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In a discussion over coffee I mentioned to an exercise trainer that my exercise related max heart rate has increased with my fitness increase. He said that it was impossible for my max heart rate for cycling to increase and that it should be lower as I got fitter. This is not what I have read on prior posting by some of you. My max heart rate has gotten higher since last year. In the beginning it maxed at 155 but now it is at 161. Set me straight or help me set him straight. Thanks
 

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gastarbeiter
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i'm far from an expert, but i believe that you're more or less right.

IIRC the fitter you are the longer you can ride at/near your max.

I used to be obsessed about this stuff when i raced properly 11-14 years ago, but i've forgotten most of the trainspotterish details i used to know, mostly during the 8 years i spent off the bike. ;)


dagger said:
In a discussion over coffee I mentioned to an exercise trainer that my exercise related max heart rate has increased with my fitness increase. He said that it was impossible for my max heart rate for cycling to increase and that it should be lower as I got fitter. This is not what I have read on prior posting by some of you. My max heart rate has gotten higher since last year. In the beginning it maxed at 155 but now it is at 161. Set me straight or help me set him straight. Thanks
 

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I think I know what your trainer might have been getting at.

Let's say at the beginning of your training you ride 20 miles in an hour and you have an average HR of 150. After a season of training, you do that same ride, 20 miles in an hour, and your average HR should be lower, 140 for example. As you become fitter, you become more efficient at what you're doing.

However, I don't think it applies to the maximum HR you can hit. Whatever made you hit your max HR at the beginning of training will probably not be enough to hit your max HR at the end of the training, i.e. you'll have to go faster/harder to hit that max HR.
 

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dagger said:
My max heart rate has gotten higher since last year. In the beginning it maxed at 155 but now it is at 161. Set me straight or help me set him straight. Thanks
MAX (meaning the fastest your heart can beat): you'll probably never know, what your true MAX is, right? I mean, you cannot exceed your max, can you (I'd think you'd keel over and die in that case).

MAX (meaning HR at LT): definitely can go up as you get fit. I used to die trying to maintain 170 bpm during a time trial, and now I'll frequently see into the 180s during a sustainable effort. I don't think my theoretical maximum HR has increased, but my ability to sustain a given HR has definitely gone up over time.
 

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dagger said:
In a discussion over coffee I mentioned to an exercise trainer that my exercise related max heart rate has increased with my fitness increase. He said that it was impossible for my max heart rate for cycling to increase and that it should be lower as I got fitter. This is not what I have read on prior posting by some of you. My max heart rate has gotten higher since last year. In the beginning it maxed at 155 but now it is at 161. Set me straight or help me set him straight. Thanks
I would never use the word "impossible", but my understanding is that in general the less fit you are the easier it is to hit your max heart rate and that as you get in shape it becomes harder to hit that Max. How are you determining your max HR?

Other posters are confusing maintaing a greater % of HR for a period of time with hitting your Max HR as fitness increases. These are two different things.
 

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The following is purely my personal experience:
The heart rate that I am able to maintain for longer periods of time is strongly correlated to the cadence at which I am riding. At a higher cadence I can maintain a higher mean heart rate. My max rate is completely unaffected by cadence though.
 

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gastarbeiter
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yup. you're right. that's what i wanted to more or less say, but didn't.

Dwayne Barry said:
I would never use the word "impossible", but my understanding is that in general the less fit you are the easier it is to hit your max heart rate and that as you get in shape it becomes harder to hit that Max. How are you determining your max HR?

Other posters are confusing maintaing a greater % of HR for a period of time with hitting your Max HR as fitness increases. These are two different things.
 

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I agree with Dwayne. Paradoxically, as you get fitter your max not only gets harder to hit but you can spend longer periods of time at HR's closer to your max rate.

Your max HR is the fastest your little heart will beat. Whether it beats that hard when your legs are churning out 1500 watts or 300 watts matters little to it. Your muscles demand more, and it tries to keep up, until it canna' beat faster. It is, according to what I've read, a personal, nearly immutable trait that really doesn't relate to performance, although I have heard that you can hit a higher max for certain exercises than for others, which doesn't make complete sense.

As you get fitter, though, you not only get more used to exerting at that level mentally, but your heart is more used to it, too, and your legs, and you can sustain a higher level of exertion for longer. At the same time, your muscles become more efficient, and your heart pumps more blood with each stroke, so the levels of work output that used to make your little heart go, for example, 160 bpm, now will make it go 150 bpm.
 

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It's very possible that the 155 that you thought was your max HR wasn't you "true" max HR. Your brain probably couldn't stand the pain involved in reaching your "true" max HR. I would guess that the 161 that you see now is the same. A max HR of 161 is fine if you are 75 years old, but it is quite low if you are under 50. You'll know when you reach your max HR, by visions of dead family members, and pain similar to having your head on fire.
 

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According to an often quoted formula, Max HR can be estimated at 220-age. This is a ROUGH estimate. In any case, max HR of 155-160 for a 41 yr old is somewhat low (assuming you are not on medications which can lower HR). You might check with your doctor before pushing yourself in a fitness program.
 

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Oldteen said:
According to an often quoted formula, Max HR can be estimated at 220-age. This is a ROUGH estimate. In any case, max HR of 155-160 for a 41 yr old is somewhat low (assuming you are not on medications which can lower HR). You might check with your doctor before pushing yourself in a fitness program.
as a formula, it is as useful as determining your height from what is average. If you're average, it's great. If you're not, it's not. I know guys my age (in their forties) with max HR's in the 200 range.
Not only that, but the max HR is not a terriibly useful number. More significant are your max sustained HR, etc.
 

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Thanks, but

some of the offered opinions are not very sophisticated and don't answer my question. My discussion is about MAX heart rate during exercise, not some theoretical HR that no one but an extremely conditoned athlete can achieve. My point is that an unconditioned person does not have the compacity to "approach" their true MAX due to lack of ability to facilitate enough of their cardiovascular system before they reach exhaustion; but as they become more conditioned then they can tax(using more muscle for longer periods of time) giving them the ability to get closer to their max heart rate before exhaustion shuts it down. That is my theory based on my own personal observations and wonder if there is supporting data or other observations.
 

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dagger said:
some of the offered opinions are not very sophisticated and don't answer my question. My discussion is about MAX heart rate during exercise, not some theoretical HR that no one but an extremely conditoned athlete can achieve. My point is that an unconditioned person does not have the compacity to "approach" their true MAX due to lack of ability to facilitate enough of their cardiovascular system before they reach exhaustion; but as they become more conditioned then they can tax(using more muscle for longer periods of time) giving them the ability to get closer to their max heart rate before exhaustion shuts it down. That is my theory based on my own personal observations and wonder if there is supporting data or other observations.
call me stoopid, but I think you're overlooking the information and wisdom in the answers you have received. If you find them unresponsive, perhaps you need to ask in a different way, because we may be talking at cross-purposes, where maybe we're just using different terminology.
Because, if I understand what you're saying, it is approximately what several posters have said -- the fitter you get, the longer you can exercise at higher HR's, but your HR at a given output of power will decrease. None of these changes your maximum HR, although I recall that there is some evidence, as your exercise trainer friend suggests, that your maximum HR actually could decrease with fitness as well as age. I guess the theory is that the maximum demands your body makes on your heart are met with lower HR's, and for your heart it's sort of a tradeoff -- bigger volume pumped is traded off against a lower max HR. I definitely could be wrong about this latter point.
 

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Bigger Volume and lower HR is a good thing no matter what.

MaxHR is a myth, and testing it never gives the same thing. I could scare you into such a max HR that you would die. You'd be dead, but we'd know your true max HR. I recorded a highest(205) max in a crit after two weeks off (injured) where I got dropped and never finished the race. Once fit, I can contend with a MaxHR 15 beats lower.

Best to think of MapHR (Maximal Aerobic Power HR in a Conconi or step test) or FTHR (Functional Threshold HR from a 1 hour TT) for tracking fitness improvements. When re-testing, use the same test protocol.
 

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when I lack fitness, my HR goes up and down very easily, and I see a higher HR on the same stretch of road at the same (or lower speed) than I'm used to seeing. But I can't sustain either that HR or that speed.
I think you're exactly right. We're talking about higher maximum HR's when it is simply not a significant metric. A friend of mine, who is a good rider, was bemoaning his relatively high HR. His 200 bpm is my 160 (I'm about 9 years older, although I doubt that my HR at the equivalent level of exertion ever was equal to his 200 bpm -- we're just different). He was saying that if only his heart were bigger he could pump more and would be able to sustain higher power output.
No. His heart has those attributes; mine has mine. His relative HR's are meaningful to him; mine to mine.
 

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Spunout said:
Bigger Volume and lower HR is a good thing no matter what.

MaxHR is a myth, and testing it never gives the same thing. I could scare you into such a max HR that you would die. You'd be dead, but we'd know your true max HR. I recorded a highest(205) max in a crit after two weeks off (injured) where I got dropped and never finished the race. Once fit, I can contend with a MaxHR 15 beats lower.

Best to think of MapHR (Maximal Aerobic Power HR in a Conconi or step test) or FTHR (Functional Threshold HR from a 1 hour TT) for tracking fitness improvements. When re-testing, use the same test protocol.
I agree that Max HR is not that useful in training. Far too effort-dependent.

In medical testing, the heart can be driven pharmacologically to progressively increasing heart rates using certain medications. This eliminates the variables of effort and overall body conditioning. What is generally observed is that a normal heart under normal conditions (i.e. no dehydration, starvation. etc.) pumps a maximum volume of blood (cardiac output) at a certain (high) heart rate. (FWIW- Most normal hearts can beat slightly faster than this rate, but the cardiac output does not increase further with these higher heart rates- and may decline modestly). This 'max functional' heart rate declines with age, although there is evidence that the volume of blood pumped with each beat (stroke volume) may be well-preserved until later in life. In poorly conditioned adults, aerobic training can improve stroke volume. OTOH- in hearts with bad arteries, increases in heart rate may cause a relative deficiency in blood flow to areas of the heart itself (leading to angina pains or even a heart attack).

I'm not sure the Max Aerobic Power HR as it is sometimes performed is the whole story for many amateur athletes. It is related to total body aerobic performance, and does not reflect regional aerobic/anaerobic balance. For example, a world class cyclist doing heavy bicep curls (e.g. at max weight for 3-5 reps) would drive his/her biceps into anaerobic territory before his/her total body lactate (indicator of anaerobic metabolism) rises significantly. MAP HR is most useful for conditions of total body exercise. While that applies to most cyclists spinning on a bike, it is may not be valid for a 1st time subject tested by pushing gears way too big for them (i.e. pushing their quads into anerobic range too early in the test). The quads (huge muscle groups) will dump lactate into the blood before the CV system has reached its max performance (i.e. true MAP HR not hit). As always, proper testing protocols are key to valid results.

We all seem to be beating around the same bush. Heart rate is not a perfect measure of overall effort or conditoning during a workout. For example, pre-exercise dehydration increases heart rate and may decrease cardiac output. Poorly conditioned or injured muscles will perform relatively poorly even with an excellent cardiovascular system. Muscles at peak form will make MUCH more efficient use of the blood flow supplied by the CV system at a certain heart rate. This explains (at least in part) why better conditioning can lower heart rate at a given level of athletic performance. In practice, both the muscles and the heart are important factors in the HR response to exercise.
 
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