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High HR diminishing with age- your experience?

Old 10-15-20, 09:54 AM
  #1  
MinnMan
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High HR diminishing with age- your experience?

We all know, the ability to reach high heart rates goes down with age. But for a long time, I saw no change. Then in the last 2 years, and particularly in the last year, I've seen a significant decrease. I expected it would go down gradually, but instead it held steady throughout most of my 50s, and then....

What's been your experience?

More detail. I'm 59. I first started riding and having info for my HR at age 48. I don't know where I was at before then.

At age 48-50, the max HR I observed was 178, and I easily got up to 175 doing intervals on stationary bikes at the gym.
At age 50-58, I saw readings above 180 at least a few times a year, and each year, my MHR observed was 182-184.
At age 58, though I still saw readings above 180 (highest 183), I found that it was hard to get my HR much above 175, except in extreme efforts. I could do intervals or all-out on a hill climb and top out in the low 170s.
This year (age 159), I have on very few occasions reached the mid 170s, but it's very unusual. I went out on an all-out hill climb ride a few weeks ago, and the highest I could get was 168.

Also, my HR for modest efforts has gone down. Whereas a spinning flat ride of say, 30 miles, 17 mph, would be an average HR in the high 120s previously, now it's typically 115 bpm.

I don't think my fitness has diminished (it went down for a time this summer because I was off the bike owing to an injury, but it's mostly back now). And I'm not worried about it, except that I wonder how things will change in the future.

Curious about others' experiences.

Last edited by MinnMan; 10-15-20 at 12:33 PM.
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Old 10-15-20, 10:18 AM
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Few years ago I read on a website that those that do higher levels of cardio won't see a drop in HR as they age. Don't remember where it was. Nor did I consider it anything more than some authors anecdotal experience as I don't remember any studies or such offered for support.

However it was matching with my anecdotal experience. And for comparing what your HR is for certain efforts, are you looking at just the HR or has your time to do those efforts also increased and speed decreased?

If you do a particular effort in the same time, distance and weight as another and find you have a lower HR. I'd attribute that to your cardiovascular system being better able to do what it does and you simply don't require your heart to beat as fast to pump the volume of blood required.

I have noted now at 62 and having several lay offs from cycling that my max HR might not be what it was. I haven't really investigated to be certain as I do have occasional peak HR in and over, but maybe not as many as I've seen on rides long past. I still find myself besting my performance on some ride segments. Might all be equipment weight which recently changed, but not completely certain.
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Old 10-15-20, 10:54 AM
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Like OP I am 59. My max heartrate that I know even when I was in my prime running and marathon PR shape was only in the 180's. Right now I can at times get it to 150 but it takes a lot of work and I have to be rested. My resting HR is 40 sometimes 39 and generally has always been this. In the past 5 years it does seem as I cycle and run my overall HR is simply not as high. Now if I do a 50 mile ride at say 17-19 mph my HR will average between 108-123 for the ride. That is down from what is was 5 years ago. Running I can get my heart rate higher and now if I am running and it averages over 122 that is pretty high. Maybe even 4-5 years ago that would have been my low end. I don't what it means but I do know I don't rest enough but I am retired and like to be active daily. If I am really tired my heart rate will be lower those days riding or running.
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Old 10-15-20, 11:24 AM
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I think so, although it's been gradual. In my 30s and 40s I used to see 190s fairly regularly during crits and the occasional 200, but in the last year I have maxed in the high 180s.
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Old 10-15-20, 11:31 AM
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At 69 as of September, I rarely push myself hard enough to reach much above 170, but riding the indoor trainer using BigRingVR's virtual routes last year, I saw 180 and over a number of times and 190-plus a few times. I have no idea what to make of that.
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Old 10-15-20, 12:31 PM
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Yes, it drops.
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Old 10-15-20, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Few years ago I read on a website that those that do higher levels of cardio won't see a drop in HR as they age. Don't remember where it was. Nor did I consider it anything more than some authors anecdotal experience as I don't remember any studies or such offered for support.

However it was matching with my anecdotal experience. And for comparing what your HR is for certain efforts, are you looking at just the HR or has your time to do those efforts also increased and speed decreased?

If you do a particular effort in the same time, distance and weight as another and find you have a lower HR. I'd attribute that to your cardiovascular system being better able to do what it does and you simply don't require your heart to beat as fast to pump the volume of blood required.

I have noted now at 62 and having several lay offs from cycling that my max HR might not be what it was. I haven't really investigated to be certain as I do have occasional peak HR in and over, but maybe not as many as I've seen on rides long past. I still find myself besting my performance on some ride segments. Might all be equipment weight which recently changed, but not completely certain.
I have not seen a decrease in performance. I can still do solo rides of 20-50 miles with 20+ mph averages pretty regularly, if the course doesn't have a lot of stops. This year I've twice done 50 mile solo rides with a 21 mph average - a lifetime high. Maybe it's the aero wheels and the fact that I do so much more solo riding now. This April, I did a solo century with a 20.2 mph average - my first-ever solo sub-5 hour effort.

It would be more quantitative to compare HR for efforts of similar average power, but I haven't been using my power meter pedals outside for a while - they're on the trainer. And as I have yet to use the trainer much this season, I don't have a lot of recent data. When I get more Zwift time in (soon, unfortunately), I can compare, say, a steady 180 watt hour with a similar effort last year.
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Old 10-15-20, 01:44 PM
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Mine has noticeably decreased but I'm thinking it's more related to effort and not doing the interval work I used to do to really jump it up. All of this occurred after my crash/hip replacement so I'm attributing it to a combination of things: age, effort and lack of riding with much faster riders where I really had to push myself. If I were riding with a power meter or still doing Time Trials I would be able to narrow it down to a more specific cause.
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Old 10-15-20, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
I have not seen a decrease in performance. ..................
That's what I focus on. So I'm unsure why others seem to worry about max HR. There are too many other factors that determine how well you perform. And a decrease in HR with age is the expectation of the general population from everything I've read. I also can't think that I've ever read about a correlation that directly links it to decreasing performance with age as the end all reason for that decrease.

And I do have some data that suggests when I was taking a drug that made my average HR and max HR a little more than 10 bpm faster, that I didn't perform as well as I did in the times immediately before and since I stopped taking that amphetamine. But I only cherry picked a few instances to look at, so I didn't do what I'd call a thorough review of my data.
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Old 10-15-20, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
That's what I focus on. So I'm unsure why others seem to worry about max HR.
...
Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
I don't think my fitness has diminished (it went down for a time this summer because I was off the bike owing to an injury, but it's mostly back now). And I'm not worried about it, except that I wonder how things will change in the future.
.
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Old 10-15-20, 04:41 PM
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198 max heart rate at age 35
176 max heart rate at age 64
And a big drop in max average speed on rides between those two ages. We are mortal, eh?

Last edited by randallr; 10-15-20 at 04:45 PM.
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Old 10-15-20, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by randallr View Post
198 max heart rate at age 35
176 max heart rate at age 64
And a big drop in max average speed on rides between those two ages. We are mortal, eh?
My average speed on a 154 mile, 10,000' course has dropped by 1 mph over the past 20 years. It's all about adjusting your training to emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
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Old 10-16-20, 05:34 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
I have not seen a decrease in performance...........................
Nice stats but what's your current age?
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Old 10-16-20, 05:48 AM
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I am 52 and thought was noticing the same thing. On most rides, at max effort, I could go above 175 and get close to 180+ (186 on Tuesday). However, I realized that when I took an Advil (2) before the ride, my max was always 10 beats lower. In fact my overall ride is 10 beats lower. I have tested now many times and am 100% sure there is a correlation. This does not happen with Tylenol.

So, as many of us take things like statins, Advil, etc, as we age, I wonder how much of an impact these agents are having on our HR.
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Old 10-16-20, 07:10 AM
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With all that stress some are putting on their hearts, the next thing we’ll be discussing is atrial fibrillation, which is often associated with long-term, intense athletic activity.☹️.
At close to age 80, it’s hard for me to get to 140bpm, whereas 20 years ago I could easily exceed 150. Do I care? No. My Afib is now almost non-existent, a side benefit of a pacemaker after my resting HR became 34 with up to 10 second pauses!

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Old 10-16-20, 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Artmo View Post
With all that stress some are putting on their hearts, the next thing well be discussing is atrial fibrillation, which is often associated with long-term, intense athletic activity.☹️.
You forgot the "without adequate recovery" part.
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Old 10-16-20, 07:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Lemond1985 View Post
You forgot the "without adequate recovery" part.
First Ive heard of that. Thanks.
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Old 10-16-20, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by OldTryGuy View Post
Nice stats but what's your current age?
59. See OP
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Old 10-16-20, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
59. See OP
OOPS Senior moment, I'm 70 -- that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it

BTW, heart still doing OK here and is slowing down a bit but still managed 102 miles Tuesday and 102 miles yesterday.
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Old 10-17-20, 07:46 PM
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I only started wearing a HR monitor a few years ago. Last year, at 56, I hit 186bpm several times. This year, with no racing (due to Covid) I have only hit maybe 183 while killing myself on a couple Strava segments.

But I'm not really sure why it matters. I've read (could be wrong) that max HR is not really trainable and not indicative of fitness...It's just an individual thing.
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Old 10-17-20, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post

But I'm not really sure why it matters. I've read (could be wrong) that max HR is not really trainable and not indicative of fitness...It's just an individual thing.
"matters" isn't really the point here. Just curiousity.

As to it being individual, definitely. (For a long time, it was said that Chris Froome's MHR was 161 bpm, but he's released data on climbs where he hits as high as 174. Still rather low for someone his age, but obviously not related to his performance. Then again, his resting heart rate is 32.....)
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Old 10-17-20, 08:20 PM
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I had a friend whose resting HR was in the low 30s. Once, at a doctor's office, they checked his pulse and immediately brought in a crash cart - they thought his heart was about to stop. He explained that he just had a low resting HR.
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Old 10-18-20, 03:48 PM
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Beats me and I think it's a good question. Conventional thought is that maximum heart rate declines with age, because HR measurements in the general population show this effect. We also know that it's more complex than just age, and I'm skeptical that it holds as more than a general rule of thumb.

In my own case, I can't say with any confidence. Even with a chest strap and when I was in pretty good shape, I've never come up with a consistent maximum heart rate.
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Old 10-19-20, 05:15 PM
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I don''t keep track. I just ride how I feel.
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Old 10-19-20, 07:31 PM
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The general rule I have always heard was your age subtracted from 220. So at about 60 your max should be around 160.
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