I did two events recently, a 5K and a trail half marathon. I have a Suunto watch with a heartrate strap, and from what I can tell it seems to be pretty accurate.

I took the 20 minute test at the end of September and my average heart rate was 186 bpm. During the 5k at the end of November which I did in a little under 22 minutes (a little longer then the 20 minute test), my average heart rate was 196 bpm. During the half marathon at the beginning of December, my average heart rate was 194 bpm. Should I be alarmed at these readings? 

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Sounds like the strap might not be tight enough.

Yeah, tighten up the strap, but also use electrode cream or gel on the contacts.  Dry, winter conditions tend to make it harder for the strap to get a good reading and using the gel helps.  I've used my Suunto Ambit for two years now and when winter comes, the readings get a little strange because of the dry weather.

Thanks for both your replies. I do typically wet the contacts with water before I go out running. I'll give the cream or gel a shot. 

The strap is pretty tight. I was just testing it inside the house, did some jumping jacks then compared my heart rate reading that my watch was giving with a finger on my pulse counting beats. Seemed to be dead on, but I wasn't outside. Next time I go running I'll try another test. I suppose if I really wanted to know I could see a physician and get tested.

So, if my equipment isn't off, would these readings be alarming? 

How old are you and what is your weight/height?  I think if your HR has been consistent in training relative you your zones, these numbers are not alarming.

Age 31, 180 lbs, 6'0". HR has been consistent throughout training. 

Hey Tim - we will always put out a little more effort (HR) in a race than in training or a solo field test.  So this "race day oomph" could be at play, AND, I would bet that your test numbers have gone up since Sept. So tis might be a combo of both scenerios.  Once you are recovered, you might try testing again and see how you do and to refresh your HR training zone profile.

One more thing to consider is the course.  Was this a very hilly course and/or trail course versus the flat road course of the test?

Ooops, I see that the half was a trail.  So if this had a lot of hills, hills in general will kick your HR higher due to the increased muscle recruitment.

Yes, the half was a trail run with about 1500 feet of change over the duration. Pretty constant up and down, change of direction, and one long ascent that we did twice because the course was a 6.5 mile loop. The 5k was pretty flat so HR was due to maintaining the maximum speed that I could sustain over that distance.

Part of the reason for my questions is that I mentioned those heart rate numbers to a friend and he raised his eyebrows and questioned whether or not those numbers were too high. To be honest I never feel "bad" after running. If anything I feel better after I run. At the same time I don't want to do "damage" over the long term if I'm training at too high of an effort.

It's pretty cool to be able to get personalized responses from a world class coach. Something not to be taken for granted. Thank you.

Yes, your HR is above the average, but I do not think it is too high.  I do think there  are three things at play here when comparing HR from Sept test and your race data.

  1. More fit than Sept, so retest soon while form/fitness is still high.
  2. Race day effort/adrenaline versus training - always higher race day when in form.
  3. The course: with this much STEADY climbing and on trails in general, you will recruit and use more muscles, therefore, causing a higher HR across the board than on flatter/road courses.  

Hope this helps.  Keep us posted on your training and racing and thanks for the thank you and recognition - much appreciated!!


After getting rested up I did the 20 minute test and the 1 mile test. To preface, I hit the 20 minute test pretty hard... so hard I thought I was going to throw up. Probably not wise, but there you have it.

20 minute test I averaged 199 bpm (higher then 186 back in September).

One mile test I did in 6:20 (down from 6:43 in September).

Now for a question. I've noticed in some posts that in the training plans that you can purchase you tell people to do the 20 minute test and then take off 8 bpm before determining the zones. Is this correct? And if so, should I do that as well even though I'm using the book? I don't want to over train and I don't want to under train.

I also plan on checking with a physician re: my seemingly high heart rate.


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