Causes of heart rate spike early in a run

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I haven’t been running consistently this past year, and now I am building back into some semblance of a consistent pattern.  As I do this, I am noticing a strange and kind of crazy spike in my heart-rate in the first few minutes of my run. I first noticed it back in November or December that month’s attempt to run consistently, and I saw it again.

Basically, in the first five minutes of a run, my heart rate spikes to nearly my max heart rate. It gets into the upper 170’s when my max heart rate is probably about 182-186. The thing is, I don’t even really feel it racing that hard, especially considering that most of the time it is happening on a nice downhill slope.

Here’s what I’m talking about, in this case today it hit 186:


So what could it be?

I’m calling it a lack of warmup for a body that isn’t used to it, event though it is new to me. I’ve been running an average of 20 miles per week for 8-10 years prior to this past year when I lost that average because of work schedules.  With significantly less base fitness, I think it is plausible that my body simply can’t start without a good warmup.

Below is arguments and evidence I used.

My first thought is that it is a heart rate monitor problem, with electric static or bad lead connections, similar to this from runnersworld.com:

I suggest it is due to static electricity.  It is quite common.  As soon as you start sweating then it stops.  To help avoid those spikes I spray the insides of my synthetic running shirts with Static Guard.  You’ll notice this problem is worse in the winter than in the summer because of the lower dew point resulting in drier air.


if the static guard doesn’t correct the problem, i might suggest that it is that monitor is having a hard time registering your pulse becuase you may have slightly low blood pressure.


Note that when I start running after a few minute walking warmup, my cadence is about 160, so I can’t rule out that explanation.  These are from both indoor and outdoor runs, but always running shirts, always wet leads, all from a Garmin HRM.

Screenshot from 2015-03-10 00:24:42


I’d be more concerned if your heartbeat wasn’t faster at the beginning of your run then after you had warmed up.   It’s perfectly normal.   Think about it, you are going from no exercise to stressing your body.


. In the meantime a had a physical with a full blood test.. Come to find out I’m iron deficient.. The doctor prescribed me a Iron supplement and a week later I’m seeing major improvemnets. I’ve had issues with this in the past but it’s also affected in daily life (Energy ETC.) So that’s why it never occurred to me this could be the problem.


And then this from RunningSystems.com

A lot of people who run with heart rate monitors often see their heart rate spike at the beginning of a run, only to subside after a mile or two. This kind of spike only happens if you didn’t warm up long enough.

Triathlete.com – The 3 Most Important Run Workouts For Triathletes

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I totally agree with this post but want to add a hill workout into the mix. I find that even 10-minute transition runs are absolutely wirth the effort.


As my race nears, I like to make my long runs to up to 15 miles moderate pace. This is as much for mental confidence as physical fitness.

I love the hills workout I have started this year. I do 7-9 hills of 1.5 – 3 minutes in length with very easy jog or even walking some between the hills.

9 Hills Route

Confirmation of my theory: Training Troubleshoots With Sebastian Kienle

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This is exactly what I am trying to do for my bike workouts. Sufferfest Nine Hammers and my local “Nine Hills” match the recommendations here at Triathlete.com.  I am also keeping up with a weight-lifting routine that I like and is showing improvements


I like the associated swim workout for something new to replace my “drills and kicks” workout.

For the run, I really do need to some bricks. I havent done any all year.

Big Training Block using a different theory

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Coming off the Tour of Sufferlandria and seeing spring kind-of in the air already, I am pushing into a big training block for the month of March that will add intensity intervals and some weight training into the mix.

In the last two months,  I read Matt Fitzgerald’s “Racing Weight,” and I am currently about a third through Matt Dixon’s “Well Built Triathlete.” These books got me thinking that I need to change up my “more is better” training focus on volume and build in some intensity. That requires a nice balancing act in planning and execution.

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The book reading is nice, but I also have some recent, specific experiences telling me to add intensity to my routines.

I am not training for a specific race right now, and I found the intensity levels of the Tour of Sufferlandria to have a huge effect on my running. Then, a friend posted the ladder workout for swimming on our Snake River Tri Club facebook page, and I really liked that for the change of pace (literally) and the mix-up of lengths to keep it mentally interesting.  I am also realizing that I really should keep lifting weights all-year round.  Finally, a switch to yogurt/berry smoothies for breakfast and basic oatmeal with pure cane sugar for snacks has me finally seeing some progress in losing body-fat as shown on our Aria scale.

Thus, my new training philosophy will be to have a long/easy, moderate, and short/high-intensity interval workout for swim, bike and run each week. I will add in a really easy 1.5 mile run to and from (3 miles round trip) the gym to get in weight training, too. Interestingly, that easy run to/from the gym creates the extra runs I needed to get in line with the BarryP run program on Slowtwitch that I like to refer others to when determining a run training program.

So what does this training plan look like?



The above training calendar from Sporttracks.mobi shows three identical weeks of the following workouts as a building block focused on an undetermined 70.3 triathlon in a few months.

Monday morning: Swim moderate

Monday lunch: Easy run to/from gym to lift weights (very simple routine takes 20 minutes).

Tuesday morning: Sufferfest Nine Hammers, which I think for me is definitely the best way to make gains on the bike.

Tuesday lunch: Tempo run for 10k. This is a relatively hard run on mostly trashed legs from the Sufferfest video in the morning.

Wednesday morning: Sufferfest Local Hero (or other one hour vid like The Hunted followed by Long Scream) to get a good 90-minute threshold with high intensity intervals workout on the bike.

Wednesday lunch: Swim 2,000 for intensity. This will be the 1,600 ladder. 

Thursday morning: Jog to gym and back (about two miles round trip) for quick lift routine.

Thursday lunch: High intensity running local hills.

Friday morning: Jog to gym and back to lift, again…two days in a row….or take a break.

Friday lunch: Long swim of 3,000 yards straight. I like 3,000yds straight because it sets me up to be fresh and ready to go after a 2,000 yard / 1.2 mile swim during a race.

Saturday morning: Sufferfest ISLAGIATT or Blender for a long bike.

Sunday morning: Very easy 9 miler, building to 13.2 in third week.

This will create a lower volume for me in terms of miles, but I think I will make up for it in terms of overall intensity and consistency. I am excited about this plan, and that will drive my ability to actually do the workouts as scheduled. I might not hit the whole workout as scheduled, but I will definitely at least start it, which eliminates one my main psychological enemies of dropping a workout under the guise of “I need to recover more” or “I’m just too tired right now.”

Some of the expected results:

1. Higher overall power output on the same Sufferfest videos, showing an increase in lactate threshhold.

2. Faster times on the hills interval run segments that I have already established on Strava, improving strength and reminding me what pain really feels like so I can remember that during a race I really do have an extra level to attain.

3. Slightly faster times on the standard lunch 10k route that I have run many many times and usually get faster as spring turns into summer.

4. Weight drops to 180 on March 21, from 185 on March 2. That’s a lot for three weeks, but I think it will happen.

5. Body fast drops from 19.8ish to 18.2 on the Aria scale. Who knows how accurate this scale is, but it is consistent and I can use that to measure objectives. I don’t know if this is really doable or how it relates to the weight loss, but it is something to think about and will drive me to complete the training plan as I chase this goal.

This training plan is probably best for an Olympic distance triathlon rather than 70.3 because of the lack of bike and run volume, but it is what I will be doing to build to more distance at the newly gained and higher threshholds on the bike and run. My swim is what is, and that is where I want to be with it (28:00ish 1.2 mile). I need to get much better on the bike and extend my endurance on the run.

I will be reporting back at the end of each week. The great thing about Sporttracks is that it automatically tracks missed workouts, so I will be showing those graphics, too, in an attempt for accountability.

Sporttracks provides great charts for complete triathlon training loads. Strava and Garmin Connect don’t do this so well, so I am using Sporttracks now.

Below you can see a nice progression ladder in the training load for this three week block:




And below you can see how my performance stat goes from 283 on March 1 to 307 on March 25. That is objective improvement that I can feel good about.


Strava update

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This is the first time I have receiveind this email. Very motivating.

Lance’s Running Commandments

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…..Lance CLARK’S running commandments. Here in Pocatello, the only Lance is Lance Clark. He works for our City Parks and Rec and coordinates the city fun run series, and does a PHENOMENAL job at it. He also writes updates for the his program, and everyone who gets the email loves reading it because it is so funny.

I have to share part of his latest effort (and I am assuming it is his own work).

“Here are my 10 seasonally appropriate commandments for running

1)      Thou shalt have many other things in life that bring you joy in addition to running.  I may have brought thou off the couch, but I am not a jealous workout.

2)      Thou shalt not run to make your body a carved image.  Running shall be for fitness and enjoyment and health.  The carved image follows, sometimes.  For some people.

3)      It is ok to take the name of your running partners in vain during steep hills

4)      Thou shalt take days off and not feel guilty.  Rest as hard as you train, several days of rest per week are acceptable in mine eyes.

5)      Honor your father and your mother, by running on all Hallmark holidays, rather than going out to a 4000 calorie dinner.

6)      Thou shalt not use the words “killing it” before the whole run is accomplished.  The crash is sure to follow.

7)      Thou shalt cheat on thine diet after a long run.  But thou shalt bear in mind that a slice of cake is like 6 more miles and that just isn’t worth it.  Try extra slices of lean turkey on thine sandwich instead.  But donuts are always an accepted offering.

8)      Thou shat not bear false witness about thine miles, or thine time, or thine PR.

9)      Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s marathon time.  Thou art thine own person, own it.

10)   Thou shall only covet thy neighbor’s running apparel only if it is weather appropriate and you are miserable.  Thou shalt not covet the color, slimming fit or any other fashion based aspect of thine neighbor’s apparel.  It is OK to covet new shoes.  Everyone loves new shoes.”

New shoes! Brooks PureFlow.

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My old Montrail trail shoes started making my knees hurt, so time to get some news shoes. Off to Sierra Trading Post I went.

They didn’t have any Montrails in my size, so the nice guy in the Boise store showed me the Brooks he wears. It was a big deal for me to buy a brand other than Montrail because they always treat me right, but I had a 40% off coupon so that made it easy, and they felt good in the store anyway.

My first run in them was Monday, and I fell in love with a new brand. Very light. Very comfy. Plenty of support. The “power circle” thing really does help minimize pronation. What else could I want?

Well, I want to know that the heel will be relatively durable. I am not sure how durable those heals are but for $44 out the door I am not too worried.

The only complaint I have is that they are a bit slippery on relatively slick surfaces like an inch of snow or light frost. I slip more than with the Montrails but it won’t be that big of a deal….just something I have to be aware of.

Everybody online says get a half-size bigger than normal. I’m not sure about that. I wear a 12 in Montrails, and the Brooks in a 12 fit great.

Bottom line: I will be getting another pair of these awesome shoes.

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