Column: Heart rate variability and how it can impact your workout
October 22, 2017
Have you ever considered how you're recovering from your workouts, or if you should work out on a particular day? If so, then what's your barometer?
Some individuals look at soreness, energy levels, or willingness to train; but what if there were another way? Luckily there is, it's called heart rate variability.
HRV taps into one's autonomic nervous system, and can directly reflect the "reserve" available on any given day. It factors physiological changes that take place and measures beat to beat variation in heart rate. Several different apps can be used, and with consistent testing, a daily score (typically between 0-100) will be provided for you. Stress, training load, environmental factors, nutrition, and sleep, are among a host of factors that can influence HRV.
What's it good for?
Accurately monitoring HRV can provide you with information on how you are responding to specific training loads. If you are consistently provided with a low rate of variability, then perhaps you should back off or lighten the load for that day. Over time, you can track how well you recover from similar workouts and modify based on your findings. Conversely, if you trained hard on a particular day and would like to do so again the next day, you may be able to if your HRV is high enough. HRV is also good for coaches and trainers looking to monitor training loads in their clients or athletes. If the majority of a group is consistently reading low on their HRV when the intention is to train lightly, then changes can be made.
How do you measure HRV?
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You should measure HRV immediately upon waking in a fasted state while lying in bed. Ideally, it should be done at the same time every morning. The recommended recording time is typically one minute, and the root mean square of successive differences, or RMSSD, is the most common metric used for measurement. You will probably not have to use this metric to calculate your own HRV because most apps today simply provide a score of 0-100. My recommended apps for HRV are "elite HRV" or "Bioforce HRV." Both are a bit more expensive than regular apps on most devices, but they're well worth the price when considering the valuable information they provide.
In summary, HRV is a valuable tool that can provide a biomarker for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. If you are curious about and would like further information on HRV, then I encourage you to read articles provided by the National Strength and Conditioning Association or Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week.
Jimmy Pritchard has a B.S. from Colorado Mesa University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the Assistant Strength Coach at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Pritchard's passion is to help others meet and often exceed their goals in all areas of fitness. Contact him at 970-331-3513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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