Really high HR in testing situations

I’ve always had problems with really high heart rates when in offical testing situations. It affects the outcomes by quite a lot.

I had a work related submaximal ergo test the other day. The test is consists a 4 min spin at 90W and after that 4 x 4min steps with a maximum of 40W increses per step. First work step is determined by the tester and the goal is to hit 90-91% of maximum HR at the end of last step.

My FTP at the moment is 290ish and max HR recorded on cycling 186bpm.

My HRs at the steps were as follows:
1st 4min step: 90W @ 137bpm
2nd 4min step: 130W @ 149bpm
3rd 4min step: 170W @ 156bpm
4th 4min step: 200W @ 162bpm
5th 4min step: 240W @ 172bpm

Normally I can do 200W for hours in zone 2 and last time I hit 172bpm was after my last over-under threshold interval. 240W isn’t even touching sweet spot yet.

What the heck is going on? Anyone else having similar issues with testing situations and can anything be done about it or am I doomed to have bad testing scores for eternity?

Almost everybody has elevated HR in situations that elicit any kind of emotional response. Ask people for their HR before the race:) I you are seasoned with the situations you HR will be normal as there is no response. If it’s “just another test, who cares” HR will be in norm. In situation you have described I would also have elevated HR and probably similarly skewed results.

Second thing is, that’s a good example why HR is problematic to use for any type of assessment - it’s higly variable metric. Even day to day varies a lot by external factors, so any test based on HR has be taken with a grain of salt, personally I ignore it and use only as a long term metric to see how it will change in time with power (EF).

Different power meters?

Yes, but I highly doubt this had anything to do with the HRs as the testing was done in a professional testing lab and I can validate my own powers with 2 sources (double sided pedals + wahoo kickr). Also the resting pulse (well 90W load) was as high as 137bpm.

I’m aware that everyone has somewhat of an elevated HR in testing situations or racing, but this seems really excessive.

I hear you and agree. HR is a bad metric to base assessment on.

I just feel like my situation is really extreme.

Unless you’ve a history of heart rate problems I wouldn’t worry about it; HR is such a variable metric. It could be a number of things: you could be coming down with something, your FTP is overstated (perhaps you are using an outdoors measured FTP indoors, or recorded on a different powermeter from training, or testing in one position and training in another) or it was simply a hotter day when you did your session. There’s probably a dozen other possibilities I’m forgetting.

What was the ambient temperature and humidity in the testing room, what kind of fan/cooling setup? Could the elevated HR be a heat stress response?


Out of interest what is you average HR during a ‘normal’ multi-hour Z2 session, overall and average for the last half the session.

It certainly is slightly odd. I’ve not tried it for a while but I used to be able to increase my pre-session HR 30 - 40 bpm by just sitting on the bike and visualising being in a race, sounds like you have a similar thing going on with testing.

Have you tried square breathing, or relaxtion techniques to calm down?

I have the same problem with taking my blood pressure at the doctor’s office – way higher compared to daily measurements at home.

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It was a normal well ventilated test room with 0 cooling on the rider. Around 20c room temp. While I did feel the heat stress building up towards the end of the test, it couldn’t explain the starting HR of 137bpm with no strain.

For the first hour it’s at 135-140bpm and drifts upwards from there ending up to 145ish. Higher end of zone 2.

You’re most likely right about my body just preparing to “fight or flight”. The amount just seemed extreme and while my test result was good enough, it did affect quite a bit.

I have been trying different relaxation techiques from time to time but they are quite ineffective and I’m having lots of problems activating my parasymphatetic nervous system at will.

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Hey @Wilmo :slight_smile:

It’s not uncommon for individuals to experience elevated heart rates during testing situations due to factors like anxiety, nervousness, and the pressure to perform! HR can change day to day, and this can affect your test results and make it difficult to accurately gauge your fitness levels.

By looking at your Calendar, you had the flu for almost an entire week mid September and then resumed training with pretty high-intensity VO2 Max and Threshold workouts. Assuming you took the test in the last 2 weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised if being sick played a big factor this time around on your submaximal ergo test. Proper recovery and being well rested before these kinds of tests is key.

It sounds like you’ve tried breathing exercises in the past, but they did not help, so maybe a good thing to try for next time is to mentally prepare yourself by visualizing the efforts and how you would like them to feel. This can get your mind more at ease and familiar with what’s to come, so it doesn’t stress you out so much on test day.

Lastly, testing results are just one measure of your fitness and may not always reflect your true capabilities. :slightly_smiling_face: So don’t stress on it too much, and try to focus on your overall training progress and performance. :muscle: