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Couch to 5K
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About heart rates

Will my heart rate come down as I continue the programme?

I have read that the ideal heart rate when running is between 60% - 70% of your maximum heart rate (which is 220 minus your age).

That makes my ideal heart rate between 111 and 130. Right now I average at around 144-155 per run (in week four) and peak at around 181.

1. Will these numbers come down as I get fitter and more used to running for extended periods of time?

2. Is it a bad sign if they don't?

9 Replies

I've never run with a heart rate monitor (don't have one, and decided I'd prefer not to know! ;) ) I believe that your heart should come down as you get fitter, but if it doesn't or you have any concerns about it, do go and see your GP.


Hi - I wear my HRM for all the exercise that I do and until recently ignored the various zones as I'm interested in how many calories I burn. Once I'd done the calculations I was concerned as my heart rate is regularly in the 160s. My doctor says not to worry and listen to my body.


I think I will do the same. I suspect my HR will remain high until I've graduated and then slowly come down as my body settles into 5k runs.


Your heart rate should improve the fitter you get you should also see a noticeable difference in your recovery time.

There is some useful information about HR training and also an online HR calculator at;



Thanks OlsBean, I will check it out.


Apparently it's your resting HR that varies according to fitness, and I guess by extension your recovery time (the rate at which your HR returns to normal or drops)

I go way over the 'ideal' rate when I run. Looks like we are about the same age, and when I run my average is between 165 and 175 and I generally peak at 180. In weeks 1-3 i was peaking at 190 (my max apparently) As long as you feel well, and are not completely dead at the end (as in need to lie down for 2 hours) then all is probably well. If you are concerned or feel unwell after/during running ask your doctor for advice. I think these calculators are just averages and cannot possibly fit everyone. The zones are probably based on sports people rather than the general public, and as long as you are getting out and being active (while feeling ok) then that's the most important thing.

I used to interval train at the recommended zones (but not running) and can see why I never used to get any fitter. I obviously don't fit into the neat little boxes and I wasn't working hard enough. Am fitter now though... :-)

If you wanted to check if your fitness is improving check your resting HR as per the website Olsbean mentions. You could also track your recovery but not sure what the recommended method for that is. Bear in mind that if you are quite a few weeks down the line, a lot of your improvements may have already been made so don't too be disappointed if the numbers aren't dramatic.

Have fun with your numbers and your running!


Hi Lizfish, I do feel fine when I come back from a run so I guess that means my body can cope. Have also never been stiff afterwards or had stitches, so maybe another good sign.

I have a HRM (love the gadgets!) and have recorded a resting heart rate of 54(!), which technically makes me an "athlete" ha ha! Not sure how much stock I should put in that though because I am 10kgs overweight. Plus I am only halfway through week 4 and find do find the extended running a challenge, so how on earth can I be an athlete??

I will keep up with the challenge though, regardless of what the numbers say. The elation you feel when you've done something you thought you never could (running for 5 minutes in a row in my case) is worth the huffing and puffing :-)


Hey. If the numbers say you're an athlete, who are we to argue? ;-)

As for extended running, it's much more of a challenge for the mind, than the body. Trust the programme, and Laura will get you there.

Keep up the fab work.


This is a great question. It is a variation of the question I have been trying to get answered for years. According to the bible of heart rate training, "Heart Rate Training", you should stick to 60-75% of your sport-specific maximum heart rate for 30 minutes, alternately walking and jogging, until you are able to complete the entire time jogging without exceeding 75%. At that point you increase the duration, but continue building your 'base'.

This is absolutely NOT what the couch to 5k program does, and absolutely everybody I have ever heard comment on their experience says the same thing as you. And I am the same. Historically I have tried to follow an HR limited program as long as I had the patience for it, but then I found that I had to "break through" and "just do it". This always improved my fitness level.

So what is really up with this, then? Actual experience tells us that the couch 2 5k programs work extremely well. I want to believe that there is a heart-rate-limited couch-2-5k out there that enables you to get in shape and build the stamina needed to complete a 5k faster or in some way better than any of the couch-2-5k variations out there, but thus far, for more than 10 years, I have heard nothing from the HR monitoring proponents. I use a HR monitor on every run, so I am by no means anti-HR monitoring... I love it, in fact, but I have yet to see someone figure out how to use it in a way that improves over the published couch-2-5k. Some fitness researcher should figure out why.


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