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Getting heart rate up when on a trainer.
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After training and racing by feel for years, I agreed to use heart rate as a metric this year. I have only been monitoring for about one month.
I'm a 50 year old male. I can cruise along at 140-145 BPM for easily 30 minutes when running. On the trainer, even when pushing hard, I have trouble getting into the high 120s. This level of exertion isn't sustainable for more than 5-7 minutes. If I am doing longer set, same thing. Heart rate gets to about low to mid 120s. If I try to push harder to get it higher, I can't sustain the effort. As noted above, I don't have a power meter.
What is wrong with me?
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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I think it's fairly normal to have a lower range for the bike. I can hit 180 bpm in a 5k effort on the run but 165-170 seems super hard on the bike.

just curious if you'd consider yourself more a runner or cyclist?
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [Jason AZ] [ In reply to ]
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Cyclist. Never raced. I have been doing it the longest, it is my favorite portion (not on the trainer though) and my splits are the best of the three.
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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It takes a while in the workout to get into higher heart rate zones. That's kind of the nice thing about power, it's an immediate measurement of your effort. Heart rate has a lag. It would almost be better to go off perceived exertion unless you are doing a zone 1-2 workout. Just use heart rate after the workout to understand your overall effort.

I'm curious to see what others say
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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I've noticed the same thing, I think it's expected given different physiology of bike vs run.

When I run 5k/VO2max pace, at M40-45, I routinely hit HR of 155-164. I race 5ks at 160+ the entire way, up to 177 by the end.

In Trainerroad on my trainer though, with a powerful fan blasting at me to keep me cool in an already cold garage (feels freezing to you if you are not warmed up!), my HR during the hardest 3 minute @ 130% FTP Vo2max interval (those are really, really hard) barely hits 153. And I feel like I'm totally dying/dead by the end. My HR for most of the VO2max intervals is 145-155 on the bike, which isn't even Z4 for me for running.

I suspect it's for several reasons-

1. Running uses arms and is weight bearing, so HR demands can rocket up faster. (This is def real - you can see this in full force by using an elliptical machine hard, first without arms at all, then by grabbing the handles and keeping the arm cadence up. I've been actually amazed how high my elliptical with arms HR is at despite going at only 'moderate' effort for me.)

2. Cycling blasts the legs with more load compared to running. In running races of any non-sprint, it's almost never a matter of not being able to push harder with your legs on the flats and hills, it's a leg turnover and cardio issue. Even though running has more pounding, it doesn't have the sustained muscle pushes needed to put up big watts on the bike. So on bike intervals, the legs are often what are screaming at you to quit, even if it's hard to tell. FOr sure though, since I can sustain 160HR on the run for 19 mins, it's unlikely that 160HR in a 3' VO2max bike interval is limiting me - it's the huge lactate pumping out by the bike legs from working so hard in combination with that high HR that makes it shut down so fast.

3. Training on a trainer indoors also often means you don't have the same motivation to 'kill it' on gutbusting intervals as you might in an outdoor bike chase/race or hammering to the tail end of a hill outdoors. Even with something like Trainerroad+Kickr that feeds you the power, I'll bet we could give a few % more had we been doing those same intervals outdoors in a beautiful place with other racers to push us along.
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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Do you have same issue outside - meaning is it a trainer issue, or bike issue?

I used to feel I couldn’t get a strong effort in on the trainer. Now I got a direct drive trainer, and use zwift religiously for racing - and my all time HR highs for >1min efforts are almost the same indoor / outdoor.
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [mvenneta] [ In reply to ]
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Don't know. Won't be able to ride outside here for a month or two.
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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I'll bet it's because your perceived effort on the trainer is far higher than your actual exertion. Power data or comparison to outside riding will reveal if this is the case. I used to find it MUCH harder to sustain any sort of decent intensity on the trainer until I had power data (it was just virtual power from Zwift for the first 2 years but that's pretty accurate for the KK Road Machine, and more recently later I've been using a power meter).

I think it would be useful to proceed as follows:
  1. Assuming you have GPS data for some previous outdoor rides. Go to BestBikeSplit and try and model a few of them to see approx what power you would have required to do the course in the time you did. The free version will let you do this. Model a few different rides and use rides where you know you were pushing reasonably hard. This will give you an idea of what power levels you've been riding at outdoors. It's only an estimate but it will give you something to start from.
  2. Find a way to produce power data on the trainer. There are 2 or 3 possibilities for this without buying expensive equipment. If you have a decent trainer with realistic power curves, you can use software (Zwift or similar) that can take a wheel speed from your rear wheel speed sensor (assuming you have one) and show you a live power estimate based on the known characteristics of your trainer. This is called virtual power. it works great for a few trainers with reliable, temperature stable, resistance units. The KK Road Machine for example. Others are less good. Zwift used to do a free trial period which would be sufficient for your purposes if they still do it. Alternatively I'm sure one of it's competitiors provide this option. Failing that, can you borrow a smart trainer or PM from an accommodating friend that owns either? Borrowing a PM is probably a long shot!

Once you've got an idea of your typical outdoor power and can measure or estimate your indoor power, you can see whether the low indoor HR is simply the result of not working as hard. As I said at the start, perceived effort can be much higher than actual effort when you're on a trainer. There are a few reasons, some psychological and some physical. That I can think of:
  1. Insufficient cooling. A big fan makes a huge difference.
  2. No feedback of speed except for a change in tone from the trainer or a speed figure on your watch/bike computer screen.
  3. No distractions from the effort, like scenery, traffic, fellow riders, competition.
  4. Increased discomfort due to different motion relative to the bike when it's locked into a trainer.
  5. Insufficient cooling again! (you want airflow to facilitate sweat evaporation, not a freezing room)

I can produce similar power inside and outside but it feels much easier outside and I can produce it for much longer, UNLESS I have good feedback indoors. If I want to achieve anything useful indoors without it feeling like torture, I need good data that tells me how hard I'm working and presents it in a form that adds some intuitive satisfaction. Movies/TV does nothing for me, my power just drifts down to pathetic levels until I pay attention to what I'm doing again. Zwift, however, makes it possible for me to train well and even enjoy it. When I used to sit on the trainer and watch time/speed/HR on my bike computer, it felt far harder, and my HR tended to be much lower. Not because I couldn't produce the physical stimulus to get it higher, but because the perceived effort was out of proportion with normal training.
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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It's pretty normal for HR to be a little lower in the bike. In my case I can get up to about 175 in an FTP test while I was able to hit 191 at the end of a 5K.

sonofdad wrote:
After training and racing by feel for years, I agreed to use heart rate as a metric this year. I have only been monitoring for about one month.
I'm a 50 year old male. I can cruise along at 140-145 BPM for easily 30 minutes when running. On the trainer, even when pushing hard, I have trouble getting into the high 120s. This level of exertion isn't sustainable for more than 5-7 minutes. If I am doing longer set, same thing. Heart rate gets to about low to mid 120s. If I try to push harder to get it higher, I can't sustain the effort. As noted above, I don't have a power meter.
What is wrong with me?

What's your CdA?
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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I find heart rate to be a bit of a variable in itself... heart rate can be a bad indicator for me and I've come to rely more on power when riding indoors vs. doing HR based stuff.

I know you said you don't have a PM, neither do I technically but I use PerfPro(it's free to demo) with my rollers that have a virtual power curve built into the software so I can train with power vs. HR. I tested my FTP with the software and it plugs my FTP into my workouts... I don't race or ride outside with power but I find training indoors with power is a good tool. Maybe it has a virtual power curve for your trainer?

If you're going at a level that you can't sustain I'd say you're probably exceeding your FTP capabilities and you'd be better off if you had some idea what you were doing powerwise vs. what you're doing now.
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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I think most see a slightly higher HR while running than cycling at similar efforts. But being that far off on a hard ~6 minute effort? Maybe your perception of effort is too strongly tied to how hard your pressing the pedals (torque), and doesn't take in the other half of the power equation which is cadence? Your HR might not be as high if you're pedaling slower but harder, biasing your effort more towards anaerobic. In a workout of a just-below-threshold-power intervals, I typically ride at a cadence of around 90rpm and have a HR around 160. If I drop the cadence to 70, but maintain that same power by pressing harder, my HR will be ~10bpm lower. One might think that "lower HR = less work = more sustainability," but the truth is, I have much more endurance at 90rpm than 70rpm for the same given power.

You could use more data than HR, like cadence and power. If you don't have a power meter, wheel speed on the trainer can be a proxy. While it's not always a linear relationship, resistance is generally constant for a given wheel speed. So while 22mph might require more (or less) than 10% more power to sustain than 20mph, the power to maintain 22mph should be the same every ride.* Try riding at the same wheel speed at different cadences by changing gears. See what happens to your HR. Find a cadence that lets your HR get up closer to your easy 30 minute run HR. If that's low 140's, I'd be looking for a cadence that get's my HR to the mid 130's.


*if it's a wheel-on trainer, it's important to maintain the same tire pressure and the same amount of tire deflection on the roller.

"They're made of latex, not nitroglycerin"
Last edited by: gary p: Feb 27, 19 6:01
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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If your Z3 HR on the run is 140-150, your Z3 bike HR is going to be about 130-140.

Get a nice fan to help emulate outdoors conditions and if you want to see real, objectivally quanitifable gains, gett a power meter. You wont regret it.

Toro Performance
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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heart rate is not a good metric

sonofdad wrote:
After training and racing by feel for years, I agreed to use heart rate as a metric this year. I have only been monitoring for about one month.
I'm a 50 year old male. I can cruise along at 140-145 BPM for easily 30 minutes when running. On the trainer, even when pushing hard, I have trouble getting into the high 120s. This level of exertion isn't sustainable for more than 5-7 minutes. If I am doing longer set, same thing. Heart rate gets to about low to mid 120s. If I try to push harder to get it higher, I can't sustain the effort. As noted above, I don't have a power meter.
What is wrong with me?

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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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That seems like a pretty good discrepancy. My HR max while running is around 190 and I've seen low 180's on the bike. I'm 40 years old as a reference point. At the end of a recent indoor TT I hit 181 on the bike. At the end of a 5k I usually see mid 180's.

Easy paces HR is around 140-145 on the run and 130-135 for the bike.


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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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sonofdad wrote:
After training and racing by feel for years, I agreed to use heart rate as a metric this year. I have only been monitoring for about one month.
I'm a 50 year old male. I can cruise along at 140-145 BPM for easily 30 minutes when running. On the trainer, even when pushing hard, I have trouble getting into the high 120s. This level of exertion isn't sustainable for more than 5-7 minutes. If I am doing longer set, same thing. Heart rate gets to about low to mid 120s. If I try to push harder to get it higher, I can't sustain the effort. As noted above, I don't have a power meter.
What is wrong with me?

Really only HIGHLY trained cyclists have the same max HR and VO2 max for running and cycling. I know you're not talking about maximal efforts, but the relation extends to submaximal efforts. The explanation is that cardiac output is the limiting variable for running, but with cycling, the heart's ability to pump blood outstrips the muscle's capacity to use it. To use an extreme example for clarity, sit down and do a maximal set of bicep curls for 3 minutes; your heart rate will come nowhere near either running or cycling even though your perceived exertion is 9-10.

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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [domingjm] [ In reply to ]
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domingjm wrote:
sonofdad wrote:
After training and racing by feel for years, I agreed to use heart rate as a metric this year. I have only been monitoring for about one month.
I'm a 50 year old male. I can cruise along at 140-145 BPM for easily 30 minutes when running. On the trainer, even when pushing hard, I have trouble getting into the high 120s. This level of exertion isn't sustainable for more than 5-7 minutes. If I am doing longer set, same thing. Heart rate gets to about low to mid 120s. If I try to push harder to get it higher, I can't sustain the effort. As noted above, I don't have a power meter.
What is wrong with me?


Really only HIGHLY trained cyclists have the same max HR and VO2 max for running and cycling. I know you're not talking about maximal efforts, but the relation extends to submaximal efforts. The explanation is that cardiac output is the limiting variable for running, but with cycling, the heart's ability to pump blood outstrips the muscle's capacity to use it. To use an extreme example for clarity, sit down and do a maximal set of bicep curls for 3 minutes; your heart rate will come nowhere near either running or cycling even though your perceived exertion is 9-10.

To add a clarifying note: you have a single max HR, which is determined intrinsically by the heart; different activities (at max) will demand different proportions of that max, dependent upon their respective volume of active muscle. Running and other activities that recruit proportionally more muscle mass (e.g., Nordic skiing) will demand higher proportions of that max HR at the same perceived exertion. In these activities (at max), if your heart was capable of providing more blood, you would be able to do more work. As you descend through different activities that recruit less muscle (e.g., cycling and bicep curls), pumping more blood isn't going to improve performance, and there's no stimulus for HR to increase further. Your observation that HR is proportionally low for cycling despite high exertion is the effect of that relation. I hope that makes sense.

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https://connect.garmin.com/modern/profile/domingjm
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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My HR on the trainer is a lot lower than the same effort riding on the road. I always wondered if this was normal. I might cruise along on the trainer at 65% intensity with a HR around 112 BPM, but outside at that same intensity, I might be at 135 BPM. I just thought my heart rate was up outside because I was dodging cars and other stressors not present on the bike.
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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My max heart rate on an indoor trainer is always substantially lower than it is for a similar effort outside. Same with treadmill running vs. road/trail running. I've never observed a good comparison between HR and effort across scenarios. Now HR comparing hard outside effort vs. another hard outside effort does seem consistent. But, as an example, at the end of a VO2 max interval session or FTP test indoors, my HR may be 165bpm and I feel like crap. A VO2 max sprint outside in a group would easily put me in 185-190bpm range. 165bpm is closer to sweetspot for me outdoors. YMMV.

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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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Have you done any sort of test to establish heartrate zones and threshold levels?
If not, you don't even know what you are shooting at.

Also- a threshold test will give you some sort of idea of how hard you need to be pushing to hit the various levels in your training.
My guess is that right now you don't have enough tension or gearing is wrong-
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [Spartan420] [ In reply to ]
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Spartan420 wrote:
My HR on the trainer is a lot lower than the same effort riding on the road. I always wondered if this was normal. I might cruise along on the trainer at 65% intensity with a HR around 112 BPM, but outside at that same intensity, I might be at 135 BPM. I just thought my heart rate was up outside because I was dodging cars and other stressors not present on the bike.
Are you measuring that 65% intensity with the same PM both inside and outside?
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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You can do 3 minute intervals at 130%? How many, and how much recovery between each? That sounds difficult if not impossible to do more than 1 or 2 at that intensity for 3 minutes.
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [runner66] [ In reply to ]
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runner66 wrote:
You can do 3 minute intervals at 130%? How many, and how much recovery between each? That sounds difficult if not impossible to do more than 1 or 2 at that intensity for 3 minutes.


The TR Oly build progression includes a workout with



3' @ 110% FTP
3' @ 120%
3' @ 130%

short longer rest break, then

3' @ 130%
3' @ 120%
3' @ 110%

And yes, those 130% intervals really suck! I am literally seeing stars through most of those 2 sets.

And in this progression, the final 2 intervals of 120% and 110% feel just as hard after that beatdown and def do not feel like a pullback whatsoever despite the reduced power!

This is one of those workouts where I absolutely prepare for - no hard SBR the day before, and often a day off completely or only easy stuff beforehand. Lots of sleep, and I don't do this workout before 7AM, as it's too hard then.
Last edited by: lightheir: Feb 27, 19 9:29
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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I am doing the mid volume Olympic build plan and have not come across that workout yet, thankfully. It sounds brutal, but I guess I will find out in a few weeks.

I agree with you about trying that in the early morning. I could only attempt that workout in the afternoon or early evening, definitely not early morning or later at night.

BTW, I hope your ankle arthritis issues are getting better and you have been able to run. I gave up running competitively, and now only cycle and run occasionally, no racing.
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [runner66] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks.

The TR workout is Givens. Tough as heck!

Although to be honest, I find even harder (haven't even managed to do it straight through yet despite trying twice), the not-so-scarying seeming 90 minute steady state ride in the plan, called Phoenix +2, which is probably near Oly race pace.

It never gets to the point of severe pain, but I just gotta backpedal it several times in the final 15 minutes as I'm so mentally and physically drained. And it's not just the 120 TSS of that ride - I've ridden literally double the TSS of that ride routinely in outdoor long hillclimb rides. It's that relentless steady state effort in aero position that just grinds you down. Tough stuff!

I've been lucky enough for my ankles to make a partial comeback, although this meant I had to abandon barefoot/minimalist running as the impact was just too great for my ankles. I'm now on maxi shoes (ironically) which definitely shift the load upwards to hip/thigh/knee, but those areas are pristine in me, and I'm able to run reasonable volumes now and even race. Hoping I can keep this up for another 10 years, but we'll see...
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Re: Getting heart rate up when on a trainer. [sonofdad] [ In reply to ]
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A couple of things to consider when on a trainer. Erg mode is much harder on the muscles than slope mode. If I do a 4 minute interval (or 20) in erg mode at the power I can hold for that duration, my legs are screaming and I can only get my HR up to say 160. If I do the same workout in slope mode, I can hold a noticeably higher power and get my HR up to say 175. Outdoors feels much more similar to slope mode than erg mode. If you are on a regular trainer that just provides pure resistance then it's going give a feel similar to erg mode in terms of physiological demand. Think of the difference between doing 300 watts in a 53/11 going uphill compared to 300 watts in say a 34/28. Same power, but one completely shreds your legs.
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