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Is Your Running Heart Rate Too High?

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If you are like many runners, you are looking at your running heart rate. There are many reasons to do that, which we will get into. There are also a lot of things to consider as you contemplate how to keep your heart rate within a reasonable range for your age.

Are you wondering what a normal heart rate is while running? If your heart rate is too high? Are there benefits of training at a lower heart rate? Excellent questions. Jump into this article for a deep dive into everything you need to know about heart rate and running.

What Is A Safe Heart Rate When Running?

To determine a safe heart rate while running, you need to consider a lot of different things.

✔ Health History: The first thing to consider is your health history. If you have a history of heart issues, for example, you need to be sure to start out very easily. On the other hand, you do not want to tax your body too heavily as you are getting acclimated to an exercise regiment.

✔ Age: The second thing to think about is how old you are. This is important as you consider your target and maximum heart rates for cardiovascular activity.

✔ Physical Activity: You should not jump right into very vigorous workouts if you are new to physical activity.

✔ Exercise Experience: The last thing you need to take under advisement is that you should proceed with caution if you have limited experience with a particular type of exercise. Not to frighten you against starting something as awesome as running, that is not the intention! Just be smart and careful.

Heart Rate Training

Measured in beats per minute, your heart rate illustrates how hard your body is working. When utilizing heart rate training, you focus on doing certain exercises in different zones.

Heart rate zones

You may be wondering why we are delving into heart rate training and zone training because this article is about how high your heart rate should go when running. This is important back information to have in hand. So stay with me, please!

Zone One: Done at 50 – 60% of maximum heart rate (MHR), and this is a very light workout. For most people, this is the equivalent of a walk.

Zone Two: This training is done at 60 – 70% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). It is an easy effort used for warming up and cooling down.  Examples of this are an easy bike ride or a slow jog.

Zone Three: The bulk of your training should be done somewhere between 70 – 80% of MHR. Whether you are running or biking, you can do the workout at a conversational pace. This means you can chat with your workout buddy through the whole workout.

Zone Four: During these workouts, you are working hard and struggling to talk. Your heart rate is somewhere between 80 and 90% of your MHR. This is a hard effort, where you are flirting with struggling. This is the pace at which you would race a 5K.

Zone Five: Also called the red line, this is when you are between 90 – 100% of your MHR. For most athletes, this is where your heart rate should max out in high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

How To Calculate Heart Rate Zones

The easiest way to calculate is to take your age from 220. If you are 40 years old, your maximum heart rate should be 180.  From there, you can calculate your zones by percentage.

What Is A Normal Heart Rate When Running?

When calculating your safe heart rate, you need to ask yourself what type of workout you are planning to do. The first thing to realize is that you should not have your heart rate at the “red line” for a long period of time. It is not advised to push your body that hard for that long.

Refer back to the zones and note that most of your workouts should take place in the 3rd zone. So if you are trying to figure out your safe heart rate, use a zone calculator to determine that.

Why Is My Heart Rate So High?

The first thing you need to be aware of is that not everyone’s workout heart rate is always consistently low. Some runners are often redlining when they run. I am not saying that it is okay or healthy, just that they are naturally higher than others for some people.

high running heart rate

Consider what your resting heart rate is. Is it naturally higher than other people your age?

You should also consider that the standard heart rate zone calculation explained above (220 minus your age) is not necessarily accurate and is a debated topic. Some people think there are a lot more things to take into consideration. Please be reassured that there is no one set “normal heart rate for runners.”

There are more complicated calculations that can be made that are felt to be more accurate. Maybe taking one of these calculators into consideration shows your heart rate isn’t as high as you fear it is.

If your heart rate is not normally high but recently has been elevated, you should consider seeing a doctor to have it checked out. Other questions to ask yourself include:

  • Are you getting enough rest?
  • Are you consuming too much caffeine?
  • Have you recently been sick?
  • Is your stress level higher than normal?

How Do I Lower My Running Heart Rate?

It sounds easier than it is: slow your roll. If you are trying to monitor heart rate while running, you should just focus on being even slower than normal.

Some types of running watches will actually monitor your heart rate while you train. These smartwatches can be set to alert you if your heart rate does not fall within a certain window. For these runs, when you are trying to lower your numbers, you are desiring to keep your heart rate below a set number.

running smartatches

One of the hardest things for a runner to do sometimes is to accept the inevitable, and that is that the only way to lower your HR enough may be to walk.

Remember: if you are trying to lower your heart rate, you need to do what you need to do to achieve that goal. Walking may be a means to that end.


When discussing heart rate and training, a very important thing to remember is that it is all about balance, just like a lot in life. You need to try to get some workouts in different zones. This means you need to both challenge yourself and rest yourself.

Heart rate training and zone training are excellent ways to accomplish balance in your running and other workouts!

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