Heartrate, Perceived Exertion, etc.


  • Jan 29, 2012 5:08 AM GMT
    I am trying to improve my cardiovascular fitness, but would like some input regarding my activities. I understand that anything I'm told isn't medical advice and that only a qualified medical professional should be the resource I use to make decisions regarding my health. I simply want others' input for my own uses.

    Current situation analysis:

    * I am a 24 year-old male who, as of January 28, 2012, weighs about 250 pounds. Body fat was measured at 37.08% using the Jackson-Pollock 3-point caliper method. (obesity is >25%)

    * I do not engage in strength training exercises, but do cardiovascular activities. Activities are limited to an inside environment (gym) and include a recumbent bike and treadmill. A typical "high intensity" day includes 30 minutes on the bike and 15 to 30 minutes on the treadmill afterwards. A "low intensity" day features light cardiovascular activity for about 20 to 30 minutes. Days are split up into blocks. Each block is a period of time of 30 minutes or less and may be high intensity or low intensity.

    * For high intensity blocks, my strategy is as follows: Increase intensity to get the heartrate up to 150. Maintain the heartrate between 150 to 160. When the heartrate reaches 160, start a countdown; after three minutes, lower the intensity of the exercise until the heartrate drops back down to 150. After it has consistently stayed at the lower 150's for ten minutes, another attempt at increasing the intensity (per the previous rules) may be made.

    * For low intensity/recovery blocks, my strategy is as follows: Maintain intensity to keep the heartrate at 65% of its maximum. (126 bpm) If the heartrate increases beyond this limit, lower the intensity of the activity.

    * In 2008, a cardiologist diagnosed me with the following: hyperlipidemia, stage 2 hypertension, and "mild reversible inferior defect." Temporary limits were placed on weight-lifting, but were eventually lifted.

    People tell me that I should listen to my body, but -- as past experience with sugar cravings and hypoglycemia have taught me -- often my body lies to me. Exertion and stress is to expected during any type of physical exercise, but it is hard for me to tell when I am overexerting myself. I feel relief when I lower the intensity of the exercise, but that seems to be a natural response to lowering the difficulty in all situations; of course the body's not going to "want" to keep the intensity going. I don't "enjoy" the feeling of stressing my muscles and being short of breath, but I would presume that this is a part of the essence of training: doing something stressful repeatedly until you adapt and it is no longer stressful.

    It's strange because there are times (especally with caffeine consumption) when I get on that bike and feel like the only thing that could stop me is shortness of breath, and there are other times that I can get on and have a low heartrate, full breath and be totally recovered, but the leg muscles themselves become extremely sore quickly during the workout -- even after a day of rest or active recovery. There are times when doing cardio that I can actually feel my heart pounding within my chest like it's threatening to jump out! I usually experience this sensation when the heartrate rises to 155 or higher. Other than this, however, I do not feel pain (other than what I perceive to be soreness), experience headaches, or feel dizzy.

    Strangely enough, consuming caffeinated beverages (like coffee, iced tea, and so on) seems to increase my "tolerance" to this stress. Although my heartrate may rise to high levels, I do not feel "stressed" and my muscles do not feel sore during the workout. I draw the line for heartrate levels at 160 bpm, though; since I am not on a treadmill under the direct supervision of a cardiologist, I see no need to give myself a stress test. The most I've allowed my heartrate to reach during a workout is 170. If it becomes that high, I'll immediately lower the intensity of the exercise considerably to give myself an opportunity to recover mid-exercise.

    Being properly hydrated and cooled also seem to have an influence on my heartrate. If I am dehydrated, my heartrate rises and the sensation of fatigue comes more quickly. If I am sweating, having a fan blow air on me to cool me down seems to keep my heartrate under control. Otherwise, I will tire more quickly and my heartrate will rise.

    When starting a workout, my heartrate may also take time to reach a certain level that reflects the intensity of my workout. After research, I have identified this phenomenon as "cardiac drift."

    I've researched the benefits of high-intensity exercise and have had the opportunities to experience them first-hand in the past. After an intense cardio session, I would experience improved mood and sleep more easily. So, I don't want "moderate" exercise; I want intense exercise. Of course, obvious pain, headaches, and dizziness are red flags that I always look out for to stop a workout; nevertheless, I can't help but wonder if my heart is working too much. If I otherwise feel fine when doing the workout, do I need to worry about my heartrate? Will something bad happen if I leave it in the 160's or beyond for an extended period of time? I may fatigue my muscles, but that's actually the end result I want to help them build up for the exercises I am doing.

    Also, what role does my weight play in this? As a result of obesity, all physical activities I do require considerably more effort from my muscles and heart. My cardiologist advised that weight-lifting raises blood pressure. I infer that any activity that raises blood pressure must have an even more profound effect on obese individuals because of the increased effort of the muscles. Should I simply focus on changes to my diet and moderate intensity exercise until my body fat percentage drops to an acceptable level (24% isn't lean, but I'll take it!!), or should I stay the course to try to reap the benefits now?
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jan 29, 2012 6:01 PM GMT
    Caffeine lowers perceived exertion by a significant percentage. You can research that on your own.

    Being dehydrated lowers your fluid volume, so, your heart has to speed up to move enough blood around. That's very typical of being too dry. You also can RAISE your blood pressure (vaso constriction) by not having enough water in your body or having low sodium. If you are on a blood pressure med, you can get too dry if you're on a diuretic and suddenly get active.

    Weight lifting can raise blood pressure and if you're hypertensive already, it can be dangerous, especially on your eyes. If you're medicated for BP, you may be able to lift, but that's something your doctor will need to help you decide.

    You need to watch your diet, get your lipids in line, and continue to get the weight off. Once you get the weight off, and get your diet cleaned up, and do low intensity cardio (you'll improve your vascularization doing that), you can continue to increase your intensity. Weight lifting is HIGH intensity (especially things like squats) and increasing your lean muscle mass is the ONLY thing that will make you burn more calories at rest and raise your base metabolic rate without thyroid.

    You did not say how tall you are, but 37% is terrible. You have to tell yourself you'll never do that to yourself again. 24% is better, but you need to be down around 12 to 14, or a least below 21%.

    After 37 years of lifting, there is no plague buildup in my heart, my lipids are just fine, and border on hypertension (probably age and genetics as much as anything, as well as just packing so much muscle (I dropped to 200 here lately and feel better)), my heart is stronger, has higher stroke volumes, and such but that's normal in highly trained folks. The cardiologist say that because of no plague buildup in my heart, a heart attack is not likely. Still have to watch about strokes.

    Note that statins, and BP drugs (CCBs, and beta blockers, in particular) can very negatively affect your ability to build and maintain muscle, and to exercise (you can read up on the calcium cycle if you want). Beta blockers can slow you to a crawl. It's o.k. to say no as long as your BP isn't over the top, but, you have to make sure your potassium and sodium are right and that you are hydrated as well exercising. At 24, you should NOT be hypertensive.

    In my case, my internal medicine doctor prefers NOT to medicate my borderline hypertension because the side effects would negate some of my exercise benefits. Many folks are over-medicated. Don't go down that path.

    At high heart rate, you ARE going to feel it in your chest. If you don't have one, you can get a heart rate monitor.

    Higher intensity will burn more calories, and give you better cardio conditioning (your heart has an adaptive response just like any other muscle). Low intensity will burn a bit more fat, but, takes forever, and I've found , for me, in order to get real lean, I have my best success doing HIIT.

    Have you had a sonogram done? Have you done a stress test? EKG? Those will all reveal the state of your heart. Cardio sonogram is a fascinating way to look at the heart in operation.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jan 30, 2012 4:39 AM GMT
    I'm not a cardiologist, but the poster above sounds like he provided good info.

    At my worst, I was 275 lbs with a body fat percentage of 30 something percent. I worked with a trainer to loose 60 lbs in 6 months. I remember the firs time my trainer had me perform a HIIT session. It only lasted 8 minutes, but at the time, it was the worst experience of my life and I felt like I was going to die. Now that I think about it, it was pretty pathetic. Now, I race XC mountain bikes, have rode numerous 100K and 100 miles road bike rides, and numerous 6 hour mountain bike endurance races. This weekend, I'll be competing in my first 12 hour race solo.

    Aside from your cardiovascular workouts, I'll give you this advice. Keep your diet clean. Sounds like you've done a lot of research on the physical side. If you haven't done so already, do some research on the nutritional side. It's 80% clean diet, and 20% physical. It is definitely a life style change. Kill the soda, fast food, and other junk food. Limit the portions and keep a caloric budget. Keeping up the cardio along with the clean diet will shed the fat off. And once you start to get healthier and your BP goes down, you'll be able to start other activities such as lifting. Good luck and you'll feel awesome when you reach your goals.
  • MikemikeMike

    Posts: 6932

    Jan 30, 2012 9:45 AM GMT
    chuckystud saidCaffeine lowers perceived exertion by a significant percentage. You can research that on your own.

    Being dehydrated lowers your fluid volume, so, your heart has to speed up to move enough blood around. That's very typical of being too dry. You also can RAISE your blood pressure (vaso constriction) by not having enough water in your body or having low sodium. If you are on a blood pressure med, you can get too dry if you're on a diuretic and suddenly get active.

    Weight lifting can raise blood pressure and if you're hypertensive already, it can be dangerous, especially on your eyes. If you're medicated for BP, you may be able to lift, but that's something your doctor will need to help you decide.

    You need to watch your diet, get your lipids in line, and continue to get the weight off. Once you get the weight off, and get your diet cleaned up, and do low intensity cardio (you'll improve your vascularization doing that), you can continue to increase your intensity. Weight lifting is HIGH intensity (especially things like squats) and increasing your lean muscle mass is the ONLY thing that will make you burn more calories at rest and raise your base metabolic rate without thyroid.

    You did not say how tall you are, but 37% is terrible. You have to tell yourself you'll never do that to yourself again. 24% is better, but you need to be down around 12 to 14, or a least below 21%.

    After 37 years of lifting, there is no plague buildup in my heart, my lipids are just fine, and border on hypertension (probably age and genetics as much as anything, as well as just packing so much muscle (I dropped to 200 here lately and feel better)), my heart is stronger, has higher stroke volumes, and such but that's normal in highly trained folks. The cardiologist say that because of no plague buildup in my heart, a heart attack is not likely. Still have to watch about strokes.

    Note that statins, and BP drugs (CCBs, and beta blockers, in particular) can very negatively affect your ability to build and maintain muscle, and to exercise (you can read up on the calcium cycle if you want). Beta blockers can slow you to a crawl. It's o.k. to say no as long as your BP isn't over the top, but, you have to make sure your potassium and sodium are right and that you are hydrated as well exercising. At 24, you should NOT be hypertensive.

    In my case, my internal medicine doctor prefers NOT to medicate my borderline hypertension because the side effects would negate some of my exercise benefits. Many folks are over-medicated. Don't go down that path.

    At high heart rate, you ARE going to feel it in your chest. If you don't have one, you can get a heart rate monitor.

    Higher intensity will burn more calories, and give you better cardio conditioning (your heart has an adaptive response just like any other muscle). Low intensity will burn a bit more fat, but, takes forever, and I've found , for me, in order to get real lean, I have my best success doing HIIT.

    Have you had a sonogram done? Have you done a stress test? EKG? Those will all reveal the state of your heart. Cardio sonogram is a fascinating way to look at the heart in operation.


    OP be careful you are wise NOT to listen to RJ members when it comes to medical concerns. FYI- Chucky doesn't know his plaque levels unless he has had a cardiac catheterization or a CT 64 split exam with nuclear contrast. One of my close friends is a cardiologist. People can have a normal EKG /sonagram and pass a stress test with flying colors, BUT without something more invasive no one knows what is inside your arteries without looking further!!! An EKG with a sonagram looks at the heart but cannot see into the arteries that test will only detect gross blockage, by that time it will show on your EKG as well. This is why heart disease is called th silent killer. If you have a stroke risk you have a cardiac risk as well.icon_idea.gif My grandfather had heart disease, he did however live to be 92. His wife, my Grandmother died from a heart attack at 64. My 4 brother's and I all had a CT 64 split. It cost about 700-800 dollars out of pocket. We wanted to know if we inherited their genes. My third eldest brother has mild hypertension. It is important to keep your blood presuure in check, take meds if the Dr's say you need them. As you become more fit they will adjust them! Eat a clean diet no processed foods and refined sugars, no fried foods or fast food/junk food!!. For men keeping a waistline under 38 inches is best. You will get there eventually!! Belly fat is the worst type of fat risk. Also keep in mind that light weight traning can burn calories long after you leave the gym. They also keep you muscles from losing muscle mass while helping to prevent flabby or loose skin. Drink plenty of water limit caffeine. I don't drink any soda or coffee. The most accurate way to determine your bodyfat is a water test-yes the dunk tank.
    Listen to your Dr about any and all physical activities. I do think you should have a Cardiologist see you. I wear a Polar heart rate monitor. It tells me where my heart rate is during heavy cardio output. The inportant thing is you have made a choice to change your life. Good Luck and keep at it!!! Keep us posted!! I promise someday you will look forward to the intense feeling of working out. Just make sure your Dr gives you the ok and you see him or her often enough as you lose!!!!

  • Jan 31, 2012 6:04 AM GMT
    chuckystud:

    I am 5'7, and you are correct; my body composition is absolutely unacceptable and should not be tolerated. I'm making dietary changes that cut calories and caffeine. On the fitness end, I'm aggressively pursuing high intensity training in an attempt to make a speedy remedy to the problem and improve my cardiovascular health. (Aside from that, I just generally feel better when I raise that heartrate for prolonged periods!)

    Yes, I have had tests done. As I mentioned, I saw the cardiologist in 2008. I originally saw the cardiologist because of chest pain. I later concluded that the chest pain was ultimately the result of indigestion, though, as the chest pain would occur and then disappear almost immediately after belching or burping.

    Here are some documents that show the test results in detail, if you are curious. I very much appreciate you going the length you have and offering your own input on my specific comments regarding caffeine, hydration, and body fat.

    http://dj.silverinterlocution.org/1/cardiology1.jpg
    http://dj.silverinterlocution.org/1/cardiology2.jpg
    http://dj.silverinterlocution.org/1/cardiology3.jpg

    SoloXCRacer:

    Diet sure does play a significant role in health. I suppose, as you are suggesting, good fitness habits can only mitigate or lessen the negative effects of an unhealthy lifestyle; diet and other lifestyle choices are ultimately the root cause of the problem.

    I'm in a somewhat cramped living situation right now. Without telling a life story or appearing to create excuses too much, I don't have access to a conventional oven and the kitchen is hard to work in because it is very cluttered. (It's not my house.) So, I'm basically stuck making foods out of cheap ingredients, buying prepackaged foods, or cooking my own foods in limited quantities (I still have a toaster oven) until the overall situation changes.

    Then again, I'm sure there are plenty of vegetarian and other recipes that only use a stove top. I just haven't researched all my options.

    Still, even if I have to settle for pasteurized, processed cheese product and generic brand chicken rolls in a calorie-controlled, "balanced" (as well as I can make it) meal, it's still desirable to fast food and lavish dine-in restaurant diners -- both luxuries I enjoyed very frequently when I was working 60+ per week between two jobs. Now that I only have one job, I have an opportunity to plan better strategies.

    MikemikeMike:

    Thank you for sending me a personal message! I know I didn't reply to it right away, but I was just waiting to write a response to this thread before getting back to everyone collectively.

    When I saw the cardiologist in 2008, I had health insurance through -- surprise, surprise! -- McDonald's, which was one of two jobs I had at the time. (I was also a substitute teacher.) Since then, however, I haven't had insurance. I quit that job in 2008 and haven't had consistent healthcare since. I am now seeking healthcare under Obama's "Affordable Care Act," since my obesity, hypertension, and potential pre-existing heart defect (however slight) pretty much make me a pariah in the eyes of health insurance companies.

    I believe that with self-discipline, intelligence, and -- perhaps, at times -- the willingness to accept that things aren't always perfect, I can improve myself so that I can earn my way to an individual insurance policy.

    In the meantime, I'll have to wing it. You all may be wondering if I've ever been on medication: I haven't. When I was 18, 19, and 20, doctors said it was an option, but that I was "still young!" Well, at 24, my situation probably isn't much better. I can't wait to see how my LDL, HDL, and triglycerides have changed in the past four years. I acknowledge that medications have side-effects, and that they should only be used as a crutch rather than a permanent solution to a problem -- at least, in the case of blood pressure and lipids affected by lifestyle.

    So, perhaps the time for procrastinating has passed and now it's time to medicate while I try to solve the problem. We'll see.

    I actually do use a Polar heartrate monitor! I bought one a few years back at a local Sports Authority. I love it! I want to get a more advanced one when I can afford it to record my heartrate while I rest to monitor for overtraining once I get to more intense training.

    "High intensity training," as I use it, refers to cardiovascular activities that raise my heartrate to 155 - 160 and create a noticeable amount of stress on my leg muscles. I realize that -- to most seasoned fitness veterans on this forum -- "high intensity" generally is an anaerobic concept, but the term is relative.

    I have concluded that the heartrate reaching 155 or 160 is not a dire concern, and that the soreness experienced during the workout is OK as long as it (a) does not persist and worsen with each additional workout (may indicate overtraining) and (b) does not become painful. Of course, I will be on the lookout for pain, headaches, dizziness, and nausea during my workouts. I am truly fortunate to have experienced none of these things, so I'll just chalk up the high heartrate and physical stress I am experienced to the natural training effect.

    Also, I will be avoiding caffeine so that I can feel what's "real" during the workout and avoid being tricked into thinking that I can take on something that I wouldn't feel comfortable doing under other circumstances. I'll drink a pint of water in the morning and before working out to ensure that I'm properly hydrated so that I have one less irritant to my heartrate.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jan 31, 2012 5:48 PM GMT
    You sound like you have a sincere interest in making long lasting changes so I hope you're successful. But if you're living somewhere that makes it that hard for you to eat properly you should seriously consider leaving if at all possible.

    I'm 5" taller but weighed a lot more than you once so we probably were in similar size categories for our height. I don't think that I would've lost the weight and and then gone on to other things had I not dramatically changed my diet. Meaning, zero refined or white anything, zero added salt, and zero pre-packaged foods. If you can't cook properly its going to drastically limit one of the most important parts of getting healthy. You need to find a way to fix it. Maybe even find a friend and cook a week's worth of chicken breasts in their oven and then keep it in your fridge? haha Beyond that most things like brown rice, veggies, pasta, etc can all be made stove top.

    I'm studying nursing, so not a full nurse yet, and definitely not a doctor but I can promise you, that our bodies are a lot more resilient than we realize often and you're still *really* young. I know you don't have access to health insurance so you can't get the advice of a DR but from what it looks like they said 3 years ago you're fine. For your size and diet, hypertension and Hyperlipidemia are not unusual.

    Shortness of breath, pounding heart, are signs you're working hard - not that your heart is struggling. A heart rate of 160 is not excessive in the least. The chances of a 24 yo having a heart attack (if that's what you're ultimately scared of, is very rare especially without pre-existing conditions). Again, this is obviously no substitute for getting tests done and the advice of a doctor but it sounds like in 2008 your cardiologist giving you the go ahead to weight train that he was confident in your heart's health.

    When cool air blows on you, you're increasing the rate of evaporation of your sweat which is cooling you down more effectively. When you drink water, your blood volume is increasing which will slow your heart. All the things you mentioned in regards to that are 100% normal and if they weren't happening you should be concerned.

    Also, caffeine is a great exercise tool. A lot of studies have been done that show it improves performance by allowing you to work harder. If thats worrying you now, the piece of mind is worth cutting it out, but don't get the wrong impression and never consider its use in the future.

    Also don't feel bad about taking the medication. So many people have hang ups about medication but if it can help you get to where you need to be, that's what its designed for. Of course no medication is better but until that time, its a tool like anything else.

    If you want any healthy meals let me know. I have a lot that I used to make that don't require a ton of cooking.