Triathlon Training With Heart Rate Variability

What gadgets can you use in your training and do you use them when preparing for and competing in races? It is no secret that the market is full of all sorts of innovations, concepts, formulas, and guarantees of enhancing one’s life.

As educated shoppers, you should assess the new items being released onto the market and figure out if they have any value to you personally. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a recent addition.

HRV, which was initially utilized to keep tabs on cardiac irregularities, has been adopted by athletes for the accuracy of training and recovery processes. After the publication of some research studies, a few companies began to make their own programs and programs to monitor HRV, with a particular focus on athletes. Perceptive athletes are wondering if the new facts are of any benefit.

Heart Rate Variability

The measure of the distance between individual heartbeats for a given period is known as heart rate variability. This implies that even though the rate of a person’s heartbeats could be 60 beats in a minute, these beats will not happen perfectly at precise one-second intervals.

There is variation, and that’s a good thing. There is typically a greater variety present when the parasympathetic branch of the autonomous nervous system is operating properly, the branch which is responsible for inducing the state of relaxation and digestion.

Changes in internal and external factors are shown in the differences in the timing of each heartbeat.

Basically, HRV observation gives us a look at the effectiveness of our autonomic nervous system.

This could hypothetically provide a way to gauge the impact that physiological stress, training load, and exhaustion have on how our bodies regenerate following a race, hard exercise, or period of exercise. HRV tracking is desirable because it is fast, affordable, and not requiring any incisions.

What HRV Can Tell Athletes?

In general, when you have determined your standard of HRV, you have a method to keep track of changes in health, exhaustion, and readiness for competition.

It is important to remember that HRV can only be used to compare an individual’s readings over time and not to compare between different individuals, or rather, one athlete compared to another. This is because it is a very individual measure that does not show many similarities between people, particularly when gauged on a single day.

In many cases, better performance of the nervous system is associated with higher Heart Rate Variability readings. Your body is responding to stimuli and makes minor adjustments all the time.

In contrast, HRV readings that are low, or declining below the starting point, can suggest that your nervous system is worn out.

In other words, it may be reacting to that same stimuli more slowly. But things can become confusing at this point… not all augmentations or reductions in HRV are so easy to classify.

Interpreting HRV changes

  • An increase in HRV with a decrease in RHR (resting heart rate) generally means an athlete is coping well with training.
  • An increase in HRV with an increase in RHR is generally a sign of accumulated fatigue unless it is at the very beginning of a short training block.
  • decrease in HRV with an increase in RHR is generally a sign of accumulated fatigue unless an athlete is tapering and then it could be a positive sign for readiness to perform.
  • decrease in HRV with a decrease in RHR is generally a sign of prolonged low-intensity high-volume training. If it cannot be reversed with rest it could be a sign of being in an overtraining state.

Furthermore, HRV can fall below its ordinary level for one or two days after an especially difficult workout or competition. Sporting figures may likewise experience a surge in activity when suffering from an ailment when the body’s safety system is functioning on overdrive.

It would be completely unexpected if HRV monitoring were an uncomplicated tool. Understanding the alterations of HRV on both a day-to-day and long-term basis is significant.

On certain occasions, it is not always easy to distinguish between good and bad days. It can be difficult to interpret HRV properly, however, it is still achievable if you are willing to commit the necessary time and effort.

Using Heart Rate Variability effectively

What are the best approaches to utilizing HRV to make it an effective instrument?

The No One-Day Rule

HRV is most beneficial when looking at the progression of changes over time, as well as leveraging the implementation of rolling averages. Don’t put too much emphasis on a single low or high score. One’s beliefs do not always provide a distinct narrative. Interpretation is essential.

Take HRV readings immediately upon waking in the morning

Studies have indicated that although there is very little discrepancy between the overnight results of well-rested athletes and those who have been over-training, the act of waking up can be stressful enough to highlight who is more exhausted as their nervous system isn’t running as efficiently. You must remain conscious during either a reclined or semi-reclined posture when the readings take place.

Take frequent readings

To get the best results with HRV, you will be monitoring changes over some time. It is recommended that applications work best when there is a daily record taken since they are striving to discover slight fluctuations from the normal pattern. This also means consistency is key.

Check your HRV daily at the same time and in the same position to avoid any potential contributing factors. This implies that you need to log your activities at least five times a week, not just when you undergo an intense workout, rigorous exercise, or a race.

Don’t use it alone

HRV should be utilized alongside other metrics in the training process. The most efficient devices to remain in sync with HRV are usually one’s resting heart rate, exercise intensity, and something subjectively ascertained, such as the quality of one’s sleep.

Certain applications are capable of connecting to TrainingPeaks or Strava, thereby allowing for automatic synchronization. Be aware of surrounding circumstances if you are using solo.

Clinicians use 5-minute measures.

If the program you are utilizing offers you the possibility to pick the duration of the lecture, pick the lengthier one. You have the choice to hear a 1-minute presentation or an open-ended/5-minute lecture when using most applications.

The more you read, the higher the quality of data you can acquire. Researchers in many clinical studies will take readings that last for 10 minutes to get an accurate and consistent 5-minute portion to be examined.

Trust your technology

We are lucky that smartphone cameras have seen a huge amount of growth over the last few years. Cell phone cameras have improved to the point where we can reliably measure HRV (heart rate variability) just by using a camera – no extra equipment is necessary.

Certain Android phones and older models cannot join a heart rate monitor chest strap that is Bluetooth enabled, though most apps can be connected to one.

Remember, however, that wrist-worn heart rate monitors, such as GPS watches with integrated HR tracking, are not precise enough to measure the differences between heartbeats necessary for HRV calculations.

The Autonomic Nervous System and HRV

We are all aware of our internal innate needs. Regardless of the temperature or hunger levels. Our physique can be obstinate at times, and it typically has preferences for a certain kind of environment.

This urge can be referred to as homeostasis, which can be interpreted as a bid to keep a balanced harmony between interconnected elements, predominantly upheld through physiological means.

Essentially, this means that the body can remain in a state of balance within its inner environment. Illustrations consist of the role of the kidney, liver, skin, and internal body heat.

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) commonly carries out this type of equilibrium control. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is a part of the human body that works without one having to consciously control it and oversees the bodily functions that take place internally.

When we enter a room where the lighting is very intense, our pupils naturally enlarge in response. This is a fine illustration of our ANS in operation.

The connection between the Autonomic Nervous System, homeostatic control, Heart Rate Variability, and how endurance exercise leads to development is very significant. It is essential to comprehend that the ANS is also composed of two different systems before looking into the direct connections.

The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)

The sympathetic system is responsible for producing reactions like an accelerated heartbeat, narrowed blood vessels, decreased movement of the gut, and constriction of sphincters.

The sympathetic nervous system is sometimes referred to as the “fight or flight response”, and is triggered when a person is faced with physical or emotional tension. This leads to an adrenaline rush which in turn ramps up the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.

Participating in intense physical activity encourages the sympathetic nervous system to become activated.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)

The parasympathetic system works to conserve and restore energy by decreasing heart rate and blood pressure, as well as improving digestion and the processing of nutrients and waste.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System is usually referred to as the “vagal” system because of the presence of parasympathetic vagal nerves. As people get older, the amount of vagal tone decreases, and one of the primary things that can help to increase it is engaging in frequent aerobic exercise.

Recognizing the interaction between the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system is essential. At the beginning of exercise, the heart rate will begin to increase due to a decrease in parasympathetic control, followed by an increase in sympathetic control.

When performing endurance exercises at a low level, the heart rate is increased by the withdrawal of the parasympathetic nervous system, while the sympathetic nervous system remains inactive.

How HRV Relates to the Autonomic Nervous System

Considering all of this, a non-invasive assessment of the autonomic nervous system can be beneficial when it comes to measuring physical strain, monitoring recovery, and evaluating a person’s ability to adjust to exercise programs in endurance sports.

Heart rate variability can be utilized as an indicator of autonomic nervous system activity. The difference in the amount of time between each successive heartbeat is known as heart rate variability and is observed when a QRS wave is monitored during a normal ECG reading.

The R interval signifies when the heart’s ventricles tighten, pushing blood out to the rest of the body. If you place your hand on your chest and feel the thumping, that is the beat of the R interval.

The interval between one heartbeat and the next is never consistent, even when the pulse rate appears to remain the same.

The larger the discrepancy between RR intervals, the more dominant the parasympathetic system is, whereas a smaller variation points to a mix of parasympathetic and sympathetic functions. This is a result of the parasympathetic nervous system having a quicker effect on the heart.

Plotting the values of R-R intervals measured in milliseconds over some time is the easiest way to analyse Heart Rate Variability.

An analysis of the frequency domain provides a quantification of how intense the cyclical changes in R-R intervals occur over a given period, measured in hertz.

This can be rephrased as Changing a lot is associated with high frequency, and little change is associated with low frequency. Examination of the heart rate variability (HRV) both in terms of duration and frequency has played an important role in the comprehension of autonomic nervous system (ANS) operations.

The beneficial aspect is that following heart rate variability has become much simpler. Athletes reap great rewards from the minimal effort put in daily.

HRV can accurately be measured using the photoplethysmography technology available on smartphones. Other devices can be utilized to track it as well, particularly through the wrist or finger throughout a 24-hour monitoring period.

Using HRV Results for Training and Exercise Prescription

At TRIQ, we realize there’s a thin line drawing the distinction between making the most of an effective workout (modifying force, time and type) and an inefficient training session (like non-beneficial overreaching/overtraining).

Considering how every person responds differently to a workout or stimulus, it’s clear that the ability to figure out whether the effects of the training were beneficial or harmful would offer a great advantage.

HRV and Overtraining

People have been looking for a way to identify when athletes and coaches may be overtraining for quite a while. This arrangement and the spotting of undesirable exhaustion allows one to guarantee sufficient recovery with specified rest in between workouts.

At TRIQ, for instance, we measure the intensity of an exercise session and examine the recuperation rate of an individual.

The arranged rest period is designed to get the most out of the sportsperson by accommodating their ever-evolving condition and the additional practice they necessitate to improve their future performance.

Athlete performance can start to decline if not enough recovery time is taken, leading to fatigue and even overtraining if it becomes excessive. Furthermore, their capacity to utilize the training process properly is also reduced.

Research into the connection between heart rate variability and overtraining has yielded conflicting results, with reports of rises, dips and no alteration in HRV.

It was hard to form conclusions from day-to-day HRV levels since they changed so much, but on average, the HRV readings over a 7-day term showed significantly lower levels of HRV that indicated fatigue.

Other research studies have verified these results.

HRV and Training Adaptations

Cardiovascular and respiratory performance and physical condition can be improved through an exercise routine, both among those who are relatively inactive as well as those who are exercised regularly.

For HRV, seen increasing cardiorespiratory function leads to alterations in cardiac vagal activity, ultimately resulting in greater HRV and lowered resting heart rate and submaximal exercise HR. Therefore, changes to an individual’s heart rate variability can be used as a useful indicator of how their training is progressing.

Substantial research has been conducted on how endurance training affects HRV.

Research has demonstrated that if a person has not been very physically active or has been exercising casually, endurance training over periods of 2, 6, and 9 weeks has yielded both enhanced aerobic competence and higher HRV (heart rate variability measurements).

For example, men who had previously not been actively participated in nine weeks of intense endurance workouts and an additional four weeks of extreme exercise, which caused a substantial improvement in maximal aerobic capacity, increasing it by 20%, as well as in vagally-associated heart rate variability, with a hike of 67%.

In one of my own case studies of high-level rowers at the Olympic Games, we observed a continued pattern of HRV before the top performance, featuring significant inclines in HRV (above standard) followed by a descent back to standard measurements as the contest came close (during the tapering phase).

Such trends have since been validated in experimental studies.


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