A Good Week Quantified by HRV

Last Week of Training

So this week is the last week of training before taking some time off, 2 weeks to rest up and probably more importantly recover mentally before starting the hard slog of winter training. Hard slog may be the wrong term however, we run a fairly progressive programme with a much higher focus on quality and keeping the intensity in year round. This means basically theres no slogging allowed, ever.

Back to my point, this is my last week before a two week break, but I actually hit this point in my training in a fairly unique position as an athlete. Usually at this time of year people are starting to shut down their seasons. Knackered from months of competition and feeling relatively out-of-shape due to keeping training relatively light in order to be fresh for competing.

Me on the other hand….

As I’ve basically been building on my rehabilitation continuously and trying to progress back into full training every week since my operation I am currently in awesome shape. Just yesterday I ran a personal best for a 20m run from a standing start, threw close to my best in overhead backwards and between legs forwards shot throw, and hang snatched an equal personal. Perhaps most importantly I did an incline bench press pb*.

So like I say, this puts me in a unique situation, not only will this be the first time in years that I head into winter injury free (as long as I don’t do anything too stupid in my two weeks off), but I head into winter already in physically tip top shape. Whether this will bring up any problems has yet to be seen, I’m pretty high on positives at the moment so can barely see straight, but it all bodes well to open my indoor season early. Hopefully jumping in December if all goes well.

Like a Kid at Christmas

As if Amazon.co.uk knew my mood, knew how hard I’d been working, and knew that I’d actually placed the order last week and was hoping for delivery soon (ok, they only really knew the last one), I got home from training today and it was here, my new heart rate monitor strap! I was so excited I opened it and put it on straight away, I’m sat here writing this, wearing my strap under my t-shirt. I’m not even measuring anything. If anyone asks I’m just breaking it in.

H7

The Polar H7 that I bought with my own hard earned money is a bluetooth compatible heart rate monitoring strap which means I can use it with my phone. One of the quantification steps I’ve decided to take is tracking my heart rate variability (HRV) and this little gadget should help make that process a little easier, especially with a lot of the traveling that I’ll be doing this year.

Heart Rate Variability

So it turns out HRV is probably a little bit too complicated for me to understand.

When you measure your heart rate, there is a general variation in the speed that your heart beats which relates to whether you’re breathing in or out. The difference in time between the period of the quicker beats and the period of the slower beats is your HRV. These high and low values are linked to the function of your nervous system, the sympathetic and parasympathetic. Low HRV is linked to cardiovascular disease and is generally seen in stressed people, this is where its application to sport comes in.

Tracking of HRV over time, and most importantly tracking the right bits, can give you an early warning sign of the symptoms of over-training allowing you to back off a little before getting ill or possibly injured.

Now I’m fairly confident in my training programme, I think its extremely well put together and I have a very knowledgeable coach who wouldn’t allow us to get over-trained, but I think tracking this may give some useful information. Some days you might get up and feel sore and really not up for training, but you’ll push through anyway, because thats what you do as an athlete, and thats what I’ve done, multiple times and more often than not got hurt in the process. I’m hoping tracking this will give me another feedback loop, and indicator, to confirm that if I’m not feeling great I should probably back off on training for that day.

At the moment I’m using an Polar RS800 heart rate monitor to take the readings, its been used in several bits of research on this topic so is a reliable piece of kit. I take a 5 minute heart rate measure lying down first thing in the morning after I pee.  With this I take notes of general mood, stress level, motivation to train, training performance, muscle soreness, quality of sleep, appetite, hours of sleep and my resting heart rate. The actually HRV data I only get every couple of weeks when I see the physiologist at the Welsh Institute of Sport.

Image

At the moment I’m collecting data to create a baseline, which I can compare against throughout my winters training. I have about 5 weeks of data now that has been taken as I’ve been training. Most athletes this time of year are winding down and barely training as they try and hit their last few competitions of the season. As I’m still effectively rehabbing, mine is still building up, I’ve just done a solid 2 week block of training, I have a deload week this week then two weeks off before starting again for the winter. This will serve as perfect time for setting my baseline.

HRV Apps and Applications

Once I have this system up and running, I’m going to run an app based HRV tracker alongside, something like the ithlete app. This system generates a recovery score based on your HRV and other inputs. Something like this would suit me a little better, and will be much easier to use when traveling but running it alongside a robust system where I have more access to the raw data should allow me to evaluate its usefulness.

Theres also a few other applications I want to try out with this. Dave Asprey over at Bulletproofexec.com is an extremely intelligent guy and worth checking out, I’m probably going to refer to him quite a few times throughout my blogging attempts. He has an App out that gives feedback on HRV as well, and has actually developed a system to help identify food intolerances. He also uses a tool from HeartMath to give direct feedback of HRV monitoring to guide meditative practises, basically giving you feedback during meditation, thus allowing you to learn the skill quicker. Meditation has been shown to lower sympathetic nervous system activity, and lower sympathetic nervous system activity is correlated to a better recovered athlete, so the theory becomes, can actively lowering your sympathetic nervous system activity actually force a quicker recovery. Well the idea is to try it and see.

In theory, theory and practice are the same, in practice, they are not

TL;DR

Its my last week of training, its going extremely well, I got a new heart rate monitor and plan to monitor my heart rate variability over the next year

*I’ve been told that my attempts at humour are a bit subtle for people who don’t know me that well, incline bench press is not that important for pole vault, but it is extremely important for my ego and looking good without a top on

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