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Faster Heart Rate Recovery With Increased RPE: Paradoxical Responses After an 87-km Ultramarathon

Mann, Theresa N.,1; Platt, Cathrin E.,1; Lamberts, Robert P.1,2; Lambert, Michael I.1

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: December 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 12 - p 3343–3352
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001004
Original Research

Mann, TN, Platt, CE, Lamberts, RP, and Lambert, MI. Faster heart rate recovery with increased RPE: paradoxical responses after an 87-km ultramarathon. J Strength Cond Res 29(12): 3343–3352, 2015—The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between heart rate recovery (HRR) and an acute training “overload” by comparing HRR responses before and after an ultramarathon road race. Ten runners completed a standardized laboratory protocol ∼7 days before and between 2 and 4 days after participating in the 87-km Comrades Marathon. The protocol included muscle pain ratings, a 5-bound test, and 20 minutes of treadmill exercise at 70% of maximal oxygen uptake followed by 15 minutes of recovery. Respiratory gases and heart rate measurements were used to calculate steady-state exercise responses, HRR, and excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), and participants also provided a rating of perceived exertion (RPE) during exercise. The RPE was significantly increased (13 ± 2 vs. 11 ± 1) (p < 0.01), and HRR was significantly faster (35 ± 5 beats vs. 29 ± 4 beats) (p < 0.01) following the postrace vs. prerace submaximal exercise bout, with no significant changes in respiratory or heart rate parameters during exercise or in EPOC. Although previous studies have shown that faster HRR reflected an “adapted” state with enhanced training status, the current findings suggest that this may not always be the case. It follows that changes in HRR should be considered in the context of other factors, such as recent training load and RPE during submaximal exercise.

1Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; and

2Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Department of Surgery Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg, South Africa

Address correspondence to Theresa N. Mann,

Copyright © 2015 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.