The American Heart Association says that when you exercise, you should try to keep your heart rate between 50% and 85% of your maximum heart rate. The easy way to get your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. So my max heart rate is about 184 beats per minute. 85% of my max heart rate is 156 bpm. My GPS watch came with a heart rate monitor, so I’m usually wearing that when I run. Based on those guidelines, my warmup should keep me around 100 bpm, and I shouldn’t reach 156 until I’m working hard. But that’s not how it works for me. I reach 156 bpm with a light jog. Running uphill, I hit 165-170. Sprinting, 185 to 190.
So….am I stressing my heart? About to die? I don’t feel like I am. At 156 bpm, I’m not even breathing hard. I know those are guidelines, but should I be worried? I’d been wondering about this for a while, and I finally remembered to ask my doctor about it while I was actually AT the doctor’s office. (That almost never happens.)
Answer? If I feel fine, I shouldn’t worry. They really are just guidelines, and it’s okay if they don’t apply to me exactly right. So, okay. No worrying. But I’m glad I finally asked about it. I kept remembering that runner a few years ago in Colorado (?) who was running in the heat and had a heart attack and died. No history of heart problems. I wasn’t actually worrying about this. Really. I lost NO sleep about it. I just wondered. Now I don’t have to wonder. And neither do you.
But I am curious about my resting heart rate. Sitting here right now, my heart rate is 72 bpm. You’re supposed to get your resting heart rate after you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed. For one thing, I never remember that. For another, what about alarm clocks? Does it only count if you wake up naturally? If the alarm startles you awake, wouldn’t that mean your heart rate is somewhat elevated? I haven’t checked it in years (either I don’t think about it at all, or I do, but not when I’ve just woken up), but the last time I remember checking, my resting heart rate was about 60 bpm. I’m curious to see what it is now. But that will require me to remember to check. And I don’t have a morning without an alarm coming up for almost two weeks. Maybe a little more.