Dr. James Allen Watrous, Ph.D.

            Are there any simple signs or measurements that can tell you how hard to train on any given day?

            The answer is YES.  How many measurements are there?  For Pro-level athlete there are at least seven.  I used seven when I was training at Pro-levels.

            Are there any measurements for ordinary fitness?  Again, the answer is YES.  The best and easiest measurements that I found are the following three: 1) resting heart rate, 2) standing heart rate and 3) body temperature.  All three measurements are taken at the beginning of each day.

            Take your resting heart rate before you get out of bed in the morning.  Also, take your body temperature with an oral digital thermometer at the same time.  Finally, stand up for a couple minutes (do not walk or move around) and take your standing heart rate.  Once you have determined your normal average for each of the measurements, you are ready to use them to determine your physical state for that day. 

            In general, your resting heart rate is a function of your fitness level and genetics.  For a given level of fitness, your resting heart rate will not change more than one or two beats per minute.  Your resting heart rate is usually very stable, unless there is an infection or extreme tiredness.

            Your standing heart rate is a very good indicator of your state of recovery.  That is, your state of rest and recovery from the previous day’s activities. 

            Similarly, your body temperature will not deviate more than 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit unless there is an infection or extreme tiredness.  For females, the body temperature has a twenty-eight day period that is fixed to their menstrual cycle.  During this twenty-eight day cycle, a female’s body temperature slightly rises each day to a maximum value (near the half point of the cycle) and then falls slightly each day to a minimum value. However, once a normal temperature routine is established, you have all the information you need to determine the fitness level for that day.

            One of the critical problems associated with fitness, is over training.  All individuals will normally experience two to four plateaus every year.  However, when a plateau continues for several weeks or the fitness level deteriorates while still working out, the individual is experiencing over training.  Over training is the result of not properly resting and recovering from previous work outs.  One of the main reasons for the three measurements described above is to prevent over training.  With these three simple measurements, you can determine at the beginning of the day what type of training day is best.  That is, should this day be a hard and intense, moderate, easy or rest.  Normally, each week should have at least one rest day with no physical activity.  However, your body may not have recovered enough from the previous work out.  In that case, your body requires a lower activity level or even a rest day.  You may have planned a different activity level than the body is able to handle.  If you ignore these indicators, then you run the risk of over training.  Over training have two main elements: the physical element and the psychological element.  The physical element results from the body not properly recovering previous work outs.  In time this affects the psychological (or mental) side of the individual that tends to accelerate the physical deterioration of fitness level.  This is often associated with an individual working out very hard and yet performance continues to slide downward.

I have found that training smarter and more slowly produces the best results.  Make gains without pain and over stress creates the fitness you want while minimizing the risk of sport injury and over training.

Here is the general approach I use in interpreting the measurements of resting/standing heart rates and body temperatures.  When one of these measurements has a notable change from the norm, then that day’s fitness level is downgraded one or two levels.  When two of these measurements have notable changes from the norm, then that day’s fitness activity is changed to a rest day.  I have found that standing heart rate is a very good indicator of recovery and rest state.  If the standing heart rate varies by more than three beats per minute from the norm, then the body is not as rested as it should be.  If it is more than 5 beats per minute different from the norm, then that day’s activities are reduce one or two levels.  If the standing heart rate is 6 to 7 or more beats above normal and one of the other measurements show variation from their norms, then that day becomes a rest day.  I have found that these measurements can also indicate the onset of an infection before I am even aware of the problem.  Thus, I can take corrective action to minimize any problems that this infection (flu, cold, or other) might cause.

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