athletes · competition · cycling · training

Why care about resting heart rate?

heart rate pictureIn May of 2012, I posted a note on Facebook that eventually led to my shared project with Tracy and which later led to this blog.

I wrote,

As I approach the two year countdown to 50 (I turn 48 at the end of this summer) I’d like to set an ambitious fitness goal. Roughly, I’d like to be the most fit I’ve ever been at 50. Fifty seems like a good time to peak and it’s doable given that I’m an adult onset athlete (no childhood sports trophies collecting dust in the cabinets for me!) There is a bit of a challenge given that I had a similar goal at 40 and I was 10 years younger then. But then I was starting from close to zero and my goal was to get in shape. Now I’ve got a pretty good basis on which to build. The big problem is how to measure. Not weight. That’s silly. I was my thinnest when I smoked and drank a lot of coffee and didn’t eat much actual food. Looked  great but was winded walking up stairs. Those days are gone. I’m strong, fit, robust, resilient but ‘thin’ I’ll never be. Body composition? Not weight but per cent body fat….maybe. Hard to care about that though and not focus on numbers on a scale, even if they are different numbers. Running? Maybe. I know my PBs for 5 and 10 km. But I’m also anxious not to invoke another stress fracture. Certainly more than 10km just isn’t doable. Strength? I do know what I’ve been lifting through the years so maybe. Might work. I’m loving the intensity of crossfit and they are good at measuring progress…. Cycling? Hmmm. Flying laps or centuries? Time trial times are a pretty good measure of fitness. Aikido: I could aim for a brown belt by 50 but that might be too ambitious. Yoga: No goals there. I just like to melt and stretch in the heat. Soccer: My only goal is to have fun….

Suggestions, fitness friends?

My fitness friends indeed had some intriguing suggestions:

One-handed inversions! One-handed inversions! Make *that* your Fit at Fifty goal! . (Also, you should obviously blog about this, right. A perfect 2-year blog project that you can put to be — and then turn into a book! — when you’re done.)

I suggest using strength. If you are doing Crossfit then you are getting used to some basic strength lifts such as squatting, dead lifting and benching. Dead lifting and squatting bodyweight is a great goal to build on and benching 1/2 bodyweight is another.

Distance cycling? On or around your 50th a 500k ride? Better yet a 1000k brevet!

But the most intriguing suggestion was also the simplest, resting heart rate.

Resting heart rate? The KISS principle.

What’s resting heart all about anyway?

First. your resting heart means really resting, as in in bed, before rising.

You need to take your heart rate manually. It’s either that or wear your heart rate monitor to bed. I didn’t ever actually wear my heart rate monitor to bed. Too many jokes about things that might raise it. Sex, on the one hand, arguments about differences in politics on the other.

Measuring your morning heart rate is pretty simple. All you need is a digital watch,  a small notebook and a pen on your nightstand. As soon as you wake up in the morning, find your pulse on your neck, just under your chin, or on your wrist. Using the watch, count the number of times your heart beats for 20 seconds. Multiply this number by three and you have your resting heart rate (RHR) in beats per minute (bpm). Record this number in your notebook next to the day’s date. Now make sure to repeat this process every morning. See Think You’re Overtraining? Check Your Pulse – Competitor Running

It’s a useful measure of two things.

Your resting heart rate is often a good determination as to how fit you are, as well as indicating if you’re either over training or unwell which will show up as an unexplained increases in resting heart rate.

See What Does Your Resting Heart Rate Mean?

When I was bike training seriously morning heart rate was one of things our coach asked us to record. Over time, it’s a good measure of improvements in fitness. But it’s also an excellent way to see if you’re over training and not recovering from hard workouts. How do you tell if you’re over training? What do the numbers mean? Here’s what Competitive Runner has to say:

Keep an eye on your resting morning heart rate in the two or three days after a hard workout. If it’s significantly elevated from its normal average (7 or more beats per minute), that’s a sign that you’re not fully recovered from the workout. Remember, there is going to be some variability in your daily heart rate regardless of your recovery level, do don’t be concerned if you’re 3 to 4 bpm over your normal average on a given day. In my experience, it takes a reading that’s 7 bpm higher than normal to signify excessive training fatigue.

Changes matter more than comparing your resting heart to that of famous elite athletes. Gender and age both make a difference in addition to fitness.

While the normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, conditioned athletes and other highly fit individuals might have normal resting heart rates of 40 to 60 beats per minute. This indicates a high level of cardiovascular fitness. Gender is another factor in resting heart rate norms because women at various fitness levels tend to have higher pulse rates on average than men of comparable fitness levels. For example, the average resting heart rate of an elite 30-year-old female athlete ranges from 54 to 59 beats per minute, while the resting heart rate for men of the same age and fitness level ranges from 49 to 54, according to the YMCA’s “Y’s Way to Fitness.” See Average Heart Rate for Athletes


3 thoughts on “Why care about resting heart rate?

  1. Interesting, I never realised you had to measure your resting heart rate when you’ve just woken up – I thought it was just ‘resting’ as in sitting down for a bit. Sounds like a very useful tool for general monitoring.

  2. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t even know my resting heart rate –even though nurses and doctors, have taken it at various times. Something to consider soon in self-assessment.

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