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Resting Heart Rate:  Does It Really Matter?


When I started cycling, my resting heart rate was about 60.  Nothing great, better than average.  Now that was my real resting heart rate too.  Wake up, grab the phone and check before my first foot hits the ground.

Today, after 20,000 miles on a bicycle, my resting heart rate after two cups of coffee, breakfast and reading a post about Canadian Bureucratic Hoop Jumping (that might make a more interesting Olympic sport than curling!), sitting at the dining room table, I’m at 43.

Don’t take my word for it:

IMG_7481
It’s not some form of rocket science that accounts for such a steep drop.  I thought I was fit before cycling…  The keyword in that last sentence, of course, is “thought”.  I was a runner, after all!  For almost a decade.

When I was running, I never gave it half the effort I do cycling.  I thought I did, at the time, and I’d have vociferously defended my position that I simply wasn’t built to run more than a few days a week and faster than an 8 minute mile.  My position that I was giving it everything I had was, for the lack of a better word, naïve.  “Mistaken” or “Wrong” are a couple more.  I was giving it “my estimation” of everything I had.  My estimation was simply low.

Today, I’m a bit wiser about the whole “working hard” thing today.  I do ride hard.  I look good, feel good but I know I could do better.

I just don’t want to.  Today, I’m happy with where I’m at.  I have to bust my butt to keep it, of course, but I’m content.  I have balance.

So how does this relate to the resting heart rate?  I remember hearing that 70 was average, 60 was healthy, 50 was fit, 40 was exceptionally fit and 30 was professional athlete fit.  Reports were that Lance was in the low 30’s.  Certainly, if I were to work a little harder, I could get into the 30’s, no?

And that’s what suckers us in…  I can lay down xxx watts, I can ride xx mph, I burned xxx,xxx calories last year.  I rode x,xxx miles.

I’m better than you.  Or you, or you.  Or even more interesting, I’m better than me.

Or am I?

I was stopped on the road the other day by a fellow.  More like flagged down.  He drove three quarters of a mile up the road, pulled off the road, got out of his semi truck and flagged me down.  I stopped and we made small talk for five minutes or so about cycling, turned out he was a cyclist too.  He lives close to my home and wanted to know if I knew of any decent groups to ride with.  I told him about our weekend group rides and then about Tuesday night.  That’s when he winced and said he heard those guys were kinda mean to new people, “not like you”.

I told him about the group inside that main group.  Mike, Phill, Chuck, Matt, Carla, Chuck, Mike, Brad…  And my wife will make the group this year if she chooses.  They’re all like me, all fantastic guys and ladies.  I told him about Greg, our Cat 3 racer who will regularly fade back to help stragglers bridge back to the group.  Mike McD (We have a glut of Mike’s on Tuesday night – I might have to start calling him McMike), who told me on only my second Tuesday, “if you get into trouble, find my wheel, I’ll get you back.”  Over the last couple of years and change he’s given me more advice than I could possibly recount in a blog post.  Dave, a Cat 4 who never fails to hammer the group but is just one heck of a decent guy.

After finding out that the truck driver’s pace wasn’t too far from ours, I invited him to ride with us, took his number and told him I’d get a hold of him so he could give us a try.  I committed to giving him a day to see how he likes riding with us – and how we like riding with him.  One Sunday, in the not distant future, will be Vee’s.  No matter how long he holds on or how soon he falls off, I’ll stick with him so I can make sure he gets back okay.  If he can’t hang, but he’s a good guy, I’ll help him to get fast enough to hang with us – if he wants to work hard enough to do it (if not, I’ve got another group in mind that’ll be perfect for him).  This is how the majority of cyclists I know, act.  I’m sure there are a few too aloof to go through the trouble, but none that I ride with.

Resting heart rate, watts, mileage, average pace…  That’s all good, fun stuff, but those things aren’t what makes cycling so great.  What makes cycling great are the cyclists.  Sometimes I get lost in all of the fun little intricacies and thankfully I have friends who are also excellent at reminding me all of “that stuff is f@ckin’ bull$h!t”.

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19 Comments

  1. adarling575 says:

    Such a lovely post and so true! The resting heart rate thing is interesting, I have started using the same app regularly in order to track whether I am overdoing it and general health/fitness. For example, after my marathon my resting heart rate was much higher for at least a week! Men are meant to be about 5 bpm faster than women I think. I vary between 55-58, which for an adult female my age (according to various websites I’ve googled, no actual knowledge!) is at the low end of the “athlete” range. This seems odd to me as my fitness is definitely not at the low end of the athlete range!!! If that’s the case, why aren’t I running 20 min 5ks and cycling 20mph?! (I’m being tongue in cheek here … there are huge numbers of reasons why not!) But it’s an interesting measurement to keep track of over time.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Your heart rate was elevated after the marathon because your body was repairing itself. That’s normal after a big effort. Mine is still 48-49 after my 80 mile ride the other day.

      • adarling575 says:

        Yeah that’s why I like tracking it, I know if it is elevated and there isn’t an obvious reason then there is something wrong and I need to take slightly more rest / drink less coffee/wine!! That app seems pretty accurate as well when I’ve compared it to my garmin chest strap

  2. It’s great being able to help folk ain’t it?

  3. What app are you using?

  4. Reblogged this on A Girl, Her Bike, and Their Journey and commented:
    Smiling, thanks for giving this Noob hope of finding a group on day, soon.

    • bgddyjim says:

      My pleasure! I’ll be sure to write a detailed post on how to go about that – from several different angles, so I can help as many as possible.

  5. my1sttrirace says:

    Mine is somewhere around 42-44. It’s just a function of getting more aerobically fit. It doesn’t mean much more than a topic of conversation. It is worth measuring. If you resting HR is high for a couple of days you are over trained, stressed, or sick.

    Keep your balance, continue to challenge yourself, and improve. Do that everyday and the numbers don’t matter as much.

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