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4429 Views 6 Replies Latest reply: Mar 9, 2009 10:13 AM by embirs
LowDead Pro 68 posts since
Feb 26, 2009
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Feb 26, 2009 11:45 AM

Heart Rate Too High? (Follow up to earlier question about heart rate)

Some background: I am 32, 6' tall and 165 lbs. I ran the mile and 2-mile for a couple of years early in highschool, but never got below a 6 minute mile. I was actually more of a sprinter but our team already had several upperclassmen that were very good sprinters so I got stuck with the milers. I did not run after highschool, but have always been active biking, playing softball and flag football, weight lifting (though I have always struggled to put on muscle weight), karate, etc, etc. I have always been known for my high intensity, quickness, and flexibility. My wife started running over a year ago and after her first race I was inspired to start also. So, the next weekend I set out in my cheap tennis shoes in the 95 degree Alabama heat to run a 5K in our neighborhood which included 2 good 2-3% grade hills. I "ran" the 3.1 miles in about 36 minutes, collapsed inside in the air conditioner with all the symptoms heat exhaustion, and suffered for 2 weeks with a severe case of plantar faciaitis. Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson and bought a good pair of running shoes, started over walking/slogging later in the evenings when it was not so hot, and gradually began to build my mileage and speed up. I did bump my mileage a little too quickly and developed ITBS but have since gotten over that as well. Nine months later, I can now run a 5K in about 23 minutes and just completed my first half-marathon at the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, AL in 2:05.


The Problem: A couple of months ago I bought a Garmin 305 with a HR monitor and was somewhat surprised to see that at what I percieved to be a moderate exertion level, my HR was around 190. When I push it a little harder, I have gotten as high as 208bmp, though even at that rate I am not gasping for air. An easy jog during which I can carry on a conversation will run me in the 180-185 range. I can, and often do, run 10 miles averaging 190bmp. Once I pass 195 though, I am lucky to get in a 1/4 mile. The funny thing is, when I put on my running clothes and walk outside just thinking about running, my heart rate jumps to 140+ just in anticipation of the run... I saw a doctor several times when I first started running to check on my plantar faciaitis and later on the ITBS. My cholesterol, triglycerides and sugar are all at normal or better levels. He checked my HR and BP and told me other than needing to train more consistently and to add mileage slowly, I had a clear bill of health. However, that was all before I had the HR monitor. Which is why I was so surprise at the high HR during runs. I checked my HR with the built-in monitor on a treadmill and with my wife's HR monitor (she uses a polar) and got the same results, so I am pretty sure my monitor is accurate.



The question: Is this ok? I mean, if I feel ok, then is running at 190bpm going to hurt me? I don't want to be one of those guys that just drops dead during a run.

  • Legend 1,556 posts since
    Jun 5, 2007

    Have you heard the equation 220 - your age = your max HR? That would put you at 188. This doesn't work for everyone. I'm 25yrs old and have a max of 206 but its the generally accepted rule. I just think something sounds fishy. Are you sure the settings are all filled in correctly? Do you have any sports medicine doctors or triathlon coaches near you? I think you should get a legit Vo2Max test done and really get to the bottom of this. That's just my opinion, but you'll get all the data you could ever want plus some from a test like that.


    On the other hand, when I ran with my brother over the holidays, I was running right next to him and we were both wearing our 405s. I asked him his HR and he said 145, mine was 175.

  • lenzlaw Community Moderator 10,539 posts since
    Jan 18, 2008

    I agree with Toby. To figure this out you need to know your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) and the best way to do that is to get tested. I have seen ways you can approximate it yourself, by running, not through a formula. I think Runner's World online may have an article on the subject, I'm not sure if Active does or not.






    Let's throw some hypothetical numbers at it. You said you've done 10 miles at 190. Let's say that 190 puts you at 85% of what's called your "heart rate reserve". And let's assume your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is 60. You can find your RHR (close enough) by taking your pulse when you wake up in the morning. Don't even sit up, just lay there and take your pulse. Heart rate reserve is MHR minus RHR. Take 85% of that and add RHR back in to get your exercise heart rate (190). The missing factor is MHR but working backwards from 60, 190 and 85% we get MHR 212. We don't know that's what yours is, because you've never been tested. But that's what it would need to be for 190 to be 85%. 212 is pretty high, though not unheard of, and you've hit 208, so 212 is not so hard to believe. But, as you can see, you don't know what 190 means unless you know your MHR.











  • DaisyO Rookie 6 posts since
    Feb 13, 2009


    I had pretty much the same question when I started the Couch to 5K and posted it here. Then I proceeded to search books & the internet, asked an aerobics instructor that is also a medical professional and found a book & website by a marathon running sports MD (Dr Carol Otis,   Here is what I found out:



    First of al, I found a few different max heart rate tests - including the one that says if you are overweight or old or sick - don't do it without a doctor. I also found about 6 - yes SIX!!!! - other formulas to determine your max heart rate - YIKES!!  The general "220 minus your age" is a VERY rough estimate and DOES not apply to everybody.



    1. It is pretty much impossible to damage your heart with aerobic exercise unless you already have an unhealthy heart and give yourself a heart attack with the increased demand;



    2. Training at 90% can be an important part of increasing cardiovascular fitness and training your body & heart for sprints and speedwork;



    3. The charts are not 100% accurate (which we have all pretty much agreed with), every one is different; and the only TRUE test is to have a cardiac stress test done while hooked to an EKG (the kind they do as part of a cardiac workup in a hospital or doctor's office);



    4. Your maximum HR is theoretically the fastest your heart can beat at your "all out maximum level of effort" - so as long your body can do it, your heart will keep up; your body will stop before your heart does.



    The big difference between my question and yours was that your heart rate goes up before the run starts. Maybe Dr. Otis's website says something about that. I didn't look.









  • lenzlaw Community Moderator 10,539 posts since
    Jan 18, 2008


    Unfortunately, the typical cardiac stress test does not push you to your maximum. They take you to an exertion level that is determined by your age and overall health, but they make no attempt to get you to your maximum.










  • JustDavid Rookie 1 posts since
    Mar 8, 2009


    It sounds like you don't need any calculations to estimate your max HR. You already know it is somewhere around 208. The calculations are purely estimates based on averages. You differ to the high side. I do as well, but not quite as extreme. I'm 39 and have peaked out as high as 192. I can have a heart rate of 180 and keep chugging along without a problem. I verified my Garmin 305 against my brothers (swapped during a run), with consistent results. My brothers HR runs about 10 BPM lower than mine (I'm not sure who got the better genes). When I first used my Garmin 305 and realized how high my heart rate was relative to others, I had the same concern you do.I tried to find information on it on the web, but found nothing that said it was dangerous.



    Similar to you, I was a sprinter in high school and have always been in good shape. Swore I would never run distance. Then caught the marathon bug from a good friend a couple years ago.  Have since run 1 full marathon and 3 half marathons. Long story short, you're not alone with a high heart rate. I did quite a bit of research and found nothing saying it was an issue. I haven't discussed it with a physician and haven't had a reason to as it hasn't caused any problems for me.



    As for your heart rate jumping before a run... that just sounds like a good dose of adrenalin!



    If you do find something more out about what causes such a high heart rate, please let me know as I have been curious for a couple years now.






  • embirs Rookie 1 posts since
    Apr 24, 2008





    I have always had a high heart rate.  In High School when I was at my slimest I was often around 100 bpm.  Now that I'm in my 40s and running regularly I'm in the 60-70 bpm range when resting.  Put me on a treadmill and I'm at 190 almost instantly.  I was concerned so I asked my doctor (who is also a runner).  He said that since I'm healthy, there's no medical reason to worry about my heart rate.  The reason they don't want you to go past your MHR is that doing so, as you've found out, will cause you to overexert yourself and start to feel ill.  People who do this tend to stop exercising believing it makes them feel bad.  If you stay under your MHR, you should feel better after your workouts.   Hills are my issue right now.  I have all the energy and power to run up them without losing pace but I find myself feeling nauseous within a few moments of the crest --oddly not on the way up unless the hill is both steep and long.  The feeling will pass, but it does slow me down significantly as I begin to keep an eye out for a more private place to lose my cookies.  I don't have a heart monitor other than the one on my treadmill.  It's hard for me to slow down on a big hill during a race but I'm working on it.  It usually takes at least 5 min for the nausea to pass but I've yet to actually need that private place.  I've had to stop and walk half a mile after a huge hill at mile 8 of a 1/2 marathon and was sure I'd be unable to finish...what had started out as a record setting day ended in a struggle to keep moving forward.   You know what your MHR is, you don't need a formula.  It's 195.  That's the point at which your body decides it has too much and will no longer keep up the pace.  If you wanna feel good during and after your runs you're going to have to stay under that number.   If you want to be able to go faster or longer, you need to train more or train better, all the while keeping your HR under 195.  Oh, and I'm 42.  My formula based MHR is allegedly 178.  I can blow right by that number with no ill affects at all.  If I trained under 178 all the time I think I'd never progress. 



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