Question: I’m trying to avoid overtraining by tracking heart rate. It’s my understanding that morning resting pulse is both an indicator of fitness level and a measure of recovery from the previous workout.
I’ve also heard that how rapidly your heart rate drops in the immediate 1-2 minutes post-workout is a good indicator of fitness level. Are these markers valid? — Keith D.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Morning heart rate used to be a widely recommended way to track recovery and overtraining. But now we realize that morning HR can vary for many reasons other than recovery status.
For instance, the quality of sleep just before waking is often a factor. Restful, deep sleep means a lower heart rate than if you’re tossing and turning. Your mood has an effect, too. If you awaken filled with stressful thoughts about the day’s tasks, HR often rises.
All that said, it could be worthwhile to monitor your morning heart rate. Take it under similar conditions each day to see if it has any predictive value for you. But you’re definitely an experiment of one in this regard
As for how fast your heart rate decreases after a workout, it’s a good indicator of fitness only if the variables are controlled. Charting HR decrease in the 2 minutes after a tough interval is a lot different from seeing how rapidly HR declines after you roll in slowly from a ride.
So, again, the key is to standardize the variables. I like to chart recovery between intervals when I’m doing them indoors on the trainer. That allows accurate comparisons.