High pulse during sports

Anja Beranek - High pulse during exercise

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High pulse during sports

Causes, typical questions and a few tips

Old-fashioned wisdom about heart rate in sports is now commonplace. The rumor that your heart rate should not exceed 140 bpm in everyday training is still true. But don’t panic, it’s a mistake. Every athlete has his or her own individual pulse ranges at different loads.

The best way to determine your own heart rate zones for your training is to have a performance diagnostics done. This is a short stress test under professional observation. Then you will find out that a pulse of 160 bpm at medium load can be "normal" as well.

The method you use to measure your pulse also has a big impact on the heart rate you get displayed. Chest straps, ear sensors, ECGs, heart rate monitors and other fitness trackers have varying levels of accuracy – depending on the method and application. There it can come fast times to dropouts or deviations.

You have a standard route and are familiar with your heart rate method and still have elevated readings? Then also consider your current state of health. Maybe you’re not quite fit or you’ve caught a cold. It could also be that you didn’t have breakfast or partied too much yesterday – bang, your pulse is elevated. Your body needs to compensate the energy deficit a bit. Going for a run even if your body temperature is elevated, z.B in the hot studio or under the blazing sun can raise your pulse without increasing your performance. Because your body needs to pump to keep your own hydraulic cooling mechanism going.

So, first of all, take a neutral look at your own performance, your training level, your state of health, your training and the external factors and, of course, your measuring method!

The high pulse

Don’t panic, it’s normal.

You must know it. You feel good. The sun is shining. You are full of motivation. Your running shoes are new. You have recently stocked up on new running gear. Let’s get going. First the small round. You have not run for a long time. Now you want to start again. GA1 says your training plan. So slow down, relax and don’t let your pulse get above 140.

Said and done. The first steps feel fluid. You are full of hopes. Then you look at your pulse watch. "Oh no!" It shows 165 beats.

"How can it be? If I walk any slower, I will stop!" You are confused. The steps are getting heavier. You feel a little heavy in your body. The carotid artery is throbbing.

"All right, then I’ll just reduce the speed a bit more. The only important thing is to be faster than the walkers you feel in your neck". You keep running. But it doesn’t help. "What does the heart rate monitor say? 168!! Even worse." How can it be? This is what gets you down.

High pulse and the causes

Beginners and professionals make the same mistakes.

Well, do you find yourself again? I am sure. Each of us, and by that I mean every endurance athlete among us, has started at one time or another. With running. With the jogging. Or with some other kind of endurance training. If you think back to when you started exercising, you’ll remember a lot of tips that are often forgotten. So that you can classify your pulse values correctly, we have summarized all the possible causes of an increased heartbeat for you here.

Running with a high pulse

I have an elevated pulse when jogging? What can I do?

"If you measure a lot, you measure crap". This was told to me once by a smart professor in my engineering studies. I found this statement very exciting. It fell at a time when we were in an internship for measurement technology.

In sports it is no different. We are getting more and more wired. We become a living measuring station. It all starts with the pulse measurement. "What pulse do I have? Do I have too high a pulse? Is it too low? What can I do about it."In addition, there are small tools like the GPS, the pedometer or the calorie counter. The data floods us. "Is running dangerous when your pulse is too high?" Maybe. "Do I burn more calories with a high pulse than with a low pulse?" Probably yes. "How should my pulse behave when I’m going up the hill, how do I get it down when I’m on the flat?."

At this point, let’s maybe take a step back and focus on the pulse itself. I always hear questions about high pulse. At this point, let’s take the time to address a few of these questions.

A heart rate monitor? You surely know and have one. You used to be one of the freaks. I still remember. I bought my first heart rate monitor almost 15 years ago. I was so proud. No matter if high pulse or low pulse. I just wanted to measure it. Evaluate the pulse. I wanted to know when exactly I had a high pulse rate. How fast could I reduce the high pulse. How did my pulse rate evolve during a run.

Yes, it even went so far that I took the heart rate monitor to bed with me. Somewhere I once read "Those who are particularly well trained have a pulse of less than 50 in the morning when they wake up". If it’s really good, it’s even under 40."I wanted to test this on my own body. And for this purpose the heart rate monitor was just right for me.

Today the heart rate monitor has become mainstream. For ambitious recreational athletes, the heart rate monitor is a faithful companion during sports. No matter if you run, swim or cycle. The heart rate monitor is always with you. I even wear it while writing. Now at this moment, while my finger is creating this text. But I am also a nerd. I admit that. I do not have a high pulse. Nevertheless I want to know my pulse.

But the heart rate monitor has also arrived in the masses. The designs are more beautiful. The heart rate monitors have become practical. I still come from the chest strap generation. Today the heart rate monitor is a fashion item. You can measure a high pulse with it. Yes. But, you can also see how many steps you have run and how many calories you have burned.

The modern heart rate monitors you don’t wear only on your chest anymore. To measure a high pulse it is enough to have a device on the wrist. If you want to have your wrist free, then you can also use the ear. Yes, you can measure your pulse here as well. Quite accurately even. High pulse or not, the ear is a valuable source for measuring important body vital functions.

Too high a pulse while running

Where does it come from?

Too high a pulse while running is a sign from your body. It signals you "Attention, you are moving in a way that is unusual for me". Exceptional at this point stands for a variety of possibilities:

  • It may be that you are not yet fit enough to strain your body as you are doing right now. For example, you have been sick and are not yet 100% recovered.
  • It can be that a high pulse tells you that the slope you are trying to climb is too steep for your fitness level or that the speed you are running is too fast for your fitness level.

By the way, this does not only apply to running. Any kind of physical work or exertion that challenges you exceptionally first makes your pulse rate high.


Is a very high pulse dangerous when running?

"Wow, if I move too long with a high pulse, is that dangerous??"A legitimate question. It is not easy or absolute to stop. There is no right or wrong in this sense. What exactly does dangerous mean at this point??

I would distinguish two cases here:

  • "Dangerous" in the sense of dangerous for your health or harmful to your health
  • "Dangerous" in the sense of not productive for your further training progress

Let’s start with the first one. A high pulse rate while running is dangerous for your health if it is a warning signal of your body. When your body tells you in no uncertain terms "watch out, think about what you are doing". This can be the case in the following situations.

You have not run for many years. The ravages of time gnaw at you. Your scale is no longer friendly to you. To get a grip on this, start directly with a brisk run around your favorite lake. After a few meters "your pulse is up to your neck". You are top-motivated and go on anyway.

In this case, a high pulse is one of many indicators that you are overdoing it. Your body is not used to the load and shouts "stop, stop". If you push it too hard, your body may hit the emergency stop button.

You are in the shape of your life. You are well trained. You know your heart rate zone. The competition is just around the corner. It is hot. The sun is burning. The thermometer shows almost 40°C. You run. Your pulse is too high. You can’t get it down. This makes you nervous, because the tempo is subterranean by your standards. Your head is willing, but your body doesn’t want it. You feel a little dizzy.

A clear case of "something is not right. It is important and right to push yourself to the limit. Especially in endurance sports. However, high pulse in line with other physical efforts is a clear sign of "sometimes it’s just better to recognize the signs, take it easy, and prioritize your health."

Let’s talk about the second point. Is a high pulse dangerous for the progress of training?. D.h. a too high pulse can show you "Attention, today you are not completely fit?" Yes, it can. Too high a pulse during a workout always has a reason. You should be able to recognize that and question it.

  • Are you training according to plan and with a heart rate monitor?? Then you know your training zones. Which pulse corresponds to a relaxed training for you?? What is your pulse for a tempo endurance run and what does your pulse look like when you increase to competition speed??
  • If you know your heart rate zone, you will recognize a high heart rate immediately. It is important to deal with it neutrally. D.h. You should not panic on the one hand. You should not ignore it on the other side either.

Ask yourself the following questions

  • Did I sleep badly?
  • Am I under stress right now?
  • Maybe I still have a cold in me?
  • Or maybe I have simply eaten too much?
  • You are perhaps too fast already in the training again?
  • Is your last big competition only a few days ago?

It is important that over time you get a feeling for when you have a high pulse and when you do not. If the reason for your high pulse rate is stress at work, or if you had too much dinner in the evening, then you can be relaxed. The training is not so easy in this case, but you will most likely not endanger your health.

The situation is different if the cause of the high pulse is an illness that has not yet subsided. A cold is the classic. It is also dangerous if you run directly after a big competition, like z.B. If you return to training too quickly after a marathon or half marathon, or even a triathlon. Your body, your muscles are still too busy regenerating themselves. Individual muscle fibers are damaged at a microscopic level after intense competition. After the competition the repair work begins.

If you give your body too little space and time to recover, it reacts with incomprehension. It does not provide you with the performance you are used to. The result? You guessed it: A pulse that is too high.

Good indicators of whether your body is fit enough today are:

  • a regular measurement of the resting pulse
  • a regular measurement of heart rate variability

Regular training

High pulse despite regular training? How can it be?

You are in good shape. You are satisfied with the progress of your training. Your goal is the next triathlon, an IRONMAN or maybe a marathon. This morning you got up. The night was good. time for a regular morning run. It starts right away. No breakfast. A sip of water from the tap. And off you go.

Your pulse is skyrocketing. Not only today. It was the same yesterday. You wonder about the high pulse. He does not want and does not want to go down. What is going on? You exercise regularly and diligently. How can it be?

Let me say this. Everybody is different. Every athlete works differently. And so does every organism. A high pulse of 160 does not necessarily mean that you are running at your limit. In my training group I could observe this. There were guys and gals who were in a good mood. No competitive athletes. But good at training. For them, doing a casual endurance run meant running around with pulse rates around 160 beats per minute. You felt good about it and held out. Me, I was already at a higher competition pace with 160 strokes. The relaxed endurance run usually settled around 130 beats per minute for me. That is a big difference.

But also your health can be decisive. Do you still carry a cold inside you. Is your stomach still busy digesting a heavy dinner or are you stressed and hectic at work?? All this can cause a high pulse. You are in training. Actually you are fit. Nevertheless it drives your pulse up as soon as you move. A sign to maybe cut back a bit.

I am a beginner runner and have a constantly high pulse, what can I do??

You are starting to exercise. With running or jogging. Your pulse is constantly too high. A typical phenomenon. Your body is not yet used to being stressed. Straight running gets your whole body going. The legs anyway. Your upper body has to stabilize you. The arms swing along. If you are not used to this, your organism is overstrained.

All parts of your body start to call for oxygen like crazy. Oxygen is the fuel for your muscles. Oxygen is transported through the blood. The heart is responsible for the blood transport. You supply the oxygen by breathing deeply in and out. The more your body screams for oxygen, the faster your heart has to pump to supply the muscles. The result: the high pulse.

As a running beginner, your body must get used to the load. With the time your body becomes more experienced in dealing with the load and knows exactly when and where it must transport which quantity of oxygen. Everything does not always have to be immediate. It must also not always be as much as possible. So your body learns to use its resources more effectively. The pulse is your indicator for the fitness level of your body.

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