HR, am I defective or what (warning, long explanation folows)?
Some background. I'm 53. I've been an avid cyclist most of my adult life, mainly long touring and main means of transportation.
In early summer of '09 I was probably in the top cycling fitness condition at any time in my life. I'm 5'11" then I weighed ~175lb and had an aerobic capacity that was, IMO, freakish. I had become a very strong hill climber and could sustain a moderate amount of physical stress for extended amounts time with minimal fatigue and quick recovery periods. Riding 5-8 hours in a day was not unheard of... a century ride? what, another one?
End of July of '09 a dog ran in front of me while on a training ride... I hit it dead on at ~25mph, I end overed onto my back resulting in 3 broken vertebra and a number of ribs.
Flash forward to summer of '11. Since this time my back had pretty much recovered, sans some remaining stiffness and I can't sit for long periods of time (probably a good thing), I was able to get back on the bike for general commuting after ~6 months. But my long riding form took a beating as well as my fitness. I put on ~70lbs (I work as a software engineer so a lot of time at the computer), was diagnosed with high blood pressure (given meds to control) and went from the best shape to worse shape in the matter of ~2 years. Tried doing other cross-training activities (swimming, stationary bike) to rebuild endurance but was consistently frustrated with results. I was now 245lbs, on HBP meds and out of breath climbing a set of stairs. Not feeling very good about myself.
Sick and tired of this condition, I've changed my eating habits, and as I began losing the weight was able to add more cycling activities back into my workout programs. Starting mid-winter, I got back to riding with a couple of the local bike clubs again (though I was and am still routinely getting dropped) but am, or was, seeing an appreciative fitness increase.
As of today I'm 196lbs, I've seen the underside of 194 and my goal for this summer is to take off another 10lbs which I'm on track to do... however my endurance, efficiency and aerobic capacity continue to be a question mark.
I've been doing a lot more interval training rides, mixing harder hill climbing vs. long easier spin rides, etc., and have been able do finish my first (american) century last month in > 3 years. I am "routinely" doing 50m+ training rides so I'm getting the seat time. Riding 3-4 hours isn't as foreign to me as it once was.
However, it's certainly not as "easy" as I remember it being. Yes I'm older, that might be one of the realities I'm facing. Yesterday I went out planning to finish my 2nd century but threw in the towel after the initial 55m section (it was more difficult section) as I was simply gassed. In a younger time I probably would have continued and hurt myself but I stopped to live to fight anther day. Feeling great today btw, trying to talk myself out of going for a ride .
But... one thing I've noticed this season is my seemingly elevated heart rate. I'm using a Garmin Edge for measuring and consistently I'm blowing what would be considered normal HR levels out of the water, in most cases running at or above zone 5 (> 160bpm). e.g., Level terrain, 80 rpm, 159bpm. Add a hill here and I can easily see 175 which by chart "standards" would indicate I'm over 100% and I can reach and even hold 195 bpm for a relatively long amount of time (maybe I'm a freak?). I've never considered myself "normal" for any category, but this would seem too important to ignore. My HR comes down very quickly when I stop. Hell, my resting is ~60bpm and I'm now off of the blood pressure meds. But I am fatiguing pretty quickly and am pointing at my energy expenditure, based on my HR reports, since I don't have an actual wattage calc, as a culprit.
Time to see a sports medical doctor, change my training process, or am I just an old guy refusing to accept the fact that he's just old? I think there were some older folks then I on this ride yesterday who were moving along much better then I.
Congrats on getting back to cycling and getting your health back on track.
(I'm not a doctor, and I don't mean to give medical advice here... just a person who trains.)
It sounds like HR training is new to you, and you don't have any numbers to compare with from back in the day when you were fitter. It also sounds like you might be using a calculation to get your max HR - maybe that 220-age thing. That is VERY unreliable. Don't use any calculation for your max HR to base training zones from, use the highest number you ever see on your HRM, when you are absolutely maxed out on effort, about to explode, barf or pass out. That's your max HR. It decreases with age but is very personal. And, it doesn't say anything about how fit or unfit you are, it just is what it is. It sounds like yours is higher than what the calculation tells you.
HR coming down quickly when you stop exercising and a resting HR of 60 both sound healthy.
Of course, at your age and with your weight change and BP history, it would probably be a good thing to get a doctor to OK you for hard exercise, do a stress test, make sure there's nothing wrong. It's possible you have a some kind of issue and your high HR is abnormal. But I wouldn't take that higher-than-you-expect number to mean anything on it's own.
A HR range from 60 to low 190s sounds good. The HRmax formulas are worthless for individuals. Ignore them. Your HRmax is what it is.
HR does not indicate fitness or power.
It sounds like you just need more base. You're rebuilding from near zero fitness. It takes a while, especially when you are older.
The BP meds may have also screwed you up for a while , I 'm with the give it more time and build more base idea^ I am in a similiar rebuilding phase. HR wants to go through the roof on climbs, especially if i have not had adequate SLEEP. Keep going, just don't burn the candle at both ends.
I don't know what effect the BP meds would have, but totally agree that you should not rely on a chart to determine your functional threshold HR or power. Google those terms to find different ways to calculate your theoretical maximum HR and your threshold level. One of the best ways to calculate threshold HR is to ride a long uphill ride at full effort and see what your average heart rate is for that hour. You can also pay to have it calculated in a fitness lab setting. These numbers will give you the parameters within which to train. When I first trained I used a chart and it calculated my threshold HR way too low. I had pretty dismal results. Turns out I am a statistical outlier. I'm 56 and my HR threshold is about 171 and my max is just north of 196 (that's the highest I've seen on my computer). A "standard" chart would normally put my maximum at between 164-180 bpm. The other significant part of your story is the amount of weight you have now as compared to your better days in the past. You are almost 20 pounds heavier than you were at your peak form and those pounds totally mess with your strength to weight ratio (watts to kilos)--a ratio that matters the most when you are going uphill. Good luck with your recovery.