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Noob question: Heart rate doesn't match effort level

laidbackzacklaidbackzack Posts: 8
Hi all,

I am a 21 year-old, 5'6", 140 lb noob who just got into cycling 3 months ago. My athletic history is in powerlifting, which is a strength sport and requires very different adaptations from cycling. I started following the britishcycling's beginner training program, which required me to conduct a LTHR test. My LTHR was ~155 bpm. 5 days ago, I did a primarily zone 1 and 2 workout for one hour as prescribed, and my average HR was 108, at the low end of my calculated zone 2. However, today I was prescribed to ride for an hour in zone 2 but it took way more effort to raise my heart rate to the prescribed zone. I ended up having to lower the gearing in order to maintain a sustainable effort without burning out. In other words, I had to work far harder to achieve the same heart rate than I did 5 days ago. Is this an indication of improved fitness, or was the time frame to short to achieve measurable increases in fitness? Could it just reflect daily heart rate variability? I'm a bit confused as to how to interpret the data.

Thank you in advance!

Zack

Posts

  • Ok, great. Thanks! Would you recommend training by feel/RPE rather than HR due to the inevitable variability?
  • Ok, great. Thanks! Would you recommend training by feel/RPE rather than HR due to the inevitable variability?
    You should always use RPE, no matter what other devices you use to aid in the monitoring of effort level. The main problem with RPE for many is the means of "self-calibration" since it's still fairly subjective.

    In time you'll get to know a bit more about how your HR responds to the many things that influence it as well as how hard you are riding. HR has its uses when better options are not available (namely power measurement).

    In general, HR response indoors and out can vary, as it can with fatigue levels (acute and chronic), stress, race scenarios, various drugs (e.g. caffeine), hydration level, environmental conditions, fitness, illness and infection, arousal level and so on.

    HR is generally fine for monitoring longer sub-maximal, quasi steady state type efforts but keep an eye on cardiac drift (where HR gradually rises over the course of a longer effort, or at same HR where power output gradually declines).

    Like RPE, HR has a lag in response time though, so not so good for monitoring shorter, harder and/or more variable efforts.
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    It's worth checking your resting HR before a workout. it doesn't have to be perfect, but just get a feel for it pre ride. depending on what you've eaten and when it can make almost a zones worth of difference.
  • Awesome. I really appreciate the advice. Many thanks to both of you!
  • Isn't there an alternative way of getting your hr zones that take into account your testing hr? Something like max- rhr to get training range then you work out the zones based on percentage before adding rhr back on. I'm sure I've seen this somewhere and wonder if there's any value to using it based on the actual resting heart rate on the actual day. Not sure if it has any effect but if you're on a bad day due to fatigue, sickness, etc it might lower the zones to closely match rpe on the actual day.

    BTW let's make this clear, the above idea has no basis in science AFAIK just my idea for a noob to still be able to use the hrm for zone training when effort isn't matching monitor reading for whatever reason. If there's any validity to this idea it's only by chance.
  • That is a very low LTHR for someone of your age. I have nearly 40 years on you and mine is higher!

    How did you do the test?
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,003
    It's worth checking your resting HR before a workout. it doesn't have to be perfect, but just get a feel for it pre ride. depending on what you've eaten and when it can make almost a zones worth of difference.

    Your RHR will only tell you what your RHR is. It is not a predictor of anything else.
  • Tangled Metal, I've never heard of something like that. I'll look into it. Thank you!

    northcliff66, I conducted it on an indoor bike using a heart rate monitor I've had for a few years. My resting heart rate is relatively low (~high 40s to low 50s) if that makes any difference. I also come from a pretty athletic background. Again, no idea if these factors make a difference, the test was simply a fluke, or I genetically have a lower resting heart rate. I've heard heart rate comparisons between individuals is not terribly informative because of individual genetic variability. Should my heart rate theoretically be higher than someone older than me? I do not claim to know any of this stuff. Simply things I've heard, so please correct me if I'm wrong.
  • singletonsingleton Posts: 1,644
    Doing your own test is definately the best way to get figures for you - but there are some other mechanisms if you think that maybe they will help or inform your training.
    There are a variety of ways to calculate max HR, some are here: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/maxhr.htm and here http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/article/heart-rate-monitor-training-for-cyclists-28838/
    Most of these give my max as nearer to 172, a few give 177 and the highest figure is 182. I've had readings of 177 when I've been training so mine is higher than most of these figures.

    Also make sure you calculate your zones properly. E.g. If your resting heart rate is 60 and your max is 180, then 50% of HRMAX is NOT 90, it is 120.
    The calculation is not 180*50%, it is 50% of the difference between RHR and HRMAX added to RHR or 60+((180-60)*50%).
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,003
    Also make sure you calculate your zones properly. E.g. If your resting heart rate is 60 and your max is 180, then 50% of HRMAX is NOT 90, it is 120.
    The calculation is not 180*50%, it is 50% of the difference between RHR and HRMAX added to RHR or 60+((180-60)*50%).

    You've obviously read that somewhere - but that is not universally how you calculate % MHR. Anything that factors RHR into a calculation like this is generally not worth taking seriously, IMO. Mainly because your RHR is changeable over time, whereas your MHR typically isn't.
  • ForumNewbieForumNewbie Posts: 1,664
    Doing your own test is definitely the best way to get figures for you - but there are some other mechanisms if you think that maybe they will help or inform your training.
    There are a variety of ways to calculate max HR, some are here: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/maxhr.htm and here http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/article/heart-rate-monitor-training-for-cyclists-28838/
    Most of these give my max as nearer to 172, a few give 177 and the highest figure is 182. I've had readings of 177 when I've been training so mine is higher than most of these figures.

    Also make sure you calculate your zones properly. E.g. If your resting heart rate is 60 and your max is 180, then 50% of HRMAX is NOT 90, it is 120.
    The calculation is not 180*50%, it is 50% of the difference between RHR and HRMAX added to RHR or 60+((180-60)*50%).
    Maybe I'm confused but according to the article in your second link, and also my understanding, is that you work out your Zones based on percentage of max HR, not the difference between resting and max. So if your max is 180 and Zone 1 is 60-65%, then Zone 1 works out at 108 to 117bpm.
  • I've actually been calculating my zones based on my LTHR (which came out to be 160, but I used a slightly lower working value of 155). I conducted the 30 minute test on an indoor bike.
  • There are literally dozens of HR training zone schemas.

    Just apply a bit of common sense when using them. If you can't actually sustain a HR on a consistent basis (i.e. not just based on one ride or day) when a (good suitable) training plan suggests you should be able to, then modify the HR ranges to suit.

    Likewise if you find what should be moderately taxing efforts (e.g. threshold intervals) too easy at the suggested HR, then lift it a little.
  • Personally I've always felt it's good to listen to your body. For example a few years ago ago I took up jogging, later gave up on it due to knee problems, I had a habit of singing or humming a tune. My view was that if I couldn't keep the tune or song up I was going too hard. If it was too easy I'd speed up. I think I read more that is advice somewhere online. I was starting out so I wasn't ready for intervals yet, TBH I was only trying to build up to jogging for a full half hour without walking. Cycling I could keep 16 and even 20mph average speed but running I was.terrible at.

    I know cycling is different but I suspect if you're starting out the singing thing, or holding a conversation with a mate you're riding with, the principles are probably the same.
  • I've actually been calculating my zones based on my LTHR (which came out to be 160, but I used a slightly lower working value of 155). I conducted the 30 minute test on an indoor bike.
    Zones are based on maximum, not LTHR. LTHR is of course lower than max.

    http://wattbike.com/uk/guide/getting_started/heart_rate_and_power_training_zones
    This is a good reference.

    For someone age 21 your maximum is most likely around 200.

    This is a good read as well.
    http://home.trainingpeaks.com/blog/article/joe-friel-s-quick-guide-to-setting-zones
  • There are also many experts who will tell you how bad HR and RPE are as training guides for cycling.

    Get a power meter.
  • Northcliff66, I believe you are misinformed. Joe Friel specifically says that zones can be calculated based off of LTHR, but obviously they will be different percentages than those based on Max HR. Directly from Joe Friel's blog:

    Zone 1 Less than 81% of LTHR
    Zone 2 81% to 89% of LTHR
    Zone 3 90% to 93% of LTHR
    Zone 4 94% to 99% of LTHR
    Zone 5a 100% to 102% of LTHR
    Zone 5b 103% to 106% of LTHR
    Zone 5c More than 106% of LTHR

    I would love a powermeter, but as a broke student I'm not yet willing to dish out the small fortune required to buy one. Maybe once I'm more experienced I'll consider it.

    Edit: Just saw you linked the same blog post. Those are the values I was using based on LTHR.
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    some good info here:

    http://wserver.flc.losrios.edu/~willson/fitns304/handouts/heartRates.html

    also explains why HR alone is not the best measure and the impact of external factors, hence why I say have a little look before you start training, if its up or down you may find it easier or harder to hit certain zones.
  • some good info here:

    http://wserver.flc.losrios.edu/~willson/fitns304/handouts/heartRates.html

    also explains why HR alone is not the best measure and the impact of external factors, hence why I say have a little look before you start training, if its up or down you may find it easier or harder to hit certain zones.
    That was an awesome, thorough read. Very informative. Thank you for that! In other news, I just finished training and my HR was back to my "normal" zones in that it matched my effort level.
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    I do a double spin class on a monday, followed by some hi rep, low weight training. I'm also super fasting a day a week (10% of RDA). my RHR (ambient HR for the picky) is usually down 10%, as result. Its something I definitely take account of when I'm trying to reach upper zones.
  • singletonsingleton Posts: 1,644

    You've obviously read that somewhere - but that is not universally how you calculate % MHR. Anything that factors RHR into a calculation like this is generally not worth taking seriously, IMO. Mainly because your RHR is changeable over time, whereas your MHR typically isn't.

    Fair point, I'll admit my mistake.
    I used this method for run training a while back but it's not universally applied.
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    The formula you quoted is using %HRR acording to the Karvonen formula. It is perfectly valid to use RHR in this way (though obviously that is disputed by some apparently). Using RHR takes account of range. I know plenty of unfit fatties in their 40s with high max HR, they also have RHR in the upper 90s, which gives the game away. Hence HRR takes in to account both ends of the "rev range".

    Heart rate reserve (HRR) is the difference between resting heart rate (HRrest) and maximum heart rate (HRmax).

    HRR = HRmax - HRrest

    Heart rate reserve is used when determining exercise heart rates.

    The Karvonen formula is used to calculate exercise heart rate at a given percentage training intensity. Add the given percentage of heart rate reserve to the resting heart rate.

    Exercise HR = % of target intensity (HRmax – HRrest) + HRrest

    For example: Target intensity 70 % HRR for a person with HRmax 201 bpm and
    HRrest 50 bpm

    Exercise HR= 70% (201-50=151) + 50
    Exercise HR=155 bpm
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