hearts that beat fast

I've read a lot of heart rate articles and by most calculations, running to build an aerobic base (say 70% of MHR or of WorkingHR + RestingHR) should have me running at about 156 bpm.

My problem is that I'm walking to get this heart rate. When I run at a comfortable pace, in fact one that feels very slow indeed, that's when I reach this heart rate. Running at a comfortable (faster) pace than this for 40 mins, gives me a heart rate of 170 bpm!

Yet I feel as though I'm in a lower zone because I can hold a conversation and I'm not going terribly fast. (p.s. I've had blood tests recently and everthing is fine).

One professional runner at my gym has suggested I simply ignore the heart rate monitor. The physio at my gym says I should obey the heart rate monitor, no matter what. Who is right? What should I do? (I am 33 yrs old, female, and have been running 3 times a week for the past two months).


  • It could be that your max heart rate is higher than predicted by the age-related formula. Unless you have a pretty good idea of your max heart rate your HRM is almost completely useless for setting goal effort levels.

    You don't say how fit you are - if you're reasonably fit it might be worth doing a max HR test (search around on these forums and you should be able to find a description). Otherwise I say just ignore the HRM for now and run at a pace that is comfortable for you.


  • Hi Karen,

    This all depends on your Maximum Heart Rate, and if you haven't done a MHR test, then all your calculations will be wrong.
    The '220 minus your age' is only a very rough idea of MHR.

    It looks like you must have an extremely high Max heart rate from this result.
    If I was running at 170bpm I certainly couldn't hold a conversation that was more than a grunt every minute or so !

    What is your resting Heart Rate ?

    Any medical forumites got any ideas ?
  • I caught a bit of a program on TV last night where a bloke was wearing a HRM. His heart rate peaked at 230!!! Mind you, he was being chased by a bull during the bull run in Spain at the time. But it does show how inaccurate this 220 minus your age is.
  • I would class myself as reasonably fit and my resting heart rate is fairly low. But my heart rate, even on an easy run hovers around the 170-180 mark and woe be tide me if I hit a hill, it'll creep past the 200 mark. I can still chat and I feel fine, so I've binned my HRM and just train according to how I feel.
  • NessieNessie ✭✭✭

    You say you have only been running for a couple of months. My own experience was that it took quite a while for my heart rate to settle to "normal" behaviour when I started running, and for now, I think you should use your HRM only to chart your progress.

    My understanding (and it may be way off, but it makes sense to me) is that when you exercise, your muscles need oxygen. Your lungs pull it in and transfer it to your blood. Your heart pumps the blood round to the capilliaries, which transfer the oxygen to your muscles. The more you train, the more efficient your lungs become at absorbing the oxygen, the stronger your heart becomes to pump the blood, and the more capilliaries your body develops to transfer the oxygen to the muscles. In the "early days", your lungs and heart have to work extra hard to do their bit, but as your body adapts to the exercise, everything gets a bit better at doing its thing, so the heart can settle down.

    Use the HRM to keep a track of what your heart rate is at "conversation" pace for, say, 3 months. You will probably find that either the HR drops, or you will be running faster but feeling the same.
  • What a sweet thread title. I thought you'd fallen in love Karen. But no, HRM's again. Mine is a right git. Cant switch the beep off and it only goes off if I go above 160. Runners version os "Speed" if you like. Its going in he bin with my Accuroute if it doesnt buck up!
  • I found an article somewhere on this site that gives a procedure for 'measuring' the aerobic threshold (or should that be anerobic?). As I understand, this is fairly predictably about 90% of max, and is the point where the amount of oxygen used matches the work done. To calculate this from 'max' requires exertion well past the level which you are able to sustain for any length of time - hence the physio's concern...

    The method of determining AT was run on a treadmill, starting slow, increasing the pace by 0.5kph every 200m, and recording HR at these points. Plot Speed against HR. At about AT, the graph should change slope as the increased speed is paid for by more lactic acid, rather than more oxygen.

    The graph also then lets you use the HRM to measure speed when you're out.

    Improving fitness should result in a lower HR for a given pace, and also (I think) a lower HR for your high effort pace - so running at 185 bpm ought to become more of an effort as your training progresses.

    The other important point is 'max' is a level that you can reach, not a limit (assuming you're fit!)
  • Millipede is right; the problem is not the monitor but the formula. Whenever this subject comes up on the forum most runners say their max (found by testing,or by trial and error) is higher than the formula would give them.
    You can either do a max HR test (easiest in a gym) or do what Nessie suggests and use your HRN for data gathering for a month or two, together with your olwn assessment of 'perceived exertion'. Probably you know what feels 'easy', 'steady' and 'hard'. make a note of your HR during different intensities and pretty soon you'll have an idea of what's normal for you and can begin to make sense of different training 'zones'.
    If you're reasonably fit you can use hill reps to get a more accurate idea of your max. Ideally bring someone with you to write down the HR's you shout out as you pass. Warm up thoroughly (at least 10-15 mins, plus sretching) and find a hill you can rup up for 1-1.5 mins. It should feel hard towards the end. Do a series of reps running up and jogging down and watch your max HR at the top of each rep (your HR will continue to increase for a few seconds once you've stopped at the top). On the 3rd or 4th lap say, run as hard as you can until you really feel you've pushed yourself, and you should be reaching near your max at the top. If you have a companion, shout out the number before you forget (your HRM may already record intervals/peak HR etc, mine just gives the av).
    Don't forget to cool down gradually by jogging, stretching for 10-15 mins.
  • Hi Laura,
    Okay so that test sounds like a good idea. I get from what most of you have said that using a formula to obtain a max is not necessarily valid.

    Cougie asked my resting heart rate: it is 56. I don't think that is especially high.

    I also like Nessie's explanation and advice. In fact I have suspected that over the past few months, certain heart rates feel easier than they did a month earlier. But I was not sure if my "feeling" meant anything much. Anyway what Nessie says makes sense to me.

    But Laura I will certainly try what you suggest. I might even try Sean's suggestion too because it sounds similar in principle - unless I've misunderstood...
  • Hope you find the HRM useful Karen, meant to say as well, only do the max test when you're well rested and not coming down with infection etc. My max is 206, more than 20 beats above the 'formula' so using that would have made a nonsense of HRM training, sounds like yours might be higher still.

    Personally I've found using one a great help in realising I should be running at different paces, judging intensities of sessions and pacing myself in my first marathon.
    Your 'feeling' about heart rates being easier is spot on I'm sure, that's another boost when you realise you're running faster at the same heart rate. It can only mean you're getting fitter!
    If you have a spare weekend you could read through the entire 'Sean Fishpool's HR article' thread'. :)
    Good luck.
  • Karen

    the advice above is all good and I'd support it (my observed max is 13bpm above my age based calculation - or I'm 13 years younger than I appear.

    there is some evidence (see other threads) that running gets you to a higher HR than otehr sports. so if you've only just swicthed to running the HR will seem to be higher more often. It WILL come down over the next few months.

    Believe the runner at your gym not the physio. Gyms have to protect their liability and will always err on the cautious side when giving advice. That said do stop if you feel faint, giddy etc..and best to have someone around when doing a max HR test.

    welcome to running.

    BTW reading Ron grovers thread is likely to send your resting HR to zero
  • I'm a GP (supposedly)and think you should definitely ignore the HRM readings and guidelines.They are a guide and are not written in stone.If you have been checked over and are feeling well then carry on as you are and forget your HRM.If you hadnt worn one you wouldnt be worrying about it and would be enjoying your running better.
  • Okay I did the hill test - ran up a hill that took about 1-1.5 minutes to run at a fairly fast pace 3 times, then jogged down again. Then I did it a 4th time and ran flat out (I was quite breathless just before I reached the top).

    I was really surprised to find that my max heart rate only reached 190bpm (the highest it went on/at the top of my 4th run up the hill). This is only a few beats faster than the max calculated using formulas.

    Either that's still not accurate or, amazingly, I can run at 90% of that max and feel pretty okay (and hold a conversation!). Wow, what an athlete I am! (okay, maybe there's still something not right about that hill test...) ;)

    The advice coming from most of you seems to be that I don't need to stress out about my heart rate getting so high since I feel okay. I just really want to make the most of the "zones" and training so that I get fitter (aerobically) and lose a bit of fat as well. I have read that training in too high a zone or at too high a heart rate will be detrimental to these goals.

    Any suggestions for further tests. Should I try it again? Should I worry about the "zones"? Or just have fun running?
  • Well done for doing the hill test. How hard did you find it? The only times I get to my max I've felt pretty well at my limit, in a throat burning, lactic acid tingling nauseous kind of way. (ie not a pleasant feeling!)
    So you may or may not have got to yours, but experience will tell you. It's not inherently dangerous to run at higher HR's (assuming you're healthy, not pregnant etc) and if you were really feeling bad common sense would tell you to slow down or stop anyway. The main reason it's important is if you are going to use the HRM to train with, rather than just enjoy it as a gadget/data collection tool (not that there's anything wrong with that necessarily! Lots of men spend their lifetimes accumulating gadgets for no better reason!).
    There's a book called the Compleat idiot's guide to HRM training by J L Parker which lots of people have recommended and I personally found really useful, you can get it from Amazon for around £10. His main theory is that you get better training results from running in different 'zones' since each has specific benefits.
    In the meantime, just record your HR and how you felt on your training runs. Btw, I believe the theory about fat burning at lower HR is contradicted by the fact that faster running raises your metabolic rate for longer. I'm sure others can be a bit more specific than that!

    Good luck.
  • Hi Laura

    Maybe I didn't get to my limit then. I didn't get the nauseous feeling; I just felt really out of breath and unable to keep up the pace (or any pace really). I think I'll try it a few more times to get a sense of how it works.

    Other than that, I have noticed that my heart rate seems a little lower at the same pace - which backs up previous advice from you and others.
  • Laura L, you're not uncle Ron's secret love-child are you?? ;-)
  • In my experience it's not anything to do with how you calculate your max HR. I have the exact same thing when I stop running for a few weeks/months and return to running.

    I have found that the formulas for calculating a training zone will only apply once you are already pretty fit.

    Until you are fit you will find yourself walking to stay within zone.

    Personally I just don't use the monitor or decide on a zone arbitrarily based on my perceived effort. So if you are running easy at 175bpm have that as your zone initially.

    Give it about three months and you'll probably find the zone formulas useful as a guide to exersion.

    Also if you smoke it'll be well out (your HR will be faster than the formula states).
  • I'm glad to have found this thread because I'm in the same boat as Karen except quite a few years older (as of today, yet another one too!)

    My resting rate is under 60, I'm running comfortably and talking at about 175, to 185 I can still talk but punctuated with heavy breathing, over 185 I'm working hard and stuff the talking! I got up to 196 today but I don't think I was too near max. - I suspect that might be nearer 205.

    So I feel a lot better having read this thread. Thank you! (PS I ordered the Compleat Guide yesterday)
  • I was in the same boat, running based on the formulas with a max of 188 was painfully slow. I did a hill test and found I had a max of 209 !!

    Running is far more comfortable now
  • I am fairly new to running. I started in april 2003 and followed the 'How to run 5k from being a couch potato in 12 weeks' plan. My resting heart rate seems to be really low at 39 - 42, which I was worried about. When I run hard it goes up to about 186 or so. Generally I can run and chat with it around the 150 mark. I don't know much about this heart rate fitness business, but tend to follow my intuition on what is comfortable for me. I don't tend to follow the guides as they all tell me that for my age I am running hard when I know I'm not running that hard really. However, i have found these threads really interesting due to now being completely hooked on running!!
  • i would not worry
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