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Using Heart Rate Variability (HRV) to improve training and recovery

Over the last couple of months I have been playing with Heart Rate Variability measurements (HRV) using a pretty cool app called HRV4Training. Its easy to use as it doesn’t need a chest strap as it uses the camera and flash, connects to TrainingPeaks and Strava and allows for a bunch of features that can be insightful to your training. But first a bit on HRV itself.

What is HRV?

HRV refers to the interval (or length of time) between each heart beat. Our heart does not beat at a steady rhythm, but with a slight variation from beat to beat.

If -say- your HR is 60bpm, this means that the beats might be 0.8, 1.1 or 1.3 seconds apart, and not exactly every 1.0 second.

Why does this matter?

Quite simplified, monitoring and using your daily HRV changes can be a great aid to assess recovery.

The beating of the heart is governed by the autonomic nervous system. This one is split into the sympathetic branch (responsible for flight or fight responses - stress) and the parasympathetic branch (responsible for rest and recovery).

Again, simplified, these two branches work by “pulling“ on HR according to what is going on in the body, where a higher HRV value would actually mean a more recovered state. HRV4Training convert the time intervals into other units called rMSSD and Recovery Points, and this is what you will be able to track, graph and base your insights on.

If you want to go further into the science, have a look at the app developer’s website, it’s well described and understandable.

So what about that app?

It’s simple to use, but powerful in what you can use the data for. Just knowing your HRV on its own is just “nice to know”. The context in which it is measured matters more. By connecting to Strava and TrainingPeaks (and other apps I don’t use), it has your training diary complete with intensity, type of activity, TSS, distance, etc. You can add further ‘tags‘ that you want to track and develop a fair bit of analysis of how your training and recovery is working, including its effects on CTL and ATL. You can track correlations of different metrics, measure VO2 (runners and cyclists only), etc.

Explore and try the different features out, I am still doing this as you need weeks and months of data depending on the analysis you want to run.

Head over to their page to have a good look if this peaked your curiosity, they’ll do a better job at explaining the ins and outs and the technology behind it.

It takes a few weeks to gather enough data, from then onwards there’s plenty to analyze and possibly adjust in your training. And for $12 its definitely worth the experiment!

Get in touch here if you want to have a chat on how I can help your training or recovery.

NOTE: I have no affiliation to this app, I’m speaking purely out of own interest and experience with the app and because I believe others might benefit from using it too.

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