For years, heart rate has been a key measurement to determine one’s health and fitness levels. Even before heart rate monitors and apps were made to track it in real time, heart rate was (and still is) easily calculated by counting your beats per minute whether during exercise or rest.
And while heart rate is a good indicator of how your heart is pumping at any given time, the US National Library of Medicine has found that Heart Rate Variability is becoming one of the most used training and recovery monitoring tools in sport sciences.
What is Heart Rate Variability?
Heart rate variability (HRV) is the interval between heartbeats, and has been used for years in hospitals to measure heart rates in patients. Through measuring the variation in the time interval between heartbeats, medical professionals are able to use patterns found over a prolonged period of time as a way to determine how the heart is reacting to certain things that may be causing it stress.
Recently, however, this technology has been brought to the mainstream, allowing people of all health levels to help reach fitness goals.
Here are some ways how:
Help to determine your normal
While traditional heart rate monitors can be used to determine if your heart rate is within a normal rate, HRV has the ability to find your normal.
By using a HRV tracker at the same time every day (preferably while resting) over a long period of time, you will be able to determine what your normal or personal baseline is. Then, when/if you do see a change, you know that you might be under some stress and need to back off on the workout load.
Help plan daily workouts
Your workout calendar may be telling you that you have high intensity training planned, but you just aren’t feeling it. On the other hand, you may have a recovery day scheduled, but your body feels like running intervals.
This is where monitoring your HRV will help you to train hard and recover at the times that are right for your body.
In fact, according to a study published in the US National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health, it was found that athletes who do high intensity workouts when their HRV is high-to-normal get a significantly better training response than when it’s low. Likewise, if you find that your morning HRV measurement is significantly above or below your personal baseline, that lets you know that it’s not the best day to do a hard workout because the body won’t be able to recover very well.
Help see if other life choices or events are affecting your performance
As a general rule of thumb, a low HRV (or less variability in the heart beats) means that the body is under stress. Higher HRV (or greater variability between heart beats) usually indicates that the body has a strong ability to tolerate stress or is strongly recovering from prior accumulated stress.
By tracking your HRV regularly, you will be able to see evidence through scientifically tracked data when these things are affecting you negatively so that you can make the appropriate changes to get back on track.
Track your progress
By using a HRV tracking device, you can compare your baseline numbers over time—even years—so that you always have a number that is yours as you continue with your health and fitness goals.