I just finished up working with a group of peeps that I’ve been working with for the last 10 years–take a moment just to think about that one–and as I was driving home it hit me, “why do I measure HRV?”
Great question, self!
What the heck is HRV anyway? HRV=heart rate variability, and it is something that I learned back in undergrad when dealing with the heart. Somewhere around Exercise Physiology 1 if I recall correctly. This was information so prudent, much like the Kreb’s cycle, electron transport chain, lactate threshold, etc that I immediately deleted the information from memory as soon as I wasn’t responsible for it (lost? don’t worry, these other terms aren’t the topic here).
If you really boil down what HRV is, it is the measurement of one QRS complex to the next on an ECG, or more specifically the R piece of that gathering of letters. In a normal individual you would expect to find that from heart beat to heart beat they would be roughly the same. This in turn means that your nervous system is regulating pretty darn well as that silly system drives each heart beat. However, in fatigued individuals such as athletes, corporate execs, and just anyone who has kids or multiple jobs you’ll find that from beat to beat there are slight differences. Simply put, your nervous system is struggling to keep everything regulated…just a bit though.
Why does this even matter?
If your nervous system is a little whacky trying to control the autonomic (automatic) systems in the body, then how do you think it will do with the controllable parts like the ever important biceps? Knowing that you’re HRV isn’t so great could give you or your coach the ability to maybe take out a set or two, maybe even give you the day for active recovery. You’re definitely not going to hit any PRs. You’re most likely going to crash and get some sort of illness or hurt if you keep pushing it. Think Seyle’s diagram where you’re overstimulated. Or to the layperson, think pneumonia or mono.
You can get this stuff pretty easy too. Shoot, the programs basically tell you if you’re good to go, mildly stressed, or in need of a staycation. You definitely don’t need an ECG/EKG everyday. I’m not personally affiliated with any group out there, however, I do use Bioforce HRV. I think that the owner is an incredibly smart guy and does his homework when it comes to the state of the nervous system and cardiac system which is what sold me ultimately. There are holes here and there for sure, but ultimately it is pretty high quality.
Take your training to the next step and work smarter not harder!