-by Scott Johnston, Uphill Athlete Master Coach and co-founder
Rusko Ortho-Static Test
This simple but time-consuming test was developed by the famed Finnish exercise scientist Heikki Rusko as a way to monitor for overtraining by high level cross country skiers at training camps. It requires only a basic HR monitor with real time display. Here is how it works:
- At the same time each day, usually upon waking in the AM and after a trip to the bathroom, the athlete lies supine for 5 minutes and notes the average HR level during the last 2 minutes.
- Immediately after standing up and remaining still, the HR after 15” is noted, then again at 90” and 120” after standing.
- Compare the average of the last 2’ supine with the average of the last 30” standing.
A well-rested, fit athlete will display a low resting HR, a rapid HR response in the first 15” of standing followed by a rapid fall in HR during the next minute. Whether the HR rises or drops during the final 30” is also a good indicator that there has been a positive training adaptation. Dropping indicates a higher fitness and/or recovered state. This test works because your heart rate is controlled by your nervous system which is one of the first responders to stress. The science behind this test is detailed in many places so we are only going to address the use of the test.
The test is relative only to the individual and no comparisons can or should be made to others. You should establish a base line of testing during a period of low training stress to see what your “rested state” HR response is like. After a few months of routine data collection, you will see trends and be able to relate the test to your perceptions. This test has proven fairly reliable in our experience. It can help guide your training by eliminating self-doubts on those days when you are just not sure if you should be resting or training. It can be particularly helpful in avoiding a downward spiral into over training. It is not perfect, however. The nervous system is sensitive, complex and responds to other inputs than just your training. Had a bad dream? Had a fight with a friend? Dreading a test at school? Don’t bother with this test then. It is a tool that allows you another way of dispassionately assessing your preparedness for training. It’s real drawback is that it requires a relaxed several minutes to perform. You can’t be late for work and get any meaningful info from this test. It is highly subject to your emotional state of arousal. If you are nervous about the test coming back negative, then it almost surely will.
Interested in reading more about recovery monitoring tools? Read this next.