Is my heart rate dangerous?

I just finished my latest race, and I’m happy with the result. In fact, I reached a new personal best in every metric. I follow a structured training plan and it has really paid off.

However, on the last event my heart rate averaged 181bpm for the 22 minutes of the race, and peaked at 196bpm. At 40yrs old I’m wondering if it is dangerous to push myself that hard. Does anyone know a good resource to investigate this topic?

Thanks for your help.

This is a discussion to have with your doctor preferably with a referral to a sports doctor. There are a lot of variables.


It’s high if you are fit and have good cardio. No matter your age and health issues. However, if you were hammering up hill- did it drop after hammer time? If HR drops efficiently after exertion- then that is a good thing. For me I recognize when I get into proper fit levels and cardio/legs working well- I recover quicker (HR).

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People I know who’ve had heart issues experience an anomalously rapidly elevated HR which doesn’t quickly come back down after a maximal effort is over. It’s where the heart isn’t being properly regulated. If the HR slowly increases, then comes back down, that’s normal. But I’m not a doctor so don’t listen to me.

Everyone has a different maximal HR. The old crusty formulas, especially the one with a slope of 1 BPM/year (ask yourself why would it happen to be exactly 1 bpm/year), are crap.


I have the same concerns - my last race I spent 52 minutes in Heart Rate zone 5.
Yes, I felt like I was working really hard - trying to stay with the bunch.
The races I have done are all pretty similar in terms of spending most time in Heart rate zone 5 - is that normal for these races? or is it a reflection of my fitness (or rather lack of fitness).

Did you set the zones as default or use your known maximum heartrate? Barring any medical conditions extended time in zone 5 should be really hard.
As the others above have mentioned maximum heart rate is highly variable between people at the same age, and can shift a bit as you gain fitness, so you really need to define your own zones.
Any underlying medical conditions however complicate this (and how HRMs read your HR in some cases) so if you have any concerns, and/or things have changed over time, talk to your doctor.


I’m 50 today. Triathlete/runner in my 30’s.

Please don’t extrapolate my story to your body/heart. The electrical system is too complicated.

In my 30’s, I’d race at 205/206 bpm. I asked my physician about it. There were no concerns.

Jump forward to 49…I received an emergent pacemaker.

It’s hard to know if there were electrical issues with my heart in my 30’s. It sure would have been interesting, however, to have been evaluated by a cardiac stress test.

I doubt it would have changed trajectory in health or exercise, but sure would have been insightful.

Not much in the way of answers - but you could ask your physician about the usefulness of a stress test given your health/training questions.

Best of luck! Great job training!

Thanks for the reply. My max heart rate is about 185 - racing on zwift and FTP tests seem to prove that. I think, because I was only just hanging on to the bunch i was effectively doing an all out effort for the entire race duration. In fact most of my races are like that - I guess thats life at the low w/kg end of C grade. It would be nice to race where I can do more than just hang in there. Its crazy the category grading - after 2 DNFs in D and one mid-back pack finish I was “upgraded” to C due to my power… go figure. Maybe my heart is telling me to drop back to D.

Hi Everyone,

I came across a GCN video on this subject today, which I found very useful:

As a result, I’m going to get a check up from a sports cardiologist at some point. Seems like the sensible thing to do.

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Great video! Thank you.

Hope your visit goes well.