Heart Rate after 3 week break

I recently had to take 3 weeks off the bike while recovering from a surgery (laparoscopic abdominal ). I’ve just started riding again and have noticed that my heart rate is currently ~20 beats higher than what I would consider normal for my fitness. My avg resting HR has also creeped up from 45 to 50 bpm during this time.

During this morning’s Z2, high cadence workout, for example, my HR crept up towards my max. But my breathing remained controlled and my RPE remained around 6 (difficult, but not suffering).

Does this seem “normal” when coming back from a longer break? Just the result of a well rested heart muscle? Or a bit out of the norm? I don’t think anything is wrong. I’m just curious to know how my experience fits into general expectations after a longer break.

Thanks in advance for your replies.


That’s typically expected. You likely detrained somewhat during those 3 weeks as evidenced in part by your resting HR creeping upward.

If you were doing cadence work and saw that HR creep up toward max, that’s pretty normal too. High cadence = higher HR response. As you said, probably a ‘well-rested’ heart muscle now, very responsive because there’s little, if any, chronic fatigue that you’re carrying.

You should see that normalize in a few weeks as you return to your usual level of fitness and the body adapts to the Z2 work. Max HR will come down a few beats and you should see that resting HR start moving back toward 45bpm over time.

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Thanks Ryan. I appreciate the context.

@Adam_S your question makes me wonder if you can trust your rest hr in this case to monitor recovery from surgery.
To my experience a break from daily training can make the rest hr drop up to 10 bpm but starts rising from day three.
Three weeks of medical recovery is something different.
Anyone know some stats?

Question for the experts, how to tell if the a lower heart rate at a given intensity is reflecting a good training level or just a tired heart muscle?

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@mgherardi, if you pair that lower HR with other metrics and markers you can get a better sense for that. So along with just a lower HR at a given intensity, you should look at power/pace and RPE (perceived effort) to get a sense for how much input it takes to get the HR response.

Not to oversimplify, but as a general example- if HR is down, power is up and the RPE is down or the same, then that’s likely a positive change. If you’re seeing a lower HR and getting the sense that it takes a good amount of power to “make” the HR rise, that could very well be some extra fatigue that you’re carrying. By paying attention to those signals day to day, accounting for your overall sensations, and HR/power response on the bike, you’ll learn what your “usual” response is like and then have a good idea if a HR at a given intensity is signaling good training or fatigue.

Here are some good resources to help get that dialed in:
Episode 164
Finding Trends in Your HR Data (Workshop)
Overreaching, Overtraining, and Burnout w/ Dr. Seiler

I hope that helps. This is something you will develop over time. I’ve been cycling and participating in a variety of sports competitively, nearing 3 decades now.I can say that although I have a good sense for that fatigue now, it’s always something to remain aware of because as the body changes with age, etc. it’s important to understand how you perceive those changes relative to your performance, recovery, and so on.