In this article, we are going to explain how to use the ithlete Pro Training Guide. Most Pro users really love this feature when they get used to it, but we have been told others don’t fully understand what the chart is showing them. We have written this starter guide to help you learn what it can tell you more quickly.
In a nutshell, the Training Guide tells you:
- Your HRV and resting Heart Rate relative to your own baseline
- Whether your recovery is in your normal range, or below normal
- How your body is adapting to the training you are doing
- Whether your body is feeling stressed, excited, calm, or relaxed
- How recovered and fresh you are
- The distribution and trends of all these factors over the past 28 days
The best thing is that all this is shown on a simple colour coded 2-dimensional chart without any numbers to remember.
The framework of the chart is a 4-quadrant (4-boxer) chart where the horizontal axis is Recovery (HRV), and the vertical axis is Activation (HR). Points to note are:
- The centre of the chart represents your baseline for both HRV and HR
- Points to the right of the centre mean higher HRV than normal
- Points to the left of centre mean lower HRV than normal
- Points above centre mean higher HR than normal
- Points below centre mean lower HR than normal
- Corners represent extremes, and don’t occur very often
- Today’s dot has a dark circle, yesterday’s a lighter circle and the remainder of the last week are also shown coloured, whereas the previous 3 weeks are shown in grey.
The Normal Training zone is around the centre. You can do any workout from your training plan when in this zone.
The Intensive Training zone is to the right of the centre. This means your HRV is higher than normal whilst your resting HR is still in your normal zone. Readings in this zone are also shown green and mean you are fresh and ready for those demanding HIIT interval, or tempo/over-under workouts.
The warning zones are to the left and below the normal & HIIT zones. Although the colour codes are the same as you see in the mobile app, by looking at how far you are into those zones, you can make better judgements on what action to take.
For instance, if you were just into the Impaired recovery amber zone, from green the day before, you might decide to continue with a demanding workout. This might be the case especially if you are in a planned loading week. The Stress / Illness zone does have to be taken seriously though, and you should be able to identify the reason you are in it. If you choose to ignore this warning, you risk making the condition worse, especially if it is the early stages of illness.
The last (but not least!) warning zone is the bottom right. This is counter intuitive to many people, as your HRV is higher, and resting HR lower than normal. You must be getting fitter right? Well not necessarily – sudden increases in HRV combined with drops in HR are more likely to indicate acute fatigue (HRV too high ref). This condition is self-limiting (probably to protect you from further damage), so it’s unlikely you will be able to manage high effort levels or heart rates during exercise. And please don’t use caffeine or other stimulants to override this – you can end up with chronic fatigue if you do, which takes months to get over.
The final trick that the Training Guide has up its sleeve is to show you adaptation. Based on pioneering research by Dan Plews et al., the combination of HRV and HR can show how you are adapting well during training blocks and before competition:
- Coping well (green – below and to the right of centre)
- Not coping well (amber – above and significantly to the left of centre)
- Optimum pre-competition taper state (green – above and a little to the left of centre)
That last one might seem odd – surely you want your HRV higher than normal for race day? Actually, it turns out you give your best performances when your Activation is slightly higher than normal – ie your Fight or Flight response is primed & ready for action.
In summary then, the Training Guide tells you your Recovery, Activation, readiness and adaptation all in on simple chart. Best of all, you can get all you need at a glance, without having to remember any numbers!
For those interested in the science behind the ithlete Pro Training Guide, please see this earlier post The Science Behind the ithlete Pro Training Guide.