Q | How do I figure out my resting heart rate, and how can I use it as a training tool?
As soon as you wake up and while still lying in bed, find your pulse and count the number of heartbeats in a minute. This is your resting heart rate (RHR).
“Your resting heart rate is a valid indicator of the fitness of your cardiac muscles. The stronger your heart, the less often it has to beat [in order to move an adequate supply of blood],” says Roy Benson, MPE, running coach and coauthor of Heart Rate Training.
A typical RHR for an adult ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, while professional athletes often have an RHR between 40 and 50 beats per minute.
Besides helping you measure your cardiovascular fitness, your RHR can provide clues about when your body is overly stressed and not as receptive to intense training.
“If you check your resting heart rate daily and notice that it is elevated by several beats three or four days in a row, this is a warning,” says Benson.
Some of the most common reasons for an elevated RHR are illness, dehydration, underrecovering, and overtraining, he says.
Once your RHR returns to normal, you may gradually resume training.
If you feel OK but your RHR remains elevated for a week, despite a few days of rest and proper hydration, see your physician to rule out other potential health problems, advises Cathy Fieseler, MD, a sports-medicine specialist in Tyler, Texas.