Exceptionally high heart rate?

At 58 and reasonably fit with a resting heart rate of 55-60 bpm, I was disturbed recently that my Garmin HRM records shows short periods of 5-12 minutes at 200+ bpm on my road bike after 25km after an hour and then again on a short 2.5km run after the bike. The distance and pace is not so unusual for me. I was training for an Olympic-distance triathlon and completed one such event last month in 2:45 (35+75+50) where my max HR was 161.

Normally, I max about 160-170 on a fast short run (4:20-4:30 pace) and 140-150 on the bike (30-40kph). So, when I see 241 on the bike and then 215 on a short run, I am almost surprised that I am alive to tell the tale.

In the past, I might have put this down to my HRM being too sensitive and picking up a double beat. However, the bpm rate increase on the bike is consistent with my putting in more effort to catch up a group of cyclists I had been expecting to meet. On the run, my first fast 1km at 4:30 pace was normal at 155 bpm but after easing off for 2 minutes, I kicked in again at 4:20 pace and my heart rate rose rapidly to 200 within a minute and remained high even after I eased off after a minute when I was finding it tough.

So, perhaps I should avoid sudden changes in pace, especially after not recovering in between. Needless to say that I should check with my doctor. Meanwhile, I will set a heart rate alert on my Garmin 920 watch if over 165 bpm.


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27 Replies

  • I have a cheapie HRM -- mostly it seems to go OK - but occasionally it goes beserk and shows ridiculously high numbers. I normally also have my phone with me -- turning the phone off seems to suggest anecdotal evidence that my HRM is being affected by the phone -- it also goes beserk when I am in the car!!. I have questioned various running forums to ascertain if buying a better HRM would avoid this, and in general, the answer has been NO!

  • Simple answer is to count your heart rate for 15seconds and muliply it by 4. That should give seen accurate result.

  • Thanks Sally. I will try that, but I need to catch it at the same time my watch jumps high.

  • I didn't have my phone. Nor was I wearing anything nylon on my top half when running - in fact no shirt at all.

    With my old watch, I sometimes had these spikes at the beginning and put that down to interference from other runners/cyclists. My new watch has better tuning, and it only connects to my unique HRM. If it wasn't consistent with my extra effort and struggling, I would surely ignore it as a blip.

  • Funny you should say that.....when I did race for life yesterday, I was rather surprised when I looked at my phone after about 3.5 km and it told me my HR was 212! I have had 176 in the last few metres of my first and fastest park run and I know that at 200 I would have been lying at the side of the road needing resuscitation! It kept to that sort of measurement right until the end when I turned the app off though.

    The previous day it was not showing anything at first, then 32 or 33 on and off during my warm up walk (I am sure I would have fainted by then), but when I started running it seemed to rectify itself and the values that afternoon then seemed consistent with normal readings.

    Very strange....I wonder what will happen next time...I never had any of this before since I bought the HR monitor (not an expensive one at all) three months ago, so I hope it's not a terminal illness (of the monitor, not me!).

  • Thanks dagshar. For low rates at the start, a little gel may help until you sweat. For high rates, I have taken note. On the bike, my rate eventually dropped after 5 minutes when I eased off.

  • Like, Sallycycle, I'd suggest measuring your heart rate manually when it shows such a high spike. Set an alert (you'd probably want to go a bit higher than 165 as you've no reason to disbelieve that reading), then take a manual reading as soon as your HRM tells you you've flipped it. Most likely it's an artefact, and there's no point going to see your doctor about your malfunctioning kit. On the other hand, if your ticker really is banging away at that speed, you'd want to check it out.

  • Okay, alarm set at 170 bpm based on the more scientific calculation: 208 - (0.7 x age). Perhaps, I will cough to help change any heart signal or hold my breath for a second if it happens again.

  • A heart rate over 200 for someone of your age is certainly unusual and I would go as far as say unlikely. I am 59 and have never fully ascertained what my actual max HR is, although I calculate it at about 175. I have had spikes on a couple of occasions of over 185, which are short lived and lag behind periods of exertion, which I don't know were true records or some blip in the system.

    Your GP is certainly the place to go next, if you can't find an HRM hardware explanation.

  • Thanks Ian. I will get checked out to be sure.

  • My heart rate spikes high at every run, I have had a discussion with my gp and she was fine with it. I am in a period of illness at the moment and last week she sent me for an ECG just to check it out. Thank fully everything was tickety boo and everyone is happy. It's a small test, doesn't take much time, but the piece of mind it gives you and your doc is worth it. It is possible the sudden spike is relative to the sudden spike in the weather. Our hydration and electrolytes can get very out of balance in this heat, just a small unbalance in potassium can make your heart act differently. But as we always say On here if in doubt check it out.

  • Thanks Rfc. Hope you recover. Likewise, piece of mind from my GP would probably help reduce any possible panic effect.

  • We have just seen a cardiologist for my daughter who has been diagnosed with a fast heart rate palpitations (Wolff Parkinson White syndrome) and he said when her heart beats over 200 bpm you would not be able to count it by pulse points, it would be too rapid, so it seems this would not work. Check with your GP to be on the safe side :-)

  • Thanks squi. To be sure, I will, but after the race on Sunday.

  • When my HRM goes "ballistic", it does so for a little time - a minute or two!! I am convinced that it is picking up some electromagnetic interference from something. I have now had two runs with my phone turned completely off - and the HRM behaved itself on both runs.

  • Thanks again Bazza. I read that by coughing, you can help reset the rhythm in you heart, in case the interference is more biological than electrical.

  • I can only try that!! :)

  • It sounds like a HRM malfunction or a heart malfunction, and I sincerely hope its the former. You mention your GP yourself, and I agree that it would be wise to have a word. Just in case...

  • Thanks Tomas. Sounds good advice, just in case!

  • Hi Ironchamp!

    Sorry , don't have any advice, as i don't have a monitor so have no take on your query, but just wanted to say "Hello" and hope you do well if you are at Bournemouth again this year! i'm not sure if i'll be there yet but remember that mankini and your fundraising! i've done 4 x 10k races now and doing GSR in October so lots of practising to do! hope all good with you! Ali :)

  • Well done, Ali, and I'm sure your times for each 10km have been improving.

    Hope you can make it in October. Not sure if we will be in Bournemouth, but 50% likely depending on Juliet's plans.

  • We will be back in Bournemouth for Juliet to race the marathon and I will do the 10km and also the 5km as last year. All the best Ali in the GSR.

  • good luck to you both, sounds like you'll do brilliantly, i will keep my eye out for the results! :)

  • Thanks everyone. I am excited today as I picked up my new NXP tri kit and ready to race on Sunday whilst here in Hamburg, Germany. The transitions are quite long and I will use those times to recover/relax not race; so, anything close to 2:50 would be good. Today, I went swimming and feeling comfortable at short bursts (25 secs for 25m; 57 secs for 50m & 2:08 for 100m)

    So, I remain convinced that the graphs do not suggest a faulty HRM. I am aware that I have had occasional irregular beats (palpitations). For sure, I will pay a visit to my doctor when I am in UK next month after work demands ease off. Having done a bit of research, perhaps if I have signs of SVT, it is worth monitoring and may need treatment.

    Meanwhile, no more long nights working 20 hours for me, and plenty of rest (even on the couch). However, I am certainly not wanting to become a 5K2C graduate, especially with a loving active wife (Juliet) and 4 -year old daughter to care for. Nevertheless, high heart rate alert will be switched on at 170 bpm.

  • Post-mortem...

    Well, after peaking at 218bpm on the bike within 10km, I eased off and my heart-rate-monitor died...

    ...but I made it to the finish in under 3 hours.

    The bike went well although not my best of late and it was not too elegant a 10km run which took me about an hour.

    Recently, I have completed a 12km in 56 minutes and a 12km trail with 400m climb in 70 minutes. On Sunday, I was back to a reasonable 47 minutes on a flat 10km race. Perhaps my HRM is taking a rest as it showed a max of 70bpm.

    So, I have just entered the BMF 10km followed by the 5km 3 hours later, before my wife Juliet goes for a record-breaking Bournemouth marathon the next day.

  • Hey Ironchamp,

    Found your thread during a google. Did you ever get a resolution on this? Similar spike symptoms verified by multiple HR devices, usually when I’m tired at the end of a longer run, and often after a short rest/break stop. I also regularly tick over at 165 on a jog and 185+bpm on competitive runs (I’m 43).


  • I'm still alive. I recall struggling for breath on the Bournemouth 10k 2 years ago. Since then, I have completed a half ironman in Turkey in Oct 2016 (5:51) and a leisurely full ironman in Nice in July (15:51). After that event, my heart rate was stuck at 130 bpm for some hours and I ended up being sent to hospital to be monitored overnight on a drip.

    So, some days my breathing is good on a race, but if too stressed or if I start too fast, I fade quickly. Some advice to myself: Get to the event earlier. Relax and stretch. Dont get carried away by starting on the front line with fast runners. Prevention is the key.

    So, your heart rates seem quite normal during racing for your age. What are your max peaks and for how long over 190?

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