UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 13 – Morning Heart Rate

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about overtraining.  Because the university soccer season is so short, there are often weeks which include 2-3 games, and training sessions on almost every day in between.  Compounding the problem for student-athletes is the fact that they typically have 20-30 hours per week of classes to attend, plus homework, and maybe even a part time job.  All of these factors, which can contribute to a lack of adequate recovery, combine to make university players more susceptible to overtraining syndrome.  Overtraining syndrome is defined by Wikipedia as “an imbalance in a simple equation: Training = Workout + Recovery.” The full spectrum of overtraining can result in hormonal, nutritional, mental/emotional, muscular, neurological and other imbalances in the body.

Among the many symptoms of overtraining syndrome is a high morning heart rate.  Studies done on athletes in a variety of sports settings have shown that morning heart rates exceeding 60 beats per minute (BPM) are generally associated with the beginning stages of overtraining syndrome. Recognizing this symptom of overtraining early allows for some changes to be made (including less training load, more sleep, better diet, etc.) to help stop the problem before it becomes more serious.  University soccer players can easily check and monitor their morning heart rate, by following these easy steps:

  • keep a pen, paper, and a stopwatch handy at a night table beside bed
  • immediately after waking up, sit up in bed, with feet on the floor
  • using the index and middle fingers, touch the middle of the throat, then move the fingers 2 inches to the right
  • press gently on this area of the neck until a pulse is felt
  • using the stopwatch to keep time, count the number of heart beats felt in 10 seconds
  • multiply this number by 10, and record the morning heart rate on the paper in beats per minute (BPM)

Having athletes record their morning heart rate is a simple and easy to use technique to help detect overtraining syndrome early in pre-season.  It will keep athletes mindful of their rest and recovery, and of course will allow for specific interventions if needed.  I have used this technique with the athletes I have worked with in several different training environments, and I recommend other coaches and fitness coaches to do the same.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

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