HRV-Based Training May Become Part of Your Individualized Coaching Programs

April 16, 2021

Using Heart-Rate Variability May Be Great Training Tool

Every morning – or unless I forget in the morning – I sit down with breakfast and get out my phone to measure my HRV.

The app on my phone asks me about my previous day and night: training intensity, sleep, alcohol consumption (yes, unfortunately, it does seem to matter), and other key metrics.

After spinning a a few seconds, the app spits out a score that determines my training for the day.

I mentally review my list of workouts, and where I am in my schedule, and I can plug in what happens that day.

HRV-based training may become part of a more individualized coaching progam as we can monitor recovery and fitness more accurately with an app.
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HRV Can Determine Your Training Stress

HRV or heart rate variability is s a relatively new tool that scientists and endurance athletes have been using to monitor their fitness and training. 

HRV is simply the measure of the time between heart beats and is a product of your nervous system.

HRV apps use subjective measures and your morning heart rate to determine whether you’re ready to train today.

The challenge of measuring training stress and recovery is that unless you have daily access to a lab and blood testing, it’s tough to get accurate readings. 

Plus, there are a ton of variables in creating a schedule for a client: three weeks on/one week off? two weeks on? Why a week of recovery? 

Using HRV-based training apps to monitor training has been shown in at least one study to improve max power numbers and 40k time trial numbers in trained cyclists. 

How HRV-Based Training Works

Essentially, you use your morning HRV score to determine the day’s training. 

This is the same concept as old school pro cycling teams who had their doctors examine riders every morning to determine their daily training load. 

Plus, you don’t need to schedule rest weeks outside of taking mental health breaks since HRV will tell you when you need to rest. 

The HRV-based training process is fairly simple for an individualized coaching program.

Start with a low intensity endurance workout, then a high-intensity workout. Check your HRV the next morning to determine what happens next.

HRV-based training may become part of a more individualized coaching progam as we can monitor recovery and fitness more accurately with an app.
Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

If your HRV score is right on after your low/ high days, then you do a HIIT or moderate interval day next followed by a low-intensity day. 

If your HRV score was low after your low/ high days, then you do a low-intensity day. Your following day is determined again by the HRV score. 

You keep following the flow chart with the training, with no two high-intensity days in a row and no more than two rest days in a row. 

Myself as HRV Training Test Subject

I’ve been playing around with HRV-based training like this for a few weeks. 

I downloaded the HRV4 app on my phone several months ago, but didn’t really understand what to do with it. So I quit taking the morning readings. 

Then I read articles in Pez about the studies using HRV, and I restarted taking the readings. 

Until I understood this training tool, I didn’t really understand how to use the daily score.

So far the experiment is going well.

I’m feeling stronger and ready to tackle each day’s training. 

My challenges? 

  • I don’t always remember to check what the work is supposed to be that day. 
  • I don’t really understand how my yoga and strength training fits into the protocol.
  • Sometimes, I feel tired and my HRV is within range. I’m a little disappointed on those days that I need to do my training, but I usually end up feeling just fine!

The Pro version of HRV4 is more helpful in seeing long-term trends in my fitness and recovery. 

The biggest issue is still understanding all of the metrics on the app.

HRV-Based Training Might Make Coaching More Personal?

Down the road, it should be possible to start uploading HRV data to Training Peaks or some other online program for an individualized coaching program.

It almost seems like I provide a drop down list of possible workouts for high-intensity, low-intensity, HIIT, and moderate-intensity, and the athlete then chooses whatever she or he wants to do on that specific day, according to the Flow Chart. 

I’ll keep an eye on my own training. 

Today I woke up a little sore and tired. My HRV was high, which doesn’t make any sense. 

It told me to limit intensity, so I did a strength workout that was heavy but not intense. 

I have a long day on the bike scheduled this weekend. 

We’ll see how my HRV responds!

Interested in coaching? Trying out the HRV protocol with me? Let’s talk. 

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