HRV Training: How to use your heart rate variability for training control

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Heart rate variability (HRV) is an important factor for training control, not only in competitive sports. HRV training can help you make smarter training decisions and optimize your fitness – progress.


In this article, you will find:

  • Homeostasis vs. Allostasis
  • What does HRV training mean?
  • What influences regeneration?
  • How overtraining arises
  • This is how optimal HRV training works
  • Other factors are also important


Are you one of those who like to go full throttle in training and don’t live a deeply relaxed, stress-free life?


Maybe you are wondering whether you are training too much or could you ask your body for more training.


Then you will most likely benefit from HRV training. Because heart rate variability, HRV for short, is a valuable fitness indicator that you can use to find the optimal balance between Be – and relief from stress and relaxation.


To take advantage of the HRV training, you need background knowledge about the underlying adjustment mechanisms. You know what these are at the end of this article.


Homeostasis vs. Allostasis: the secret of optimal balance

Homeostasis vs. Allostasis: the secret of optimal balance


Your body constantly strives to maintain an inner balance. Your brain registers the state your body is in.


Your brain controls your behavior to keep you in balance.


It does so in countless ways, most of which are completely unconscious. For example, it ensures that you sweat when warm and freezes in the cold.


Your body always strives for a biological balance.


This process is called “homeostasis”.


The following graphic illustrates the idea using the example of your body’s temperature control.



The process of homeostasis works via competing impulses from the two branches of your autonomous nervous system (ANS): sympathetic and parasympathetic.


“Allostasis” expresses HOW your body reaches this balance.


He reacts to external stimuli and adapts to them: Correct strength training (= Stimulus) makes you stronger (= Allostasis). 


And so once heavy weights one day feel normal or even light.


The term “allostatic stress “describes to what extent you strain your body –whether through training or other types of stress in everyday life – and thus wear it off, that you have to recover from it.


Specifically, this means:


Your training is only effective if you are correctly stressed and afterwards correctly regenerate.


Your progress is stagnating. For example, if you train optimally but do not recover enough afterward – in extreme cases, you could even lose fitness.


Recovery after training

You become stronger after you have recovered (= Super compensation). So you need the right level of calm: not too little, but not too much either.


When you complete the next training session is crucial.


Your heart rate variability helps you answer the following questions:


  • I have an available function (optimally loaded) so that I get fitter?
  • Or have I not put a functional strain on myself, so I don’t get fitter?


With the HRV measurement, you have an objective measure on hand to answer these questions.


What your HRV says about your training

What your HRV says about your training

The two branches of the autonomous nervous system, the Parasympathetic and the Sympathetic, are the main actors in homeostasis and Allostasis. 


The sympathetic nervous system has an activating effect, while the parasympathetician is responsible for the recovery.


Your autonomous nervous system controls your heart rate variability.


The HRV is a measure of the temporal fluctuations between individual heartbeats.


The higher your HRV, the more irregular your heart beats.


Conversely, you can get valuable information about the condition of your autonomic nervous system via heart rate variability:


  •       A high HRV means your heart listens to both branches of your autonomous nervous system.

In this state, your body will probably adapt optimally to training stimuli.

  •       A low HRV means that your heart is less responsive to the impulses of the autonomic nervous system.

It is more difficult for your body to adapt to training stimuli.


The HRV measurement provides information about whether your autonomous nervous system is balanced.


The HRV value tells you how well your body will respond to the next training session.


Heart rate variability is an objective measure of the phenomenon of Allostasis. You can also see them as a measure of your daily form.


Knowing your HRV can help you understand how to adjust your training load and intensity so that you can achieve your goals faster and more easily.


Why HRV Training is not everything

Why HRV Training is not everything – and what you should consider

The suitability of the HRV as a marker for how well you regenerate has already been examined in many studies and assessed positively. So we can say:


The HRV value can serve as a good measure for your regeneration.


But is it the only measure?


Indeed correlate resting pulse, Sleep duration – and quality and breathing frequency when sleeping also with your regeneration.


Your resting heart and sleep also allow conclusions to be drawn about your regeneration.


Now, more and more trackers can capture some or all of these values. The two most prominent are the Oura ring and the Whoop – Band.


So far, several scientific studies have been carried out with the latter, which conclude that it can precisely record these values and contribute to better sleep – and regeneration ability.


We can now view the measurement of these values using a tracker as a legitimate tool for training control.


How well a tracker supports you depends on the quality of the measured values on the one hand and that of the algorithm used on the other.


What happens during overtraining?

What happens during overtraining?

Your body strives for an allostatic balance so much that you can usually feel the lack of regeneration yourself:


You most likely don’t feel like training and exercising when you’re exhausted.


He signals to you: “Rest because I now need all the resources to get you back into homeostasis. “


If you train on such days, the energy you put into training for regeneration is missing.


This is not a bad thing if it happens occasionally. But if you overload yourself continuously in this way, it will inevitably lead you into overtraining.


But if you sleep and are regenerated enough, your body can provide the energy to advance you in training.


And that brings us to the central question: How do you know whether you are so well regenerated that you don’t just go full throttle in training but can also expect optimal allostatic adaptation of your body (= training progress)?


This is how optimal HRV training works

This is how optimal HRV training works.


We can roughly divide the state of your body – and the associated current resilience and ability to adapt to your training – into three drawers:


  1. Optimal condition
  2. Overload (functional/non-functional)
  3. Recovery


Overload can be counterproductive (non-functional overload), but it can also accelerate your progress (functional overload).


The Whoop Band visualizes these states with what I think is a rather helpful ampellogic. Therefore I add the respective traffic light colors to the information below red, yellow, and green.


1,  Optimal condition (green)

In this state, you can put an optimal strain on yourself every day without your body being overwhelmed with regeneration.


Your resilience returns to the starting level every day.


You achieve the optimal state by exposing your body to regular stress but not overloading it.


Over time, you should see small, incremental improvements.


Based on your measured values for HRV training, this means:


HRV → slight upward trend

Quiet pulse → slight downward trend


In the Whoop – App, this condition is characterized by a week with predominantly greenways and maybe one or two yellow days out.


You maintain the optimal state by avoiding excessive deviations from your resting heart rate – and HRV – basic values. Fist formula:


Avoid two or more days in a row with a deviation of over 20 – 25.


About base – HRV and – resting pulse.


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2a. Functional overload (yellow)

Advanced athletes can achieve a faster training effect with functional overload.


A functional overload can accelerate your training progress for a limited time.


Ambitious endurance athletes know this state from the training camp. The art is to overload you repeatedly – but not too much. Therefore, this method is not for beginners.


You push yourself so much in training that your body does not recover afterward.


You don’t over-tension the bow – so much that it tears.


Based on your measured values for HRV training, this means:


HRV → downward trend (approx. 10 – 15 ms)

Quiet pulse → upward trend (approx. 2 – 3 beats/min.)


Functional overload is characterized by reasonably high Training intensity and – without going to total exhaustion.


The measurement of resting heart rate, HRV, and sleep help you not to exceed the narrow ridge for non-functional overload.


A functional overload is good for your progress, while a non-functional overload overtraining leads.


To find your sweet spot, you should be willing to experiment.


In the Whoop – App, you mainly recognize functional overload for a week of yellow and maybe one or two greenways:


Whoop - App

If you are aiming for a functional overload, you should keep an eye on the other areas of life that affect your recovery: e.g. B sleep, nutrition or alcohol consumption.


2b. Non-functional overload (red)

A reduced HRV, combined with a significantly increased resting heart rate, indicates that your body is stressed.


The current stress is so high that your body no longer adapts to training stimuli.


Such a condition does not only occur due to training. Infections or psychological stress, e.g. B. Fears, can trigger him.


In training, you don’t put the PS on the street.


In addition, the desire for movement – often says goodbye to an important signal:


Now you need one thing above all: rest.


It is best to take the opportunity for Mobility training. A workout is only possible if you can get excited about it.


Based on your measured values for HRV training, this means:


HRV → well below your normal value (approx. 25 – 30 ms)

Quiet pulse → significantly increased (approx. 3 – 6 beats/min.)


In the Whoop – App, you recognize such a condition when your recovery is mostly during the week redis rated with maybe one or two yellow days of rest.


In the two and a half years I have used Whoop, I have not yet experienced this situation since I usually object to a day rated “red”. Therefore I cannot share a screenshot.


3,  Recovery (yellowgreen)

A recovery phase can be imagined in various ways. The general rule of thumb is:


You don’t burden yourself as much as you can.


This means you do not exhaust your capacity to tolerate physical and psychological stress.


In competition training, this phase is also called “Tapering”. In the training cycle, such a period usually follows a phase of functional overload.


Your metrics can still tend downward at the beginning of a recovery phase. But soon, the tide turns.


By focusing on regeneration, your resting heart rate – and HRV – measurements improve peu à peu.


At the end of the recovery phase, you should have better-resting heart rate – and HRV – values than before the functional overload begins.


That is the declared goal of tapering.


For a tapering phase, you usually take 7 – 10 days.


This phase is also an excellent way to evaluate your training success.


You can count on the following measured values:


HRV → higher than before functional overload

Quiet pulse → lower than before the start of functional overload


The Whoop app usually begins the recovery phase on yellow days, with the recovery value continuously improving. The end of the phase is green valued days characterized.


HRV and regeneration training influence

The context counts: why not only does HRV and regeneration training influence?

Even if there is a lot to be said about the connection between training, HRV and regeneration, it is important to consider the overall context. Training itself is not the only factor that affects whether you achieve your training goals or not.


You can train perfectly – and negate its positive effect in other areas of life.


Stress in your job, family, or relationship, worse or missing sleep, an inadequate diet, alcohol, etc., can torpedo your regeneration and thus your training success.


Therefore, you should always look at your training in the overall context of your life.


Training in a targeted manner also means having time outside of your training on your screen.


What you do outside of training supports or hinders your training.


To develop the optimal strategies for you, you can dare your experiments. A Feedback System helps you to find out how you can harmonize your lifestyle and your training.


Stress tolerance

HRV Training – Conclusion

You can only expect optimal training results if you find the optimal balance between Be – and discharge. Missing training can be as counterproductive as excessive training.


Stress tolerance and relaxation are highly individual.


The optimal training dose varies from day to day. And it depends on factors that are not exclusively the result of your previous training. Lifestyle, stress, and the status of your immune system also play a role.


You can measure your resilience.


If both branches of your autonomous nervous system are in balance, your body can optimally react to training stimuli. With the resting pulse and HRV measurements, you have two powerful tools to identify this condition.


Your body is either in optimal condition, overload, or recovery.


Advanced athletes can use the functional overload condition for an even better training effect. It is important not to overdo it here.


Since your HRV is very sensitive to stress factors, it is best to measure them before waking up. You can wear specialized trackers 24 hours a day, such as the Oura ring or that Whoop band.


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