Is HRV A Better Guide To Fitness For Training?

Road bike, cycling
Downhill, enduro, cross-country biking, mountain biking

The old adage, ‘Train to train’ has always been true for much of our training prior to an event. Training to train illustrates that each training block supports the next training block and as each training block passes we benefit more and more. Understanding whether we are stress-free enough to undertake the next training is a key factor in developing our bodies.

As some of you probably know, I’ve been using my indoor trainer to keep my legs turning during lockdown and with this amazing weather, I’ve been outside on the trainer – brilliant! 😎

It’s been a while since I used my indoor trainer and I was reminded about a very useful app which you can use everyday and will advise you about the level of stress you are currently experiencing. Most athletes and coaches are concerned about the training stress that is applied through a training programme. However, there are additional stresses which we tend to ignore such as work, sleep, travelling, etc.

Cyclists tend to consider their cycling as something separate from our everyday lives. We also tend to compartmentalise our cycling into just riding or training or ‘making an effort’ or … the effect can be that we consider what we do on the bike as the only thing that causes stress on our bodies. The result is that we rely on narrow and specific indicators to guide us in our cycling. For example, a slightly higher than normal resting heart rate in the morning might suggest fatigue or the onset of illness such as a cold.

However, heart rate variability (HRV) may be a better indicator of stress particularly as it includes multiple stressors outside of cycling. It would be very difficult to extract the stress of training exclusively from all the other stressors that can effect our HRV such as travel, alcohol intake, living conditions, work, etc..

There’s science to back this up and if you’d like to find out more, check out HRV4Training. The phone app measures your heart rate and with answers to the stressor questions, a picture is built (over time). The app produces a value and will advise (given sufficient data) about the intensity of training/riding you could undertake that day.

I used it extensively during my build-up to my 2018 season and found it an invaluable tool For keeping me on track and ensuring I didn’t overtrain. It’s not just a training app – you can include your normal rides as well to help provide a fuller picture.

Today, for example, my plan was to include a strong tempo session but my HRV is a bit lower than normal so I’ll rest today and do the session tomorrow. It gives a reason for not training/riding other than you ‘don’t feel like it’ and helps prevent you from over-stressing your body.

More information at It’s well worth a read.


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