail rides tend to average a bit higher at around 175 Ė 180 bpm with a max in the low 190s. My resting heart rate is typically around 55-59 bpm.

    My first race of the year (Bluff Creek Ranch, Ward, TX) was 7.5 mile sprint race where I averaged 185 bpm for the 41 minute race. Last weekend was my second race (Double Lakes, Coldspring, TX) where I averaged a ridiculous 195 with a max of 205 for the 12.5 mile 60 minute race! The weather conditions and trail type were about as different as can be, but Iíve never seen numbers like those at Double Lakes and frankly it was a hard race but it didnít seem that insane. :-)

    Afterwards I got to thinking that while itís great that I pushed myself harder than I ever have before, did I push myself too hard? While Iím certainly not a seasoned pro, I have spoken to enough riders to know that those are not normal heart rates and Iím just wondering if I should be concerned with the possibility of potentially pushing myself too far? How big of a factor does weather, hydration, etc play in heart rates?

    I havenít had a physical in a few years, so I planned on scheduling one here within the next week or so and talking to the doc about it, but like I said earlier, I was just hoping to get some thoughts and opinions from you all as I know many of you religiously track your physio metrics.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  14. #14
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    Sorry, hijack of thread, but related... I have a question related to Heart rate. How big of a tool is knowing your heart rate in terms of training and working out, and then racing?

    Like, i've never really focused on my heart rate other than trying to keep it down while training / racing etc, but do you guys really keep a close eye to have a good idea of "how hard" your going?

    Is a heart rate monitor really worth the $ if your serious about this stuff?

    Which ones would people recommend?

    Thanks in advance...

  15. #15
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    I am 45 years old and I can still see 195, when I was in my late 20's and early 30's, I could easily go over 200. Some of us can just go high. Everyone is different but I would not worry about it.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by CBRsteve View Post
    So the thread title gets right to it, how high of a heart rate is bordering on unsafe? First off, I realize that each person is different and that only a doctor should provide the guidance I seek, but I just wanted to get some of your folks thoughts.

    Some background info: I am pretty new to racing (only done four in the past 12 months) and I generally finish around the top 50% within my class Cat 3 30 Ė 39. I am 6í3 175lbs. I generally have a higher heart rate than my buddies while we ride, but my also tends to drop off quite a bit quicker than theirs. While slightly exaggerated, we likened it to their hear rate profile looking like rolling hills while mine looks like peaks and valleys.

    Due to work/family schedule Iím relegated to riding on the trainer 2/3 times a week and get out on my bikes only once a week. I try to put in around 6 hours a week on the bikes. I keep all of my heart rate stats for every ride whether itís on the trainer, road or trails. I generally tend to average around mid 165-170 bpm on my trainer which feels relatively rigorous. On road rides I average pretty much the exact same, 165 Ė 170 bpm with a max in the low 180s. Trail rides tend to average a bit higher at around 175 Ė 180 bpm with a max in the low 190s. My resting heart rate is typically around 55-59 bpm.

    My first race of the year (Bluff Creek Ranch, Ward, TX) was 7.5 mile sprint race where I averaged 185 bpm for the 41 minute race. Last weekend was my second race (Double Lakes, Coldspring, TX) where I averaged a ridiculous 195 with a max of 205 for the 12.5 mile 60 minute race! The weather conditions and trail type were about as different as can be, but Iíve never seen numbers like those at Double Lakes and frankly it was a hard race but it didnít seem that insane. :-)

    Afterwards I got to thinking that while itís great that I pushed myself harder than I ever have before, did I push myself too hard? While Iím certainly not a seasoned pro, I have spoken to enough riders to know that those are not normal heart rates and Iím just wondering if I should be concerned with the possibility of potentially pushing myself too far? How big of a factor does weather, hydration, etc play in heart rates?

    I havenít had a physical in a few years, so I planned on scheduling one here within the next week or so and talking to the doc about it, but like I said earlier, I was just hoping to get some thoughts and opinions from you all as I know many of you religiously track your physio metrics.

    Thanks for your thoughts!
    You also raced at 1:30, right? By then, it was getting hot, which might have contributed to your high heart rate. I raced at 9:00 and by my third lap could feel the heat coming on. I agree with other posters that there's acceptable variation with Max HR. But it wouldn't hurt to get a stress test and echocardiogram if you have worries. Check out the Strava entries for DL. I agree that "average," which I emphasize, 195 HR seems high for that race. But maybe your heart beats faster than others.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by On3_kn0WN View Post
    Sorry, hijack of thread, but related... I have a question related to Heart rate. How big of a tool is knowing your heart rate in terms of training and working out, and then racing?

    Like, i've never really focused on my heart rate other than trying to keep it down while training / racing etc, but do you guys really keep a close eye to have a good idea of "how hard" your going?

    Is a heart rate monitor really worth the $ if your serious about this stuff?

    Which ones would people recommend?

    Thanks in advance...
    Knowing your lactate threshold is useful. Heart rate as a number by itself is pretty meaningless. I've found a timed hill climb +/- 10 minutes more useful. That only requires a stop watch.

  18. #18
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    It's always a good idea to check in with a doc. But....you are new to this sport and are experiencing high heart rates when you ride. This is a sign that your aerobic fitness is weak. And that also means you are probably toughing out all those rides!

    You would benefit from doing an aerobic endurance block where you would see your speed/power improve at a lower heart rate. Once that plateaus (or you decide to move on), train your higher energy systems (Google Phil Maffetone). Even on limited training time, you should still lay some kind of a base down.

    I've been injured and had trained a limited amount of training time over the last month. My power has jumped 17 watts at the same low heart rate (148ish bpm)...which is not bad for putting in as few hours as I have.
    Turning the pedals faster every year.

  19. #19
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    It seems high and the variation is odd, but everybody is different. Heart rate monitors vary in quality and can be affected by a bad battery. I would:

    1. Change the battery in the hrm.
    2. Perform a lactate threshold test on a trainer or something like that to give you a more accurate base line. It's not that hard to do.

    Your heart rate can also increase (and sometimes decrease) if you're dehydrated. Again, the reaction is dependent on the person.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by On3_kn0WN View Post
    Sorry, hijack of thread, but related... I have a question related to Heart rate. How big of a tool is knowing your heart rate in terms of training and working out, and then racing?

    Like, i've never really focused on my heart rate other than trying to keep it down while training / racing etc, but do you guys really keep a close eye to have a good idea of "how hard" your going?

    Is a heart rate monitor really worth the $ if your serious about this stuff?

    Which ones would people recommend?

    Thanks in advance...
    I think it's important, especially for training. Once you get your lactate threshold dialed in, it helps with increasing or decreasing the intensity of your workouts in a more scientific manner. Also, you'll know how many calories you're burning and what you need as far as nutrition is concerned for recovery. I don't usually watch it too much during a race and go more by feel, unless the race is going more than 2 hours. The longer the race, the more I will use it and monitor my hr. I've used Polar and Garmin. I like my new Garmin better, but Polar still makes a quality and accurate hrm.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by TJRosson View Post
    You also raced at 1:30, right? By then, it was getting hot, which might have contributed to your high heart rate. I raced at 9:00 and by my third lap could feel the heat coming on.
    Yeah, it as 85 degrees at the start of the race according to my buddy...



    Quote Originally Posted by Sparty99
    Your heart rate can also increase (and sometimes decrease) if you're dehydrated.
    I was unfortunately quite dehydrated... which was especially odd because I'd drank 2 liters of water over the 4 hours prior to the race.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by CBRsteve View Post
    Yeah, it as 85 degrees at the start of the race according to my buddy...





    I was unfortunately quite dehydrated... which was especially odd because I'd drank 2 liters of water over the 4 hours prior to the race.
    I like to hydrate 72 hrs prior to a race and continue hydrating until the race start.
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  23. #23
    Rod
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    I hit 206 on my heart rate monitor two weeks ago. I went a little too hard at a very long hill on my single speed. I was fine. I just needed to catch my breath. You're not alone man
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  24. #24
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    The heart rate where your legs feel like cement. That one!

  25. #25
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    First welcome to racing! At Cat 3 racing only 1 lap at distances lasting an hour or less, I wouldn't get too concerned with heart rate. Go by how your body feels. You appear to have been riding long enough to know your body and recover quickly if you do spike it. Use that as a guide rather than your HRM.

    At Warda, my HRM showed a reading of 223 before we got to the pond...so I backed off and dropped to 15th place. I then had a hard time getting through the slower traffic to get back to the front in a one lap race. Now I ignore my HRM at the start and concentrate more on my breathing.

    I'm a fitness instructor and teach breathing technics to slow down your HR. You can slow it down 20 BPM almost instantly by just slowing down your breathing with long slow deep breaths. Tell yourself to relax and don't get too amped up. You will ride smoother too...and smoother is faster.

    I'm 44 and my HRM shows an average of mid 180's and peak in the low 190's in an XC race. Now when you cat up and race twice as long or do longer races then your HR will be a bigger factor. Then your conditioning level will determine how long you can run higher HR's and how quickly you recover. In longer races of 4 hours, I try to stay under 165, and in 12+ hour races I try to stay under 145 bpm.

    Now go race Dallas and keep your head up, keep your weight on your pedals, brake less, push the steep climbs as hard as you can, control your breathing on the flats and downhills, and go all out on the last steep climb to the finish. Don't worry about the HRM unless it says you are under 170, then you know you can push harder. In your class, the top 7 or so riders are on the gas the whole time and don't let up.

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