Recent studies point to HRV as being helpful in deciding how much and when an athlete should train. For example, a group of Finnish researchers (Kiviniemi et al 2007) compared HRV guided training during a generic training programme. The researchers monitored two groups of moderately trained athletes. The athletes trained six days a week for 40 minutes a day. Group 1 followed an identical training plan and group 2 adjusted their daily workload by using HRV indices. Both groups trained for a period of four weeks.
The authors found that the HRV-trained group displayed a greater training effect compared to the generically trained group. The study gives support to our recommendation that training should be individualized for optimum gains. We must acknowledge however, that this study was limited in its duration (only 4 weeks) and as it included only moderately trained runners its application to better trained athletes is not clear.
Nevertheless, the findings from this study and other recent studies do point to the practical usefulness of HRV when used as a daily guide for training type and intensity.
Team Sport Monitoring
While HRV measurement may be conveniently used with individual athletes its practical use with team players has in fact been limited due to the complex nature of gaining a daily reading with a large number of players. However, the author has noted that in a camp environment it is relatively straight forward to gain HRV recordings using any one of a number of commercially available systems. When a team does not come together on a daily basis it becomes more of a logistical issue however. With recent advents and innovations in digital and iphone technology there is potential nonetheless to acquire HRV recordings in team players. For example the people at www.myithlete.com are preparing a team system where individual players or athletes can record their HRV reading in the morning and then that recording can be emailed to the coach or to a common file in dropbox. Other HRV technologies such as those offered by Firstbeat Technologies offer Team monitoring systems which can be used to remotely manage athletes who may be competing in a different continent.
The recent introduction of such technology offers teams and their coaches a more accessible and convenient means of gaining regular HRV and other subjective information which will all be most useful in monitoring the athlete and player no matter where in the world they train or compete.
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