Experimenting with Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

In recent years I’ve heard of heart rate variability (HRV) time and time again. It was the newest thing to the quantified self but I had no interest… until now.

First, what is HRV? In short, HRV is an indicator of how well your body is managing stress. Over time, your personal HRV should be able to tell you whether or not you are ready for an intense workout, or if you should take it easy and go for a walk instead. If working out isn’t your thing, it can also indicate whether or not you have other stressors in your life, such as that big project you’re on at work, relationships, or simply taking on too much. Remember, your body doesn’t know the difference between mental/emotional/physical stress so it truly is about how well balanced you are with your life.

So why the sudden interest in HRV? Well, after experiencing adrenal fatigue, and knowing how I actually like the feeling after a hard training session, I thought it would be nice to find a way to measure A) how well my body was managing stress, and B) get a second opinion on how “ready” my body was to train for the day. While I’ve gotten a lot better with intuitively knowing when to rest and when to go hard, I also found that it’s pretty fun geeking out on this sort of thing too  🙂  Who knew?!

Before buying any gadgets I decided to first do my research. After scouring the internet and reading every article I could, I then read Mark Sisson’s Primal Endurance: Escape chronic cardio and carbohydrate dependency and become a fat burning beast!.

Here’s what I ended up purchasing as part of my arsenal. We’ll see how it goes in the next few months:

My intent is to feel whole and healthy, both mentally and physically.

Along with being in nature as often as I can, maintaining awesome relationships, and meditating on the regular, I’m hoping HRV can be a strong encourager of this intent.

With that said, my approach is to first obtain a baseline HRV which is done by tracking daily HRV upon waking for two months. Once this is obtained I’ll have a benchmark to go from, and the app should be able to show trending markers on whether my HRV is up, down, or neutral that day.

In addition, I’ll be testing the periodized training method both Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns talk about in their book. This means not going above your heart rate (which is calculated by subtracting your age from 180) while working out for at least two months.

So far I’ve found the Polar H7 to be a cinch putting on and I barely notice it during workouts. However, I did find that the Polar Loop was disconnecting every now and then during the workout which made it very difficult to track heart rate. By that point (since I was in class) I couldn’t troubleshoot so I went off of feel since I had the beginning of class to experience what my max heart rate felt like.

I’m hoping yesterday’s troubleshooting fixed the problem 😉  More to come on how this experiment goes!

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