For triathletes, knowing when to push your body and when to rest can be difficult. Fortunately, today’s technological advancements allow us to measure and analyze our bodies in ways that weren’t possible before, making it easier than ever to achieve the delicate balance between training hard and proper recovery.
The Orthostatic Test is one way triathletes can use objective data to stay on track towards a goal and prevent overtraining. By detecting early warning signs of training-induced fatigue and disturbances in the autonomic nervous system, orthostatic testing can provide key insights needed to tailor an athlete’s current training regimen according to stress levels in the body.
We sat down with professional triathlete Emma Pallant from the BMC Racing Team to discuss how the Orthostatic Test on her Polar Vantage V has helped fine-tune her training and progress as a triathlete.
What Exactly Is the Orthostatic Test And Why Is It Important?
The Orthostatic Test can help you find the correct balance between training and recovery by measuring heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV).
Since these numbers are highly individual and can fluctuate depending on a number of factors, orthostatic testing should be done consistently over a period of time to establish a baseline for each individual.
During training, significant differences from baseline measurements may indicate that your body is fatigued. Since things like environment, illness, and sleep also play a role in how well you’ve recovered, the Orthostatic Test can be useful in determining whether your body is fatigued from training or from some other lifestyle factor.
For amateur triathletes and professionals like Emma Pallant, knowing the reason why your body isn’t responding to specific training is key in adapting a training plan.
“The Orthostic Test is a really good general test,” Pallant says. “If you’re doing it often enough, at least three times a week, it can be a good way to get you to stop and think about the training you’re doing and the impact.”
“You have to think about how you feel and subjectively measure yourself. When you can objectively combine that with data, the two together are a powerful tool that you can use in your training to be smarter.”
For athletes who tend to push their bodies to extreme limits, having an objective metric to measure training stress can be helpful to determine when you need to slow down.
“I’d say I’m better at the training side of things than the recovery,” Pallant says. “If you know that’s a weakness that you have, that’s when you can tap in to external things that can help. My coach knows me well, if I’m grouchy or tired. I use her for the subjective side of things. But then there’s also the objective measurement you can use. That provides a black and white sign that you can’t argue with.”
How Do You Use The Orthostatic Test To Improve Your Training?
To obtain orthostatic testing metrics, you’ll need a device like the Polar Vantage V and Polar H10 heart rate sensor. The four-minute test will need to be completed several days per week under similar conditions, such as before breakfast, for the most accurate numbers.
Test results will provide you with five heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) values that can help you determine if your cardiovascular system is recovered properly for your next workout:
- If your body is responding well and you feel good, progressing your training plan and raising the difficulty may be a good idea.
- On the other hand, if you’re tired or in a bad mood, and your testing numbers show signs of stress, you may want to back off and add in a few extra days of light workouts and recovery instead.
This method of adjusting a training plan on the fly based on objective feedback is one reason Pallant has found success in her recent performances.
“I think it’s a really useful way of monitoring things to make sure you get the desired effect from training,” Pallant says. “The feedback will help shape your training plan, especially when you’ve got time constraints and other things in life that are never stable. It’s hard to just robot through a training plan. Instead it needs to be resilient to added stressors, which can only occur by monitoring them so you can react and adjust as needed.”
But like anything else, the Orthostatic Test is just one piece of the puzzle in figuring out the fine line between training enough, but not too much or too hard.
According to Pallant, triathletes should also listen to their body and take as many other factors into consideration as possible when determining how to alter their current training regimen.
“The more input I have for external factors like the environment I’m in, the more useful the test will be.”
“For me, (when I analyze the data) I think about the period of training I’m in, the quality of sleep I’ve had, the weather, and things like how hydrated I am.”
In the end, the more data an athlete has to analyze how their body is handling stress, the easier it will be to receive maximum benefit from a training plan and improve overall performance as a triathlete.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.