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Jennifer Sage

Hi Joe,
I've been trying to teach this to the indoor cycling community (including manufacturers and programs) forever! They need to ditch MHR!

I totally understand your last sentence, that as the cost of the effort (HR) at a given pace or power goes down, the more fit you are. But does this concept of reduced HR apply to LTHR—in the absence of a power meter, if doing a field test to estimate LT heart rate, isn't the goal to increase LTHR in order to delay crossing the line to a more anaerobic state? E.g. if my LTHR used to be 160 but now it's 164, aren't I more fit? In essence, buying yourself a few more heart beats so you can go harder (faster, longer) before crossing LT.

I realize that at some point it can't increase anymore, but that you can continue to increase power at LT.

Hmmm, maybe that last sentence just answered my own question...(but it's not knowable without a power meter).

Dave Brillhart

"The lower your HR is relative to your power or pace, the more aerobically fit you are."

That totally makes sense. Also, the less your HR drifts, over a long effort, at the same power or pace, the more fit you are.

But isn't that unrelated to max HR? I still don't get why a fit athlete, at MAX effort, might be able to push his HR only up to, say, 200. A biological governor prevents it going higher, even if more O2 is needed at an all-out fall over and puke effort.

But, if that same athlete gets injured, takes a break and loses fitness, s/he might be able to then get their HR up to 205. Probably at a lower pace/power as well since fitness has been lost.

The body is a wonderful and mysterious mechanism.

Joe Friel

Jennifer--The goal of training is to increase power, not heart rate.


I have noticed that recently too! I will run a marathon in one week and lately, in my highest intensity sessions, my heart never got up to my previous HR max. In times past I would be miffed but now I know the truth!


Andrei Maxim

I'm only riding a bike to increase my fitness, lose weight and spend some time away from the computers, phones and technology in general and I'm not really targeting any races at all.

However, I did notice the same thing: in spring, when my fitness is really low and my weight has increased, my maximum heart rate goes up to 200-201. After several weeks, I can't go over 198 and by the end of the summer I can't go over 185. At the same time, I'm riding farther and faster.

I figured that my body and my brain don't know how to react to the initial effort, but after some rides they know what's expected and perform a bit better and better.

If you don't know about the periodic CP30 testing, this kind of screws up your zone training system, unless you're using a power meter. But still, it's fun to see how your body adapts :-)

Jennifer Sage

Agreed Joe,
but still, isn't it the case that when LTHR is a higher percentage of VO2 max (i.e. LTHR increases), it's an indication of increased fitness? (Page 41, Total Heart Rate Training)

Joe Friel

Jennifer Sage--Good question. Yes, so long as the proximity between LTHR and VO2max wasn't achieved by a lowered VO2max. That's what the research seems to suggest is the case with aging athletes. Might also be the case with younger athletes who don't train VO2max.

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