If you’ve been following my discussions you’re probably curious about how one goes about monitoring their HRV. Today I’ll inform you of how I monitor mine as well as a few other options available. I strongly suggest reading Part 1 and 2 of my HRV discussion before reading this if you haven’t already.
If you have $30,000+ lying around then you can buy yourself an Omegawave. This device is used by organizations within the NFL, NCAA, Olympics, Pro Soccer leagues in Europe, etc.
Here is a demonstration of NFL players having their HRV measured on the Omegawave prior to training camp.
Assuming that dropping 30 g’s is unreasonable for you there are some other options.
I personally use an app called the iThlete that is compatible with both ios and android. The iThlete requires a heart rate strap and a small ECG receiver that you plug into the headphone jack.
To measure HRV you simply plug the ECG receiver in, strap on the heart rate monitor and press the start button on the app. You should measure HRV in the morning after you wake up. This will give you the most accurate score since you’ve yet to encounter any stressful events for the day. The app will measure your heart rate for about a minute and provide you with your heart rate score in beats per minute (bpm) and HRV. It provides the HRV score through a calculation based on the time interval between each beat. You do not see the raw data but are just given a score. The higher the score for HRV, the more recovered and rested you are (parasympathetic dominant). Here is a screen shot from my score this morning.
*To give you an idea of my HRV scores anything between 77-80 would be good. Anything above would be exceptional recovery and anything under would indicate insufficient recovery. This morning my resting heart rate was 63bpm and my HRV was 81. This is a great score for me.
Now here is where the app gets really cool. If you select the chart button at the bottom of the screen you see a chart of your HRV trends over time. You can see a chart displaying all HRV scores ever measured, all HRV within the last 3 months, 1 month or week. Here is a picture of mine.
Upward deflections represent higher scores (increase in parasympathetic activity) and the downward deflections represent lower scores (decrease in parasympathetic activity). Green lines tell you that intense training will be well tolerated, amber lines caution you not to go overboard with your training and red lines tell you to take a recovery day.
The massive red downward deflections you see on the chart all occurred the day after I performed intense conditioning sessions. These were so stressful to my body because I’ve been training for powerlifting for the past few years and have done little conditioning. My body was not adapted to that type of training and clearly reflects this in my HRV scores. The most recent drops in HRV (shown in late December) actually show my adaptive reserves plummet while getting sick with a head cold. The first day I started to feel the cold coming on my heart rate was 78bpm and my HRV dropped to 68! The next day (the worst day of my cold) my morning heart rate was 92 and my HRV was 56! Needless to say I did not train on those days.
The last image I’ll show you from the app is the graph you can view.
This displays all of your HRV scores ever taken. You can scroll down for more scores. Additionally you can e-mail your data to your coach or anyone who may be overseeing your training allowing them to make any necessary adjustments in your training.
Another app exists called the Bioforce HRV App. Bioforce is compatible with ios and Android. This was designed by former NFL strength coach and current MMA strength coach Joel Jamieson. This app functions similar to the iThlete as it is manufactured by the same developer. BioForce differs from ithlete mainly in measurement duration (2.5 minutes vs 55 seconds), preferred position (supine vs. seated or standing).
I’ll also mention that Polar has heart rate monitor watches that can also provide HRV scores. The RS800 watch from polar is a valid instrument for collecting RR intervals and has been used quite a bit in research. However, be prepared to manually export your data from the watch to software that can analyze the data. This is not the most convenient option but will provide very accurate data.
If you’re interested in buying an HRV device I suggest you do your research on each one and find which best suits your needs.
In my next post I will discuss what I’ve learned from monitoring my own HRV for the past 7 months or so. I’ll include details on how I’ve altered my training structure because of it and give examples of how I manipulate my training day to day based on my HRV score. Additionally I’ll discuss non-training related events that have sapped my HRV scores that really taught me about how my body responds to things such as travelling, poor sleep, etc. I’ll include anecdotes about when my HRV scores were exceptionally high and what I think may have influenced them.
Thanks for reading.