Why I Have Been Measuring HRV
I recently did an Instagram story update on my morning routine that includes measuring my HRV. I have received a few questions so I thought I would put it in a post and share some of my biggest learnings from it.
Heart rate variability (HRV) is a method for assessing the effects of stress on your body. It is measured as the time gap between your heart beats that varies as you breathe in and out. Research evidence increasingly links high HRV to good health and a high level of fitness, while decreased HRV is linked to stress, fatigue and burnout.
Unlike Heart Rate (HR) that averages the number of heartbeats per minute, HRV looks much closer at the small fluctuations of the heart that occur in response to internal and external events. After a serious workout, my HRV will be lower, but it also is affected by other stress in my life. It is a helpful, external metric that helps reinforce when I need rest days and when I know it’s safe to push. I always stress that listening to your body is most important but it is one way to help settle down any Type A tendencies to push harder than I should.
I use an app called Sweet Beat and the Polar Bluetooth Heart Rate Sensor.
I sleep with my phone and the heart monitor by my bed (Tip – put your phone on airplane mode at night to avoid any sleep interruptions). The first thing I do after I turn my alarm off is put on the heart rate strap and take three minutes to track my HRV. You can exit the app and browse your phone. After three minutes, it will give you an HRV reading and let you know where you are at in recovery.
How to decipher your HRV reading
An average reading for all users on a traditional platform is almost 60. The fitter and younger you are, the higher the number. I traditionally operate between 70-85 depending on freshness levels.
It is best to measure this in the morning so you remove as many variables as possible and have as accurate a reading as possible.
How to improve heart rate variability
If you are not an athlete and are dealing with a lack of fitness, exercising is one of the best ways to improve HRV and you can often see results in as little as 2 months. I have a history of heart disease in my family so maintaining a regular training schedule is important to me.
If you are an athlete and you have a low HRV because of a high-stress load, take stock of the stresses in your life. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Take a look at your diet. Drink enough water. And take a rest day or two until you see your numbers recover. Say no to unnecessary things in your schedule. Add meditation to your routine.
Another thing I try to do is add a few small things to my space that help with stress reduction. I burn candles and I have recently started using an essential oil diffuser to add some awesome scents to my place. My new favourite is Focus by Awaken My Senses because not only is it an awesome scent but it is a Canadian company as well!
I am taking an easier week in training this week so I will adjust the amount of time I train and lower the intensity. I will be continuing with my weight training, including my Olympic lifting training (watch my instagram stories on Wednesday for an update).
No matter if you are out there crushing it this week or taking a bit of a breather like I am, I wish you a happy, healthy week of training!