The effect of an ultra-endurance running race on heart rate variability
The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of an ultra-marathon on heart rate variability (HRV) and psychometric indices in endurance runners. In addition, we aimed to determine the magnitude of change and subsequent recovery for 7 days following the race.
Recreationally trained runners (n = 13 (8M); age = 36.6 ± 7.6 years; height = 174 ± 9 cm; weight = 70.5 ± 9.3 kg) completed measures of HRV upon waking in the morning for 1 week prior to and 1 week following a 64-km running race. Profile of mood states, wellbeing, and muscular soreness were also measured throughout the study period to further contextualise recovery.
An increase in heart rate accompanied by decreased LnSDNN, LnRMSSD, LnLF, LnHF, and LnLF/HF from baseline were observed 1 day post-race (p < 0.05). Indices of HRV had returned to baseline on day 2 of recovery. Perceptual fatigue and muscle soreness increased post-race (immediately following and on day 1 of recovery) (p < 0.05) and took until day 5 of recovery to return to baseline.
The results indicate that cardiac autonomic control is significantly altered in response to a 64 km ultra-marathon. Specifically, parasympathetic activity is suppressed. The change in autonomic control was relatively short-lived, and parasympathetic-related indices had returned to baseline 2 days after the event. Subjective measures of fatigue and wellbeing suggest that athletes were not completely recovered until day 5 post-event, with muscular soreness remaining prominent during this period. A combination of physiological and psychological parameters is important to contextualise recovery in ultra-endurance runners.
KeywordsParasympathetic Autonomic control Recovery Stress Fatigue
Analysis of variance
Autonomic nervous system
Heart rate variability
Profile of mood states
Root mean square of successive differences between R–R intervals
Rating of perceived exertion
Standard deviation of the normal-to-normal sinus-initiated inter-beat intervals
The study was designed by LF, CK, and JF. Data were collected by LF. Data were analysed by LF, CK, and JF. The manuscript was written by LF and CK. All authors read and approved the manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Billman GE (2013) The LF/HF ratio does not accurately measure cardiac sympatho-vagal balance. Front Physiol 4:26Google Scholar
- Fortes LS, da Costa BDV, Paes PP, do Nascimento Júnior JRA, Fiorese L, Ferreira MEC (2017) Influence of competitive-anxiety on heart rate variability in swimmers. J Sports Sci Med 16:498–504Google Scholar
- Foster C, Florhaug JA, Franklin J et al (2001) A new approach to monitoring exercise training. J Strength Cond Res 15:109–115Google Scholar
- Grove B, Prapavessis H (1992) Preliminary evidence for the reliability and validity of an abbreviated profile of mood states. Int J Sport Psychol 23:93–109Google Scholar
- Porges SW (1992) Vagal tone: a physiologic marker of stress vulnerability. Pediatrics 90:498–504Google Scholar