What Constitutes a Normal Resting Heart Rate?

In short, the normal resting heart rate of a runner, or any well trained athlete, is statistically proven to be significantly lower than that of sedentary folks. More specifically, for adults (from teenage years up to seniors of approximately 70 years old) the average normal resting heart rate should fall somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm) in order to be considered ‘normal’. For well-trained athletes including runners however, resting heart rates in the range of as low as 40 and up to 60 bpm is more the expectation.

There are of course always exceptions to the rule. In fact, the lowest recorded resting heart rate for a well-trained athlete was for a Spanish cyclist who was a repeat winner of the tour de France. His RHR was 28! From personal experience and those of many fellow runners, more common readings fall around the high 40s to low 50s.

Remember that your RHR is most definitely affected by your level of training and more accurately your state of recovery. In other words, any state of overtraining will provide you with elevated readings, which is why it’s a really good idea to regularly monitor your waking resting heart rate! Also, due to this lower RHR zone, it’s important to relay your fitness status i.e. “I’m an endurance athlete” to any treating physician so that your low RHR is not mistaken for a medical condition such as bradycardia! The main reason for the lower zone in athletes is the direct co-relation that exists between resting heart rate and fitness. Unlike your more genetically pre-determined maximum heart rate , as you become more fit with time and proper training, your heart becomes stronger and needs to work less at its main job of pumping blood through your body. One of the great and many advantages of training by heart rate is you will readily have the tools such as watch and chest strap at your disposal to easily take a measurement.

The best time to measure your true resting heart rate is right upon waking in the morning since you are in a relaxed state and other body systems like metabolism don't interfere. It’s important to keep the conditions (body position, monitoring method) the same for all of your future readings as well so that you can eliminate any variables that might give you different results. It probably goes without saying however if you consider your resting heart rate to be consistently and significantly above or slightly below what is deemed normal, it wouldn’t hurt to consult with a medical professional on the matter.

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