High than expected sustained HR | Uphill Athlete

High than expected sustained HR

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  • #4289
    Joel Dugdale

    My first post here to Uphill Athlete, so first I want to thank Steve and Scott for putting this together. I’ve enjoyed reading TfTNA, and will probably reread it again in the near future.

    I am trying to get some insight about my physiology with respect to HR. I’m 36 and have been active my whole life. I’ve actively trained in the past, however schedule and some health issues have prevented me from exercising near as much as I usually do (let alone train) the last 6 months or so. I still try and get out and skin up the local ski hill once a week or so, which gives me a couple thousand vertical feet, but the last few times I seem to be getting worked..

    Yesterday, I went out and did a long hike with my partner. Lot’s of vertical (~3200ft up/down with a few miles of level ground in between). Usually this hike wouldn’t be too stressful, and I would come out of it without too much of a problem. Yesterday I noticed that my heart rate high though. Based on previous evidence, I thought my maxHR was about 190. Yesterday, hiking out(up), I was averaging HRs in the range of 182-187. I stopped and took a break, and when I returned to hiking, the average lowered about 10bpm for what seemed like the same exertion level. I wasn’t carrying much in the way of extra weight, but was moving at a semi fast clip (maybe 2.5-3mph). I wasn’t gasping for air, and was on the cusp of where I could breathe out of my nose, but was generally breathing out of my mouth.

    My question is, is it reasonable for me to have such a high sustained HR (compared to what I thought my max was) for such an extended amount of time (2 hours), even though I wasn’t gasping and was able to sustain the pace for a decent amount of time?

    Other notes: I was consciously staying hydrated, meaning I was sipping frequently. I was sweating quite a bit. Temperature was moderate (~70F). Hike down was in the sun, hike out was in the shade. We ate lunch about 40 minutes before the climb out.

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    Anonymous on #4290

    Hi Joel,

    That is a very high (scary?) percentage of maximum heart rate to hold for that long. I’ve heard of holding ~90% of maxHR for ~2 hours, but 98%? That seems really high. Especially if it felt like a normal hike intensity, you may want to see a doctor.

    Or perhaps your real maximum is higher, but I would still see a doctor first. You don’t want to do a maximum treadmill test if you have an underlying heart condition.

    Other thoughts:

    • You said you thought your max HR was 190. How was that 190 determined? By a metabolic test in a lab? Or just personal experience? If the former, it’s reliable. If the latter, then it’s not; your true max may be higher.
    • If your max HR was determined in a lab, then I would see a doctor. 98% of maximum sounds dangerous, and perhaps there’s an underlying issue.

    I hope that helps.

    Scott (S)

    Jörg on #5626

    Hi Joel,
    The topic was brought up some time ago but I’d still like to ask back something: which type of HR monitor were you using? Are you sure that the measurement itself is correct?

    I’ve seen this kind of deviation while running (very high HRs) on Polar and Suunto products with different sensors. Usually the measurement settled after a few minutes. Today I believe that it could be caused by the cable of my headphone or one specific running shirt. I know that the latter sounds esoteric but there might be surface treatments to the fabric (anti-sweat?) with effect on the data link between sensor and monitor.

    Best regards, Jörg

    Mariner_9 on #5642

    I second Jorg’s comments about errors in measurement. I have a Suunto HRM/watch and often see readings well over 90% when I know from my breathing that I’m in Zone 1 (and sometimes the reverse: I know I’m at the top of Zone 1 or 2 but HRM shows 55-65% of max HR). This happens when running or hiking with no headphones/MP3 player, no phone, etc; I’m not sure where the interference is coming from. Emailed Suunto but no response as yet.

    In general, I try to use breathing to monitor intensity in these situations and adjust the record of the workout accordingly. See this series of articles: https://uphillathlete.com/breath-intensity-monitoring-part-one/

    Anonymous on #5673

    We are seeing more and more of this with the new HR monitors that take the pulse at the wrist rather than at the chest. The chest strap monitors are much more accurate. The wrist monitors work well for low activity levels but not when running or even hiking.

    There is a nice appeal of not having to wear a chest strap but at this point the technology of wrist models is not perfected. You need to wear them very tightly and even then they are not accurate.


    PaulB on #5716

    I have had similar experiences with my Suunto HRM and asked about it on this forum a while back. After doing a lot of Googling and some experimenting I figured out that static from my shirt was causing the inaccurate (abnormally high) reading. I was running at a pretty slow pace any my HR was showing extremely high. I pulled my shirt away from my chest and the displayed HR dropped. I let go of my shirt and it went back up. I finally took my shirt off and got reasonable readings for the rest of my run. The same happened on a road bike ride a week ago.

    I’ve noticed it only happens with some of my running shirts, depending on the material. From what I’ve read, getting the strap completely wet can help prevent the buildup of static as can rubbing your shirt and strap with an anti-static drier sheet, but I haven’t tried that one yet.


    Mariner_9 on #5724

    PaulB – very interesting, thanks. Most of my base layers are made of fabrics that I know build up static.

    Michaeltyoung on #5730

    I’ll fourth the comment about the suunto chest HR strap. Works great most of the time, but occasionally i’ve seen very high HRs (190bm) when i know i’m around 150 (by feel or by checking my pulse). I switched out for a different sensor and strap (another suunto smart sensor) and the issue hasn’t occurred again (yet) so it may only happen with certain units.

    My advice is to check your pulse next time. Do it at the neck–much easier than wrist while moving–count for 15 seconds and multiply by 4.

    For what it’s worth I pretty much always wear earbuds when working out and merino wool shirts.

    Mariner_9 on #6385

    Some useful color on this problem here: https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2010/04/troubleshooting-your-heart-rate.html

    I might try the gel – I got a new strap and new HRM and I’m still experiencing the problems though they aren’t as frequent as with the old strap/HRM.

    dtower67 on #24820

    Like Joel, I’m also 36 years old, similar issues with limited training in the past year. During the Loon Mountain Race (hill climb) this past weekend (3000ft, 6.6mi, 90min for me), I was shocked and scared by both a new max HR of 203 hit at the very end (previous 194 while running a couple of years ago) and average HR of 183bpm! Trainingpeaks now thinks my threshold is 184 which seems crazy (I thought it was around 170). Both seem just crazy and dangerous considering my age!

    Now the big difference in my case is the anxiety before the race had my HR between 111 and 124 (resting for me is 55-70). Physiologically, could having such a high baseline before exercise bump up my HR for the whole race without having the true effect on my body? I was expecting to be sore if not the day after, definitely two days later with DOMS, but still have no soreness at all. I wore a Garmin chest strap that has been mostly reliable for me in the past. Is there something I should be concerned about here?
    Thank you!

    briguy on #24898

    I had an episode of Tachycardia during the 2017 Boston Marathon. My usual BPM at Marathon pace would be 155-165, but I was 175-185 during this stage and I had shortness of breath and some other issues that didn’t resolve until I stopped and walked for a bit. I got checked out by a cardiologist in the months that followed but they couldn’t determine a cause and thought it was a one-off aberration.

    But I second the questioning of the HRM devices. The wrist based ones that are included in watches now are susceptible to picking up cadence instead of HR (thus the 180ish number when running) and the chest straps have always had issues with static in cold/dry weather.

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