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Hearts & Fitness

Can somebody answer me this one simple question ??

What does heart rate tell you about fitness??
I recently done the Caledonian Etape cycle. I completed the 81 mile route in 3hrs 47mins. Average heart rate was 144 with my max at 166. My cousin done the route in 3Hrs 59 mins. Average heart rate was 163 with his max at 186. What does this tell me, if anything, about our fitness levels ? I am never able to get my heart rate much above the low 170's although his max was 186. We are both 38 years old. Should i want or need a heart rate that goes higher. Am i lacking fitness even although i was quicker ?

Many thanks


  • From my limited knowledge of heart rates, the key measure of fitness is your resting heart rate which should be taken first thing in the morning whilst resting (obviously). The lower this is, generally the fitter you are.

    Heart rate during a race isn't really a good indicator of fitness to be honest as (for example) everyone's heart rate should be near maximum towards the end of a 5k run as they will be pushing as hard as they can.

    Don't get too hung up on maximum heart rates, it's times that matter in races! You might have a larger heart that pumps more blood per beat for example.
  • MindenManMindenMan Posts: 5
    Assuming that you are both the same height, weight, carried the same weight on the bike, used the same bike with exactly the same gearing I would say you are fitter - you were quicker with a lower heart rate.

    Being able to have a higher heart rate isn't necessarily a good thing, a lot of it depends on your zones, your resting heart rate, maximum heart rate and also your VO2 max ( if you have it).

    However, that said, I don't think you should compare heart rates as an indicator of how fitter you are over one person. There are so many variables that affect heart rate, for example you might have been running a compact cassette and your mate on standard (or the other way round). Or he might have had a really lousy sleep the night before, have a cold, or an injury that will also affect it, or he may have over-trained the day before.
    Therefore I would recommend you use heart rate to measure and track your level of fitness rather than use it to compare with your mate. What would be more relevant would be tracking your heart rates over time and seeing what the improvement has been as a % on your resting heart rate, max heart rate and VO2 Max. But at the end of the day it is who did the faster time - Right?

  • grakaygrakay Posts: 16
    If two people of the same sex, age, height and weight wear heart rate monitors over the same course and post identical times, they will both have different average heart rates. This is because no two people are identical. If you were faster on the bike but he is faster running, then who can say who is the fittest. The value of a HR monitor is that if you run a route on the 1st Jan and your average HR is say, 150, and you run the same route a year later in the same time and it is now 140, then you can demonstrate an increase in your own fitness level. I have an abnormally low HR that has been well investigated and I have an over active sinus nerve that controls the heart beat. My resting HR is 32 and my max is only 148, but when I run with my training partner over the same course and the same time, his HR average is considerably higher, although we both know he is fitter than me. Don't get hung up comparing your HR with anybody elses.
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