Forum home Road cycling forum Training, fitness and health

Can't get my HR high enough

tenohfivetenohfive Posts: 152
I've recently taken up cycling as a less impactive form of cross training (and because I enjoy it, which is a bonus) but I'm struggling to get my HR up. I will mention now I'm using a watch with an optical HRM rather than a strap based one but I've got a fair feel for how hard I'm working and believe the numbers it's giving me.

On a recent hill reps session (6% or so hill) I was sub 170bpm at all points (and I was pushing my legs as hard as I could, particularly at the end.) I only felt properly, raspy, knackered out of breath on the last minute of the last rep.
On another occasion I deliberately hammered down a flat stretch aiming for as high a speed as I could manage - 90 seconds of max effort. 160bpm.

For a comparison when I'm pushing hard running - either sprints or hill reps - I'll regularly hit 180bpm+.

I'm thinking that because I've not been cycling long and using the same muscles my heart is stronger than my legs (or I need to man up and push harder somehow.) Is there anything I can do to even that balance, other than being patient and spending plenty of time in the saddle?
«1

Posts

  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,202
    Not sure what it is you are trying to achieve. Hitting a high HR should not really be a goal in itself. Running is a different sport, for which generally speaking, a higher HR is achievable when compared to cycling.

    Either way, I don't really understand what your concern is.
  • I'm not working hard enough - that's my concern. I don't sit there watching my HR normally but I know my body, and the numbers just mirror how I actually feel. Since I started cycling the number of occasions where I'm breathing through my a**e have been virtually nil.
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,202
    tenohfive wrote:
    I'm not working hard enough - that's my concern. I don't sit there watching my HR normally but I know my body, and the numbers just mirror how I actually feel. Since I started cycling the number of occasions where I'm breathing through my a**e have been virtually nil.

    So work harder then? Sorry, I still dont understand what the issue is. Try a few rides without the HRM and ride on feel.
  • fenixfenix Posts: 5,437
    Your HRM prob isnt that accurate flat out. Get a strap for it.

    It could be that you're not strong enough to push flat out ? Maybe try dropping a gear and spinning faster ?

    Running will get you higher BPM as there are more muscles you're utilising.
  • Ha has probably read the 220-age rule and feels worried he is too old for his age.

    Max HR doesn't really mean anything... if 170 is what you can reach going up a 10% slope, then that's your max HR... if you don't like it, then ditch the HR monitor
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,326
    edited September 2016
    fenix wrote:

    Running will get you higher BPM as there are more muscles you're utilising.

    This - your running MHR will be higher than your cycling MHR, so it's not too much to worry about.

    If you want to know your cycling MHR there are a few protocols online (Google it), but it is not pleasant. To be honest flat out hill reps should get you there provided the hill is not really short.
    tenohfive wrote:
    I'm not working hard enough - that's my concern. I don't sit there watching my HR normally but I know my body, and the numbers just mirror how I actually feel. Since I started cycling the number of occasions where I'm breathing through my a**e have been virtually nil.

    Although does suggest you're possibly not working hard enough, since flat out hill reps should definitely induce that result...

    Try riding up a hill with someone else who's much faster than you, try and hold their wheel for as long as possible - I can always go harder then...
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,326
    Ha has probably read the 220-age rule and feels worried he is too old for his age.

    If you read his post properly, he gives example running and cycling HRs and is asking why his cycling HR is lower than his running HR... Not why he can't hit 220-age...
  • Based on the info you have given it sounds like you may not have the leg strength to push yourself up into VO2 max/anaerobic capacity (or you are holding back for some reason).

    As Bob says you probably need to ascertain how hard you are actually going up a hill as hill reps should definitely have you blowing out your backside!

    To give an example I have a 1km hill at 6% I use for reps. If I am doing cadence or strength work I use the following respectively, both of which get me to max heart rate quite easily:

    - Cadence; 36 x 15 gear at 95+ rpm for full climb
    - Strength; 30-45 second sprint, hands on drops in 52 x 17 (all out effort)

    I am not suggesting you try this but will give an indication that spinning up in 34 x 32 will not induce max heart rate, you need to be going hard (again, not to suggest that is what you are doing!).
  • fenixfenix Posts: 5,437
    Also newbies can't spin as fast as people who have practiced it - so it could be that the OP hasnt got the strength to push the big gear or the skill to push the lower gear faster ?
  • bobmcstuff wrote:
    Try riding up a hill with someone else who's much faster than you, try and hold their wheel for as long as possible - I can always go harder then...

    Tried that too, turned around and chased a random during my last rep who had a bit of a head start. That was the closest I came to being out of breath but still wasn't as knackered as I'd have liked.
    Based on the info you have given it sounds like you may not have the leg strength to push yourself up into VO2 max/anaerobic capacity (or you are holding back for some reason).

    As Bob says you probably need to ascertain how hard you are actually going up a hill as hill reps should definitely have you blowing out your backside!

    To give an example I have a 1km hill at 6% I use for reps. If I am doing cadence or strength work I use the following respectively, both of which get me to max heart rate quite easily:

    - Cadence; 36 x 15 gear at 95+ rpm for full climb
    - Strength; 30-45 second sprint, hands on drops in 52 x 17 (all out effort)

    I am not suggesting you try this but will give an indication that spinning up in 34 x 32 will not induce max heart rate, you need to be going hard (again, not to suggest that is what you are doing!).

    Sorry but I don't understand the latter paragraphs - I need to wrap my head around gearing and teeth numbers etc, but right now I think in terms of lowest gear, highest gear, stuff in the middle gears. I agree that I don't seem to be getting into anaerobic capacity yet and that is ultimately what I want
    fenix wrote:
    Also newbies can't spin as fast as people who have practiced it - so it could be that the OP hasnt got the strength to push the big gear or the skill to push the lower gear faster ?

    I don't have the strength to push the bigger gears during hill reps, absolutely. What feels like the 'right' gear is a good few notches down but not the lowest gear either.
    Will I end up working harder if I drop a cog and spin like crazy (and any technique tips on that front?) or just try and grind my existing slightly higher gear quickly?

    Or am I better off looking at some sort of exercises that'll build my leg strength sooner?
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,202
    Based on the info you have given it sounds like you may not have the leg strength to push yourself up into VO2 max/anaerobic capacity

    Sorry, that's nonsense. Leg strength is not what allows you to hit VO2 max, by definition. Someone could walk in off the street having never exercised before, jump on an exercise bike and hit their VO2 max if needs be, so not having enough 'strength' is a complete red herring.
  • fenixfenix Posts: 5,437
    Mr Impostor if you read his reply above - it could be the issue. Too big a gear and he can't push it properly to max out his HR.

    The right gearing is important.
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    In very simple terms the general idea for establishing your MHR cycling is to warm up thoroughly then find a longish uphill stretch and progressively increase the effort / select harder gears so that as you near the top you're almost on the point of passing out and / or vomiting. On regaining consciousness have a look at your HRM to see how high it went.

    I'm 59 now and my MHR cycling is 168, which is a bit higher than the 220-age thing.

    AFAIK the only reason for needing to know MHR is to use it to establish training zones based on it. Is that what you're wanting to do?
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,202
    fenix wrote:
    Mr Impostor if you read his reply above - it could be the issue. Too big a gear and he can't push it properly to max out his HR.

    The right gearing is important.

    It won't be the issue because the two simply do not correlate. Although I agree, gearing is important, it's not the issue here though - it's perfectly possible to hit MHR while over-geared.
  • The reason I'm trying to do what I am - go as hard as possible - is because I'm trying to work on my LT. Even if I take HR out of the equation I'm still not particularly out of breath despite my legs being on the point that I physically cannot spin them any faster (in the 'right' gear I've mentioned above.)

    If it's a strength issue, fine. I'm open to solutions.
    If it's a gearing issue, fine. I'm open to solutions.

    I just want to finish a session feeling utterly b*****ksed, regardless of the numbers. It's not currently happening and something is holding me back - and I don't think it's me; I'm used to pushing myself.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 53,386 Lives Here
    tenohfive wrote:
    The reason I'm trying to do what I am - go as hard as possible - is because I'm trying to work on my LT. Even if I take HR out of the equation I'm still not particularly out of breath despite my legs being on the point that I physically cannot spin them any faster (in the 'right' gear I've mentioned above.)

    If it's a strength issue, fine. I'm open to solutions.
    If it's a gearing issue, fine. I'm open to solutions.

    I just want to finish a session feeling utterly b*****ksed, regardless of the numbers. It's not currently happening and something is holding me back - and I don't think it's me; I'm used to pushing myself.

    Keep cycling.

    It'll happen.

    At a really inconvenient time. Like when you're showing off to mates.
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,202
    tenohfive wrote:
    The reason I'm trying to do what I am - go as hard as possible - is because I'm trying to work on my LT. Even if I take HR out of the equation I'm still not particularly out of breath despite my legs being on the point that I physically cannot spin them any faster (in the 'right' gear I've mentioned above.)

    If it's a strength issue, fine. I'm open to solutions.
    If it's a gearing issue, fine. I'm open to solutions.

    I just want to finish a session feeling utterly b*****ksed, regardless of the numbers. It's not currently happening and something is holding me back - and I don't think it's me; I'm used to pushing myself.

    You said you have recently taken up cycling. It's not a strength issue, it's not a gearing issue - it's a fitness issue. Take a bit of time to get some aerobic fitness and some miles in the bank before you go out smashing yourself. And ditch the HRM for now, it won't be telling you anything useful.
  • AK_jnrAK_jnr Posts: 717
    How is it a fitness issue?! If that was the case he would be hitting his MHR earlier than he was used to!

    As a runner too, I agree with some of the comments above that running will raise your HR higher. As an example my MHR on the bike is 185, which I rarely get near on any length of interval, or even races.
    My first 5k race I averaged 185 for 18 minutes. I would blow up in seconds/minutes if I got near that on the bike.

    I know its not a fitness issue, as the PM doesnt lie.
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,326
    I'm with Imposter, but lets not get into that leg strength can of worms again...

    Next time get out of the saddle and sprint flat out up it, without looking at the HR, then report back.

    If you're not out of breath but can't spin your legs any faster then you just want a harder gear, surely.....
  • tenohfive wrote:
    The reason I'm trying to do what I am - go as hard as possible - is because I'm trying to work on my LT. Even if I take HR out of the equation I'm still not particularly out of breath despite my legs being on the point that I physically cannot spin them any faster (in the 'right' gear I've mentioned above.)

    If it's a strength issue, fine. I'm open to solutions.
    If it's a gearing issue, fine. I'm open to solutions.

    I just want to finish a session feeling utterly b*****ksed, regardless of the numbers. It's not currently happening and something is holding me back - and I don't think it's me; I'm used to pushing myself.
    You don't need your Max HR to find your LTHR
    The best way is to do a test in a lab
    Failing that you can do a self test either on a turbo or on a road. If its on a road then it needs to be without traffic lights or anything to slow you down. It needs to be flat or slightly uphill, best not to have any downhill.

    This test is similar to an FTP test, start with a warm up then fo a 5 minute flat out as fast as you can hold for 5 mins.
    Then recover for 15 minutes. Then do 20 mins as fast as you can go like in a time trial, hit the lap button at the start, dont jump too hard. At 20 minutes the average should be close to your LTHR.
    Or you could buy Jow Friels Training with a HRM and he goes into how to achieve your LTHR in detail
  • I'm not trying to test my LT, I'm trying to push it. Nor am I trying to hit MHR - I think technically the aim is 20bpm below MHR for LT work but I don't use a HRM actively normally. I don't look at it, I just let it record because I know the point I'm aiming for by feel (I run and cycle by feel.) I've only quoted numbers here - even looked at them at all - to confirm what I already felt when cycling.

    And Imposter/Bob, I am many things - unfit isn't one of them. As others have pointed out - if I were unfit I'd be breathing out my derriere sooner. I'm a keen runner and I'm fit. But something is holding me back right now.
    I go up a gear, get out of the saddle, start peddling like mad. Fine. Switch it up a gear. Less fine but still moving. Continue up until one below the point that I'm going to fall off the bike because I'm not actually moving, that my legs just can't spin...chest still feels okay. If anything I feel like I'm working harder spinning a higher cadence in a lower gear, which is something I might consider doing in future.

    I don't want an argument about it though, if the idea that different parts of the body are actually separate (and one can be trained to a higher level than others) is utterly ridiculous, then more fool me. I thought there might be a few others who'd experienced similar problems before though coming into cycling with a good CV base. But if cycling naturally means a less intensive session then that's fine; I can leave the LT work for when running and use cycling for good aerobic sessions. Or maybe it'll come with conditioning and I'll be able to push harder.

    Keep cycling.

    It'll happen.

    At a really inconvenient time. Like when you're showing off to mates.

    That's got to be the quote of the thread :D
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,202
    tenohfive wrote:

    And Imposter/Bob, I am many things - unfit isn't one of them. As others have pointed out - if I were unfit I'd be breathing out my derriere sooner. I'm a keen runner and I'm fit.

    I never said you were unfit - but it's quite likely that you're not 'cycling-fit' - there's a big difference.
  • mamba80mamba80 Posts: 5,032
    tenohfive wrote:
    I go up a gear, get out of the saddle, start peddling like mad. Fine. Switch it up a gear. Less fine but still moving. Continue up until one below the point that I'm going to fall off the bike because I'm not actually moving, that my legs just can't spin...chest still feels okay. If anything I feel like I'm working harder spinning a higher cadence in a lower gear, which is something I might consider doing in future.

    why are you doing this?

    as you fatigue you should be going to an easier gear, grinding to a halt because the gear is too big isnt the idea at all.

    keep it in a gear you can just turn over, at a PE of say 9/10, say at a cadence of 80 or 90 rpm on a hill and keep going and at this cadence using your gears, eventually you ll throw up lol1
  • Trust me I'm a doctor on BBC recently did a test of watch based optical hrms and they found them inconsistent and often very inaccurate. One person was getting half the bpm with a watch than with a proper strap. I think it was the first episode and it's still on iplayer.
  • Escher303 wrote:
    Trust me I'm a doctor on BBC recently did a test of watch based optical hrms and they found them inconsistent and often very inaccurate. One person was getting half the bpm with a watch than with a proper strap. I think it was the first episode and it's still on iplayer.

    I picked a watch with an optical HRM after side by side comparisons with a normal chest strap one - it was pretty accurate (DC Rainmaker does some painstaking reviews.) They aren't infallible of course.
    But that's by the by, I only mention it as a side note. In this case the HRM is just backing up what I already know (that my lungs/chest aren't working that hard.)
    mamba80 wrote:
    as you fatigue you should be going to an easier gear, grinding to a halt because the gear is too big isnt the idea at all.

    keep it in a gear you can just turn over, at a PE of say 9/10, say at a cadence of 80 or 90 rpm on a hill and keep going and at this cadence using your gears, eventually you ll throw up lol1

    I'm not grinding to a halt currently I was saying that for illustration - I'm keeping it in a gear that I can keep spinning steadily; if I go higher I slowly stop. I'm saying that I can't sensibly go higher and keep moving. I don't know what cadence I'm doing (no sensor) and the gradient I'm up against does change - and I change accordingly. Where it steepens I drop down to keep a steady cadence, where it lessens I change up. I'm not getting to that point of exhaustion - my legs are screaming at me, I'm stomping on the pedals, throwing my bodyweight about to keep moving...but I can still hold a conversation.

    I know this sounds strange - it does to me to. Especially since I can throw myself at basically the same hill a few hundred yards away and run up and down it until I fall over with exhaustion.
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,202
    tenohfive wrote:
    I know this sounds strange - it does to me to. Especially since I can throw myself at basically the same hill a few hundred yards away and run up and down it until I fall over with exhaustion.

    As people have said to you a number of times already - running fitness and cycling fitness are not comparable.
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,326
    Imposter wrote:
    tenohfive wrote:

    And Imposter/Bob, I am many things - unfit isn't one of them. As others have pointed out - if I were unfit I'd be breathing out my derriere sooner. I'm a keen runner and I'm fit.

    I never said you were unfit - but it's quite likely that you're not 'cycling-fit' - there's a big difference.
    I was agreeing more on the leg strength aspect - that is a perennial argument on here and it is stupid.

    I'm sure you are fit but in any case lack of cycling fitness shouldn't be an impediment to reaching high HRs (sustaining those HRs and being fast at those HRs on the other hand is very different). I know from personal experience that if anything when I have low fitness my HR tends to skyrocket (as I'm trying to cycle like fit me, my brain makes checks my fitness can't cash). Had many @rse breathing experiences this way.
  • I always thought my max heart rate was about 170 bpm as I had never seen it higher than 173bpm but in a race earlier this year it hit 180 bpm and that was not a spike. I simply pushed harder that day than I ever have and I have not managed that pain since and I dont want to either. It was a nasty effort.

    So your MHR maybe higher and one day, when you least expect it, you will do an effort that will find it. Keep cycling and keep doing hill reps for varying lengths of time.
    http://www.thecycleclinic.co.uk -wheel building and other stuff.
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 5,983
    IMO it's the legs not correlating with cardio fitness.

    It'll come.

    When I've not done top end work for a while the legs pack in before the HR suggests they should.
    It doesn't take long to get there though.

    Do the Carmichael 2x8 min test, the result is what it is. Work with it for a month then retest.
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • zefszefs Posts: 484
    I've been cycling for a year and have the same issue. I feel like lactic acid is not removed fast enough so my legs give up before I hit the maximum HR.

    I've also done a max hr test on a hill (http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/article/h ... sts-28838/ & https://www.cycling-inform.com/how-to-t ... heart-rate) and the max I hit was 182 although even on my hardest rides the maximum is around 175.
Sign In or Register to comment.