I wanted to follow up with a few notes on HRV. From time to time on the podcast, I may go down a rabbit hole on certain things and I tend to talk fast when I'm discussing things that I'm passionate about, so for the sake of my listeners in Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, I am adding some notes and additional resources to follow.
HRV is the variation in time between your R to R interval or more simply the variation of time between heart beats.
This variation is important because it is controlled by your autonomic nervous system (ANS). When there is greater variation, it in essence, means that you are relaxed and able to perform at a high level. When there is less variation, it means that the parasympathetic nervous system is running the show...this is not a good thing because it regulates the fight or flight response. So without knowing it, your body is in a state of stress. This can have an adverse effect on us in a variety of ways. It can affect your ability to perform, can alter your mood, can increase your likelihood of injury, and can impede your weight loss, if that's the journey that you are on. So the ability to track and monitor it can be a big deal. With that being said, it is not the be all, end all metric. There are a lot of things that can effect our HRV for the positive (eustress) and negative (distress). These stressors can be physical, mental/psychological, and emotional.
One of the reasons I think HRV is important when we are, not only training for sport or events, but for behavior and lifestyle changes is because it forces us to add in mindfulness to our routine. This can be in the form of meditation, controlled breathing, or yoga. These types of activities can positively effect our HRV or increase it. These things are important in our journeys, whether it be helping in recovering from tough workouts to keeping us mindful and grounded. I do need to say that because you do need to take a common sense approach to implementing HRV into your tool kit. If you are under heavy allostatic load (you've been training hard, a lot), don't think because you can increase your HRV by doing some yoga or meditation, it's ok to ramp up your training again. Allow yourself the time to recover. HRV is a great tool to help you train smarter, which is sometimes counter-intuitive.
I want to clarify what I said about it being counter-intuitive. There are some days that you might feel great, but your HRV indicates that you should take it easy that day and there are days you might feel poorly, but your HRV says you're ready to go.
There is a lot of fascinating aspects of using HRV. I am trying to keep it simple though. I understand that there are a lot of nuances to it, but for the average person, you just need to have a working knowledge of the color wheel; specifically three colors. Think of it like a traffic light. Green means go, Yellow means caution, and Red means stop.
There are a lot of good HRV apps and programs available. I'm not affiliated with any of them and my advice to you would be do your due diligence and explore what works best for you. One of the nice features with a lot of the apps is that they sync with other health or training apps, so you can decide on a program or app that works best for you.
Here are some additional resources that will explain HRV (probably better than I did). And if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.