Monday, May 23, 2011

Heart Rate Monitoring and Monster Midges

Long weekends are just wonderful.  It's amazing how having one extra day can make all three days seem longer.  We can certainly stuff a lot of friends, family, food and fitness into such a small window.   I also took a few days off blogging and other internet pursuits which was nice.  It made me realize the value of being unplugged every so often...

So I'm trying to figure out heart rate stuff so I can get a better handle on what the numbers mean.  Last week I reported my heart rate ups and downs during a hill training run.  This weekend, I wore the HR monitor during my Saturday morning 10k run and again during our Sunday morning 35k bike ride.

Saturday morning was, in my opinion at least, very hot and humid.  Not yet being used to that kind of weather, I started off strong but was really struggling by the end.  I mean really really struggling. Every kilometre took a little longer to run - the first was a 5:40 and by the last I was running a 6:40.  My heart rate climbed pretty quickly to 160 bpm and held steady.  In the last couple of kilometres, where I was wilting from the heat, it slowly climbed to 172 bpm despite my slower pace.   So heart rate is not only affected by pace and exertion but also by heat??

When we went cycling on Sunday, I expected to see huge spikes every time we climbed up a big hill and then rapid drops as we coasted down the hills.  My quads were really tired from the run the day before as well as the crazy sideways walk I've been doing across my house twice a day.  So it felt like I was working extra hard just to keep moving forward. We rode up several challenging hills and my heart rate max for the ride was 162.  Panting, legs burning, can hardly keep the bike moving = 162 bpm.  Pretty much the same rate I get during regular runs.  The rest of the ride I averaged about 120 bpm.  So cycling, no matter how hard it feels has less impact on heart rate than running??

What does it all mean?  I find cycling up a huge hill a lot more challenging than running down a flat road.  On the uphill, the blood is pounding in my ears and I can hardly catch my breath.  On a flat run, I'm just lopping along like the lone wolf - feeling strong but not struggling.  And yet my heart rate is pretty much the same.  I certainly couldn't cycle uphill for an hour but I can run for an hour, or two, or three...  So there is obviously more at play here than just heart rate.

Stay tuned for next time as I slowly try to figure this all out...

In the meantime, here are a few pics from our Saturday afternoon hike through Rockway.  It has been raining for weeks (it seems) and the river was swollen beyond its banks.  Pretty amazing.

The midges were also pretty amazing.  They attacked like a swarm of blood lusting sharks and had us high-tailing it back to the car.  Thank goodness for ice packs, three hour naps and Benadryl.  Two days later and my ear is almost back to normal size.  My neck still looks like I barely survived the plague but I'm sure it just adds to my nature girl mystique :)


  1. This is the same experience I have with my heart rate when I run and bike; the running is always more intense cardio-wise. I think that's just the way it is. I see this reflected in my blood glucose changes during exercise, too. Running is more energetic, however hard it feels.

    Pretty pictures from your hike, too.

  2. Isn't it weird to discover what your heart is doing all this time you've been exercising without a HRM? I know I was totally interested to compare workouts. Again, you have a HR of an athlete and I'm jealous! I'm looking to comparing notes on Thursday.. don't forget the hills! I'm sure I'll be wheezing.

  3. I find there are many factors that affect HR. Amount of sleep, wind, heat, humidity, hydration, etc. What was key for me, was finding what HR I needed to be at to sustain a certain pace for long runs. Eg. <155 bpm seems to be a good range for long runs of 18+k that I can maintain my pace. 160+ bpm and I can only sustain that pace for about 15k, then I'm toast.