Heart Shape

Dear Dani,

I’m a 36-year-old guy and have recently taken up running. I’ve always been active and in shape, but this is something new for me. I’ve heard a lot about resting heart rate, but am unsure what it is, why it’s important, or even what mine should be. Can you help me out?

Thanks, New Runner

Dear New Runner,

It’s awesome that you’ve started running. It’s always good to change up your routine to avoid plateaus and boredom, and running is the perfect way to strengthen your heart (and tone, tighten, and strengthen your legs and core). Your heart is the most important muscle in your body and it needs to be worked out just like your chest and arms do. Not to mention your lungs as well. The stronger your lungs the more oxygen you can take in and the stronger your heart the more oxygen rich blood is pumped through your body, resulting in more efficient workouts. So, that’s where your resting heart rate comes in…

Your resting heart rate (RHR) is the number of times your heart beats per minute while at complete rest. It is an important indicator of health and fitness. The lower the number the more fit you are (unless you are suffering from an illness, which sometimes can cause your heart rate to dip). What that indicates is that your body can preserve itself, but still maintain proper function while using the least amount of energy. In other words, the lower the number, the more efficient your body is. For instance, Lance Armstrong has a RHR of 32-34 beats per minute (bpm), which is insanely low! He can cycle up what would be a pretty tough hill for us and not really be affected all that much, because his heart can pump oxygen rich blood through his body with the least amount of effort. Rates vary from person to person and are different between men and women.

How To Measure Your RHR:
- Measurements should be taken first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. Do not take it right after waking up though. Wait about 10-15 minutes and then start your measurement, so that you’re calm and relaxed.
- You can measure from your Radial pulse (by placing your index and middle fingertips on the thumb side of your wrist) or your Carotid pulse (by placing your index and middle fingertips along the windpipe of your throat).
- Make sure to hold gently, because pressing on the pulse can affect the rate.
- Count the beats for 10 seconds and then multiply by 6. That is your RHR.
- Make sure to take an average of your RHR by measuring for 3 days, because various things can affect the rate, such as stress, lack of sleep, overtraining, illness, alcohol, etc.

Like I said, RHR can vary from person to person based on sex, age, fitness, etc. With that being said here’s a simplified look at what your RHR should be for your age group:
Men ages 36-45 = Excellent: 57-62; Good: 63-66; Above Average: 67-70; Average: 71-75; Below Average: 76-82; Poor: 83+ (**Athletes: 50-56**)
Women ages 36-45 = Excellent: 60-64; Good: 65-69; Above Average: 70-73; Average: 74-78; Below Average: 79-84; Poor: 85+ (**Athletes: 54-59**)

Exercising will help improve your resting heart rate, so keep on running. Just make sure not to overtrain as that will actually increase your RHR.

If you need any running tips let me know!

** Have a question that needs answering? Send ‘em in! Every Thursday I’ll be answering a new question, and it might just be yours!