Sometimes how you “feel” doesn’t accurately reflect the condition your body is really in and in these cases listening to your body can lead you in the wrong direction. Being successful with your training program over the long run is like a chess match, and without knowing exactly what your recovery looks like each day you are trying to move without being able to see the entire board. Without the ability to monitor my heart rate variability (HRV) it would be impossible to make these calls with 100% confidence that they are the right ones to make.
In my experience monitoring the HRV of myself and my clients over the last year I’ve found four instances that HRV monitoring has become essential…
- Some days I wake up and feel a bit rundown but my HRV reading is Green, telling me that it is more in my head than anything else. On these days I know that I need to get in the gym and train hard anyways because I know that I’m not digging myself into an already deeper hole.
- Some days I wake up and feel fine but my HRV is an Orange reading which means that I need to cut back on my training volume by 20-30%. By doing this I avoid piling too much stress onto an already stressed system and getting pulled towards overtraining.
- Some days I wake up and feel a bit rundown and my HRV reflects that. On these days I can cut back on my volume or do an easier workout and know that I am not just being lazy.
- Some days I wake up and my HRV is Orange or even Red but I have a planned ride that I can’t skip out on. For example, when I spent 4 days riding in Crested Butte this summer I woke up after 3 hard days of riding to a Red reading but I wasn’t going to skip out on the ride to stay at the cabin and rest- fun trumps HRV! When I do this I know that I need to be extra aggressive with my recovery strategies after the ride, making sure I get plenty of quality nutrition and rest to minimize the damage.
I really can’t recommend HRV monitoring enough. Managing the stress from your training program and everyday life is what it is all about – too little and you don’t improve, too much and you become overtrained. I recommend it to all of the riders I work with and if you are serious about getting the most out of your training program then incorporating HRV monitoring into your tool box is something you should consider as well.
MTB Strength Training Systems is the world leader in integrated performance training programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. As the strength and conditioning coach for World Cup Teams and 3 National Championships, his programs have been proven at the highest levels. James has helped thousands of riders just like you improve their speed, endurance and skills on the trail. Visit www.bikejames.com to sign up for the free Trail Rider Fundamentals Video Mini-Course.