Heart rate when using poles

  • Creator
  • #76149

    Hello everyone,

    I have noticed that when I use poles, my heart rate is about 10 to 15 beats per minute higher than when I don’t use them, even when I feel like I am putting in the same effort. I am currently trying to train in my base endurance zone (zones 1 and 2), and I’m not sure whether to rely on my heart rate or my perceived effort. The issue is that my perceived effort remains the same whether I use poles or not, while my heart rate tends to increase when I use them. When I use poles, I experience way less leg fatigue, despite having a higher heart rate. I have done a lot of zone 1 and zone 2 training, and I’m really familiar with how I feel / how I breathe when below Z3.

    I believe that the slightly higher heart rate when using poles may be due to increased oxygen demand in the upper body, which is added to the demand from the lower body (legs). If we assume that the upper body is “using” an additional 15 beats per minute, can we assume that the lower body is using the heart rate minus 15 beats (which would give me the zone I’m in) ?

    Recently, I ran a race with a significant amount of elevation gain and aimed for a 3-hour finish time, which I managed to achieve. However, I noticed that when using the poles, my heart rate was above my lactate threshold throughout those sections, even sometimes in zone 5. I would have lasted that long if I was really in those zones. This made me think that relying on my heart rate when using poles might not be the best approach, and that I should focus on my perceived effort instead

    Has anyone else experienced this ? What do you suggest I do to ensure that I am training in the right heart rate zones ? Should I trust my heart rate monitor or go by how I feel ? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

    Thank you in advance for your help and insights!
    Have a good day.

Posted In: Mountain Running

  • Participant
    Dada on #76164

    My two cents:

    1. Sometimes these higher HRs are temporary at the beginning of the new training (e.g., start of the skimo season). It reverts back to familiar levels after 2-3 trainings

    2. What you said about upper body involvement plus different sports have different thresholds.

    So retest your AeT with poles and then apply the different AeTs for the specific sport.


    Brandon Phillips on #77412

    You are correct about the increased oxygen demand for engaging the upper body.

    For the last few years, I have been primarily mountain running in the summer and XC skiing in the winter. Skate skiing (freestyle xc) is a significantly higher intensity than running and you are generating a lot of power through your poling. I am skate skiing in zone 3 or 4 almost all the time. The only time I can stay in zone 2 is skiing at a casual pace on a flat or downhill trail.

    I need to retest my AeT now that the snow is melting away, so these numbers are probably not totally accurate. After skate skiing all winter I did a 40k race and spent 1:26:11 in zone 3 and 53:52 in zone 4 (per chest strap HR monitor). I didn’t think that was possible for me. I imagine it was a combination of being pretty well trained for high intensity and that my AeT has also changed since I last tested it.

    Now that I am running again, I struggle to get my legs to move fast enough to get into zone 2. I am mostly running in zone 1. I suppose if you are going to have a problem, that’s a good one to have.

    I know that doesn’t answer your questions, but you are not the only one to experience this. I often run with poles. On a training run, I usually slow my pace to stay within the target HR. In a race, I will push it harder, and feel pretty comfortable with my ability to maintain a higher HR for a longer time period. For your case, I think your HR is likely accurate because you are utilizing more oxygen. I generally feel less fatigue running uphill with poles, which I imagine is because I am able to utilize those other muscle groups to help out.

    I live in Anchorage, and things are just melting out this spring. I will try to update this after I can retest my HR (I’m waiting until I can do it on a surface that isn’t snow). I’m interested in how much my HR zones may have changed after all the skiing I have done this winter. I’m also hoping to keep some of this higher-intensity aerobic fitness as the running season progresses.


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