Heart rate too high during sweet spot base low volume

Hi, is it normal to have a heart rate of around 185-190 during sweetspot and threshhold training (e.g. Eclipse & Palisade)?

Since the 9th of November I started the ‘Sweet Spot Base low volume’ plan. I noticed that my heart rate during some workouts is about 10 beats higher then other workouts with the same power. I found it strange and don’t know what may be the cause and if it is healthy.

Some things about myself:

  • I am a female, 22 years old, biking since the beginning of April 2020 and started using Trainerroad since the beginning of November 2020.
  • My current FTP is 166 (measured on the 9th of November with the Ramp test from Trainerroad). Power-to-weight ratio is 3.15 Watts/kg.
  • My resting heart rate is around 45-50.
  • My maximal heart rate on the bike would be around 199-200 (this was my max HR during my last FTP test).

Now I am wondering if the higher heart rate during some of my workouts might be due to exhaustion (for me that seems strange considering the HR would usually be lower as a protection mechanism of the body) or could it be pathological? Could it be potentially dangerous to bike for 5x9 minutes or 3x20 minutes at 185-190 bpm?

Thanks in advance!

1 Like

HR is very personal and I find, very variable. I did Virginia 3 times in the last week with the following avg & max

  1. 125, 144
  2. 130, 142
  3. 122, 135.
    Nutrition, hydration, time of day, rest, all of those played a part in that variation.

You ask if it’s a sign of exhaustion. Is there anything else leading you to think you’re exhausted?

185-190 bpm definitely seems high. What is your max HR? Did it actually feel like 185-190, or could your HRM be off?

High HR could be a sign of overtraining or illness. RHR above normal is also another indicator of either of these.

Hi Hannah,

HR is a highly variable and personal thing. I recall being in a class where our HRs were displayed and one participant had a markedly higher rate than everyone else (even when compared to people similar to them in sex and age). It could be high one day, low the next, and in the middle on a third day. It does appear you have done similar hard work before, if you have records of how your heart responded that would help you.

Speaking from MY own experience, I find I’m able to drive my HR to high levels at the start of training, so if you are coming off an extended break that numbers you are seeing MAY be due reduced fitness.

In general the guidance you are asking for is best answered by your physician.

I’ve also experienced higher HR then I expected for most TR workouts but haven’t compared them to similar efforts from before. Mostly because I don’t think I’ve ever done the same combination of intensity, rest at duration.

As you have, start looking at what is different. Are other workouts with similiar/same power outside? If so, cooling! Getting overheated will drive HR.
Rest between intervals?

As to helthy/dangerous HR. Your body will protect you, IMO. And indoor, you won’t get into dangerous situations as you could in trafic.
For reference, I never hit max HR during ramp test, it’s not long enough, but I’m also almost twice your age which I think has a lot of impact.

FWIW I suck at ramp tests and can only get my HR to circa 93%, using a ramp max would underestimate my max. I averaged 2bpm less for an hour’s 25miles TT in the summer (yes I am that slow :wink:). A 20mins test or a TT gets my hr to 99% of the value I’ve set as my max HR.

Heart rate is hugely individual as stated above. FWIW, my HR topped out at 178bpm in my last ramp test a month ago, and in my last hard SS (3 x 20 minutes @ 90, 94, 92% FTP) workout a few days ago it was sitting in mid 160s for most of the second and third intervals, maxing out at 169bpm. So similar to yours relative to test numbers. That was a little higher than usual for me, I’d more typically expect to see it in the low 160s for those kind of efforts, and it was also a little higher RPE than usual. Both of which I put down to me being a little tired and stressed that day, and overall being in the penultimate week of a 6 week SSB block so carrying quite a bit of fatigue. Not enough on it’s own to be particularly concerning, but enough to make me pay close attention to how I feel for the next few days, concentrate on sleep and nutrition, and be prepared to back off workouts or even start my recovery week a little earlier than planned if I think I need to.

I regularly see my heart rate in the mid 180s when doing SS. I have a similar resting HR as you and I see in the 200 when I’m really red lined.

I do a lot (and I mean A LOT) of sweet spot with the HV plans so I’ve gotten a pretty good history of myself. I’m 40/M so an entirely physiologically different level due to age and what not lol While not super duper accurate, my threshold HR is set to be at 167. When I’m feeling really good with sweet spot stuff, my HR tends to linger just under 160 for the long 20min efforts around 90%. Depending on the temps and other factors that may go higher but this time of year if I see this HR for my sweet spot then I’m super happy (like I did last weekend at the end of SSB1).

I don’t really have a great answer for you except as you continue to progress you’ll start to get connect how you feel during the longer sweet spot workouts and your HR during those workouts. Although I track HR, I try not to focus too much on it (I keep it hidden on the desktop app, great feature!), and I also try to note how my legs feel. If I’m overshooting my target, my legs will start to feel the burn when I get out of the saddle toward the end of workouts.

Anyhow, your HR may very well be quite normal given the conditions or may be slightly overestimated FTP leading you to work harder, tough to tell.

I would do more work on muscular and aerobic endurance. My max is 198, resting is 40ish and my HR hovers around 173 for sweet spot work which feels comfortable and is right at the bottom of my threshold HR zone. Maybe try doing some low cadence force drills to develop more muscular strength/endurance and some Z2 long endurance rides, focusing on breathing with your abdomen. Also work on your form and pedaling technique. I rotate my pelvis slightly forward when in the threshold zone and I pull lightly on the pedals. This helps me use other muscles (lightly- just a little help) besides the quads to share the load. For short bursts of power, I pull quite hard, actually. You might try to slow your cadence a bit so you are not overly stressing your cardiovascular system. All of this will bring down heart rate, perceived effort, and let you go faster while feeling easier. This is what has helped me. Others will surely disagree but give it a try…Also try to relax…shoulders, jaw, put a smile on your face if you can…

I think this is normal for a first try at a TR plan. I think you will see as your fitness improves your heart rate will drop. My first SSB LV was 2 years ago and over that time my average HR has dropped approx 20 bpm while my FTP has gone up over 30 watts.

All other things being equal, Cooling / ventilation is the biggest factor for me.

I occasionally do the first interval without fans on to get warmed up properly, but if I forget to jump off bike in first rest and switch it on I soon overheat. My heart rate will often drop by 10+ bpm comparing similar intervals just by getting cooling right.

First time I worked out hard I thought 175 was max HR. (46 year old male) Over time have reached new high HR’s particularly when doing running intervals, o can now get HR up to 185 bpm

1 Like

Does sweet spot at this heart rate feel like it’s crushing you? How did sweet spot feel a month ago after you first tested your FTP? Have you had a rest week recently?

It sounds like you are tired, or are possibly fighting something off. Or, you over test on the ramp test and your sweet spot work is really threshold.

some other reasons for a high heart rate include dehydration, illness, lack of sleep and dieting.

GOOD callout. I have observed this same thing. In my Little Shop of Power we have a high-efficiency wood fireplace insert. I have worked out with the fireplace going and my HR is noticeably higher when I do that.

Keeping the body’s temp stable is important enough the body works hard to keep it stable and will indeed sacrifice parts if need be (eg shutting down blood flow to the extremities when faced with hypothermia (hypo meaning low, therm meaning heat, ia meaing presence in blood – low heat presence in blood :wink: ) ).

I have a stand fan I turn on immediately and a floor fan (yes a Lasko fan) I turn on as I detect my body is starting to heat up. Typically the second fan comes on at the end of the warmup or prior the first bout of intense work.

There is NO sense in seeking heat adaptation right now – at least for most of us in the northern hemisphere. Heat adaptation is an occasional topic on the podcasts.

I’m wondering about this too

Still, hitting high heart rates happened to me too in “threshold base low volume 1”


1 Like

Threshold Base LVI is funny!