What Is A Normal Heart Rate When Running?

by Natasha

Hi, I am a reasonably fit 23 year old female. On an average week I do 4-5 sessions of sport. I have been running for a few months and looking to take part in a 10k race.

However, I wear a Polar HR monitor and when running at an average speed of 10km/h my heart rate is between 174 and 180.

Do I have anything to worry about?

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Natasha,

Thank you for your question about what a normal heart rate is when running.

We are all an experiment of one. Normal and average are relative terms.

Let's break this down as follows:

normal heart rate when running

1. Speed and heart rate
2. Your maximum heart rate and zones
3. Building up running fitness and heart rate

Speed and Heart Rate

I would first like to understand what the speed is that you are currently running at. What is "average" running speed? Many of us, when we start out, push ourselves a lot and we generally run too fast. Maybe you too?

10 km/h is not crazy fast, but it may be too fast for you at the present time.

Most of your running should be easy running, the pace at which you'd be able to have a conversation with someone.

At this pace, your heart rate should be about 40 beats per minute lower than your maximum heart rate. When you are running faster, you will see your heart rate rise.

Your Maximum Heart Rate and Zones

Do you know your maximum heart rate?

There are some general formulas (e.g. 220 - age = maximum heart rate, so 220 - 23 = 197), but these formulas are pretty rough. I am not sure if you have one of those smart heart rate monitors that tells you your maximum heart rate, but that is more often than not also quite inaccurate.

There are some tests you can do (basically run pretty darn hard for long enough), to establish your maximum heart rate. Check out my max heart rate page for more details.

Knowing your approximate max heart rate is pretty useful, as it can then help you establish heart rate zones. A simple method is laid out on the Zoladz Method for establishing your heart rate zones.

Building Up Your Running Fitness and Heart Rate

When you are starting your running career, you may experience spikes in your heart rate. You say you are quite fit, I definitely don't doubt it. But running fitness may be different to your current fitness. You may not be very strong aerobically yet.

And I know quite a few beginners who had massively high heart rates when they started to run. Over time, as you persevere with slow, easy jogs and go further and further, your heart becomes stronger. Every time it beats, it pushes more blood through the body. So, it does not need to go as fast anymore when you run.

normal heart rate when running

A very satisfying outcome of your running training can be not just going faster or further. It is also great to see when at the same pace you were running two months ago, your heart rate is now 10 beats lower per minute (for example).

So, all in all, it is likely a function of you getting used to running and building up your fitness.

For your next run, follow the "is conversation possible?" rule, keep your run at an easy jogging pace and check your heart rate. Allow your heart rate to settle. I sometimes get unnaturally high readings during my first kilometre of running and my first kilometre is always at snail pace. But after about five minutes or so it settles down to a much lower rate.

Keep on experiencing higher than expected heart rates and it worries you? Then you should talk to your doctor about this. Better safe than sorry.

Also make sure you have a good read of my heart rate monitor training page.

Hope this answer provided some help.
Best of luck.

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