For years, athletes have tried to find ways to perform better in competitions. Many have even taken extreme and even unethical measures to achieve greatness.
New research and developments in the science of the heart, however, have quite possibly found what competitive athletes have been searching for: a safe and effective way to improve athletic performance.
Heart rate variability HRV is a measure of the time between consecutive beats, and can be used to individualize workouts, helping athletes achieve an optimum performance level. A higher HRV would indicate that you are relaxed and experiencing a low level of stress, while a lower HRV shows a higher level of stress, thus a need for recovery, rest, and sleep.
With this in mind, an athlete looking to perform better in competitions would want to cater his or her workout schedule in such a way to ensure that competition falls during a period when HRV is high. And to help you do that, we’ve brought you seven ways to effectively increase your HRV for athletic competitions.
1. Train hard
While having a high HRV is good for competition, it is important to note that having your body in a constant state of rest isn’t necessarily the route you want to take, either.
You need stress, because without stressors, your body won’t know how to cope when faced with them. Most training plans will implement sessions of high intensity training (HIT) to shock the body so that it will be able to better acclimate to these types of things.
Keep in mind, however, that just as you will perform better in competition with a higher HRV, the same rings true for hard workouts. By monitoring your HRV, you will be able to know which days are best to schedule that hard training session.
Your must train hard to perform well, but you must also know when to back off. A body in constant stress mode can only go so long before it begins to break down. In fact, studies have shown that a consistently low HRV can lead to overtraining and burnout.
If you want to be able to have a sustainable training plan that will lead to an eventual increase in athletic performance, your HRV needs to reset, which means that you must take time to rest and recover.
3. Trust your training
A surefire way to cause unnecessary stress or lower your HRV, is to stress out before a competition. In fact, a recent study of college students found that the more anxious and unprepared you are for a test, the lower your HRV will be.
Transfer this to athletes, and it means that you must train well and trust in your training to keep your HRV from tanking.
4. Get a hobby
If you are an athlete who is constantly thinking about preparing for the next competition, it is only natural that your stress levels will have a difficult time coming down because there is no balance. However, if you can find things you like to do outside of your chosen sport, then you will find balance and your HRV levels will, too.
5. Find meaningful work
Being a competitive athlete doesn’t mean that you are actually getting paid the big bucks that pro athletes do. In fact, many, if not most Olympic athletes have outside jobs completely unrelated to their chosen sport.
Due to the fact that in order to not only pay for running shoes, gear and competition fees, but to afford living expenses, you will need to work a paying job. And research says that if you want to keep the stress level down and the HRV levels up, find a job that you actually enjoy doing.
6. Practice Yoga
Nothing will bring your resting heart rate down and your HRV up better than Yoga. This age-old practice was designed to build balance and strength while at the same time focusing on breathing and meditation.
Yoga is the perfect way to add a supplemental strength training exercise that will also allow your body to recover and your HRV to rise
7. Get outside in nature
Research shows that focusing on slow breathing increases heart rate variability. And While breathing in the air produced by your treadmill fan may provide a bit of refreshment, it is nothing compared to the fresh, natural oxygen that comes straight from the source.
Take a walk in the mountains. Go to a park where trees line the perimeter. Get outside away from the busy city to breathe the fresh air and enjoy what this earth has to offer.
Then, when it comes time to toe the line of that marathon, suit up for that open water swim, or max on power cleans, you will be rested with the high HRV to prove it.