My Beating Heart

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Morning!  I stayed up very late last night cleaning, but now 1 out of 3 closets are organized.  I threw away so much junk.  Apparently, the Husband has kept every single empty box of every single piece of electronics we have bought since moving 1.5 year ago.  Hmmm…. 🙂


I stayed up late enough to need a nighttime snack while watching The Office ("Hilary Swank, hot or not?") and Grey’s.  These strawberries were covered in the Peju Chardonnay Caramel Sauce.


I’ve been staying up so late and sleeping too late.  I really need to get back on a normal schedule!


The thought of oatmeal was enough to get my booty out of bed.




My oatmeal contained:


  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 sliced banana
  • Toppings:  cashews, raisins, almonds, and granola


My Beating Heart


A reader named Beth e-mailed me yesterday about heart rate.  She said, "I find that even though I have been running for a long time – have completed 3 half marathons, among other races – I ALWAYS have a super high heart rate when running. Even when I’m running slow, and it feels effortless, my heart rate is in the 165 – 175 range (which is close to my supposed max of 190, being that I’m 30.)"


I’m the same way — based on my heart rate monitor, my average heart rate is usually 160 – 170 during a run, with a maximum of about 195.  My resting heart rate is higher than normal, too — around 80.  My blood pressure is normal (120/65).


According to this table, the heart rate for a 25-year old (like me) should be 98 to 166 bpm for the "Target HR Zone" of 50-85% of my maximum, which is 195 bpm.


When Beth says "supposed max," she’s referring to the American Heart Association’s rule that your maximum heart rate is 220 – your age.


However, this rule is not true for all people.  The American Heart Association does note on their website, "The figures above are averages, so use them as general guidelines." Plus, your "maximum heart rate" can vary according to what type of exercise you are engaging in.   According to this article, swimmers have lower heart rates when they swim than runners when they run. The reason is that during running, your heart has to push blood against gravity to bring it to your head. During swimming, your heart does not have to exert that extra force.


Some personal trainers and doctors think watching your heart rate during exercise (through a heart rate monitor) is helpful and it helps you train harder.  As quoted in this NY Times article, some medical professionals, like Kevin Hanson (coach to Brian Sell, who just made the United States Olympic men’s marathon team) advise against monitoring your heart rate.   First of all, he says the classic formula for determining your maximum rate (220 minus your age) is notoriously inaccurate. And glancing at your heart-rate monitor all the time can hinder your training, he cautioned.


Do you monitor your heart rate during exercise? Why?  What’s your typical resting heart rate, exercise average, and exercise maximum?  If you do measure your heart rate, has it gotten lower the fitter you’ve become (this has not been true for me)?


Do any nurses or other professionals have any medical input on the great heart rate debate?



  • Beadie @ What I Ate Yesterday January 23, 2009, 7:05 am

    Goregous oats!

    Have you ever run in cold weather? Any advice about the cold burning my lungs?

  • Mica January 23, 2009, 7:07 am

    Yummy oats. I never think to add banana.

    I don’t ever check my heart rate when I work out. I do other things like the talk test to check for exertion levels. Whenever I’ve tried using machines to test heart rate, I get worried that I’m going to keel over from a heart attack on the spot!

  • Meg January 23, 2009, 7:09 am

    Pretty oats!

    I have a very low resting heart rate. When I workout I have to remember my starting point, because I sometimes feel my heart rate doesn’t get high enough. I have always been intrigued by the heart rate issue.

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point January 23, 2009, 7:09 am

    beadie – try breathing through your nose if you arent already. that helps me.

    these comments were mysteriously deleted:

    VeggieGirl has left a new comment on your post “My Beating Heart”:

    GORGEOUS strawberries and oats!!

    I don’t monitor my heart rate.

    Happy Friday, Caitlin!!

    Posted by VeggieGirl to Healthy Tipping Point at January 23, 2009 5:52 AM
    Reply Forward

    JustineJustine has left a new comment on your post “My Beating Heart”: I don’t monit…
    8:55 AM (13 minutes ago)

    JustineLoading…8:55 AM (13 minutes ago)

    Justine to me
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    Justine has left a new comment on your post “My Beating Heart”:

    I don’t monitor my heart rate except for sometimes when I’m on a machine at the gym I’ll touch the sensors for a second to see what I’m currently at. I usually just go by how I feel!

  • brandi January 23, 2009, 7:18 am

    I don’t have a HRM yet; it’s on my wish list though! I just don’t have the money to buy one yet.

    I definitely think it’s helpful to know/monitor.

  • Melissa January 23, 2009, 7:23 am

    Congrats on the cleanout!!!

    hehe, loved Office and Grey’s last night! I do think Hillary’s hot….but not as hot as a lot of other actresses, if that makes sense 🙂

    I use my HRM but just to track calories burned and that motivates me to work harder 🙂

  • Aimee January 23, 2009, 7:29 am

    I actually don’t use my heart rate monitor when I run, because I figure I can tell if I am working hard enough. I use it when I take spin or use any other machine, because I want to make sure that I am getting a good work out.

  • Jen January 23, 2009, 7:32 am

    I think my resting heart is average 68-70 but when I exercise I think my heart rate goes up too much. When I power walk outside it about 140-145. When I power walk on the treadmill its about 160 add hills and its easily 170. When I run the average is easily in the 190s. I even seen 201 when I ended the run with a sprint. I don’t what this all means but I know 201 is not good, very little oxygen is getting to my heart. Ive also noticed that when I go from sitting on the ground to standing my heart rate goes from 68 to 120 Im not sure if that normal or not.

  • Simple and Divine January 23, 2009, 7:33 am

    I don’t use an HRM… A) I know it would be a bad thing for me and I would become obsessive and anxious about it
    B) I no longer do “cardio cardio” and choose power/vinyasa yoga (but my heart always feels like its beating out of my chest during my practice) umm…

    0H when I used to do step aerobics all the time, my HR was like 200 when we were done… Is that bad?

  • Sarah W. January 23, 2009, 7:34 am

    my hubby is the same way with boxes!!! ugh!!!! I have to sneakily throw some away from time to time but belive me, he NOTICES when boxes go missing!!!

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point January 23, 2009, 7:37 am

    jen and simple and divine – truthfully, i cannot comment on whether or not a heart rate is “bad” because i dont know! my highest rate ever was definitely over 200 as well. i think it would be wise to see a doctor if your blood pressure isnt normal as well or if you feel light headed or see spots. otherwise, you are probably fine and just have a naturally higher HR.

  • Brooke January 23, 2009, 7:40 am

    Hi Caitlin,

    I have never commented before, but I read your blog all the time and think it’s great! I wanted to make a comment about heart rate during running. I have been running for 5 years now and I am doing my 2nd half this Sunday. About a year ago I bought a hr monitor and have noticed that my heart rate stays pretty high most of the time too no matter how fast or slow I am running. I have always worried about it and thought that as a runner it was supposed to get lower the more physically fit I am, but it has not been the case for me. My resting heart rate is also around 80 most of the time. I am interested to see everyone else’s comments on the subject. Keep up the good work with the blog and congrats on recent wedding!!

  • Tia January 23, 2009, 7:42 am

    I find my heart rate is really low. Resting is around 60 and running is 150-170 bpm. I always wondered when I compared to bloggers HRs as mine seemed so different. I know everyone is a bit different, but it would be interesting to have my actual max number determined to find my most accurate range.

  • Meredith January 23, 2009, 8:19 am

    Dan does the same thing with saving his electronics boxes forever! Maybe it’s a guy thing.
    I don’t check my heart rate when I’m working out, but I have considered it! Any gadgets that require programming scare me a little though, and I worry I wouldn’t be able to figure out a HRM.

  • Laughing Lindsay January 23, 2009, 8:20 am

    I use a heart rate monitor religiously. It’s funny because I let my body override it all the time though. If I feel like I’m pushing too hard, I don’t care what the monitor says. If I’m really kickin butt, I’ll check the monitor just for the purpose of giving myself a pat on the back. I’m not too hardcore but I love having the thing.

  • Beth January 23, 2009, 8:31 am

    Thanks for posting this Caitlin! I’m really interested to see what others have to say about it. I have noticed there’s also conflicting info about whether exercising above your max (or too close to it) hinders fat loss. To me, that’s wacky because it’s all about calorie burn and the higher the heart rate, the higher the calories burned…

  • Tami January 23, 2009, 8:36 am

    i am always surprised at how long it takes me to get my heart rate up when i run on the treadmill inside but outside it gets right up

    but i love my heart rate monitor and the calories burned 🙂 although i am sure it’s not 100% accurate.

  • Julia January 23, 2009, 8:37 am

    Oops, I’m re-posting this because I think your post went through twice, and I commented on the first one:

    I just HAD to weigh in on the heart rate discussion, since this has stumped me ever since I got my polar HRM in August. I read the stats on people’s blogs (like yours) and see heart rates between 160 and 180 and I’m FLABBERGASTED… no matter how much exercising I do, or how hard I push myself, I have yet to break past 167. That happens rarely, and when it does, I have to stop because I get dizzy and feel nauseous.

    Basically, if I’m running at a 7.5 or 8 on the treadmill, I can reach a steady HR of about 155. If I run any slower, or do any other kind of activity, my average is about 146.

    I’m really starting to think there’s a link between max HR, resting HR, and blood pressure. I’ve tried to do research but haven’t found much online. My resting heart rate is 44, and my blood pressure is usually 90/50 or something ridiculous like that. I wonder if this explains why I can’t seem to get my HR up where others do. (Btw, I’m 24, so my max should be in the 190s!)

    I have to admit, I’m sooo jealous of people who can get their heart rates up so high, and I often wonder if I’m working “hard enough.” But I still think that training with an eye to heart rate is really valuable, if you keep in mind what is low/normal/high FOR YOU… if my HR stays in the 130s the whole time, I know I’m not pushing myself. But for someone else, the 150s might indicate they need to work harder.

    I’m very interested to see what others have to say about this….

  • Caitlin January 23, 2009, 8:41 am


    i have no idea what happened with my double post! odd.

    anyways, i think you are right — heart rate should be a matter of what is normal for YOU. its too easy to compare ourselves to others. if you know you know you are working your hardest, you are, no matter what some chart says!!

    btw a resting HR of 44 is excellent. that’s like a superior athlete!

  • Arika January 23, 2009, 8:44 am

    I always wear a heart rate monitor. It allows me to train properly. Last fall I took a running assessment. It tested my Peak V02, Peak Heart rate, VO2 max at Threshold and Heart rate at Threshold. Then based on my results I got a chart showing what my heart rate range for each zone should be (zone 1, zone 2, zone 3 etc…like the charts on the wall at the gym but this one is tailored to me). The chart also indicated how many total calories and fat calories I personally would burn in each zone. This test was a little pricey but worth it because it showed me what I should be at to properly train and see the results I wanted. I also got access to a website and 6 to 8 weeks of specialized heart rate training programs. I follow the program and saw a dramatic improvement in my ability to deliver oxygen to my heart. Meaning I was able to run faster at a lower heart rate. The program was challenging but it worked my heart in ways I had never felt. It was pretty awesome. I recommend that anyone who truly wants to know heart rate ranges appropriate to them, try a test like this if your gym offers it, otherwise its just a huge guessing game. I had to wear a funny mask while running so they can monitor oxygen, but other then the weird mask the test was really informative.

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point January 23, 2009, 8:47 am

    arika- that is awesome! where did you get this test done and what was it called???

  • Arika January 23, 2009, 8:56 am

    I am a member at LifeTime Fitness and that is where I got the test. It was called “Cardio Point.” Here is the description from their website:

    Add efficiency to your workout.
    This active metabolic assessment provides a precise measure of your cardiovascular fitness and determines your optimal heart rate zones where your workout is most effective.

    Measures your key cardiovascular training markers, including anaerobic threshold, aerobic base and VO2.
    Know how many calories you burn during exercise.
    Developed a customized cardio program.

  • Beadie @ What I Ate Yesterday January 23, 2009, 8:57 am

    Thanks, Caitlin! I am breathing through my nose. I read today to try covering my face with a scarf or do a warm up first, so I am going to try both of those things.

  • Jess January 23, 2009, 9:00 am

    I’ve never really trained with heart rate monitor stuff because my heart rate is really high even when I do moderate activity, but I have a pretty low resting heart rate.

    But that test Arika mentioned sounds pretty cool.

  • Colleen January 23, 2009, 9:07 am

    Good topic – something that’s definitely been on my mind lately. Normally my resting hear rate can be as low as 50 and as high as 70 or so… But when I run my heart rate is almost always in the mid to upper 170s. That’s a good point about the swimming thing though because I’m 5’9 so I figure my heart has to work pretty hard to get that blood pumped upward! I don’t feel like I’m over-exerting myself, but it kinda freaks me out that it’s so high. I can tell when it reaches 180 or more, I feel tired then. BTW, I’m 27 years old, just to make this relative. I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one concerned about this!

  • Colleen January 23, 2009, 9:09 am

    One more thing…I notice that if I do “deep-belly” breathing it normally knocks my heart rate down 5-10 bpm, I got that from something I read on RW Online.

  • Megan January 23, 2009, 9:29 am

    I think the article about swimming vs. running is really interesting. I’ve been a swimmer all my life and took up running a few years ago. I’ve run a few HMs and am training for my first full. When I run, my HR is always high(in the 160s-170s) no matter what. I’ve worn my HRM before swimming and it rarely gets about 140-150. And I have to push to get it there. I’m more in the 120-130 range swimming even when I’m trying. My resting heart rate is around 60 and I have lower blood pressure (100/60) or so. I always wondered why there was such a difference between running and swimming.

  • talesofexpansion January 23, 2009, 9:47 am

    My heart rate ranges all over the place, too! Sometimes when I run, the average is somewhere in the 160s, maybe getting to a max of 190 for a short time. But then other times, it doesn’t ever go above 160. I’ve been trying to see if the temperature outside has anything to do with it, but I haven’t noticed any patterns …

    (p.s. oatmeal is what gets me out of bed in the morning, too!)

  • mytastytravels January 23, 2009, 9:51 am

    I wanted to ask you what kind of heart rate monitor you use? I’ve never really monitored it, just felt good to get some heavy breathing and sweating in a dance class or workout. I was actually thinking about getting one because I didn’t know if this would help me to know how hard I am working and calories I am burning. Thanks!

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point January 23, 2009, 9:55 am

    my tasty travels: i wear a polar f4. i like it! worth the money (to me).

  • mytastytravels January 23, 2009, 9:57 am

    Also last year in my adv ex phys class we did max VO2 testing with a treadmill and the Orca System. It was really interesting, although I had to stop the test because I got claustrophobic from that mask. Maybe you could go to a University to get tested at a discount, or see if they are doing any studies?

    -kristen 🙂

  • ksgoodeats January 23, 2009, 10:01 am

    Ooooh The Office 🙂

    The heart debate – again, when I was training we were supposed to monitor our HR based on a chart of target HRs and mine NEVER correlated. Our trainer, who is a doctor, was always confused why mine wasn’t “correct” but she didn’t worry about it so I figured it was fine. I wish I would have had a HRM though to wear while training just to see how much work I really was doing.

  • Holly January 23, 2009, 10:21 am

    My resting heart rate is low – 55! And in most exercises (spin class, step class, swimming), I have to work HARD to bring it up to the 150s and get a good workout. But with running… I just start moving and it skyrockets! I just did a 40 minute run and my average heart rate was 173. Very normal for me. In a race, my average is usually 185. I’m 28.

  • chasedaylight January 23, 2009, 10:25 am

    While I don’t where a HRM, I can definitely attest to the slower HR during swimming vs. running based on how it feels to me. When I was swimming competitively it took A LOT of sprinting to get my heart rate up or to feel out of breath. Running feels like it takes all of a minute for everything to get going.

    Great questions and info!

  • Katie January 23, 2009, 10:31 am

    Yummy nutty toppings!

    I wear a HRM when I exercise… when I’m on the stairs it’s usually in the high 180s but on the bike it’s a lot lower (160s). Can’t wait to see what it gets to when I can run again…

  • Amy January 23, 2009, 10:44 am

    I have a Polar hrm but it tends to lose it’s signal a lot. I’ll be outside running and look down to see my hr only to find it’s 0! I moisten the little section on the chest strap before putting it on so I’m not sure what the problem is. Does this happen to anyone else??

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point January 23, 2009, 11:03 am

    amy – you need to tighten the chest strap. it comes with a small chest strap, but i had to jimmy rig mine with a safety pin so i could make it tighter, and then it never lost the signal. make sure it doesnt get caught under your shirt or sports bra, too!

  • elise January 23, 2009, 11:10 am

    i just sent you an email about my thoughts on the heart rate matter.

    BTW, your morning oats look YUM!!

  • Lindsay January 23, 2009, 11:24 am

    I just got my HR monitor & strap in the mail on Tuesday. It will work with my Garmin 405. I was very excited to use it for the first time on Wednesday during my hill treadmill game.

    I think I have to find out what my Max heart rate is though. So many different equations out there!

    I used it also last night in my step aerobics class. The teacher likes to take "heart rate pauses" and she'll have us check to see if we are in range. Unfortunately, I think I need to tighten the strap as at one point the number was getting close to my resting beat! But I had no problem while running.

    Also, the calorie counting is not working either. So I think I'll have to do a bit more research and find out why not.

    Ooh and you & your blog kinda made me go over the edge and buy one! My brother has one and that helped him keep track of his "zones" and lose his 80 pounds. But after reading your stats, I decided to take the plunge! 🙂

  • Caitlin January 23, 2009, 11:26 am

    lindsay – hahah yayyyy! i love heart rate monitors 🙂 glad i could be a shopping influence 😛

  • K January 23, 2009, 12:21 pm

    This heart rate conversation interests me. I have a really low resting heart rate – upper 40’s – 50’s. (I’ve set off alarms on heart rate monitoring machines in the hospital when hooked and waiting for past surgeries.) Because of this and because of being in pretty good cardio shape (which I know the two are connected), my heart rate only gets up to about 100 when power walking (4.0-4.5 mph). I find that a bit frustrating. I haven’t tracked it while running for a long time, but I remember it being between 140-160. My max is 194, btw. It’s so interesting how we’re all so different, even though I’m sure we’re all in pretty good shape!

  • Leah January 23, 2009, 2:19 pm

    This is such an interesting topic of conversation. I’ve always been curious about my HR too.

    My resting heart rate has been as low as 48 and usually is within the 50s somewhere.

    Before Christmas my average heart rate was about 162 with my max being anywhere from 175 – 190. Now that i’ve been running so much in January my heart rate seems lower during exercise (maybe because i’ve gotten into better shape over the last month).. but my avg now is around 155 during running (I run an avg of 9:20/min miles – not sure if thats significant!).

    I think its just so different for everyone because it depends on the type of exercise were all doing, plus the intensity, plus what kind of shape were in!

  • Anonymous January 23, 2009, 9:47 pm

    I’ll be a nurse in may and i’d just like to share with you what i know! Everyones resting heart rate and maximum heart rate is different, typically the more fit you are the higher your max heart rate because your heart is stronger. Someone who is older or has had heart damage has a much lower max heart rate, sometimes around 130. People who do cardio a lot often have a lower blood pressure because your heart is stronger and bigger that it doesnt have to work as hard, so it pumps slower.

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point January 24, 2009, 3:31 am

    anon – thanks for your nurse input!! congrats on graduating by the way. it was interesting for me to learn why athletes have low blood pressure — i never thought of that before.

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