Heart rate too high??!!

I couldn't decide whether to post this on training, or health or beginners, but decided on the latter.

I've just splashed out on a heart rate monitor (I just love all the facts and figures of this running lark) - and I've read about training zones as a %age of WHR.

However ... I figure that at 42 my WHR should be very roughly 178. Even when I run really gently my HR goes over 160, and a moderate run, which doesn't leave me half dead, results in a HR of 184. I've cross checked these by manually taking my pulse. Slowing down to barely more than running on the spot only reduces it to about 160.

I've been running for about 6 months, usually about 5k 3 times a week, usually at about 9min miles. Today's run which produced a HR of 184 was 10-11 min miles. My resting HR 1st thing in the morning ranges from 52-56.

So - am I far less fit than I thought I was? Is training at this HR 3 times a week a problem? Should I be doing walk/run more often?

I'd really appreciate any input and advice.



  • Hi Jo

    Don't reach for the Beta-Blockers just yet!

    The 220 - your heart rate is only a guide - quite a few of us are "high beaters".

    My RHR is 45ish, my max is 202 and my 10 mile race rate is about 178 / 180 - not as high as your's I guess, but sonewhat similar.

    What's your breathing like at 184bpm? What's the highest rate you recorded? What's your recovery rate like when you stop?

    Anyone else got any ideas?

  • No more ideas - but I'm in the same boat - I've had hotel gym equipment cut out on me when my HR has exceeded 220, and altho I'm very one paced - dead slow - on any jog my HR hovers around 180+. Resting HR is c54-59.

    I used to worry about it but now I just accept it and use it as an excuse not to push myself!
  • The figures given are only a general guide, and also I think are stuck to zealously by gym staff keen to avoid a law suit against them if one completely unfit person keels over on anything above 120.

    I've found that as I've got fitter, I can happily run way above what I "should" running at. In the early days, 160 was scary, whereas now it's actually quite low, and I often spend long periods of time way higher than this with no ill effects. Not to say you shouldn't worry at all about high heart rates, but I think it depends to a large extent on the individual.

  • Thank you for the reassurance guys - nice to know I'm not so abnormal after all!

    Gavin - I don't know what my max rate is - I only got the HRM on Friday - but I guess the next stage is to test myself to see how high I can get it.
    At 180 I was pushing myself, but could have kept going further than the 3.5miles I did, breathing was hard but not burning (ie. not conversational, but I could have managed a couple of words at a time). As for recovery rate - within a minute or two of stopping its down to about 135, but then takes about 10mins to get below 100. Its usually about 80-85 during general moving around during the day.
  • Maybe it's just me (and you!) but I find that while my heart rate drops pretty quickly when I stop running, it takes quite a while to get back to what it was before I started exerting myself.

  • Just to re-assure you - my 220-age is 176 - but my max is around 188 bpm. I race 10 milers at around 165 bpm.
    Go and buy the Heart rate training for compleat idiots book - it will explain all!!
    (no, i don't receive commission, but i do recommend it to all my beginners who purchase HRMs and now have several trainees who are all doing well.)
  • Echo dangly spice's comments on the book, it will explain all.

    the simple age formula suggests my max should be 177, however, I have seen 190 on my HRM. I averaged 174 for a 10k last week, including the last mile (uphill) at around 184.

    before you get the book its worth noting that there two types of calculation often done

    1) %max HR just that (see my 10k) 174/190 = 92%

    2) %WHR: WHR = max HR - resting HR (taken before you get up) so for me WHR = 190-52 = 138. my 10k % WHR = (174-52)/138 = 88%.

    confused: get the book or read the RW website articles about HR training. its good stuff. But do be aware of the two methods especially when copying a training schedule, if you use the wrongs calcs you good be being way to hard or way too easy on yourself.



  • Had a look on Amazon, who say that this book is either out of stock at the publisher, or is out of print.

    Any suggestions about where I may be able to get one - other online booksellers - specialist running shops?
  • Hi Jo. If you read some of the other postings you will see I have just joined these forums but I have been a specialist womens athletic coach for over 30 years.

    Your Heart Rate ( and indeed many of those who have answered your posting ) are quite high, but really you do need to establish what your maximum HR is. That is difficult when you are just starting out because you are not likely to be up to performing a full test to establish what it is. Another very critical point is your Anaerobic threshold which would also establish what your running pace is at this point.

    Heart Rates on their own mean vary little unless they can be related to running pace. Yes I know the book will say you can set a heart rate range and run within that range but once you have connected this with running pace you dont have to keep worrying about what your HR is doing. Except that is to monitor improvements,ie. If you could run at say 7 min mile pace at say 80% of maxHR now , if you train correctly in 3 months time you may manage that at say 75% of maxHR and you will find your overal running pace and hence time have improved.

    However for now you shoud try to establish your maxHR. what has been suggested so far on other postings will not really do this. What that is doing is more a matter of HR drift,ie. HR goes up with distance even when running at an even pace. Although this is an important subject you need not worry about that right now.

    So here is a simple test that will establish your maxHR.

    If you use a running track do 2 x 800metres with 90seconds recovery ( keep moveing very slowly during recovery almost like jogging on the spot ) The pace of the first 800m must be quite fast say at your best mile pace. The second must be faster with a flat out last 150metres.

    If you have no access to a track do it on running time. 2 x 3minutes with 90secs recovery. As before do the first at best mile pace, it is best to than turn around a run back to your starting point but obviously this time you must get past it as you should be running faster. The last say 30sec bust should help with this.

    So there you are,once maxHR is established you can work out your training Zones.

    Incidently it seems from what you have stated the your HR reserve is quite large,ie.maxHR-RestingHR, that would suggest you have a good training potential.

    If you need anymore help please Email me at rong@runningcoach.freeserve.co.uk

    It would be nice to know how you get on all the best Ron.

    Your HR will reach it max at the end of this session.

    IMPORTANT. As with any session if you start to feel ill , dizzy etc than stop.
    Dont forget to warm up and down.
  • OK, so now I'm really confused. As I said at the outside, a moderate run gave me a HR of up to 184 (average over 35 mins of 178).

    I have just been out and done a max heart rate test as suggested by Ron. ie. run fast 3 mins, 90sec jog/walk recover, 3mins fast including final 30sec burst - at the end of which I was pooped - certainly couldn't have run any faster.

    And the result - 183!

    The only thing that I can think of that may have affected this was taking a puff of my Ventolin inhaler before I set out - which I don't always do - it depends how I'm feeling. Or was the earlier result just due to HR drift and best ignored?

    So how do I work out my training zones - I certainly don't feel as if I'm normally running at close to 100%.

    Suggestions please!

  • sorry - meant outset - can't type tonight!
  • Hi Jo. Pleased to see you have done the maxHR test. your use of the inhaler should not have made any difference to HR responce to the test but it could have made you actualy feel better within yourself.

    The test shows that your maxHR is around the 183 from the test result and 184 from what you have reached during your longer slower runs.

    It is quite common for people who just do a constant same run at a slower pace to produce results like yours. ie even the runs where you feel you are not pushing it show high HR levels. The main reason for this is that you have not done enough, or maybe none at all, training that will help your fitness levels to improve. Your body has got quite used to what it is asked to do and so why should it feel any need to change.

    Yes your body does think like that and in fact will usually do so without you even realising it. The whole point of training is to overcome the bodies natural reaction to do as little as possible.

    So Jo you need to vary your training so it includes shorter faster sessions, some hills and a few longer runs. Plus of course rest periods to allow the body to readjust or as it is called. To allow adaptation to take place.

    I do not advise you rush into a sudden change to short fast sessions. When you do your next 5k run dont keep a sready pace try fast slow. The best session to make an impact on HR and to produce general fitness is a session known as just below and just above your anaerobic threshold. ie

    3min just below- 1min just above then repeat in a continous run. How many times you repeat should increase over time . suggest you do it 3 times to start with and then after 2weeks go up to 4 than 1week later make it 5.

    Another session to do is 8 minutes at Anaerobic pace. rest and repeat. After 4weeks do it 3 times.

    JO. the message I have produced is to long.I will try to send the rest later.
    For now here is the Training Zones.

    Recovery runs 60-70%maxHR

    Aerobic runs 70-80%maxHR

    Anaerobic runs 80-90%maxHR

    High Intencity Anaerobic runs 90%+

    Easy to remember. will try to send the rest later. Ron

  • Hi Jo Part 2. I cant get used to the restriction put on how long a message can be. Its silly really because you can still send long messages but they have to be seperated.!!

    I guess the main thing I wanted to add is that you should only use the basic method to calculate your percentage of maxHR. ie NOT the one that involves working HR. The reason for this is that it is the method used by the vast majority of media that produce Zone Charts. This is because to just measure HR on its own means very little, it is what it also relates to that is important ie Lactate - Oxygen System Efficiency - Running Pace etc etc etc. It is really these factors that put limitations on the bodies ability to perform. But, as these are quite complex to measure and monitor the HR which is now quite easy to measure and monitor is used. But for me it is what I can relate it to that is important.

    Well Jo I hope you find this helpful. the chart shown for HR is correctly related to the other factors mentioned However as with all charts they are only guides. Each person can be different as to how all the factors correlate to each other. One of the main task of a Coach is to find out just how they relate. But for you at the stage you are at now the chart will be fine and the two training sessions I have show WILL WORK.

    If you do need to know anything else you can contact me at


    I recall you saying you love all the involvement with things like this. Well if you want to read a good reference book try

    Training Lactate Pulse-Rate by Peter G.J.M.Janssen. I am sure you can still get it.

    Plus of course one of my Coaching Training Videos and DVD when they come out next year.

    All the best Ron.

  • Thanks for the advice Ron. You are right – I don’t alter my pace much at all, other than to slow down a bit if I don’t think I can sustain what I’m already doing.

    At the beginning of March I could barely run ¼ mile without collapsing, but I did a 5K in June (27mins – not spectacular I know, but I was pleased) so my fitness has certainly improved since I started! However during the summer I’ve definitely reached a plateau – in part because I’ve been struggling with asthma (hay fever, harvest time etc.) and as a result have not pushed myself as hard as I probably should.

    But – I’ve just committed to doing my first 10K on Sept 29th, I’ll probably have to take a couple of walk breaks during it, but nonetheless it’s great to have a good target to aim for.

    After 6 months of running (or plodding) it’s probably time to incorporate some faster intervals as you suggest, so I will try out the training sessions.

    Using the recommended HR %ages, I know that I will struggle to keep at an aerobic level (70-80% = 129-147) – do you suggest that I just run as slow as I can to keep my HR down as much as possible, or should I actually slow to a walk to keep it in the right range?

  • Hi Jo I will answer your questions. Right now I have got to rush out with a group training session as part of one of my films.
    All the best Ron.
  • Hi Jo. I am Carol, Rons Partner. As he is still away, expected back late Monday evening, he has asked me to pass on a message which is.

    When you are doing your aerobic training try to keep withing the given HR. If it means mixing up running and walking then do so for the time being. But dont forget to do some of the faster work.

    I am sure Ron will pick up on this again when he gets back. I would just like to say that I know many runners who had to start out with Jog/Walk as their Aerobic Training. Also I many who can only jog at around 12min per mile for about 3miles but who can walk at that pace for at least 5miles. Their are technical reasons for that.As you say you will have to have periods of walking in your race then it makes sence to bring this into your training. Walking will also improve your future running pace as it will train your leg speed. ( but dont try race walking style that is something completely different ) Good Luck Jo,

    Carol ( for Ron )
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