View Full Version : heart rate concerns

05-29-2005, 10:21 AM
So, the boyfriend (I noticed you guys use abbreviations here, so from now on...BF) gave me a gift certificate and I purchased a heart rate monitor. I know my heart rate has always been very high, as I'd been put onto the sidelines in a running class in college because they were afraid I'd have a heart attack (no joke). But, I wanted to monitor it now and see if I've had any change as I've gotten older.

Apparently it's not common to need 30-40 mins to warm up. I'd noticed in all my physical activities that it takes me that long to get into my "groove" and feel energized.

Knowing that, I checked the heart rate monitor. Depending on which site you go to, my heart rate for a 39 yr old female s/b max of 170 or 179. I set the monitor to 179. The ride from my BF's starts out w/hills. I checked, and I hit 184 within the first 10 mins of the ride, and my heart rate stayed in the high 160's to low 170's for about the first 40 mins. Then, sure enough, it dropped to the 140's and stayed there and 150's until the last hill coming home. I pushed as hard as I could up the hill (my goal was to not get below 7mph) and I managed to hit 173 bpm again, but that was pushing as hard as I could.

My question is why does it take me so long to warm up and is this a sign of poor health or lack of conditioning? Also, why does my heart rate go so high in the first 40 mins, but then I can't get it there no matter how hard I try later on? Also, the BF says the ability to achieve a higher heart rate than the norm is a sign of good conditioning, but he also thinks a good deal of the trouble I have with hills is because of the need to achieve greater cardio conditioning. So far, both guys I have ridden with have noticed the same issue; I hit a hill and it's like I hit quicksand, I just suddenly slow way down. Is it muscle? Is it cardio? I am seeing improvement, but it's very slow...I first went up that hill about 4 mos ago at about 5mph and was ready to cry w/exhaustion when I got home. Yesterday I did 7mph and I was tired but invigorated.

Sorry for the long post!

05-29-2005, 10:57 AM
Heart rate is a very individual thing. I'm just a year younger than you, my max heart rate is 195, based on testing done at sports medicine facility. It takes me about 20 minutes to really get into my groove. I prefer that to be on the flat.

How long was your ride? Were you eating properly? I know if I don't eat, I can't get my heart rate up.

As far as hills go, part of it is probably the power to weight ratio. I weigh probably 30 - 40 pounds more than some of the other women I'm riding with. They definitely climb faster than I do! But when we're riding on the flat or even a shorter hill, I can hang with them. We have roughly the same power, but their smaller mass gives them an advantage when climbing. I'm going to start tucking rocks into their bags. :D

It seems to me you're making progress and that's what really matters. Do you realize in 4 months you've improved your speed average 40% on that hill that used to leave you exhausted? Keep riding and having fun.


05-29-2005, 12:58 PM
Good points you made, but reminds of a few things I should have included in the post. I think I'm probably average weight, but a bit short. 5'3", about 130lbs. So, I'm really not lugging a lot up the hills. The BF mentioned that to me as well...so I should be much better on hills than flats and downhill, but it's been the reverse for me.

And I am eating. I never used to eat at all when I hiked, but now I make myself bring some powerbars. I eat before the ride (at least a latte and a scone or something like that) and have at least one powerbar while I ride. My rides are usually 2-3hrs (can be longer and are shorter during the week). I also drink gatoraide and am getting xtran to mix w/the gatoraide as that gives a good boost as well. I'm eating enough that it takes me a while after my ride to get hungry (but then I'm really hungry). I'm also finding that even drinking the gatoraide makes me feel a little nauseated...it's really hard to eat while doing physical activity!

Hmmm...and I did not think of the improvement in those terms. I was thinking more overall...that I need to get up to 9 or 10mph on the uphills (and comfortably). Maybe in a year, then.

Good to know your warmup is a bit longer...20 mins is still a lot shorter than 40, but I thought most people are closer to 5-10 mins.

So, is a higher heart rate a measure of cardio fitness? Or does that simply mean I'm pushing too hard in the warmup and doing damage? Do I need more muscle or more cardio to get up the hills? I'm confused and don't know what to work on. Plus, if I add weight training, how do you ever have a day when your muscles aren't torn? You do a ride one day (which tears the muscles) then you do weights the next day, and then a ride....you either don't get to ride as much, don't get to workout as much or you never heal. :mad:

05-29-2005, 01:19 PM
How do your legs feel when you're climbing?


05-29-2005, 02:13 PM
I am 45 and need about 30 mins to feel warmed up. I make a point of taking it easy before tackling any hard part of the ride during that phase or else I feel my pulse going up too fast, triggering soreness, etc. However (and I have had a complete workout ith Vo2 max, etc.), if I do it right, I am very productive in terms of energy output, pulse never goes really high but I can do any climb I want to.

I think you need to figure out why you want your heart rate to go high. Many of us try to schedule Zone 1 and Zone 2 heart rate rides for long, base conditioning, trying to KEEP the heart rate in that zone. Then, other days, we do hill repeaters to get the heart rate up and have recovery intervals. Going for max or high rate all the time isn't the way my team's training program is put together.

I suggest you read Carmichael's The Ultimate Ride. He is Lance's coach and knows a lot about how to train (our program is based on those principles).

As for food - you need to learn to eat and ride or you will max out. Gatorade is sugar water and I cannot swallow it. Try something made for cycling like Indurox or Cytomax. Gel packs work too.

As for lifting, I do that in the winter. The rest of the training program is alternating, so you get the hard stuff in anyway. For example, yesterday was 25 miles of hard hill repeaters, so today was a fast 35 miles of "magic carpet". Tomorrow is a Zone 2 LONG training ride. (A little off the norm due to holiday weekend). So, the hard work that is similar to the lifting was done on the hills, finished off with the quick pace/spinning workout and tomorrow is a day of rest! But, variety gets it done.

05-29-2005, 05:12 PM
Veronica-my legs are very tired and I definitely frequently feel lactic acid buildup, even on days where I'm doing nothing other than a few stairs coming home (I assume lactic acid buildup is that feeling like you have no blood in your legs?). I've had a few days that ended with my legs shaking, although it's been a few weeks since that last happened.

Neuroticyclist-Ok, so when doing hills, slow way down on the flat or downhill to give your heart a chance to settle down? (I'd been doing hills once or twice per week, but I just started cycling to work, so I will have 10 miles each way (20 a day) with pretty good hills in there -I will be doing that every other day). What should it settle down to (what percentage of max heart rate)? And how many miles is a short hilly day? I've been doing about 30 miles w/hills and trying to do 40-55 on longer flatter days. And, on those flat days, what percentage of max heart rate do you try to keep yourself at?

After yesterday's ride, I did decide that I need to start riding mostly flat for about 20 mins before I take off on my ride (there is no other way to get where I need to go without hitting those hills which start the ride,short of driving somewhere which isn't feasible during the week). I think that might help; I can't help but think that getting my heart rate up to the max immediately into the ride isn't a good thing. And no, I really don't want my heart rate to go so high. It just tends to do that in a warmup. Even on days we've started on fairly flat terrain, I can feel my heart racing just getting warmed up (I didn't have a monitor, but it's not hard to tell your heart is racing). Based on the days I've worn the monitor, it seems my initial heart rate even on a flat will be in the 170's. I assume based on Veronica's comments that my max heart rate is probably not really 179 (well, it can't be if I hit 184 and that's far from the worst I've felt). If I assume it's closer to 185-186, then I'm starting out at at something like 92% of the max...is that detrimental to improvement?

Honestly, I'm not trying to get in shape for a competition or anything like that. I just really enjoy taking myself as hard and far as I can go. I know most ladies either train for some competition or just enjoy the rides-I'm kind of a combination of those two. I immensely enjoy pushing myself as hard as I can for as long as I can, but I don't want to hurt myself. That will just screw up future rides, you know?

05-30-2005, 05:21 AM
It is possible that a high heart rate might be normal for you because of the size of your heart. Only a cardiologist can determine what is going on. Just for grins, why not schedule an appt with your doc?

As for lifting, I lift harder in the winter but I don't quit in the summer. I believe that lifting is an essential part of being healthy. I do more upper body work in the summer and work legs once or twice a week (and then I don't push heavy weights - I try to keep my reps at 12-15). If I ride the next day, I keep it moderate to easy. My leg work is primarily glutes & hams, I don't do direct quad work. So, I'll do deadlifts, squats, lunges and for the hammies, leg curls (seated is good because it approximates riding) and straight legged deadlifts. Oh, and calf work - standing and seated.

Hang in there.

05-30-2005, 08:03 AM
Good points you made, but reminds of a few things I should have included in the post. I think I'm probably average weight, but a bit short. 5'3", about 130lbs. So, I'm really not lugging a lot up the hills. The BF mentioned that to me as well...so I should be much better on hills than flats and downhill, but it's been the reverse for me.
Good to know your warmup is a bit longer...20 mins is still a lot shorter than 40, but I thought most people are closer to 5-10 mins.
So, is a higher heart rate a measure of cardio fitness? Or does that simply mean I'm pushing too hard in the warmup and doing damage?

Hi Lynne ~ I can't answer all your questions but will attempt a couple. Firstly, I am 5'2", 105 lbs (probably 110 when wearing a helmet and cycling clothes), and hills are definitely my weakest point. I should be a great climber since I'm so light and often ride a carbon-fiber road bike, right? Wrong? I'm definitely a better climber than I used to be, but part of being petite is having a smaller lung capacity than the guys. Coupled with asthma (which I take meds for, but still...), I huff and puff way more than my companions on the climbs, and my heart rate goes up and up. At 44, I figure my max HR to be around 185 or so because I've hit as high as 182 on a killer climb, most climbs get me to 172-175 bpm.

A high heart rate is not a measure of cardio fitness. Usually just the opposite. My DH, who is fantastic shape, tends to average about 30 bpm lower than me on a ride. So if my average HR is 158 for a ride, his might be 128. He is a fantastic climber, and his HR rarely climbs above 150 on a climb, as he beats us all to the top! What I have read as a good measure of aerobic fitness is recovery heart rate: i.e., after you've hit a good, high HR on a climb, how quickly does your HR decrease by 30 bpm? If it happens within a minute, that's considered good - 30 seconds is even better. I notice that when I hit, say 170 bpm on a climb, my HR quickly goes to 140 bpm or even lower on the downside, so I consider that my aerobic fitness is pretty good, despite the high HR. Women also tend to have higher resting heart rates than men, no matter how fit they are. Smaller people (just like birds!) have higher HR than larger people.

I'm 44, and it takes me probably 30 minutes to get into my groove and really warmed up on a ride as well. We have hills from the very start of most rides I do, like you, and my HR also tends to soar early in the ride when I'm not warmed up yet. It moderates as I ride, but I am still able to get it up high later in the ride when I hit a good hill, so I can't address your question of why you can never reach your early-ride HR later in the ride. I can (unfortunately - because it doesn't feel good!) I can ride pretty long with a HR in the low 160s, where my husband will be cruising in the 130s, so I try to tell him that I am working a LOT harder than he is. Still, being larger and heavier, he burns more calories than me on every ride, even with his lower HR. Just isn't fair! :mad:

Anywho, I doubt there's anything wrong with you...the max. HR calculations are notorious for being wrong, so don't worry about that part of it. I do think we require longer warm-up times as we age, but you don't mention your age that I saw, so I am not sure if that applies to you or not.

Hope this helped at least a little!


05-30-2005, 11:02 AM
It is interesting to read everyone's ideas on HR. As I am very new to the sport and am just getting started because of waiting on my equipment by BF is trying to coach me and "break me in" so that I can get with riding with groups sooner. I have been on 3 rides so far..one of 40k, one for 65k, and another short really tough hills that is 10% grade all the way to the top. The first two I thought I was doing pretty well, most of the climbing was 6-8%grade. I was slow but I didn't feel like I was just going to fall off but going up the 10% made me feel like my heart was going to jump out.

At what percentage of your max heart rate do you all find that you warm up with less cramping and more control of breathing? My BF is pushing me so it is 25-30kph from the start and I feel like my legs just are cramping up. Then are you just staying in the red zone for most of the ride? Or just on fairly steep hills?

Also, do any of you have a good recommendation for a computer to track speed/grade/milage?


05-30-2005, 11:27 AM
I am so glad I started this thread! This issue has been hanging over my head since college (yeah, so a good 20 years). I will probably go to a doctor just to get an idea of what I should and should not be doing. What kind of doctor do you go to? Sports physiologist? How do you find a good one (don't take this the wrong way, but I'd like to see someone who works out himself/herself so they understand why I'm asking the whacky questions I'm asking, you know?)

emily_in_nc: I'm 39 yrs old...I'd had that in my other posts so didn't bring it up again. It never even occurred to me that being older might be the reason I need a longer warm up. I'd never heard that before and have always had a pretty long warm up period anyway. I guess in a way I thought it was age-related because I figured I must be naturally losing my conditioning as I age. Can I just say how happy I am to hear so many others who need more than the pre-requisite 5-10 mins to warmup??? :)

With regards to weight training; it really is seeming to me to mostly be a muscle issue, less so a cardio issue. I have been lifting weights off and on since I was 15 or 16 yrs old, and for a good portion of that time I went for build, not toning. But, I've never before had my muscles hot (lactic acid buildup) for more than 24 hrs at most. This is so unusual for me. On the other hand, Emily, you make an excellent point. My pulse had always gone down extremely quickly. I notice it is not doing that as much on the hills in the warmup (it still is on the hills after I've been riding for a while). Must just be my physiology. I think I need to find some way around riding the hills immediately from the start...the more I read your posts and the more I consider the issue, the more concerned I am that my heart is working so very hard at the start and not coming down like it should.

On the other hand, the lowest my resting pulse had ever been when I was younger was 70-some bpm. I wore the monitor all night last night, and my average was 58bpm! That's phenominal for me (I was a REALLY active kid, so in high school and college I would think it should have been much lower than the 170's). I think I need to wear it a second night to make sure there was no malfunction ;)

There are races here out at the local car race track and my BF is going to try his hand at that today. Apparently, you can bring your bike and run around the track as a ride before the races begin (even if you aren't racing). I am going to bring my bike (if I don't chicken out) and see what happens. It's all flat of course, plenty of time to warm up and it's a very cool day today. I suppose this will be a good test to learn if I need a flat long warm up and to see if I can keep my heart rate in a training zone continuously for an hour.

And Hakberg, once I'm warmed up, I am comfortable at about 89% of my max (assuming 184 IS my max). I get really bored when it gets down to 79% and feel like I'm coasting along. At 89% I am breathing deep but regular, not beet-red-faced and feel like I could ride forever. I do not know what others feel...

05-30-2005, 11:39 AM
Maybe I have read this thread too quickly, but I didn't see much on resting heart rate. Lynne, you talk about your resting HR when you were younger - I see you have rechecked it - cool... very low HR.

It is the gap between the resting HR and your max HR that is important. The bigger the gap and the quicker your HR drops/lowers when you stop exercising, the fitter you are.

I'm not sure how people calculate their max, if they don't know what their heart is doing resting or if they are just guessing. Taking an average or guessing your max will probably get you in the ball park - but not necessarily. Ultimately, your max is also determined by cycling as hard as you can til you want to puke (though not many of us push that hard - I have mine worked out by going up a hill as hard as pos til I felt like throwing up).

My sons' max out at a much higher rate than I do, because the younger you are (if you are fit) the higher your max will be compared to someone much older.

So as we gain fitness, our heart becomes fitter and can pump oxygen around our body more quickly to meet the increased demand. As we gain fitness, our heart also learns to drop back closer to resting when we aren't demanding the extra oxygen.

When you are unwell, you will find it almost impossible to get your heart rate up.

Knowledge of your heart rate assists with knowledge of your anaerobic fitness and lactic threshold.

Also, those cross-trainers and multi-sporters here will tell you that your heart rate min/max for a running programme cannot be transcribed onto a training programme for cycling.

I did a quick hunt through my favourites and found these two links...

This is quite a good link, not flashy, and lots of bullet points but it describes how to calculate your max, what a low heart rate means etc etc

This one is about differences between running and cycling heart rates

05-30-2005, 02:18 PM
Max HR, training zones, etc is so individual and based on so many different factors (genetics, fitness, etc)...

The old textbook Max HR of 220-age = MHR is a general template that takes nothing BUT age into consideration. A medically administered HR test is expensive, and sometimes hard to find a place that can do it.

I am 49, so using the old method of 220 - 49, my MHR = 171.

My waking HR is 49-54.
My resting HR (just sitting around) is 55-59.

If I'm spinning along chatting with others (or myself), I may crack 113 on the old HR monitor.

If I am pedaling as hard as I can up a big hill on the hottest day in July, my HR might hit 155... maybe. My recovery back down to 110-115 takes about 2 min.

This is now and I'm pretty sedentary.


05-30-2005, 03:16 PM
The age predicted heart rate (220-age) is considered highly inaccurate and is estimated to fit less that 1/3 of the population. There are several other methodologies to determine heart rates and some of the ways can be found in books by the late Edmund Burke (Precision Heart Rate Training), or books by Sally Edwards and Sally Reed (The Heart Rate Monitor Book for outdoor and indoor cyclists). Both not only explain heart rate training, but include several training methodologies.

I'm a Personal Trainer and cyclist and also have been teaching Spinning classes since 1997 and I have taken several classes on heart rate training. You know what my conclusion has been? Use the highest number ever seen as your probably 90% if heart rate max. This is the number you see (after thouroughly warming up), when you are working so hard that you're barely able to breath and feel dangerously close to puking. Most people don't want to work to that level.

Most people will experience high heart rates at the beginning of their workout effort. This is due to the body not being warmed up. The body actually goes through metabolic changes during the warm up that allows the blood flow which is normally centered around your core (where the important organs are), and shifts the blood flow out to the working muscles, allowing those muscles to start extracting the oxegon.

So, when you first start working out it's as though your body is a cold car with all the oil (blood), sitting there in the oil pan. After you start the engine, it takes awhile for the oild to flow to the working part of the engine (the muscles). So working without being thouroughly warmed up means your muscles are not ready to use the oxegon in your blood yet, which forces the muscles to find a different energy path with would be the anaerobic pathways, (without oxegon). That pathway results in the creation of lactic acid .

This may be more than you wanted to know, but in any case, there is a reason we go through a warm up and once your body has made the transition from pre-warm up to post warm up, everything seems easier.

Hope this helped a little. If you get a chance try reading some of the material out there by Sally Edwards & Sally Reed, or just do a Google search on the age predicated heart rates. :)

05-30-2005, 08:31 PM
That explains so much! I have such a terrible time w/lactic acid buildup. I was supposed to try out riding on a car race track tonight for an hour. This would have helped me learn a bit more about my heart rate and warm up style as it's completely flat (and I rarely have a chance to do that, and NEVER when starting out). However, I forgot my shoes (I always do stupid stuff like forgetting my shoes, sigh) and had to go back home to get them. So, I only got 15 mins and I started out in a hard sprint because I was frustrated. Sure enough, the heart rate went to 184bmp again immediately (no, that's not where I feel like I'm going to throw up...that's probably 90% of my max then). So, I guess it's not just hills. It's anything that's a hard fast start for me.

I'm going to go to the track again next week (prepared this time!!) and ride out for 1/2 hr at no more than 10-12mph. Then I want to try and do 6 laps (12 miles) all out. I really hope that I find that the 1/2 hr warmup lets me do killer speed on the 12 miles without immediate painful lactic acid and without feeling like I want to pass out (ok, a bit exaggerated, but you get the point).

If I find this is the case, then I know I need to do a long slow warmup, no matter how time-consuming and boring I may find it.

Thanks again for ALL the tips and help. I have read and pondered every word, read every resource posted and appreciate ALL of the advice. I'm going to be the best rider I can be so much sooner than I could have achieved otherwise! And, if I learn how to draft and whatnot, maybe I can give the 12 mile race at the track a go! I'd love to see how I do on flat if I find the warm up solves my problems :D (The BF tried it for the first time tonight, his first time ever racing...it was SO fun to watch and he had such a big grin on his face when he was done...it's contagious!)