Thursday, November 25, 2010

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

If you've been anywhere in my vicinity in the last few weeks, you've probably heard me talk about my weird heart rate issues. It was obsessing me for a while--I thought I was about to a) drop dead like Jim Fixx b) have to stop running. Both were equally distasteful to me.

The deal was that every time I'd run, no matter how slowly, my heart rate would shoot up to like 110 percent of my (measured!) heart rate max. That "max" stands for MAXIMUM. So it was disturbing to say the least. One time I looked down and my heart rate monitor read 209.

But, see, it was my own fault.

I had been trying to fit running workouts in by doing lots of interval training (that is, alternating sprinting with slow jogging). You can get a pretty comparable workout in 15 minutes of intervals to 45 minutes of running. I had not been warming up properly, just starting out in a sprint.

My theory is that I trained my dang heart to just expect that each time I started running I was going to be sprinting, so it zoomed up to provide me with plenty of the oxygenated blood I would need if I were sprinting.

Luckily, after a couple of weeks of laying off the intervals (and off the heart rate monitor--that thing was just scaring me), my running heart rate is back to normal. Just got back from a cold Thanksgiving jog to find my max rate for the run was a very respectable 144.


Sonja said...

This sounds quite worrying. Is it possible that the heart rate monitor just gave you some false reading? I have read somewhere that it is possible to have some false readings - but usually only for a short moment. Which model of heart rate monitor are you using?

Miriam said...

Hi Sonja. I had thought of that. I have a Polar heart rate monitor, and one day when I was still experiencing the problem, I tested it (and my heart rate) on various modes of exercise. When I exercised on a stationary bicycle, I had a normal heart rate reaction. When I walked on a steep incline on the treadmill I had a normal heart rate reaction, but when I ran on the treadmill or on the track at my gym, sustained crazy heart rate reaction. Thanks for your question!

Sonja said...

This is really strange. I have found one article that talks about heart rate monitors sometimes interfering with each other - like if someone next to you is also using a monitor, you may both get some strange values. But it may not be what happened in your case. Anyway, here is the article if you are interested: different types of heart rate monitors

I am not sure if that could explain the strange values. I am not surprised that you don't use the monitor any more. I would be also quite worried if I see such high values.

Anonymous said...

Miriam, if you are pre-menopausal, your racing heart may be part of the hormonal changes you're going through. I know I had "palpatations' that totally freaked me out. I would be doing nothing extraordinary, and my heart would begin just pounding, shaking me like a leaf. EKG's were normal. Then I had a wise woman tell me that it was just part of menopause, and she was right.

Miriam said...

Yeah, anonymous, that sounds about right. I could definitely be in that stage, although it only happens during exercise. Our bodies are so crazy, but that's what makes them interesting to study!