Sunday, July 19, 2009

Burnt Toast and HRV

My toaster refuses to die. I purchased it in 1989, the year I bought my house. It was made in China — the country that produces most of our running shoes and LCD screens. It's chrome plated, and such are the whims of fashion, this virtue has transformed it into a totally modern, "must have" kitchen accessory.

So all is good with my toaster! Or is it? Occasionally I'll forget to adjust the timer and be presented with two pieces of charcoal encrusted raisin toast. I was thinking the other day that I'd love to have the longevity of my toaster. To be running with the same speed that I had (and took for granted) in 1989. The unpredictable burning of raisin bread, I see as a metaphor for my (I suspect) recent problem with over-training.

At some point during my 12 weeks of Hosaka-Hadd training my body started to object. I slowly went from continual gains in fitness to struggle-mode. I was becoming burnt toast. Looking back at my training diary, I can see the point where smoke started rising to the ceiling. For 10 weeks, my heart-beats per kilometre (the RS scale), had been steadily decreasing, showing gains in aerobic fitness. I was running my 7k kangaroo/wombat course at below 700 heart-beats per kilometre. At the point of over-training my heart-beats per kilometre climbed, reaching 715 to 720 beats per kilometre.

Is there a way of predicting the onset of over-training, or better still, preventing it from happening in the first place? I've been following with great interest a series of posts from Canute which tackle this issue. Heart rate variability (HRV), or more pertinently the lack of HRV, is a good indicator of over-training stress. "What is HRV?" I hear you asking. Simply put, it's the beat-to-beat timing of the heart-rate. If your heart is beating at 60 beats per minute and you have little HRV, then each of those beats will be extremely close to one second apart. This indicates a highly stressed (or over-trained) state. If you have good HRV, then some beats might be 0.9 seconds apart, with others 1.1 seconds apart.

So it seems you can use the HRV result on any particular day to indicate what sort of a training session you should do. If one's HRV is low, then it may pay off in the long term to postpone a planned hard training session. There are two heart-rate monitors (that I know of) capable of measuring HRV: The Polar RS800CX and the Suunto t6c. Now all I have to do is figure out if I should invest the money I've saved on toasters over the years into one of these high-end heart-rate monitors.

I hope everyone has had a great weekend. May your coming week be stress-free and full of happy running memories!

herb elliott sandhills at surfersOn the Beach at Surfers Paradise, July '09

29 Comments:

Blogger Jog Blog said...

I highly recommend the RS800.

8:14 pm  
Blogger Grellan said...

Your toaster obviously has more sense not to overtrain. I hope it doesn't pack in as soon as you get the HR monitor.

9:16 pm  
Anonymous Julie said...

If you've already got a training watch you're happy with and all you want to do is measure your HRV from day to day, why not just get one of these?
http://www.amazon.com/StressEraser-SE-1-Portable-Biofeedback-Device/dp/B001B8PIIE/ref=pd_sbs_hpc_2

I'm considering it after reading the various HRV links you sent me to.

9:17 pm  
Blogger Girl In Motion said...

That's one great appliance you have there, my 3 year-old toaster oven is already showing signs of serious fatigue.

Very interesting about HRV, never heard of it before. I'll check out the monitor links but will have to live vicariously through you as far as purchasing, seeing as how I can't even afford a new toaster oven at the moment.

9:24 pm  
Anonymous Julie said...

Funny, all of my toasters have had the lifespans of mice. I finally stopped buying "good" ones and now view them as disposable, picking up a new one for $15 every couple of years.

9:45 pm  
Blogger Superflake said...

I don't toast my weetbix. Blue Dogs mum is still resting from doing half of WS100.

9:58 pm  
Blogger Robert Song said...

My Polar S625X has a Polar OwnOptimizer Test which is a modification of a traditional orthostatic heart rate test.

The manual says:
This feature is based on heart rate and heart rate variability measurements taken during an orthostatic test (standing up from relaxed resting). OwnOptimizer helps you to optimize your training load during a training program so that you experience an increase in performance and do not undertrain or overtrain over the long-term.

A few years back I did the tests each day for a couple of months but it just kept telling me to train harder!!

I don't know if you need a new HR monitor. As you say the evidence was there using a simple RS index, it was just a matter of not reading the signs. I constantly monitor my RS scores and if mine would have gone up by as much as yours did I would have certainly been worried.

Still with the money you have saved on toasters over the years you should have enough to get a new HR monitor anyway.

10:17 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

That toaster sounds like its about ready to turn your house into TOAST!!!

1:15 am  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

Did you hear the news about Mono breaking the masters 10k record!

1:17 am  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

I made a promise to my toaster to stay "until death do us part" but if she doesn't stop serving me bread that looks like Idi Amin's ear I'm going to look for a new one.

Overtraining eh! I'm interested as I'm sure I've done it twice.

Actually it's pretty counter productive and dangerous. The "RS score" sounds the go but as Robert song said it might be a case of you missing the signs. If I'm overtrained I find pissing a problem ie nothing comes out. And I get headaches as I've mentioned before ;)

I just saw that Uncle Dave is coming up to Townsville. There goes my dreams of a first place. Maybe if I get my wife to cook him some BBQ ie burn offerings the night before it might slow him down a bit. Still not enough for me to catch him. No shame in 2nd place, well as long as it's not in a Chiko roll eating contest.

Do they still have Chiko rolls in Australia? I was raised on those awful things.

1:31 am  
OpenID canute1 said...

As you know from reading my blog, I do not think there is a sure answer to your question, but I guess that applies to most of the decisions we make in life. I think the strongest argument for a device that measures HRV is provided by the Kiviniemi study which I mentioned on my blog on 29th June. That study showed greater improvements in fitness when using a daily HRV measurement to adjust training load, compared with a fixed training schedule. However it was only a small study and until the results have been replicated under a variety of different circumstances there is no way to estimate the likelihood that you or I would benefit from the same strategy.

I decided to buy an RS800cx because my previous HR monitor was extremely primitive. I could have simply bought a mid-price replacement, but I decided the various potential advantages of the RS800cx justified the cost. So far, my HRV measurements with the RS800cx have proven very informative during convalescence from a debilitating illness – apparently unrelated to over-training. I will be returning to regular training next week and plan to follow a procedure similar to the Kiviniemi procedure. As I am currently unfit, I intend to increase my training load steadily over the next few weeks, and this is a situation in which it might be especially useful to have a sensitive method for adjusting training load.

In my opinion, RS index is a useful measure of fitness, and if you are happy with hindsight, it also provides a reasonable indication of training stress. However, the think HRV might give an earlier warning of training stress.

I am also having fun with all the other information that my new HRM provides me. So far, I am satisfied with the accuracy of the speed and distance measurements obtained using the Polar S3 foot pod – so far (without personalized calibration) it has recorded distances of 6.5, 6.3, 6.4 and 6.4 Km at various different paces over a cross country route that I estimated to be 6.4Km using Google Earth. I am aware that some people prefer the Suunto foot pod, but I do not think that the Suunto pod provides cadence and I am finding the cadence measures with the S3 very interesting.

2:40 am  
Blogger Thomas said...

Ewen, I'm pretty sure a fancy watch with a HRV option would not tell you anything you don't already know.

And that's not a dig at Canute. I like his posts too.

7:33 am  
Blogger Andrew said...

If you carry your toaster on a run once a week, it will prevent you from overtraining.

10:00 am  
Blogger Runner Susan said...

you do know when it starts to get technical my brain shuts down. Good thing we had a picture at the end to remind us that you aren't a robot at the end. I've thrown away everything but my watch.

Had dinner with another Aussie today, he didn't know you either or the toasts (human not chrome kind). Someday, I'll run into someone who does know you!

10:39 am  
Blogger Sling Runner said...

I heard some good reviews on Suunto, especially the 'Training Effect' feature (it hals algorithm to calculate post-exercise oxygen consumption). However, not sure Suunto's HR reading, useful life, and after sales service are as good as Polar.

5:24 pm  
Blogger Bruce said...

In NZ an HRV is a home ventilation system - sounds like you need one to rid your house of the smell of burnt toast. Seriously I'm just coming to grips with terms like VO2 max etc , I don't thing I'll be looking to measure my HRV just yet.

9:08 pm  
Blogger rinus said...

Sorry about the toaster and to much toaster is not good!.
I do not run whit hr or feedpad!, but it like's a good thing to listen..
Nice beach on the pic,like the beach of Heemskerk...
Have a nice run time.
Rinus.
www.rinusrunning.punt.nl

6:42 pm  
Anonymous Julie said...

You know, in explaining HRV to my better half and runner, Jonathan, it became clear that "heart rate variability" is a misnomer. He was confused, thinking it was the difference between one's heart rate when lying down vs. standing up.

HRV should stand for "heart rhythm variability" -- that's really what's being measured, after all.

10:06 pm  
Blogger Ali said...

as long as you don't smell the burnt toast ... I think that's bad, especially when there isn't any toast being burn.

1:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wannabe said:

Get married.....then you might have 8 toasters to choose from each morning.

Perhaps the next model of the Garmin Forerunner will have a toaster option.

1:57 pm  
Blogger martine said...

i had one on my polar but never used it. I like to listen to my body and i just dont run when i think i pushed the limit.

7:49 pm  
Blogger strewth said...

I had to buy a new toaster just before we went to the US. Perhaps that's my problem!! I have to start again! And the t-shirt says "I'm not crabby because you're a shrimp" - not very apt for YOU!!

9:02 pm  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

Hrv is that Holden Racing Victory?
no I'm thinking of HSV...not sure about this intervals of time between heart beats theory...sounds like it may be plausible...for me if the RHR (resting heart rate) is low and you feel good, I say go for it, if its high and you feel terrible/sick then no...can snap you out of it...overtraining I think happens when you have no variety and you do the same thing every week...the way to fix it is go to the gold coast catch na few waves, or go bush....or do nothing for 3 days...Percy Cerutty taught that 3 days of hibernation (doing nothing a few times a year helped to avoid burnout...cross train, bring in some new sessions or new locations/course, different people to train with...try a new race in a place youve never been to before...the running holiday...to me that is the way to beat overtraining...
looks like you enjoyed gold coast so that has to help...
oh and I'd advise you to stick with the old toaster, the new things always break these days...

1:37 am  
Blogger bill carter said...

Hi Ewen

If you keep this up, you are going to have to start charging all of us. This is a great post and reiterates the fact that I need to start wearing my heart rate monitor when I run. I hate the way it feels and I don't feel the info is all that useful, but so many people base everything on these numbers.

I certainly hear you on the "over training" as I am guilty as well. But I also feel that after the recovery there must be some benefit to the body from the stress. I have done a couple of mid 70 miles weeks with all the others in the high 60s lately and feel absolutely clobbered. But I am coming off 2 full days of no running and can't wait to go out with the Hanson's team tomorrow and give it a go.

Take care.

2:02 am  
Blogger Runner Susan said...

people write a lot on your blog posts ewen. they do.

9:42 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks to all for your comments. They're much appreciated - from Susan's witty brevity to Scott's incisive analysis.

Thomas said he was pretty sure a fancy watch wouldn't tell me anything I didn't already know. Well, I'm not quite sure. True enough, in the old days we ran with nothing more than a Casio digital watch on a course measured by the odometer of a Holden Kingswood. That's why I liked track PBs, because AA-certified road races hadn't been invented.

I'm interested in doing what I can to avoid over-training (and optimise the running I do), because I'm one of those runners who's a little obsessive-compulsive about following a training plan, which means I like to do a scheduled session no matter what. If Sunday calls for a long run I'll do it, even if I'm stuffed from Saturday's race. I'm not very good at listening to my body. I like Andrew's suggestion of carrying my toaster on easy runs, but I'd like to get another 20 years out of it, hence my interest in a device that can measure HRV.

6:52 pm  
Blogger jojo said...

it did sound liek you were training a lot

7:56 pm  
Blogger Love2Run said...

To go along with Andrew, don't forget to bring the bread along with the toaster. And I like peanut butter too! Great post and follow up.

1:37 am  
Blogger IHateToast said...

now i know why i haven't made it down to read the blogs under "runners". this stuff. you know how i feel about this.

7:20 pm  

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