It’s time for another Friday #TrainingTips post and today it’s about heart rate variability.
I’m hoping that many of you now know what it is by now as I share this information every year as I think it is a very interesting area of research. But for those that don’t, I shall explain.
Basically heart rate variability or HRV as it’s also known is the the measurement of your heart rate. But rather than giving you an average heart rate (HR) in beats per minute that we are all accustomed too, HRV looks much closer at the small fluctuations that occur between successive heart beats also called inter-beat intervals (R-R intervals and N-N intervals).
Why do I need to know this?
Well by measuring the inter-beat intervals of your heart rate we can start to understand insights into how your body is responding to the daily stressors and recovery activities we’re placing upon it.
How on earth does that work?
The measurement of your HRV is directly linked to your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which with the endocrine system controls your body’s unconscious processes with the aim to maintain homeostasis (balance). Your ANS is made up of two separate systems that work together to maintain this balance and know doubt you will have heard of them: Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).
Your Sympathetic Nervous System or your Fight or Flight system controls your reactions and responses to external and internal stressors. For this fact your SNS is only in an ideal world activated for short periods of time to overcome stressful situations. The reason why we don’t want to have the SNS firing all the time is that it’s there to save us in emergency situations and during times of SNS activation the body can and will ignore any potential long term health risks if it means potential short term survival. Just think about that for a moment, if for whatever reason we could be actively without knowing it be causing ourselves permanent damage all because we are keeping ourselves in this SNS.
Now your Parasympathetic Nervous System or Rest and Digest system funnily enough is the complete opposite to the SNS. It’s primary role is to help build and repair for the long game that is life.
But our nervous systems will be switching between SNS and PNS all the time (a simple example of this is that the SNS increases the heart rate and the PNS slows it down) so our nervous systems are always working together to maintain that balance. Having a nervous system that can swap and change strongly between both the PNS and SNS is a sign of a healthy nervous system.
So now you understand what HRV is, but how can this help me?
Knowledge is power in my book. By taking daily HRV readings you can begin to understand how your nervous system, cardiovascular system and your respiratory system responds to your daily activities and stressors. And with this understanding and insight you can optimise your training, maximise your performance, manage stress more effectively and ultimately improve your overall health and wellbeing.
I’ve been actively taking daily HRV readings for years and using this information to monitor how my body reacts to the stressors I place on it. I can now train and respond better on a daily basis according to my HRV, train hard when my body is ready and can cope with the stress and take the time to rest and recover when my body needs it most.
It’s all very interesting, and there has been some preliminary research showing that people with strong HRV readings are being less effected by COVID 19. Obviously this is early research but interesting nevertheless. If you would like to know more and how you too could learn from your HRV please get in touch.
Have a great weekend guys.
Stay strong and live, love and laugh!