Long-term HRV decrease - overreaching?

I’m a 31/M triathlete (more of a cyclist/runner) and have been training consistently for ~4 years, with an increase over the past two years. Here’s my training plot over the past two years from TP:

I’m averaging about ~10 hours of training a week (biking and running, 8 - 12 hours range) with a typical schedule of something like:

M: short recovery run or TR ride (30 - 45 min)
Tu: medium easy run or rare more intense run (30 - 60 min)
W: more intense TR ride (60 min)
Th: medium easy run or rare more intense run (30 - 60 min)
F: more intense TR ride (60 min)
S: long ride outdoors (3 - 5 hours, did about 5 century rides this summer)
Su: long run (70 - 90 min, usually easy pace)

The weekdays are swapped around occasionally but that’s a fairly typical week. Over the summer I shifted most of my intensity away from running and into cycling (maybe 0.5 “hard” runs a week) in an effort to maintain my run while improving on the bike. I’ve been pretty consistent, with only 3 weeks under 6 hours of training this year but none above 12. I haven’t been following a particular TR plan since my races were all cancelled, but typically doing some sort of recovery, threshold or VO2, and threshold or sweet-spot workout per week, plus the long outdoor ride.

Around this time last year I grabbed a WHOOP to track my recovery (HRV, RHR, sleep etc) and for the first 6 months or so I had pretty stable numbers, with an average HRV of ~120 and RHR of ~42. Since around May I’ve seen a pretty steady decline in HRV and increase in RHR:

As you can see, it’s a slow but steady trend that’s becoming harder to ignore. What I’m trying to figure out is if this is likely caused by:

  • A: Not enough recovery
  • B: Getting less fit

I tend to think it’s (A) because my training load has been pretty high, and my FTP definitely didn’t go DOWN during the summer (it may have the last few weeks as I’ve shifted towards the run more). But, this summer, I feel like I started to stagnate around the time my HRV started to decline (in hindsight). I improved a lot on the bike from ~November of last year to May/June, but then throughout the summer I didn’t feel like I got that much faster. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a ramp test since testing at 305 in May, but I would guess I could have tested at 310 - 315 at some points during the summer. As for running, I basically achieved my goal of “maintaining”, as I ran a similar 5K test a few weeks ago vs what I did in April. However, both the cycling and running results are a little disappointing given the consistent training I was doing all summer.

My initial thinking was that “I can’t be overtraining” because my volume isn’t THAT high, my intensity seems like a relatively good mix, etc. But clearly something is going wrong. I haven’t taken very much time off - no time completely off, and only a few weeks where I’m significantly reducing the load. This was partly due to never “peaking” for races, and then recovering, so instead I’ve been on this very-steady, consistent pattern. Maybe it’s “death by a thousand cuts” and my body is just slowly getting ground down by a lack of recovery? I’m planning on taking at least two weeks completely off in December, and then a few more weeks of very easy work before starting my build for next year. I’m hopeful I’ll see my HRV and RHR numbers come back then.

Other notes:

  • Sleeping about the same as usual, 8+ hours every night
  • Diet is pretty good and hasn’t changed during the HRV decline period (although I could probably focus on improving this more)
  • New job started in March, a little more stressful than before, but not a huge change

Has anyone else that’s tracking HRV/RHR seen a long-term consistent decline in their numbers like this when training? Is it safe to expect it to rebound if I take time off? Any other advice greatly appreciated.

have you gained any weight recently? i put on a few pounds and have noticed my HRV trending lower and resting HR is higher. even though FTP and power PR’s are being broke fairly often. im hoping its the weight gain causing this not overtraining:)

It’s totally A.

With that said, you can still crush it with low HRV readings.

Just my n=1.

No significant weight gain. Since I stopped swimming I’ve redistributed some upper body strength to the legs and slightly more body fat, probably gained about 2 lbs total.

And yea, (A) sounds like the winner. I’ve definitely had some great efforts during this time, but I’ve noticed that big weeks can put me over the edge now whereas I’ve never really experienced that before.