This is a very common question among cyclists. I have heard several people discuss this topic and have often seen them compare registrations of early morning resting heart rates. The fact is that you can only compare these values with your own previous registrations. The reason for this is that we all have a different anatomy of our cardiovascular system. But these systems are all based on the same physiological mechanisms. Thus, we can learn from each others’ physiological experiences and adaptations, but we can’t compare individual heart rate values. E.g. your resting heart rate is 58bpm while your friend’s heart rate is 42bpm, still I can’t say which one of you are in the best shape nor have the highest VO2 max.
Autonomic nervous system regulates resting heart rate
The resting heart rate is closely related to the autonomic nervous system. You will probably already have noticed that your resting heart is lower when you are in good shape. This is because of a larger stroke volume or more correctly a bigger parasympathic drive on the sinus node. This is one of the central adaptations to endurance training.
Know your resting heart rate
A good reason to know your normal level of resting heart rate is that you can use it to discover overtraining or illness. If your resting heart rate is 10-15 beats above normal, you might have a disease. In that case I will recommend you take your temperature and look for other symptoms. Avoid intensive training or races if you don´t feel well.
Some values to compare with (don’t do it)
There are great deviations in normal resting heart rates. Many well trained cyclists normally have a resting heart rate in the 40’s, some in the high 30’s and few in the low 30’s or lower. There are also well trained cyclists or even professionals in the high 40’s or low 50’s. And as I said previously: Don’t compare values with others.