Monday, March 17, 2014

24 hours & Heart Rate Variability

24 hours...of a week...madness.  (well 24:44 if we want to be exact..and us triathletes are nothing if not exact with training data & numbers :p)

Stats for the week:

Swim: 13,730yds
Bike: 254 miles (408 km...damn I should post everything in km looks more impressive)
Run: 28 miles (45km)
(Strength training and foam rolling in there but not included in time)

Last year was insanity fitting in training with starting a freelance Personal Training business trying to get that up and running spending hours at a gym trying to convince people who didn't know they wanted a Personal trainer that they needed one, and more specifically me.  It was a challenge to say the least, if I didn't sell my services I didn't get paid and I had zero experience.  Somehow my background in Project Management didn't seem to apply to this new vocation :p  It ended up working better than I could have thought but that made training a little more challenging trying to balance work, being on my feet all day, and training.  Last year I spent between 13-17 hours a week training with the exception of 2 peak weeks that were closer to 20.

Well this year is a little different.  One I have a full triathlon season under my belt, and found out that I'm pretty durable, two I have a whole lot more time to train.  I'm not working at the moment, and would go insane if I had nothing to do so I'm training (well nothing to do and the fact that I absolutely love the training and am pretty obsessed with triathlon may play a small part) :p  Luckily I have my coach Lucho to keep me in line or else left alone with all of this time on my hands I'm pretty sure I would end up an overtrained mess pretty quickly.  Its funny he has a way of pushing me beyond intensities I would think I could hold, and holding me back from over doing it at the same time.

Now not every week is going to be 24 hours of training (and this wasn't a planned 24 hours), but I am hoping to do more than I have in the past.  Goal number one though is to be able to do it while staying healthy and not hitting that overtraining minefield.  I'm doing a couple things to make sure I stay healthy during this, one of which is Heart Rate Variability.  I first heard about this from Tawnee Prazak on Endurance Planet (Pretty much got most of what I know about triathlon/nutrition from that podcast). I use the SweatBeat app, which is pretty cool, its an app on your phone and it connects to a bluetooth Heart Rate monitor.  Luckily I already had the monitor from using the MaccaX app training sessions, I have the Viiva 4iiii.

Side note Endurance Planet has kick ass gear now!

To get started they recommend you calibrate it after a few rest days to get a baseline, it worked out well I decided to start playing with it near the end of my off season when I hadn't run in a month, so I was able to set a baseline really rested.  What the test entails is putting on the HR strap when you wake up, lying still and just relaxed breathing.  Pretty easy, and stark contrast to everything else we do in this sport (like foam rolling..ouch).

From SweetBeats HRV guide, why HRV is important to performance sports:

"In competitive sports, improved performance is often achieved by alternating periods of intensive 
training with periods of relative rest. This is because after the body has been exposed to a stressful 
situation, providing that adequate recovery has taken place, it will adapt and become stronger. The 
alternating periods of intensive training and rest help an athlete avoid physical fatigue caused by over 

To better understand this, consider the function of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS has 
two branches, the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic branch increases heart rate, 
blood pressure, cardiac output and a diversion of blood flow to the muscles. The parasympathetic 
branch decreases heart rate, lowers blood pressure and generally creates an environment for the body 
to repair itself. Not surprising the parasympathetic branch is very active during restful sleep. 
Heart Rate Variability, or HRV, is in essence a view into the ANS. By measuring your HRV, you can detect 
when the sympathetic branch is in overdrive and inhibiting the recovery and repair capabilities of the 
parasympathetic branch. Overtraining can create a sustained imbalance between the two branches of 
the ANS and can lead to a multitude of unwanted side effects."

Basically when your HRV is high, you are ready to train and kick ass, when its low it may be time for a recovery day.

I was tracking my HRV pretty sporadically, I think there is definitely something to it, but am still hesitant to trust an app to tell me how I'm feeling.  I did start using it more as training has started to pick up and see how it relates to how I feel and am pretty impressed with how accurate it is.  If nothing else it's a great way to prove to my coach I'm feeling as awesome as I say I am...even after tough training sessions :p

Some of the numbers I've seen: There was a week before my last duathlon that was the only time I've felt tired so far this year and it showed HRV in the high 70's that week.  After last weeks 100 mile ride and brick run it went down to 84.  After the 24 hour week it went into the high 80's but 2 days later came back up to mid 90's.  I know recovery is my strength and I bounce back quickly, so its been interesting to see that reflected in the data.

My latest, and the trend.
The other thing I've discovered...shots of tequila in Austin, TX are bad for my HRV.  Shocking I know.  Now I only seem to drink around triathletes, and most of these posts are about triathletes so you may get the idea I drink a lot...but I really don't, and a real night out really hits me hard!  We were in Austin for a wedding, and it was the day before my birthday.  So after wedding festivities we let loose on 6th street and there were a few shots consumed...The next morning Lucho had a long run on my schedule, lets just say that was not happening, out of curiosity I checked my HRV...55!!  It took 4 days to get it back into the 90's and I could feel the lingering effects to say the least.  So tequila is bad for training, lesson learned. (I still maintain that beer is the ultimate recovery drink post race for no scientific reason).

I'm still going to use listening to my body as the first indicator though, technology is very cool but after the last year of learning to listen to my body I know its going to tell me what I need.  Now that I'm not a stubborn mileage obsessed athlete I used to be :p

The 24 hour week.  It actually wasn't going to be that long, but I ended up doing a coffee type cruise on the Sunday that was so much fun just to enjoy being on the bike, chatting with like minded people and stop at a popular coffee spot to ogle the different bikes.  The schedule had a hard brick on it, and I was feeling good that afternoon so I decided to do a shortened version of the hard brick to get some of the intensity in.  It was definitely a bike volume focussed week, getting very familiar with Stiletto (my Shvi) and the new bike position.

Anyways thats my rambling for the day, loving training right now.  Its been alternating snow days, and sunburn days here in Colorado so I'm already starting to get some nice burn tan lines from getting outside anytime I can and soaking up the sunshine.  Just doing what I love.

Carpe Diem


  1. great read Jenna, and good luck with the training- looks like you are setting yourself up for a big year. Now I have to go look into this HRV stuff (just one more thing to consume time I don't have).

    1. Thanks :) Luckily this HRV isn't too much of a time drain, just 3 minutes when you wake up and you are good to go!

  2. Thanks for the shoutout chica!!! Your HRV is rockin! So funny how alcohol totally screwed with it. I found that I can have 1 glass of wine a few times a week and still keep HRV in good spot, but anything more than that and it plummets. Lack of sleep kills my HRV too.

    Not gonna, I love my job(s) soooo much, but I am slightly envious of all the time you have to train!!! Can't wait to see you rock the racing!

    1. No worries, I hope you know how much all of that hard work is appreciated, I would not be half the athlete I am without Endurance planet & tips on your blog. Before I started listening to you guys I would get blisters on any run over 5 miles, never ran without getting my HR in the 190"s and lived off carbs