Using Heart Rate Variability in Running Training

BY IN Exercise Institute News On October 21, 2015

Training hard or training long has often polarized the endurance training community. Some train high volume and others high intensity, but what is right for you? You may know your body well and choose low intensity high volume training, or alternatively high intensity low volume training because ‘it works’. Contemporary research has begun to tease apart generalizations and begin to outline what form of training could best suit your current homeostasis, or ‘body’s balance’.

Utilizing an internal measure of your body’s balance via Heart Rate Variability and sticking to one of the 3 known training intensities outlined via a Vo2 max test will facilitate the best way of understanding your current ability and what training intensity might best suit you.

Please read the info-graphic below by YLM Sport Science:


HRV and exercise training intensity

The most obvious question it, ‘what is Heart Rate Variability?’ (HRV). HRV is the measure of time between each contraction of the heart. Generally speaking if your heart beat’s are occurring at a very even time distance than you are probably somewhat ‘under the weather’ experiencing a depressed state owing to life stress, physical stress, illness, poor sleep etc… This depressive state has shown to be more responsive to low intensity activity in driving adaption.
However if there is greater variability between HR contractions than this signals the body is in greater balance, with less stressors impacting on its balance. This excitability is desirable for high intensity training in driving adaptation.

So low HRV is better for low intensity activity, high HRV is better for high intensity activity. Next question, ‘what is defined as low intensity activity and high intensity activity?’

This is a excellent question.

Many exercise physiologists would argue, despite conventional wisdom, there are only 3 training zones: low, moderate and high intensity. These are separated by breakpoints in minute ventilation and oxygen uptake owing to the body working exponentially harder for a given exercise increase. See below for the first and second ventilation thresholds, each point indicates an increase in ventilation requirement.


Ventilation Thresholds 1 & 2; marking low, moderate, and high intensity

Low intensity is below the first ventilation threshold VT1, moderate is between VT1 and VT2, with high intensity above VT2. Generally speaking high intensity training drives the greatest rate of adaptation in endurance athletes, particularly those that are highly trained (above a Vo2 max of 45 ml/kg/min). Thus the importance of an accurate Vo2 max test is warranted.

Taken together HRV can be used to tailor your INDIVIDUAL response to training week to week, even day to day. Once a Vo2 test is completed accurate running velocities can be prescribed to ensure you get the most out of your training time.

Vo2 testing starts @ $200 including a detailed report, with tailored running sessions starting from $30/session. Optional programs can also be included in this price for a costing of $175/month. Please enquire today

A copy of the current research abstract is included below:


More recent research has best outlined how to tailor training to the ‘individual’ response


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