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Joe Friel

Sandijs--Fatigue has been shown to cause a lower heart rate. Pay less attention to your heart rate and more attention to how you feel.

Victor Quiros


How about low heart rates? I've heard of endurance athletes having resting 1-minute HR in the 30s and 40s. My pulse is 30-36 BPM when I wake up each morning, and 38-48 BPM during the day and evening while I'm sitting. I'm 50 years old and train year-round for triathlon including iron distance. My max HR is around 180 BPM. Should I make any modifications to my training because I have a low HR? I've had this low resting heart rate since I was a teenager and my doctor has checked me and determined there are no health problems causing the low heart rate.


Joe Friel

Victor Q--Sounds like its nothing to be concerned with. This is common for elite athletes. I see no reason to change your training.

Joe D.

Hi Joe,

I'm a 31 year old man who has been not very seriously racing road/mtb/cyclocross for about four years. I just completed a cyclocross race where my heart rate averaged 190 for 50 minutes. It's not abnormal for me to see a heart rate over 200 every few months, but this is probably one of the hardest efforts I've ever managed. I'm probably in the best shape I've ever been, I've never had any symptoms of heart trouble, and there is no history of heart disease in my family. As a non-elite athlete, should I be concerned about activities that keep my heart rate over 90% for this long? Or am I just another person on the far end of the curve?

Joe D.

Joe Friel

Joe D.--I doubt that there is any need to worry.. Some people have high heart rates, others have low heart rates. But if you have strong concerns then you should talk with your doc about it.


Interesting discussion, thanks. I'm 47 y/o. My HRmax is around 185 (verified with cardiac ramp tests etc), but I generally have a HR/ave of 160bpm on a club spin. I presume that this will reduce a little with greater fitness, but I'm obviously on the upper-end of that bell curve.........
My question is this: is such a high average heart rate effectively curtailling my endurance - I find I'm all out of steam after 120km/4hrs and would like to be able to extend this - will achieving a lower HR average enable this?

Joe Friel

Paul--Sometimes I wish HRMs had never been invented. Your HR is not holding you back in the slightest. It simply responds to the work your muscles are doing. Muscle is much more critical to your success in sport than HR. And, yes, as your aerobic fitness improves your HR will decrease at any given power output. That's happening primarily because you are creating more aerobically active muscle. So, again, the key to performance is not HR--it's muscle.

evin oshima


I have been training on hills near my house, doing bricks. My heart rate is low/normal on the bike, but when I run it shoots up to over 200bpm before gradually backing off to the 170-180 range. Im 57 years old, my heart rate has never gone much over 190 before. I feel fine until I look at the heart monitor; afterwards I am not nearly as tired as I am from other workouts, so there is not much sign of heart stress. What should I do?

Joe Friel

Evin--I doubt if there's a problem, especially given that you feel nothing unusual. But then, I'm a coach, not a doctor. If concerned see your doctor.


Hi Joe,

Very useful piece. I have had high HR issues for two weeks (20 or so beats higher than my norm when training) starting about 2 or 3 mins into any run faster than recovery pace. I've checked the HRM is functioning correctly.

I had consistent pain around ribs, slightly moreso at the back, and similar pain around my heart to what you described in your own case. Another symptom, my leg muscles are really aching, relative to what I normally experience. Feels like I've done a hard race when I've been running what would normally be a steady pace. I completely backed off for a week, then did a solid 13 miler at steady pace, legs felt great and HR was fine, very little discomfort. Had a rest day (as per plan) then tried running this eve, sharp heart pain after 2-3 mins. The pain subsided slightly after 10 mins, but I stopped when I saw my HR was 180 when it would normally be 150-155 at the pace I was doing. Stopped to let HR descend to 100, then jogged a bit more, HR climbed steadily back to 170+

I am going to see my doctor as soon as possible as the condition doesn't seem to be going away, but my question is how did they determine you had viral myocarditis? It sounds difficult to pin down without a heart biopsy

Thanks, Rob

Joe Friel

Robidoo99--I'm glad to hear you are seeing your doc. THey don't have to do a biopsy from the heart to determine V.M. In my case aftr several negative blood tests for anything suspicious they found an antigen for the coxsackie virus. They concluded from that that I had the virus and it had undoubtedly settled in either my lungs or heart. It was obvious which in my case. This is not meant to imply that you have V.M. Hard to say what it is. That's where there are docs. Good luck!

Kate Wormington

Every single person who sees my heart rate on Strava feels compelled to tell me to see a doctor. Thank you for posting this! I can now get my ride buddies off my back.

Joe Friel

Kate--Heart rates are like feet, some people have big ones and some small ones. We don't think of that as being a problem at all. It's just the way we are. I've coached athletes for 30+ years with very high heart rates and very low. Not a single one has died because of their _unique_ heart rates. Nor have any of those with big or little feet. The key is to always be aware of common signs of _abnormal_ (for you) heart conditions.

Terrance McKenzie

Last evening during a race in which I thought I was managing quite well considering my age 84. My HR was in the middle 140's which has been quite normal for me during a race. Then suddenly I looked down and it was 191. I felt no ill effects, dizziness or extra normal breathlessness. However I slowed right down and then stopped for a couple of minutes. The HR gradually came down to 172 and then jumped down to 108. I started riding again and as hard as I could but not to letting my HR go above 145 and I felt fine.It almost seemed as if my HR at 191 wasn't fibrillating but pumping properly but at this very fast rate.

Joe Friel

Terrannce - Hard to know what was happening. It could even be there was a radio signal of some sort interfering with your receiver or the transmitter sent a bad signal. This latter happens to me early in a workout often when my skin is dry and it's windy or I'm going down a steep hill.

Terrance McKenzie

Hi Joe,
That is what I am beginning to think. At the time I should have thought more about what was happening and taken some notes but because I was worried I didn't 'research' it properly.As I felt no ill effects I think there must have been a reason not related to my heart. I have had AF before and felt terrible at the time so it wasn't that at all. Thanks.Terry

Ron George

Joe and others,

I've been cycling for 7 years and have had high heart rates all through this period. My anerobic efforts take me well past 200 if I see blood in my eyes. I've been able to capture a 5-10 bpm decrease in maximum between early season and mid season which is a good indicator to me. Several times, I'd wondered whether my body was made weird or I had an actual health condition. A ECG done with my heart doc concluded I'm absolutely fine and have great health. My resting HR is between 50 and 55.

This said, I think what this article could explore are those cases where even inspite of a lot of base miles, the athlete's body is preconditioned towards high heart rates even on a normal effort. Doesn't that mean the body is digging for resources from the fast burning energy sources? I find this very disturbing problem and not sure if I need to do a 360 degree re-thinking of my diet to mitigate this problem. I dont mind high heart rates but don't want it to rise as fast I experience. Some data would be interesting to see how athletes bpm's decrease as a function of training load, miles etc.

Lastly, how can a patient get a sense of what the diameter of his vessels and heart is? Is that a very special and costly procedure?

Joe Friel

Ron George - Those questions are best asked of a cardiologist, not a coach. Sorry I can't be of help here.


I don't have a specific question but was wondering what your thoughts might be on what I consider an unusual pulse range. I've always been a good athlete when it comes to endurance sports, in particular cycling, running and boxing. I've measured my resting heart rate at about 50 bpm and sometimes as low as 42 bpm. I also have a higher than average maximum heart rate of about 205 bpm. I know this because several years ago when I was in peak condition, I set out to work to the point of "red line" to get an accurate sense of what my maximum rate actually is. I know it's probably not recommended, and I wouldn't attempt this anymore but started by running a two mile "warmup" and then running .25 mile intervals at maximum effort. My heart rate seemed to reach a peak of 205 bpm after my seventh and eighth interval.


Hello, I just want to inquire if you have encountered anything similar: so I do very easy exercises, cardio and resistance alike. Whilst doing an exercise my heart rate goes to around 120 bpm which is normal, I feel my heart beating strong in my chest. Now I have come to take pretty long pauses, at least two minutes between exercises. So sometimes only during these breaks, as my breath starts to slow a little, my heart rate suddenly booms up to 200+, while doing nothing, and I can hardly feel it beat inside of me, it does not have power. I usually need to sit upside down in order for it to regain a normal beat, otherwise it goes on like that and my body starts feeling numb. Any ideea of the source of this problem ? I'm sure it's not unheard of...

Joe Friel

Zamfir - I have no idea what the problem is. If concerned you should see your doctor.


I am a 58 male. I have 700 or so rides logges all with a HRM. My max HR is 179 which I have observed only 3 times. Only really tough TT's and FTP tests I normally hit around 177. I train regularly, with a coach (who is a Joe Friel accolite :) ).

Twice during easy rides I have felt slightly nauseous and seen 220 on my HRM. Only lasted 2 minutes and then back to normal. On one occasion I was cycling past the doctors surgery and managed to get on an ECG machine within minutes of the incident. Nothing found by the doctor.

I consulted two separate cardiologists and after wearing 24hr monitoring kit they both said that I should just carry on as normal - it was only of a concern if it started occurring regularly.


Hello Joe, thanks for this great information. I am 51 and I have been riding and running, recreational mostly, and touring. I started to use a HRM 5 years ago and always have found that my heart rate is always high, no matter of the sport, but never feel any symptoms when I hit high HR. Also I can sustain a heart rate of 155 to 160 for a while. I have improve over time and last summer My hear rates have been better also when I am running. After the season ended and after a 350 miles tour, I experienced that my Heart Rates was jumping with minimum effort, I thought it was overtraining so I minimize the exercise. I just bought a winter trainer and started to take more formal metrics (virtual power), my HR is better but still high with low power effort. Again I can sustain a ride at about 150 to 155 with no symptoms. One last thing, when I climb my HR tend to raise also easily. Sorry for length of my note, but I am getting worry and not sure if I have to visit a doc. Cheers

Joe Friel

aperezy--Your heart rate is high relative to what--your normal heart rate given a certain level of perceived exertion or high relative to 220 minus your age or something else?

Doug Soderstrom

I am 75 years old, and my maximum hear rate seems to be at about 190. I regularly exercise on an elliptical for an hour at a time with an average heat rate of somewhere around 165-170 (starting out at about 150, and ending up somewhere around 185 or so.) Is that a fairly high maximum heart rate for an individual my age?

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