Pulse while jogging

No. A high pulse while jogging is not a good thing.

After reading the transcript from my cardiologist, I pondered how to make my potential “superpower” of super-low resting pulse into something useful. When walking fast, my pulse is typically around 110-120 depending on the day. But jogging even a short distance brings my pulse up in the 140es, at which point I slow down to a walk again. No point in taunting the asthma to attack.

And then I used Google to learn more about normal pulse while jogging, and found numerous young people asking “Is it normal to have a pulse of [180 / 190 / 200] while jogging?” The answers varied in quality, but generally the answer isĀ NO WAY! Most humans have a maximum pulse below 200 even when young. A pulse of above 180 should be reserved for when you try to outrun a tsunami, or during the spurt phase of a championship. Or in other words, don’t voluntarily bring on a pulse like that unless there is a cardiologist and a heart starter nearby, or unless your life is forfeit anyway.

(The exception to this is high-intensity interval training, where you exert your muscles and heart very hard for a brief interval. This is used by athletes who want to improve their maximum performance. As long as you know your limits and do it right, it is surprisingly harmless. But if you are not already an athlete, don’t do interval training without the OK from a competent physician. Get to know your max pulse and that you don’t have any illnesses that may interfere.)

Back to the joggers. It is likely (and sometimes they actually say it) that these people are in a similar situation as I, only younger. They have not actually been jogging before, but they have seen others do it. So they set off, but it is harder than it looks. Why is this? It is usually because the body is not adapted to this particular use.

Even if you are in good shape, when you switch from one type of exercise to another which you are unfamiliar with, the pulse will go way up for some weeks. In part the body simply does not know how to do this exercise efficiently. In part the muscles for that task are not developed. Two things happen to muscles when you start using them in a new way: 1) They add muscle fiber, if you are straining them harder than before, and 2) they add small blood vessels, if you are using them longer than before.

If your body tries to bring sugar and oxygen to the muscles but the blood vessels are too small and too few, the heart needs to work that much harder, and your pulse will go way up, even if you don’t have an illness. What you need to do then is to give your muscle time to adapt. This means weeks where you exercise in the new way but not too hard.

For instance, after I have warmed up by walking, if my pulse is below 120, I start jogging until the pulse passes 140 on its way up. Then I slip back into walking, which I am quite experienced at. When the pulse fall below 120 again, I can jog for another stretch. If you are young and don’t have asthma, you can go quite a bit higher than that, but the point is that you should not stress test your heart when your muscles can’t benefit from it anyway. They still need to grow to their optimal size, and interval jogging three times a week will be enough to make them do that. But you have to keep at it. There is no magic wand. You have to put time and miles into walking if you haven’t even done that, and later you do the same for jogging, and eventually running. It may look easy on TV, but you have to put your own miles into it.

When you’ve got your jogging right, you should be able to keep a simple conversation while jogging, without having to slow down to get your breath back. If you jog alone, you should be able to recite a poem, or a familiar prayer. If your pulse is anywhere near 180, I’d go for the prayer.

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