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  1. #1
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Can your Max HR Increase??

    I was doing a ride lately and tooling along at a pretty good clip. Granted I was breathing pretty hard but not like I normally do when I hit the AT level. I looked down at the HR monitor and was at a pretty steady 98% of what I recorded my Max to be a few years ago-but I was still breathing pretty well and even had a little extra power to spare. What in the heck is that all about???? The ride before I couldn't even get my HR above about 75% of max. It was if my max HR had slid up 10-15%.........

    I've had boughts with AFib in the past and know what to look for so I know it wasn't that. Maybe my Garmin was just trying to tell me something-but I don't have a clue what it was telling.

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    OnTheRoad or AtTheBeach stonecrd's Avatar
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    Check the battery or see if it got wet. I had the seal fail on mine and looked down to see 156% of max, then it went to 21%. Or maybe some high tension lines or static electricity?
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    The more I read about max HR, the more confused I get. Comments like this, "[t]he researchers at John Moores University in Liverpool showed that athletes have lower maximum heart rates than sedentary people (International Journal of Sports Medicine, January 2008)" conflict with what I understand. (article here)


    I have always thought that your maximum HR is determined at birth by genetics and you cannot do anything to increase it, but you CAN prevent it from lowering quickly as you age by staying fit. I don't remember where I learned that, but I'd love to confirm that thought.

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    NeoRetroGrouch
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    Quote Originally Posted by sd790 View Post
    The more I read about max HR, the more confused I get. Comments like this, "[t]he researchers at John Moores University in Liverpool showed that athletes have lower maximum heart rates than sedentary people (International Journal of Sports Medicine, January 2008)" conflict with what I understand. (article here)


    I have always thought that your maximum HR is determined at birth by genetics and you cannot do anything to increase it, but you CAN prevent it from lowering quickly as you age by staying fit. I don't remember where I learned that, but I'd love to confirm that thought.
    That was my understanding also. I guess we have one indication that what we thought was not true. Time (and other studies) will tell. - TF

  5. #5
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I normally treat my max as 165- Age related- to the formula of 220-age and from a stress test recommendation a few years ago. At 165 I am puffing a lot but I can if pushed get it to 172 but then it is get off the bike and lie down- Before I fall down time.

    However about a month ago, and at the time I was not that fit, I did a hill- the steep one in our area. Chasing Mountain bikers with lower gearing and They gave up giving me something to prove. I nearly gave up and walked but they were looking so pushed on. Got to the top and had to rest- I was dead but still upright. HR had registered 181. Way above what I would normally attempt and I knew it.

    I had checked just before I felt like walking and I was at 166 and knew it- so to push on and get the HR up higher than usual- can happen.

    All I want to know is how you were still breathing at 98% of your max. At this time of the year I cannot normally get anywhere near my Max----- And I haven't since either.
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    OP: the odd heart rate you got could be because of the sender, the receiver or even extraneous signals from power lines or even other devices around you or on your bike.

    As for max HR. I still believe that max is not changable. On the other hand it is very, very difficult to achieve a maximum because it hurts so much and very few people are willing to do it. Based on the advice of a pretty experienced coach, I've adopted the following estimates:

    Lactate Threshold: average of a hard race pace (i.e. actual race) over approximately 1 hour.
    Max: I take the max on such a race, the time in the race where I really felt awful and either had to back off to survive or the last few minutes while working really hard to finish. The max I record I take to be about 90%. I've been told something to the effect that "90% feels pretty bad." so if you're doing a HR that feels bad (as opposed to just good solid exertion), divide that number by .9.

    That is also the rate I achieved when I was doing a stress test in my doctor's office and I gave him the signal indicating I couldn't go much more than a minute further. And it was tough to finish that minute!

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    jppe: I wouldn't trust a Garmin HR monitor any further than I could throw it. I had a Forerunner 205 which gave erratic HR data although I tried all the tricks: saliva, electrolyte gel, wearing the sender on my back, all to no avail. I still got erratic numbers. I sold the thing and bought a 305. Same problem even after they sent me a new transmitter. So now I use a Polar monitor which I've had for years with no problems. The trouble is that I have to use the Polar for HR and the Garmin for data that I can upload to my PC. The Garmin uses Cardiosport components, I think, and I had problems with one of those. So maybe it's just me!!

    Anyway, I frequently get my HR up to 93% max for about 15 min in pacelines and 98 or even 100% in a sprint and I don't feel bad, just exhausted afterwards. My 220-age should be 153, but I can hit 161 and use that as HRmax. My cardiologist told me it's OK to do HR max as long as I feel OK, but I usually peel off the paceline at 93-94% after 10-15 min just in case..........!

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    Max and resting heart rate have litte to do with fittness. Recovery(time it takes) from max to resting is the measure you wish to improve. I was involved as a subject in a grad school study on this very subject.

    Run up an 8 story building stairs as fast as you could then see how long it took to recover to normal resting heart rate.

    On some really tough climbs I have seen my hr monitor and thought it was going to blow up!

  9. #9
    Roadkill byte_speed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sd790 View Post
    The more I read about max HR, the more confused I get. Comments like this, "[t]he researchers at John Moores University in Liverpool showed that athletes have lower maximum heart rates than sedentary people (International Journal of Sports Medicine, January 2008)" conflict with what I understand. (article here)

    I have always thought that your maximum HR is determined at birth by genetics and you cannot do anything to increase it, but you CAN prevent it from lowering quickly as you age by staying fit. I don't remember where I learned that, but I'd love to confirm that thought.
    When I first started running 25 years ago, I would routinely get my heart rate to 220 bpm. At that time, I was in very poor shape. In a few months, as i got into better shape, my max heart rate dropped to about 168.

    Now my max is about 160 bpm. So it has been fairly constant (given all the years) for a long time, but it isn't fixed, And I can still push it up by a few beats if I can bear the pain, last year I was calling 156 bpm my max.

  10. #10
    Senior Member lighthorse's Avatar
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    I was hoping that someone would be able to give us a scientific/medical view of this issue. I am convinced that when we begin with a max heart rate based on some fixed number for all people (220-age for example) then the system is faulty to begin with. I finally changed my monitor to read only actual heartbeat not percentage of max. I found that I can ride well above my max rate for 20 minutes or so. That tells me that the max heart rate number is not a fixed " do not cross or you die" concept. So what is it?
    I am also convinced that the number is not a constant for all people of a given age. Nor is it always the same for the same person. Last year after a good training program and a cross country tour, I was in very good condition for me. I found that I could seldom get my heart rate above the 85% recommended training range unless I really hammered. Then I could force it well above the recommended maximum and keep it there without the kind of stress that I feel now if I try such a level of effort.
    I certainly don't have the answers for this issues. I finally took my monitor off the bike. It is just a distraction. I know what I feel without staring at some instrument that is giving me information that I don't know how to interpret.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member wrafl's Avatar
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    I own a HRM that is also a year old and have noticed it to be acting strangely too. At the start of the ride, it displays pretty low HR at 31 to 45. After finishing my 32 mile ride yesterday, I was shocked to find that my max HR was at 240. I doubt at all that it's correct. I have never even reached my max of 165 in all my rides. My solution is to replace the HRM with a newer one or replace all the batteries but I'm open to any tech adivse.

  12. #12
    Senior Member RockyMtnMerlin's Avatar
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    Couple of thoughts FWIW
    - My Garmin 305 HR readout is very consistent. I periodically check it against a manual count if I think it is off. Heck of a lot better that the Vetta that I had to return for warranty twice and finally gave up on. It is also better than the Polar I had before that - now if the battery......well that's another story.
    - As others have written, I have always read that Max is a fixed. Ability to attain it is something else entirely.
    - Interference (and hence false readings) can come from a host of outside electrical sources. Other HRM's, radio transmissions etc.
    - Interference can also come from interaction of rubbing material in cycling clothing.
    - Low numbers can also be caused by momentary loss of skin contact by the sensor.
    - As to inability to get above 75%, that could have been caused by something as simple as not sleeping well the night before, or lingering effects from some medications etc.

    Having said all that, if you suspect a false reading, take 15 seconds and do a manual temple or cartoid check to verify the HRM reading while still pedaling.

  13. #13
    Senior Member wrafl's Avatar
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    if you suspect a false reading, take 15 seconds and do a manual temple or cartoid check to verify the HRM reading while still pedaling.
    I doubt very much if I could do a manual count while riding, unless I'm on a spinner.

  14. #14
    Senior Member RockyMtnMerlin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wrafl View Post
    I doubt very much if I could do a manual count while riding, unless I'm on a spinner.
    Pretty darned easy actually. I leave my left hand on the bars and use the middle two fingers of my right hand against my neck. If you are under much exertion at all, the pulse is easy to find. Nearly every cycling computer has a clock that reads out seconds. Watch and count for 15 seconds - multiply by four and done.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by oilman_15106 View Post
    Max and resting heart rate have litte to do with fittness. Recovery(time it takes) from max to resting is the measure you wish to improve. I was involved as a subject in a grad school study on this very subject.

    Run up an 8 story building stairs as fast as you could then see how long it took to recover to normal resting heart rate.

    On some really tough climbs I have seen my hr monitor and thought it was going to blow up!
    What are the numbers to aim for in recovery time? Using that method alone I can see where I have improved these past few years. Used to be that when I walked up 1 flight of stairs at work, I was still breathing hard when I got to my office. Now, I can trot up 4 flights and almost recover by the time I arrive at my office.

    But what are the numbers to aim for? I remember reading something years ago saying that within 1 minute the HR should be X, and at 5 minutes it should be Y, and by _____ minutes it should be back to normal.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member RockyMtnMerlin's Avatar
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    Regarding resting heart rate. Being physically fit can lower your resting heart rate.

    From the American Heart Association,

    "The heart beats about 60 to 80 times a minute when we're at rest. Resting heart rate usually rises with age, and it's generally lower in physically fit people."

  17. #17
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    I have a couple of observations. Since I have been training with much more intensity, it is harder to get a high heart rate. To get to a maximum which is higher than 220 minus my age, I must be warmed up thoroughly and riding with some goal and competition and put out a lot of power. I do not know if it is the adrenalin but only then can I get to a maximum.

    I have read numerous times that max heart rate is an electrical / neurological thing and is not influenced by training. I suspect that may be true but......the reason that max may appear to increase is that we get better at achieving the max we have i.e. the electrical limit. This is one of the reasons that heart rate training is pegged off of lactate threshold versus max heart rate. One can measure LT easily in the lab and the field while max HR is illusive.

  18. #18
    OnTheRoad or AtTheBeach stonecrd's Avatar
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    I don't think MHR is really a fixed number. My MHR for running is much lower than for cycling and I have been told that is normally the case. It is really the physiological limit you can reach before your body just can't push any harder. Mine on the bike is 197, I routinely ride 85%-90% MHR and when I have hit 197 I know it as I start to see spots and feel like I am going to explode. Same feeling in running but my MHR is 185 bpm.

    As far as the Garmin goes mine has been rock solid for two years with no problems and I use it 5 days a weak. Only this last month did the seal fail which cause corrosion in the battery dept and wacky readings.
    The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard and the shallow end is much too large

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  19. #19
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    stonecrd's experience seems to agree with my limited experience. I had a MHR over the winter on my trainer - it was the top end I could hit by standing on it and working until I thought I was going to fall off. When I got the bike out on the road I blew right through the limit and now find I spend most of my time at 85% of my new limit - I can stay there for an hour or more which is not consistent with what should be anarobic output. I must admit I am new to a HRM and I am really beginning to question the value on the road. Although I know it helped on the trainer.
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  20. #20
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the feedback and information. Very insightful.

    In this instance I feel very confident the readings were not due to outside influences. I'm pretty familiar with EMF and other issues and can rule those out based on where we were and other variables. Plus I know how I was feeling and have enough experience with my HR and monitors over the years and also downloaded the data to review it. In this case it was not a spike but I saw a gradual increase in HR much like the effort I was producing. I was just surprised I could get the HR up as high as I did and not feel totally wacked..........but will admit I didn't have it up that high for too, too long.

    Hopefully in this case it's more of a fitness indicator......at least I think I'm going to try and convince myself of such!!!

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