Is Heart Rate Acceleration a Sign of Overtraining?

Overtraining is a sure way to fail in your fitness goals. It will leave you lethargic, confused, and even in pain. By monitoring your heart rate, you can prevent overtraining. This is turn will make your fitness regime much more successful.

The Problem with Overtraining

When you train yourself in any physical pursuit, you are straining your body and tearing your muscles. That is okay; it is part of increasing your physical performance. The torn muscles heal back larger and stronger than before. However, overtraining does not allow your muscles to heal, causing them to remain in a degenerative state. Neither does it allow the stressed systems of your body to return to regain stamina. Your body loses its strength, endurance and speed. Not only that, but the state of exhaustion in an overtrained body causes problems in many other internal systems, including immunity, endocrine and nervous systems.

Overtraining and Your Nervous System

If your resting heart rate has accelerated, your body is trying to tell you to slow down. It is warning you of a dangerous change in your nervous system. The nervous system controls your heart and your pulse, so trouble in that system is detectable through an accelerated heart rate. When you overtrain, your nervous system becomes strained and begins exhibiting irregularities, like a flickering light bulb that’s not getting a proper flow of electricity. Your heart is one of the first things affected by the short circuit in your nervous system.

Rusko Overtraining Test 

Heikki Rusko is a Finnish researcher who studied the training methods of cross country skiers. He discovered a method to test for accelerated heart rate due to overtraining. First you lay down comfortably for ten minutes, at the end of which you take your pulse. This is your resting heart rate. It has often been fitness gospel to take your resting heart rate when you wake in the morning, before getting out of bed. This has been proven in subsequent studies to be an unreliable way to find your resting heart rate. A calm ten minute lie down is a better method. Then, stand up and take your pulse again exactly 15 seconds after rising. Then, take it once more, 90 seconds after rising. These rates will be higher, and that is ok. A heart rate monitor can give you the most accurate pulse readings, but you can also count the beats yourself. These numbers will represent your average heart rate. The numbers should remain fairly constant, every day you take the test. As you being training, keep performing these measurements. If you begin to overtrain, your heart rate will show it.

What Your Heart Says about Your Fitness Regime

If you are overtraining, your heart rate as measured in these tests will begin to rise. In studies, the change was most notable in the 90 second test. Heart rates of overtraining athletes rose as much as ten beats per minute. The acceleration was gradual, gathering speed over a time span of about four weeks. This is good news, as it allows an athlete a chance to catch the rising heart rate before it becomes dangerous. This increase is a clear sign that you are overtraining and taking your fitness regime in a bad direction. Not only will overtraining prevent your from reaching your fitness goals, it can be very dangerous.

Monitor your heart rate as your fitness regime intensifies. If you find your resting and standing heart beats per minute exceeding your established average, you know it is time to rest your body and relax your training routine. You body will respond gratefully by allowing you to achieve your fitness goals.


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