QT: Overlooked Factors that Increase Your Heart Rate During a Run

For many runners that get into heart rate training, and even for some of us that have been at it for a while, it can be a bit of a struggle to keep your heart rate down while running.

I know when I really devoted myself to MAF training, I found myself walking a lot more than I expected because my heart rate kept climbing beyond my upper target.

If you could care less about heart rate training, in any of its forms, this post/episode really isn’t for you.

But if you’re into MAF, zone, 80/20, or any other form of training where heart rate is a factor, this post may help you keep your heart rate from shooting up too quickly on your next run.

Factors that Increase Your Heart Rate

You do realize that your pace isn’t the only factor that influences your heart rate during a run, right?

My Bad Running Habits

It’s true.

The faster you’re running, the harder your body has to work to maintain the effort.

If your body is working hard, that means the heart is beating faster.

I think (hope?) that that is pretty straightforward.

A couple of other fairly obvious factors that increase your heart rate? Hills and heat.

Running uphill? Yeah, that’s going to bump your heart rate up a few notches.

Running in the heat/humidity of the summer? Your body has to work harder to cool itself, which is also going to cause your heart rate to spike.

But are there any overlooked/under-the-radar factors that increase your heart rate?

If you find yourself regularly bumping up against the upper limit of your desired heart rate range, maybe one (or more) of these factors can help you keep your heart rate in range a little more consistently.


You know I love me a good cup of coffee as much as the next guy.

Hell, I might love me a good cup of coffee more than the next guy!

There was a time in my life when the idea of going for a run before a jolt of java was a non-starter.

But the fact of the matter is that caffeine is a stimulant and it’s going to cause an increase in your heart rate.

You may not notice the increase when you’re sitting at your desk or during your commute.

During your run? Yeah, it’s going to be a factor.


A little bite before a run is a good idea, right?

In general, I wouldn’t say it’s a bad idea.

But digestion is definitely one of the factors that increase your heart rate during a run.

I’m not enough of a gastroenterologist to be able to clearly explain the intricacies of digestion, but I know it’s definitely a process that requires some work/effort from your body.

And asking your body to multitask on the work/effort front means the heart rate is going to have to increase to get both jobs done.

Running fasted isn’t for everyone.

But it can definitely make a difference in helping to keep your heart rate down.


No doubt running is a stress reliever for a lot of us.

But stress is also a factor that increases your heart rate.

Life stress. Work stress. Family stress. Exercise stress.

Remember, to your body stress is stress.

When you go for a run and you’re stressed out, your heart rate is just going to be higher than usual.

Again, going for a good run to burn off some stress isn’t a bad thing.

But trying to keep your heart rate down during a run when you’re stressed the fuck out may actually make things worse instead of better.


No surprise here, hopefully, but our bodies work best when they are well-hydrated.

If your system is running low on liquids, your blood viscosity may increase slightly.

AKA it gets a little thicker.

Thicker blood doesn’t flow through the body quite as easily, which means the heart has to work harder to get the blood where it needs to go.

Remember that bit about our bodies multi-tasking?

Yeah, same rules apply here as well.

Lack of Sleep

Getting ample sleep may be the single best thing you can do for your health.

Maybe not, but it’s pretty darn important.

A lack of sleep, or even just a night of poor quality sleep, acts as a stressor to the body.

And we just talked about stress, right?

If your sleep game is lacking, doing a bit of work on that front could really be a game-changer for you.

And not just when it comes to keeping your heart rate from spiking on you during your next run.

My $.02, for Whatever That’s Worth

Perhaps one of the most overlooked factors that increase your heart rate during a run is the time of day that you run.

I’m not going to try and tell you that you have to run in the morning. I’m not even going to tell you that you should run in the morning.

But for me, the best way to try and mitigate the external factors that increase your heart rate, there’s nothing like going for a run first thing.

  • Heat? Almost always cooler at 5 am than at 5 pm.
  • Caffeine? I can sneak out the door without a cup of coffee first thing, but I’m not skipping coffee all day.
  • Food? See above.
  • Stress? I’m way less stressed first thing in the morning than at any other time of the day.
  • Dehydration? Iffy here, but as long as I’m staying well hydrated consistently I’m ok with a few sips of water before I head out.
  • Lack of sleep? Gotta go to bed a bit early to be well-ish rested at 5 am. Not ideal, but it is what it is.

If you’re going to be doing some form of heart rate training, as much as you can try to work with your physiology instead of against it.

Heart rate training really works, but it’s not a quick fix.

You have to buy into the process and really commit to it, in order to see any semblance of progress.

And I’m here to tell you that it’s a lot easier to buy into it if you’re able to actually run in your desired zones.

Overlooking some of the factors that increase your heart rate makes it more likely your heart rate is going to spike on your next run.

Does that mean you need to adhere to every factor listed in this post/episode?

The more the merrier, at least in theory, but even one or two tweaks may make a massive difference.

Whatever factor is easiest for you to try out, give it a shot and see if you notice any difference.

My hunch?

There will be a difference.

Struggling to keep your heart rate in check during a run? #runchat Share on X

Which of the Overlooked Factors that Increase Your Heart Rate is Easiest for You to Address Today?

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