The parasympathetically derived marker of heart rate variability, root mean square of successive R-R differences (RMSSD), and the daily fluctuations as measured by the coefficient of variation (RMSSDCV) may be useful for tracking training adaptations in athletic populations. These vagally derived markers of heart rate variability may be especially pertinent when simultaneously considering a female athlete’s menstrual cycle.
The purpose of this study was to observe the perturbations in RMSSDCV, while considering RMSSD, across a season in the presence and absence of menses with training load in female collegiate rowers.
Thirty-six (20 [1] y, 25.6 [3.4] kg·m-2) National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I female rowers were monitored for 18 consecutive weeks across a full season. Seated, ultrashortened RMSSD measurements were obtained by the rowers on at least 3 mornings per week using a smartphone photoplethysmography device. Following the RMSSD measurement, athletes indicated the presence or absence of menstruation within the application. Individual meters rowed that week and sessions rate of perceived exertion were obtained to quantify training load.
Longitudinal mixed-effects modeling demonstrated a significant effect of menses and time, while also considering RMSSD, such that those who were on their period had a significantly greater RMSSDCV than those who were not (11.2% vs 7.5%, respectively; P .05).
The presence of menses appears to significantly impact RMSSDCV when also considering RMSSD, which may allow coaches to consider individualized training plans accordingly.