Resting Heart Rate Improvement Rate – Length and Volume of Heart Stroke

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  • #7454

    Hi Everyone,

    I am fairly new to training for alpinism, so far everything has been going well, I was always generally fit, never as fit as I am now.

    My rhr is around 48-51 bpm, usually taken sitting or lying down – I was wondering if I can expect this to reduce with further training and if so by how much, it would be great to know if this is something that I can see results in.

    In the book I have read about the changes the heart will make as a result of training stimulus, specifically the heart taking a longer and stronger stroke, resulting in a lower heart rate at activity as well as rest, I assume. How long does it take for the Heart to start making those adaptations?

    Thanks everyone,
    healthy training,

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    Anonymous on #7468

    Hi Wade,

    This is very anecdotal, so YMMV, but when I go from a long period of recovery (off season, injury, etc) and back into regular training, my resting heart rate typically drops about 10-15%.

    Training-wise, the largest reductions in resting heart rate usually follow training periods that include max sprint sessions supported by lots of easy volume. I first read about sprints’ influence on stroke volume in Renato Canova’s writing. I then paid more attention and noticed it in my own training.

    According to Canova, near-maximal sprints “shame” the body into increasing stroke volume to better its reaction to sudden, intense loads. For me the change usually happens over six to eight weeks.

    However, it’s also worth pointing out that resting heart rate isn’t relevant to performance. It’s worth tracking as a recovery metric, but it won’t inform your training very much. I put RHR in the same bucket as VO2max; it’s a “cocktail party metric.”

    It’d be much more beneficial to keep track of your speed at aerobic threshold (AeT) or at anaerobic threshold (AnT). Changes in those are very relevant to performance.

    I hope that helps.

    Scott S.

    wade.sahni on #7471


    Thanks for the info, very helpful, the link to the recovery measure is also useful, something I can incorporate into my routine.


    pshyvers on #7530

    You describe it as a cocktail party metric, but are changes in RHR still meaningful? I’ve always been irritated that when I go up in altitude, my RHR quickly jumps up from ~65bpm to ~100bpm, relative to several friends whose RHR does not change much. Is that a sign of any particular gap in training?

    Anonymous on #7547

    I call them cocktail party metrics, because they’re not relevant to performance. People love to talk about VO2 and RHR, but they don’t provide any actionable information that isn’t better provided by other metrics.

    They’re not even suggestive of athletic potential. There are world-class endurance athletes with low VO2s and athletes with high VO2s that never progress.

    For RHR in particular, I assume that changes in RHR suggest changes in stroke volume. More stroke volume is better.

    But in the context that you’ve described (with friends at altitude), why not focus on a more relevant metric? Why does RHR matter? Maybe you just take longer to acclimatize?

    In the late ’90s, a few friends went to climb the West Buttress on Denali. The usually-strongest member of the party had a hard time acclimatizing and had to be short-roped during the descent of one of the acclimatization climbs. In contrast, the other members of the party adapted to the altitude much quicker.

    After he recovered, the slower adapter was back to being the strongest. He just took him more time to acclimatize.

    wade.sahni on #8852

    Thanks everyone for the responses,

    Climb safe,

    Land on #8877

    Scott mentioned above that he noticed his resting heart rate dropped upon returning to training following a layoff, which made me think about something I’ve noticed.

    After a fairly short layoff (maybe about 1-2 weeks), I notice that my heart rate seems higher than usual for a given (low) intensity. After a few days, it seems to return to the levels that I’m used to seeing during training, or even lower.

    For example, I recently had a few days off due to a cold and took about a week of easier recovery after that. (I had been kind of hanging it out there doing big days and racing for a few weeks in a row, so pushing overtraining wasn’t a huge surprise.) As mentioned, upon returning to training, my heart rate was high during workouts, but now, after a fairly big week (for me, ~14hrs, 60miles, 14k’) of mountain running, including a couple of higher intesity interval running and ME workouts (both mostly new territory for me), my heart rate is pretty low again. I’ve even noticed my HR is lower than it has been in the past on the same trails at the same speeds, or even slightly faster (during fully Z1 workouts). Feeling pretty good still, for what it’s worth.

    I’ve introduced some intensity recently and I’m maintaining a high easy aerobic volume, similar to what Scott S. described, but I don’t track RHR for the reasons mentioned. Perhaps I digress, just thought I’d add an anecdote. This sounds like it could be a related adaptation?

    Steve House on #8879

    I would add a couple of thoughts:
    1) RHR is affected by the physical size of your heart’s chambers. Larger people have larger hearts, so a lean, large person, imagine a 6-foot tall person who weight 145 lbs, would have a lower RHR than a 5-foot tall person of the same weight because the blood volume is roughly the same as the mass that needs oxygenation is roughly the same.
    2) Having your RHR increase upon moving to a higher altitude is actually a GOOD thing. It means your body is responding appropriately and quickly, through the various acclimatization processes, to the new altitude. A higher RHR and resting respiratory rate are early (and key) adaptations. Someone whose RHR is not elevated upon arriving a new elevation I would classify as a slow responder.

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