The heart rate mumbo jumbo...

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 17, 2007 7:03 PM GMT
    I was on the bike at the gym and saw that it said for cardio a guy in his 20's should be at 180. When I first started I was at like 60, after about 15 minutes I was at 124. I'm really confused lol, does this mean I am really healthy or I am gonna drop dead. I don't know all the heart numbers and what is good and bad, I feel like I should know this.
  • Squarejaw

    Posts: 1035

    Nov 18, 2007 2:13 AM GMT
    It could just mean you need to work harder. But I'm not a cardiologist, so for all I know it could mean just the opposite. How did you feel when you were at 124? Use this perceived exertion scale to describe your state:

    * Level 1: I'm watching TV and eating bon bons
    * Level 2: I'm comfortable and could maintain this pace all day long
    * Level 3: I'm still comfortable, but am breathing a bit harder
    * Level 4: I'm sweating a little, but feel good and can carry on a conversation effortlessly
    * Level 5: I'm just above comfortable, am sweating more and can still talk easily
    * Level 6: I can still talk, but am slightly breathless
    * Level 7: I can still talk, but I don't really want to. I'm sweating like a pig
    * Level 8: I can grunt in response to your questions and can only keep this pace for a short time period
    * Level 9: I am probably going to die
    * Level 10: I am dead

    (Taken from
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    Nov 18, 2007 2:20 AM GMT
    Heart rate can be variable depending on the person, as of course your heart isn't particularly concerned with the scales, that are based on averages, that people come up with. But yes, how you are feeling is important, and it is probably wise to establish, healthy or not, what your baseline heart rate is before getting too excited, and there are other factors to definately consider besides just heart rate which alone really doesn't tell you that much.
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    Nov 18, 2007 1:30 PM GMT
    I felt fine after about 15 minutes on the bike.
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    Nov 25, 2007 2:19 AM GMT
    Machines will use heart rate as a general indicator of how much effort you are putting into the exercise. The basic idea is that there are levels of effort and a heart rate range that correspond to them. Some ranges are better for fat burning while some would be use for extending your lactic acid threshold.

    The problem is that in the end everyone is different so the HR ranges will not be the same for everyone. Complicating that is that even with any given individual those ranges will change by exercise. For example the the ranges for swimming are much lower than they are for running.

    There are various tests you can do for any given exercises that will help you identify your personal HR range for any given level of exercise.
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    Nov 25, 2007 4:13 AM GMT
    Squarejaw has it right. Since everyone is different I used perceived exertion in my spin classes.
    Works for my and the vast majority of people. Let the extreme guys stick to the heart rate monitors.

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    Nov 25, 2007 4:23 AM GMT
    Sometimes I would use one machine and it would read one number, then I would switch to another and it would read.. ah, another. I have learned that my gym needs to do maintenence on their machines.. I refuse to believe that my heart rate can go from 60 to 155 in 60 seconds.
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    Nov 27, 2007 6:21 PM GMT
    I find the same thing Mike, but how can they use and market these things if they are so off base?
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    Nov 27, 2007 6:29 PM GMT
    Heartrate monitors on machines can "cross talk" if they are not "coded". The person next to you's reading can throw yours is what that means.

    If you want to know accurately what your heart rate is you need to get a coded monitor that you wear, such as the ones made by Polar.

    there is a whole science behind heart rates and monitors. My basic idea... i try and stay in Squarejaw's 7-8 range.
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    Nov 27, 2007 6:31 PM GMT
    hippie4lyfI find the same thing Mike, but how can they use and market these things if they are so off base?

    Heart rate monitors can be very useful for training, but as with most things the quality will vary. What they toss into gym equipment is really for general use and not really helpful. If you go and buy one by Polar or Timex you will have to set it up for your personal needs.

    Per Mike's comment, depending on what you are doing you can get your heart rate to shoot up pretty high in a minutes. If you don't believe me go from standing still to sprinting as fast as you can for a minute and they take your pulse. My guess is that will have doubled.
  • DrStorm

    Posts: 185

    Nov 27, 2007 7:06 PM GMT
    The theoretical maximum heart rate you can achieve is 220 minus your age.

    Let's say you're 20, then your abs. max heart rate should be 200. "Cardio" is perceived to be on average about 80% of your max heart rate, hence 80% of 200 is 160. the ideal is to achieve a "cardio" level of exercise at least three times a day for 30 mins. "Fat burning" levels are around the 60% level of abs. max heart rate.

    Other factors involved here include the time you are at "cardio" level. Many people will get on the bike/treadmill/whatever for 20 mins and may actually NEVER achieve the "cardio" level to really get the aerobic reactions going in your body.

    The fitter you are, the faster you will reach your aerobic/cardio level and for fit people may take up to 5-10 if you're not fit, it takes if you thought your 20 mins on the bike was cutting it, think again. All you did was a glorified warm-up.

    Everyone is different, so these figures are give and take, but you get the gist of what I am saying. For instance. I am really fit, my resting heart rate in the morning is close to 40. However, 5 mins into running a 6:30min/mile pace and my heart rate is close to my theoretical max...

    The true test of cardio fitness is to see how quickly you recover from strenuous exercise - see how quickly your heart rate will drop in two mins right after strenuous exercise - the faster your drop the fitter you supposedly are. I will drop from about 170bpm to about 110 in two mins. Two mins thereafter I will be closer to about 80.

    The "perception" levels mentioned in previous postings are also good, however, most of us are inherently lazy and will peg ourselves at a higher perceived rate than reality dictates.

    Another interesting fact is this - try running on 10 different types of treadmills and you will get 10 different sets of stats even if you run the same time/speed on all of them. Use those stats as a rough guide.

    Oh, and BTW, if that heart rate indicator is blank when you check your heart rate, don't worry, you haven't's just not working....icon_twisted.gif


    PS - USTriathlete on RJ is a good person to find out more info on this topic! He is probably the best triathlete on RJ and a personal trainer.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 27, 2007 7:31 PM GMT
    Something of a related question... When I was swimming in high school and college, we were told to try to maintain a heart rate of 150-160 BPM during practice sets because that was the rate at which our bodies could use up lactic acid as fast as it was making it. Is that even true? The main reason I ask is because I still have gone by that theory when I am doing cardio. I'd be happy to abandon it if it's a bunch of tripe, though.

    Thanks... and thank you, hippie4lyfe for the topic.
  • DrStorm

    Posts: 185

    Nov 29, 2007 6:48 AM GMT
    GotBicepsI have a master's degree in Exercise Physiology, and am currently working on my please know this isn't just off the top of my head. I know what I'm talking least in regard to such topics as this. ;-)

    Good to know you can back up your postings!


    PS - I was a personal trainer for 7 years with two accredited personal training diplomas + about 15 years of experience, so I too know what I am talking about ;)
  • UStriathlete

    Posts: 320

    Dec 01, 2007 4:56 AM GMT
    as you must realize these are just formulas, that aren't always accurate just because you plug in some numbers.

    resting hr, can vary, with hydration, stress, previous training, sleep, etc. as well as doing any testing.

    i have found through 19 yrs experience that Threshold testing (i like new leaf system) to be the most informative.

    once you know your true aerobic hr, training at that rate and doing the 3 mile run on track (ie. mark allen) will give athletes tangible information how their training is improving.

    i also like the suunto T6 hr monitor that shows you EPOC.

    hr monitors are good for athletes that either workout to hard or to easy.

    personally, i know within 5 beat where i'm at without using one. i go by time now, on routes i run or ride.

    19 yrs experience(Mark Allen, Dr. Phil maffatone, dr. jeff shilt, new leaf, suunto)
    BA Athletic Training
    BA holistic nutrition
    NASM nutrition-personal training
    NASN sport nutritionist