Association of Heart Rate Variability and Simulated Cycling Time Trial Performance
Keywords:Heart rate variability; Time trial; Cycling
The aim of this study was to determine if an abnormal HRV status would have negative effects on simulated individual time trial (ITT) performance in recreational cyclists. Recreational male (n=23, 42.8±8.3 years, 78.0±11.0 kg) and female (n=2, 37.0±6.8 years, 68.0±4.4 kg) cyclists completed simulated indoor 40-minute ITTs (40TT) over ten weeks. Participants were asked to complete simulated 40TTs under two HRV conditions: HRV normal values and HRV abnormal values. Participants recorded daily morning HRV readings to determine HRV status. Each participant performed all 40TTs on their personal indoor bike trainer and bike without external race simulation (e.g., Zwift). All cycling performance data were recorded on personal bike computers and submitted via a Qualtrics survey. A total of 138 ITTs (Normal = 75; Abnormal = 63) were assessed for relationships between HRV status and performance outcomes using a linear mixed-effects model with Cohen’s D for effect sizes (ES). A significant main effect of HRV status was found for peak power (F = 6.61; Normal: 372 ± 121.5 watts; Abnormal: 349 ± 105.9 watts; 380; p = 0.01; ES = 0.20) and peak speed (F = 6.12; Normal = 10.8 ± 1.2 m/s; Abnormal: 10.4 ± 1.2 m/s; p = 0.02; ES = 0.33). No significant main effect or effect sizes exceeding 0.20 were observed for all other performance variables. Daily HRV monitoring provides valuable insight that an individual’s peak power and speed may be compromised during cycling performance despite no changes in physiological or psychological indicators of effort. Coaches and cyclists can use morning HRV to inform race strategy ensuring desired performance outcomes, especially for those who rely on high power outputs
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