Question: The last time I did intervals, my heart rate was about 15 beats per minute higher than usual — it peaked at 184, a new high for me — and the workout was a huge effort. Does this indicate overtraining? I hope not because a week off to recover would be a real setback in my training goals. — Steve H.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Normally, when you’re overtrained and need time off, your heart rate won’t go as high as it normally does for a given workload and perceived exertion.
Sometimes you’ll get a high heart rate because your legs are fresh, not tired. The heart follows the muscles, so if your legs are capable of pushing really hard, your heartwill beat faster in order to supply enough blood and oxygen (up to a point, of course, depending on your true max heart rate).
Remember that heart rate is a very uncertain measure of how hard you’re riding. It can vary tremendously due to environmental factors like heat and humidity as well as psychological reasons.
A better measure is your perceived exertion, honed by several years of experience in training. Also, using a power meter would give you an objective measure of how much power (how many watts) you’re actually generating.