Understanding Heart Rate
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Understanding Heart Rate

Post by Dr Sudhir Kumar on Sunday, October 30, 2022

First slide

Heart rate (HR) increases while running as with any aerobic activity. Workout is more effective when HR increases. But the question is how much increase in HR is ideal? How to achieve a lower HR if it exceeds the recommended maximum HR?

Recommended HR is 50-70% of max HR for medium paced running and 70-85% of max HR with fast paced running. Max HR is 220 minus age. (Ref: American Heart Association)

Lower HR generally indicates good heart health, and higher HR suggests the reverse. High HR puts extra strain on the heart and can cause heart muscle damage in the long term, leading to scar formation.

Measures to keep the HR lower

  • Good sleep (7-9 hrs)
  • Adequate hydration pre and post run
  • Start early (4:30 AM to 6:30 AM are the best timings for running)
  • HR increases in warmer temp and with higher humidity
  • Avoid running if unwell/tired/have pain.Run without head phones or music. If you are more aware of your own breathing and HR, it helps to adjust your pace for ideal HR
  • Do proper warm up before the run
  • Avoid having too much food/energy drinks prior to the run (8-10 almonds, 2 dates should be fine for 21 k)
  • Run long distances and for long duration at slow pace (75% of your best pace) on least 3-4 days a week. Adjust your pace for the desired HR. If HR exceeds the recommended zone, slow down
  • If HR is slower than desired, run faster
  • Run at your best pace only once a week
  • Avoid coffee/tea/smoking/alcohol prior to runs. If you must have coffee, hydrate well (as coffee can cause mild dehydration)
  • Mix your workouts: Walk, cycle or do strength training on a few days


Personal best gives thrills but may not be the best for your heart health. When it comes to long distance running, slow & steady wins the race (of health & longevity). You may not get podium finish though.