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On Heart Rate Variability

Heart Rate Variability or HRV may be the best thing for measuring health, progress and recovery since, I dunno, sliced bread!

Before we continue, I have to get one thing straight:

It’s NOT heart rate


Ok, I feel better now…

So what is it? I stole this image from Wikipedia to help:

That’s an ECG of a Dog.  At the top you see the familiar peaks of a heart beat, the top peak is usually labled “R” Notice they’ve marked the gap between two peaks as 440ms and a wider gap as 850ms This is the time between heart beats, or the “R-R Interval”

Still with me?

The more VARIED these gaps, these R-R intervals, the higher your Heart Rate Variability is The less VARIED these intervals, the lower your Heart Rate Variability is.

So far so good. But why is useful?

The variability of the R-R interval tells us a story about your Central Nervous System activity and therefore gives an indication of the stresses going through you.

Be that stress from diet, training, work, the wife, the taxman, whatever. 

i use an app called EliteHRV, personally and with my online clients.

It’s simple to use and gives a simple reading, here’s a few of mine:

These readings assist us in guiding our training intensity for that day. The further away from the centre we are, that perfect 10, the more we have to moderate ourselves and focus on recovery.

Which side we deviate towards will adjust the type of recovery work we perform. Recovery is a lot more than sitting around watching Netflix, it is an active process that can take many forms. More on that another day.

So what’s the routine with measuring HRV?

It goes like this:

  1. Wake up.

  2. Pick up chest strap en route to toilet.

  3. Have a piss

  4. Strap on the strap en route to sofa.

  5. Sit and wait for the Dog to snuggle in and settle

  6. Open phone and start the EliteHRV app

  7. Press start

  8. Wait for the 2min 30seconds as it takes the reading

  9. Have a look, save it, maybe share it on Instagram, because, you know……

  10. Take off the strap and carry on with the day

If it’s green reading, feel free to give it your all in the gym If it’s yellow, train but at a slightly lower intensity If it’s red, consider not training, or do a specific recovery routine.

And have a think back over the previous 48 hours as to why you might be out of the green. My score above of 3 was taken the day after a tough lifting day, and my wife and I had a bottle of wine that evening. The yellows are my normal day after readings from training. But you may also see variance if your approaching a deadline at work, if your kids are teething and you’re not sleeping, if like I mentioned above, you drank alcohol or ate junk food.

It really is a mirror to what’s going on inside you. And over a long term it can really help you self correct your training and lifestyle to give you the most optimal results for your goals.

If you have more questions on the subject of HRV use or training with me at Wg-Fit or Online, please don’t hesitate to ask. Drop a comment or send an email. Chat soon

Dave Hedges

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