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Heart-rate deviations can be a warning sign for overtraining. The pulse is controlled by the nervous system, and the nervous system is one of the first systems to show signs of overtraining. Therefore, nervous system irregularities show up as changes in heart rate which you can monitor quite easily without the need for expensive medical tests.
Researcher Heikki Rusko has developed a technique to check for overtraining which is very easy to carry out by yourself. After working closely with elite cross country skiers, some of whom became over-trained during thirteen weeks of intensified training, Rusko developed a simple test which can often foretell the an overtrained condition that athletes commonly experience.
To perform the test do the following:
1. Lie still for 10 minutes at the same time every day for 10 minutes (best in the morning when you first wake up) while monitoring your heart rate, which should stay constant during the 10-minute period.
2. Stand up and check your HR exactly 15 seconds after standing. Record it.
3. Then check your HR again again during a 30 second period between 90-120 seconds after standing. A heart monitor works best for this, although you could also manually count your heart rate. If you use a heart rate monitor, you should determine your average heart rate during the period 90-120 seconds after standing up; for example, if your heart rate is 92 beats per minute 90 seconds after standing and 88 beats per minute 30 seconds later. The average 120-second heart rate would be 90. Record this value.
4. Over a period of time you should document what your normal HR values for these two different resting heart rates (resting while laying and then standing up).
Rusko found that athletes often develop higher than usual standing heart rates shortly before they descend into an overtrained condition. Usually, the most severe changes are in the 90 – 120 second period HR values, which increased by more than 10 beats per minute (from normal documented values) for many of the athletes who were overtrained. This rise in heart rate wasn’t sudden but often took place over a period of about four weeks, giving athletes ample time to ease back on their training.
If you use your heart rate monitor and are meticulous about keeping a training log you could monitor overtraining and prevent it. But seriously…who has time for that? Only triathletes ;-)