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Andre (Jamaica)

I've seen over 220 when coasting down hill on my bike early in the morning; thought the monitor was broken, but was picking up cold/shivering skin; as you say, evaluate the situation.


I had a lone AF session 5 years ago when not in good shape. Did alot of research and found there is significant variation in what triggers AF in people. Some studies have shown an athletic connection. Since then I have become better trained and now often hit the podium in my AG (55). I have not had repeats of the problem, however at times I experience what Andre describes at cold bike or race starts, but it always returns to normal. The experience triggered me to learn more and clean up my act (eliminate caffeine, limit alcohol), and I always train and race with a HRM.

damian knightsbridge

outside factors as mentioned above( fatigue, temperature, hydration) had a profound effect on my training session this weekend just past, conditions were warm with high humidity coupled with not enough sleep from working till 11 pm the night before, produced elevated HR's as much as 10% higher than i would normally expect for the same ride intensity(.83) and duration.. perceived effort was sky high as well, and power 5 watts lower, having built up a few months worth of powertap data now through both on rd sessions and wind trainer sessions, its amazing to see how much humidity effects performance. living in melbourne australia high humidity conditions are rare. My hydration plan i should have added min 1 extra bottle of fluid to my normal intake ,2 would have been even better for the above ride (130 km, 3hrs 55 min, 205 W)

Rayomand Ghadiali

Dear Joe and Dr. John,
thanks for sharing this very useful article. We have been discussing this with the Master cyclist (55+) who have lately started to ride seriously. Many are afraid to take their heart rates at 160 to 170. The rule of thump 220-age seems to have stuck like glue. Also, back home (we are from Pakistan) there isnt awarness of sports and especially in this age Bracket the concept of Training Seriously or Scientifically is hardly there and the Doctors aint much Advisors for sports. (I have been advocating ppl to follow Joe's 20 min FTP test).
Joe - retquest to you that It would be of immense help if you could share the Bell Curve data for 55+yrs of athletes.

Dr. John, Please advise in medical terminology which Medical Test could these Master Category cyclist under take to give them assurace that they are not overdoing and the engine inside is capable enough to bear the load.

Thanks a lot.
U can check us out on FB "Critical Mass Karachi" http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/group.php?gid=146496962679

Andy Paul

Joe, i experienced a problem in the early 2010 season. All was going well for several months as i was training for a 12 hour solo mountain bike ride, and i was able to produce good power at 60-70% of maximum HR consisitently over 5-6 hours training. And then litreally overnight it all changed. My heartrate was all over the place and was at least 10-15 bpm higher then it had been. Racing was scary as it would sit at around 95% of maximum and didnt seem to recover. I mentioned this to my coach who said that because i was so used to training at Zone 2/3 i would naturally find it hard to maintain a high HR as i was accustomed to training for long distances at low HR's... I suspected i had been overtraining but had none of the usual symptoms ie sore throught, cold. As time went on i found it hard to even start a race let alone finish one....i just didnt have the energy. It ruined my 2010 season. Nobody could ever give me any answers as to why his happened i still suspect overtraining yet my coach insists this simply couldnt have been the case. My resting HR was always very low and still is... so why would your resting HR ( a good indicator of fitness) be low yet your working HR be unrealistly high?? Id be really grateful for some kind of answers??? thanks Andy

Joe Friel

Andy Paul - I wish I knew why. Good luck.


Joe, how elevated was your heart rate during the race, regarding viral myocarditis? I'm not taking you for a doctor or depending on your answer, but am curious since I've been having a cold for 2 weeks now, and during lactate threshold spinning today (stupid, I know) my HR went to exactly 100% HRmax, 182 bpm after half an hour without too much work; normally I'd be at 93% or 170 bpm for that effort. I backed off directly and left, but watching a HR at 100% for 30 sec without feeling very tired was scary. No chest pain, feel fine, good power, no headache or throat ache, but a running nose, previous sore throat. I used two HR straps (one for class, one for me), both the same; no hardware failure. I'll get a ECG tomorrow. I know my HR responses/levels very well.

Thanks /P

Joe Friel

P--It's been many years but if I recall right I was running it as a workout so pace was slower than would be expected for a half. But HR was well above LTHR although I didn't feel anaerobic in terms of breathing, etc.


Dear Dr. P., your list is awesome. I love number six in particular:
6) Rush home, post the symptoms on an internet forum and wait for guidance from an anonymous source?

This at least, seems to me what a terrible lot of people do.

I read about an implant, which makes paralysed people moving computer cursors by thoughts. I am waiting for an implant for common sense...

Greets from Germany.


Joe, P here again, thanks for the answer, thought I'll write a follow-up; been to the doc, took an ECG and blood test (CRP, SR) to check for infections. All good; no infection, no myocarditis-looking ECG. Took five days rest, then did a test-run on the mill, that still shows HR climbing over LTHR to settle at 175, 96% MHR, when it's usually at 165, 90%. It didn't feel anaerobic, felt like just-below-LTHR, as the pace also was, but 96% is a serious effort for me, should feel much harder than it did. This seems familiar with what you've experienced during your myocarditis run.

So my question, still not depending on it as professional advice: your cardio doc told you to quit all training until the symptoms went away, 7 months in your case. What were the symptoms you were monitoring during those months? I'll take a break from training now, and would like to be able to look for indications that tell me when time is due to start again, slowly. The only not-normal-response I can see/feel is my pulse rising to higher levels than usually, and this can't be monitored during rest, of course.

Thanks Joe /P

Joe Friel

P-What I experienced after the initial high HRs during runs was a slight pressure in my chest. But only occasionally. Felt like someone had the point of their finger against a rip just above my heart and pushing on it. This was transient. It took 7 months for that sensation to go away.


Joe, I am from running background and switched to triathlons about 2 yrs back. My heart rate is always higher on the bike than when I am running. This is for racing and in training. Is there any explanation for this?

Joe Friel

Etienne--HR tends to be higher (relative to effort) when we have less aerobic fitness in a sport and lower when fitness is better.

Glenn Sliva


If you sample heart rates among people they will be distributed in a log normal distribution not a bell curve. It basically says that for example there are a few athletes that can run a sub 4 minute mile and lots and lots that can run a 6 minute mile. In rain drop size there are a very few large size and lots and lots of smaller ones. Mother nature orders things in a log normal distribution not a bell curve. A bell curve only means there are equal amounts either side of the mean but in log normal distributions it orders around the median which is the most common sample. Once you understand the log normal distribution a lot of things in life make more sense. Don't you hate engineers such as me? Thanks Joe and heal fast


A 70 year old cycling mate of mine bought himself a HR monitor. When the monitor displayed his heart rate at over 200bpm he went to his doctor. Nothing wrong, but frightened off he discarded the monitor and never used it again. After some discussion with him it was my conclusion that his monitor was picking up his wireless wheel sensor for his bike computer.

As stated evaluate the situation.

Simon Kelly

rather than having a high heart rate relative to my power zone I seem to be very low. Just re-established bike zones using the 30min test and having done an hour of Muscular Endurance 10 min intervals (Start of Base 2) my power zone was focused on zone 3 but never I even got into heart rate zone 2. Cycling is my weakest discipline. Is this an indication that my limitation is power which is falling behind aerobic fitness? Do I just stick with my power zones and worry less about the heart rate zones?

Joe Friel

Simon--Wish I could help but there are just too many variables and not enough time.


I am a 60 year old canoeist, trained most of my life and represented my Country when I was younger. My MHR has always been high and at my age I can still push my rate to 192. I can keep my rate at 180 for about 10 minutes . Am I abnormal or have you found other athletes that can do this.
My resting HR when I am really fit is 50. Your comments would be appreciated and thanks for your service!

Joe Friel

Saal--I find this is common for older athletes who have maintained high levels of fitness their entire lives. I'm now 68 and my max HR is the same as when I was in my 30s. Keep up the good training!


Thank you very much Joe for your comment! I thought I was up normal and feel much better now!

David S

a question on heart rate and fatigue. Every season for the past 5 years I experience fatigue at mid summer. This includes high heart rate 15% higher than normal. I used a coach this year and the same thing happened. I was even riding quite a bit slower than any year in the past. Gained a lot of fitness from April til early June, caught a cold and took 5 days off the bike and haven't been the same since. I have fatigue in the legs and a very high heart rate that what I'm used to. Any thoughts? It's a bit depressing. My diet is vegetarian/vegan...does that have something to do with it?

Joe Friel

David S--I really can't say what you are experiencing, although it does sound like overtraining. It could be any number of other conditions. The symptoms of overtraining are similar to those of Lyme disease, mononucleosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and others. If I was in your place I'd see my doc and talk about having some testing done.


Hi Joe, I am curious to understand this about my heart rate. I can run a half marathon in 1:40 (ave HR approx 160). Recently, I did a 70.3 triathlon and kept my HR on the bike at average 155. I was feeling good coming into T2. I then started the run and consciously slowed down to get my HR under control as I knew I had a tough run ahead (hilly course). I was at this point going on feel, as the HR monitor was not reading correctly! But my HR wouldn't come down enough so that I could up the pace comfortably. I was hoping to finish the run in 1:45-50 but instead it took me 2:00. I was running all the time(bar two aid station stops). Why is this? Was I still going too hard on the bike or is it just a lack of fitness? How can I improve my run time?...I would really appreciate your thoughts.

Joe Friel

Hey Nixer-- I don't understand. You said your heart rate monitor wasn't giving you good data and yet you were concerned about your heart rate? Do you mean it starting working again later on? If so then you were just experiencing fatigue--or you were holding back artificially out of concern for HR. I'd recommend being less focused on heart rate in a race and more focused on how you are feeling. Heart rate is really not a good way to gauge intensity in a race.


I have another problem - if i increase my training load, one day my heart rate start to drop - about 20-30 beats lower for the same speed (running). I have difficulties to increase heart for given load.

Is this normal and am i starting to overtrain?
Must i reduce my training load?

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