As many of you know, Ade and I are part of the team developing the Training Today app that uses HRV to track recovery and readiness to train. I thought I would take the opportunity to provide some insight into my own experience of how it responds to the many stress factors we face in our day to day life, as well as our training stress. I have been using the app for over a year now with regards to monitoring training load and recovery, however last July I found it really interesting and informative monitoring my RTT (readiness to train score) throughout surgery and rehab.
In July 2021 I had a total hip replacement. The RTT score plummeted immediately – perhaps as expected and put me on red, 0-1/10 for a good couple of weeks, there was no shifting from that line! Now this is not surprising as my sleep was absolutely terrible, and my body was having to work very hard to heal, I think I managed 2 hours at a push without having to get up, just trying to walk around was exhausting, everything was an effort. However as the weeks progressed, sleep slowly improved and mobility became easier, which of course resulted in me pushing myself with the rehab exercises that bit further. With this kind of surgery, they get you walking straight away and working with a physio, so for me that meant my 2.5km walk (which I am not joking, took me an hour at the start) twice a day, and religiously working with the physio on all of the other aspects. By 4pm in the afternoon every day, I was exhausted. And throughout this period, my RTT would improve overnight, creep up to about a 1.4 then drop to 0 by the evening. This pattern continued for months, but each week the 1.4 moved to 2, then 3 and so forth. I found this fascinating. If I pushed the exercise a bit too hard, I literally fell off a cliff with my HRV, it was incredibly sensitive to how I was recovering. It just shows the power of rest, often an underrated element of training for triathletes!
It is not just physical stress that has an impact either. Any form of emotional stress can have huge impact on your bodies ability to recover and rest. There is the obvious reason for this, which is disturbed sleep patterns, an inability to relax, or focus on tasks, and the longer this goes on for the bigger impact this will be on your cognitive load. It is so important to break this cycle, otherwise the net result will inevitably lead to illness, physical and mental. Monitoring your HRV is not a solution to this but it is a great alert to the net impact this is having on your body. Any stress exhausts your body, and if you are suffering from mental stress you should most definitely not be beasting your body physically with really hard sessions, as your bodies ability to cope has been compromised. Like with anything, these are tools to help you make a judgement on your own homeostasis. Listening to your body is so important, and using the Training Today app really does echo how you feel, and absolutely highlights the power of recovery, good nutrition, hydration, sleep and reduced stress, and will respond if you are out of sync for one reason or another.