Heart Rate drop, FTP Up - the year of endless TrainerRoad?

I’m wondering if you have any insights into my sudden drop in max heart rate this year.

  • Last year my training rides and races had me hitting 172 - 178 regularly. e.g. Poolesville Road Race at 178. (Age group 3rd place!)
  • This year, I am stronger than ever and setting new PRs on long and short segments. e.g Powhatan Hill. (Many of them solo no less.)

I fully credit months of isolation with only my desk, a kicker, and TrainerRoad in “the year of endless base & build”. But I’m also noticing my max heart rate is regularly down about 10bpm all year. At 58 years old, I rely on my aerobic capacity to make up for my withering body. But the numbers don’t lie - I’m noticeably stronger.

Is there a correlation here?


Not sure I follow the problem, a lower hr for same or higher power indicates stronger aerobic fitness. My resting HR has dropped about 10% since the start of the pandemic due to less travel stress and more consistent training.


You are getting fitter! I also noticed that my average heart rate is almost 6-10 bpm lower than that of last year (I never followed a structured training plan last year!). I still can reach my maximum heart rate but I need more watts to do that.


Fatigue is my guess based on decades of observation.

If you took 1-2 weeks totally free of cycling you’d see much higher numbers upon return.


+1 on the you’re getting fitter. I find max HR to be a pretty useless metric. If you are producing more power at lower HR then you are all good.

HR per work/load should go down as you get fitter, but not HRmax. If fact some people have a bpm or two higher HRmax as they get fitter and can hold their maximum HR for longer. Fatigue would be my guess as well.

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My experience earlier this year was that I was really flying, but a lot of my notes said “hmmm, HRs aren’t getting as high as they should be even for this maximal effort” and then after a while I just completely fell to pieces. Took me a month of light activity to get back to feeling right again. Next time I’m feeeling that fast but with suspiciously low HRs, I’m going to program in some extra rest.


I can understand (and have been at this long enough to know) that greater fitness will result it a lower HR for the same effort. And holding lower HR for increasingly greater efforts.

I can understand being unable to get back up to my HRmax could be fatigue, despite my continued strong performances.

At my age, getting enough rest is important and increasingly hard. It’s harder for me to get the rest than to do the workouts. Interesting and demanding job, family, rich foods, endless IPAs, and it’s getting hard and hard to sleep longer hours.

I think I saw an FTP by age distribution on this forum someplace.
I’d love to see a HRmax by age distribution.

That probably wouldn’t give any useful info.

What might be interesting or depressing for us old guys is to see how HRmax declines with age. I’m reasonably certain that my HRmax has decreased about 15bpm in the last 10-15 years. In my 50’s now and power metrics still as good as they’ve been buuuuuut, with HRmax so low now it (seems) way easier/quicker to get into the red.

Are you comparing apples to apples?

That is to say - are you comparing the max HR you reached in mass-start events previously to the max HR you reach in mass-start events now? Presumably not since we aren’t having too many mass start events. But the other way is what is meaningful - are you comparing your max HR from Strava segment hunting, indoor workouts, whatever from last season against the same type of effort from this season?

I ask because for some, myself included, the max HR you can drive yourself to in a large event with a finish line on the horizon is different (higher) than the max HR you can drive yourself to working out alone or even in a small group with friends

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Unfortunately, yes. While my included examples is mass start vs on the road PRs - I could dig up plenty of trainer-2019 to trainer-2020 examples.

I agree with you questioning… I reach and can hold a max HR much longer in an event. (Especially cross races where there is little/to benefit from pack riding.)

Confirmed then – getting old is not for wimps.

“HRmax is similar between aerobically and anaerobically trained athletes.”


“HRmax is significantly lower in athletes compared with age matched sedentary counterparts. The mechanisms underlying the lower HRmax remain to be elucidated.”

Glad to be in the “athletes” classification!

HRmax = 202 - 0.55 x age

  • Applying to myself it returns: 170 – which is pretty close to what I’m seeing this year.
  • If I still have that extra 7-9bmp in me… it gives me an effective age of 43.6 – So I’m sticking with that. :grin:
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There are a lot of things that can affect your heart rate. Diet, sleep, and fitness changes can all contribute to seeing a changes in your HR. I used to put more focus than I do now on HR. Looking at your HR is just a tool IMO. It gives you an indication of how hard you’re working but I wouldn’t really base much on it. For me I really only monitor my HR on rides now for pacing. I know roughly how long I can hold certain ranges. If I see myself pushing over what’s sustainable I use it to back myself off so I don’t bonk later on in a longer ride.

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Anecdotal information incoming.
I have a very high max heart rate (always have). When I was younger I would regularly see it up over 220. I started cycling in 2015, and early on my max could be seen to be around 212 or so (I was 45). After two years of quite a lot of cycling (12k miles in 2017) my max would rarely reach even 192 on the bike.

But I have also noticed that if I’m off the bike for a bit (I broke my collarbone in 2018) that when I get back on my heart rate is right back up where it was previously. (saw 212 in 2018). At the end of my last ramp test (to start midvolume base 2 (I got depressed and didn’t ride in the spring)) my max hit 192.

What I’ve found is that the more training load I’m carrying the lower my max heart rate is until it hits steady state around 189-192. I’m actually curious to see the outcome of the mid-volume on my long term max hr because I have always been curious if it was a signifier of overtraining.

I’ve come to believe it is more likely increased efficiency (and possibly imbalance of aerobic vs anaerobic fitness).
More weight training… that’s the key. :smiley: