Why do you need to be concerned about your resting heart rate? A high heart rate increase is associated with high blood pressure. This causes damage to your arteries and forms plaque. A fast heart rate can literally knock the plaque from your arteries and block blood flow, causing a heart attack. A resting heart rate of 83 or higher is cause for alarm regardless, but so is a marked increase in your resting heart rate from prior periods.
So, what if your resting heart rate is greater now than just a year ago? What does that mean? Quite simply, it could mean many things…but hopefully I’ve narrowed down a few things to bring you comfort and know what you can do to adjust it properly.
Are you sick?
- If your resting heart rate is 12 or more beats above “your” average, then you are either already sick or your body is working extra hard to fight off something that you do not yet know you have. Training can add additional stress, which is best avoided at this time. Instead, focus on nutrition and rest.
- Now, if you are a little bit sick and your heart rate is elevated (but not 12+ beats over your normal heart rate), exercise, but don’t push it up a notch…make it a moderate workout only. Do not go for any records here, as exercising with even a mild cold will make training feel harder, so don’t push yourself until you are back to full health.
Are you tired? Everything is more difficult when you are tired, even your heart works extra hard. Usually one or two nights of poor sleep won’t cause an elevated heart rate, but the effects are evident afterwards. Even a slightly elevated heart rate is a good indicator that you need more rest. Focus on getting rest and if you exercise, pay careful attention to your heart rate and your level of fatigue while exercising in order to avoid injuries due to bad form or lack of focus.
Are you overtraining? Every body has its limits, and when training is too severe, the body cannot find the time to repair itself, as tissues of the muscle and organs demand more oxygen and nutrients. When this occurs, your resting heart rate is typically 10-12 beats over your norm, consistently for 2-3 days. Another sign of overtraining may be difficulty sleeping. If overtraining is an issue, a day of rest is in order. Maybe a day in the pool instead of running outside? Maybe a bit of time with resistant work? If you don’t need to train, take a breather…if you do need to do something, take it down a notch.
Are you stressed? Our mind is our most powerful tool when competing. Unfortunately, our mind is also powerful enough to cause a physical reaction! Weight gain is often associated with increased stress, but an elevated heart rate (8-10 beats above norm) can also develop. In this case, go for a run! Exercise has such great stress-relieving benefits, that a run is definitely in order!
Are you toxic? Most notably, alcohol can increase your resting heart rate by a few beats, because your body is working a tad harder to remove the toxins from your system. Exercise can assist this effort, so go for a run!
Generally speaking, follow your body’s queues. Lack of rest, stress, overtraining, poor nutrition…all of these can influence your resting heart rate. So many different things can affect your heart rate, and knowing how your body is influenced by each of these co-factors is definitely an eye-opening experience! I myself am just getting over a serious cold which I’ve had for now over 1 week. My resting heart rate one morning was 80!!!! Never would I have imagined that it could be that high. I may just try to test it daily for the next few weeks to better understand my “norm” so I can better identify over-training, illness, etc in the future. Its simply not worth taking a chance! In time, I hope that being familiar and aware of my heart rate will become second nature to me.