High HR with relatively low/no leg burn

Hi all!

I have a question about whether I should adjust my training routine.
I am 43, 1 month into TR training, base low volume (changed mid → low to better accomodate recovery).

I noticed during my SweetSpot or Threshold sessions that in instructions there is a lot about that ‘burn sensation in legs’, etc., assuming it should be hard on them, while I don’t feel anything particularly hard for my legs (not easy, but rarely hard either). What I definitely feel is my HR is higher that it should be, reaching 92% of max HR on SS sessions and 95-96% for Threshold sessions.
I always complete those workouts, usually they fall into ‘Hard’ categories (judging by the fact that I could complete +1 such interval, if I wanted badly).
I feel like I am having progress - AI increased my FTP by 4% in a couple of weeks after Ramp Test - as well as precieved exertion/hr for the same watts is becoming less.
This is especially pronounced when I increased cadence to 95-100 during hard intervals.
I have some years of strength training background in gym and completely neglected any cardio trainings. So I guess my heart is just ‘lagging behind’ my muscles (I know it’s not that simple, but i don’t have any other explanation).
Should I continue with this program, hoping HR will catch up at some point? Or should I do less short intervals and more longer endurance rides to strengthen my heart first?

1 Like

I’m not an Exercise Physiologist. Long time runner/ rider. I don’t pay too much attention to my heart rate anymore now we have power meters to help us define zones.
If your heart is being strained it stands to reason that it will adapt to the new work load over time. Adaptations are what we are looking for when we train.

1 Like

How did you determine your max heartrate? If you estimated it low, those % of HR numbers would appear high.

1 Like

I took the highest I’ve seen during my summer rides (had some before started TR), it was a race and pretty hard so I am kind of sure this is my highest at the moment, and I only seen it couple of times - it’s 180 bpm. More often I’ve seen my ‘age formula’, which is 177, but the exertion was not ‘full out’ then.

1 Like

Some of the tests (4DP by wahoo and some other) estimated my Threshold HR as 160-163, again I took the higher value - 163.
And for example completed today Eichorn +2 with avg HR of long intervals at 160 and 162, with the highest HR at 166.

without a little more detail on interval length, I’d say that for myself its a sure sign that SS sessions are actually threshold. My HR is a little higher than average, and long (20+ minutes) threshold intervals its around 92% HRmax by around 10 minutes and stays around wiggles up a little to 94% when I take those intervals out to 40-50 minutes. A hard start will drive it up to 92% HRmax within 5 minutes. Higher cadence will also drive up HR, as will hotter temps. But generally my threshold sessions top out around 92-94% HRmax.


that’s what I tend to think too… an infamous overestimated FTP
will lower it a bit and see what happens.

1 Like

Sounds like a good feeling. I never understood what burning feeling during sst or threshold they are talking about - muscle tension maybe but no burning from lactate byproducts - that’s reserved for vo2 max :slight_smile:

Cooling? If your RPE is in line where it should be but HR is elevated it’s usually cooling thing. SST and threshold workouts require ton of cooling.

Or overestimated FTP as other people suggested.

Or low blood volume so your HR has to beat fast to pump blood because you are untrained and too fresh.

Or combination of those things - welcome to the cycling training where answer for everything is “it depends”


High cadence induces less burn IME but can result in a higher heart rate until you are used to it. It should balance itself out eventually.


Maybe try ramp test? Before that I thought my MaxHR to be 181bpm with various different sports / effort types. With my first ramp test reached 190bpm, couple blocks later 205bpm after learning to push further through discomfort.

For me it’s Zwift races. On the ramp tests I do between 182 and 187 bpm. On Zwift races, I did 192-199.
It probably means I should push harder on ramp tests, but when doing them I really feel I’m maxed out.


I’e done it, perhaps that’s where I’ve seen my highest too.
But by my feeling after some time after session (too tired, bad sleep), I am inclined to higher FTP than really is.

that’s a good number of possible reasons, much appreciated

Welcome to the TR community! Nice work on the training up to this point. :smiley:

It sounds like you’re on the right track. It doesn’t seem like you’re struggling, and if you’re nailing your workouts, I don’t see why you should change things up right now.

If your threshold HR is about 160-163 bpm and that’s about where your HR settling, then, again, it sounds like things are about right for you.

I like the thought that @jarsson had on cooling – do you have a good fan setup for your indoor training sessions? Something like a blower fan or industrial-strength fan can make a HUGE difference in RPE and HR.

Finally, keep in mind that HR can vary for many different reasons – caffeine intake, sleep, how rested you are on a given day… So while it can be a good metric to consider, we’d advise you not to overthink it too much.

1 Like

SST I agree unless extremely fatigued, and in that case you should be resting or having a day off imo.

Threshold, a slight burn possibly, and bit more when you go a touch over?

Cooling definitely has a room for improvement, the fan I’m using is not big, but I have lots of windows to open and it’s chilly outside now, so I don’t often sweat to the point that I can see any drops (the clothes are wet of course and I still loose weight).
I will try to improve hydration and cooling, leaving the rest as it is now. I completely cut all caffeine and alcohol half a year ago, so that’s not a factor anymore, however stress-factor is stilk there and another point of improvement.

Two thoughts come to my mind:

  • If you can manage the workouts, then you are fine. You cannot kill yourself on the trainer, your body will make you give up first.
  • It is normal for your heart rate to be higher if your cardiovascular system is the limiting factor. Doing work at higher cadence shifts the burden more towards the cardiovascular system.
  • Do you really know your max heart rate? Are you really sure? I only got to know a lower bound of my max heart rate when I resumed racing and it was quite a bit higher than I thought. During normal training I don’t get anywhere near that.

The real HR is yet to be found, as I said I only seen it couple of times, most of the times I get too tired first :joy:. 180 is the best guess, but it might be different and (I hope) will increase as I get more fit.

1 Like

That is completely normal.
I would not worry about HR if you can complete the workouts. Focus on power and finishing the workouts. If your muscles are in better shape than your cardiovascular system, it seems logical that your heart rate is “high”.

Even if you fail, pay close attention to what is giving out first, your muscles (“your legs feel like cooked spaghetti”) or your cardiovascular system? Higher cadence shifts the burden towards your cardiovascular system, lower cadence more towards your muscular system. If you are missing cardiovascular fitness, I’d try to work to increase my cadence on the trainer.

1 Like

I didn’t fail a workout yet, but at times when felt like failing it was always CV, never muscles. So yes, more cadence over time should train it.

1 Like