Today I’d like to provide some more information on the ithlete device. I will be linking back to previous posts to spare myself from re-writing things I’ve already covered. The FAQ section on the ithlete website provides very thorough responses to common questions so I recommend reading through that as well. I encourage anyone with further questions to contact me directly.
What is ithlete?
The ithlete HRV system is a handheld heart rate variability measurement device that operates on most smart phones and tablets. This is significant because prior to the development of devices such as ithlete, acquiring HRV measurements was cost prohibitive due to the expensive equipment and software required to perform the measurement and analyze the data. Many of these devices also required a trained technician. The ithlete allows individuals to easily perform HRV measurements at home for a fraction of the original price.
What equipment is required to use ithlete?
You will need;
– a heart rate strap
– the ithlete ECG receiver
– compatible smart phone/tablet/iPod
– the ithlete HRV app available in the iTunes store and Google Play store for Android.
The heart rate strap and ithlete ECG receiver can be purchased together or separately.
A brand new version of the ithlete receiver has just been released that is compatible with nearly all versions of iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. It also operates on nearly all Android phones and tablets.
What is heart rate variability (HRV)?
I provide an explanation of HRV in this article.
Essentially, we are getting a non-invasive look at the function of our autonomic nervous system. An HRV score will tell you when your body is better able to handle greater stress (higher training loads) and when it can’t. This is ideal for appropriately applying hard training on the right days and reducing training when needed. This will allow for better adaptation and reduce our risk of overtraining.
How does the app work and what functions does it have?
An HRV measurement with ithlete consists of the following steps (screen shots below);
1. Put on heart rate monitor strap with conduction pads moistened and plug ithlete reciever into device.
2. Initiate app and wait for “start” button to turn green as it waits for your heart rate to stabilize.
3. Hit “start” and follow the breathing cadence that the app displays.
4. “Save” your score, enter comments if desired.
5. At this point you are complete. You can review your trend, input training load, analyze your data or whatever you need to do.
The duration of the measurement is 55 seconds.
When the measurement is complete your screen will look like this;
If you are satisfied with your measurement you will have the option to “Save” the measurement “with comments” or without. I prefer to use the comments option to document notes about training, stress, sleep etc. If for some reason the measurement was disturbed you can simply hit “Don’t Save” and redo the measurement.
Once you have finished with your comments the app will take you to the “Chart” page. Here you will see your HRV Score with color indication, weekly change and monthly change. Your data will be charted across the bottom of the screen so you can clearly see your day to day variations. HRV trends can be viewed in 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, or all time displays.
The color indications inform you of what type of training is recommended based on your HRV score.
Green = Higher training loads
White = Moderate to high training loads
Amber = Reduce loads
Red = Rest
*77 was my actual HRV Score this morning, the image from above with a score of 70 was from a measurement I did just now to get the screen shots for this post.
In the trend displayed above the Blue horizontal line represents baseline HRV. The white and colored deflections are your day to day changes in HRV. When you first get ithlete it will take a few days to establish a baseline HRV score. Once baseline is established you will be able to judge your recovery status based on if your score is above or below baseline.
Generally, an abundance of any form of stress or a combination thereof (mental, physical, poor nutrition) can result in a below baseline HRV day. Quality eating, sleeping and regular exercise will result in better scores. The HRV trend is very informative as you can learn how your body reacts to various workouts, eating habits, travel, etc.
If you rotate your device sideways your trend will appear with training load values as depicted below. You can see a clear disturbance in my trend as I traveled to the US and generally had a highly stressful week. The vertical purple bars represent my training load. More info on interpreting your data will be presented further below.
By selecting the “Edit” option from the menu along the bottom of the screen you will be taken to the screen shown below. This is a collection of all of your data ever recorded.
In this section you can input your training load for the day you select as shown below. Typically I input my training load from the previous day each morning. Once you enter the training load score it will appear on your chart in the expanded view. This screen also gives you the ability to e-mail your data or export it to drop box. This is handy for coaches and trainers who want to see their athletes data.
How should I measure HRV?
Perform your HRV measurement after you wake up and go to the bathroom. Do not perform any tasks that will create unnecessary stress or alter heart rate significantly. I prefer measuring with ithlete in the standing position and I provide a very thorough explanation of why here. The key is to be 100% consistent with your measuring procedure to have the most meaningful data.
How do I know what training load to input?
This will depend on what type of athlete you are and what type of training you do. See this post for ideas on how to do this. I personally use Session Rating of Perceived Exertion (sRPE).
How do I interpret my HRV Trend?
See this post for my thoughts on HRV trend interpretation.
How do I use HRV to guide my training?
See this post for my thoughts on HRV guided training and periodization.
Is HRV only for Athletes?
Anyone can benefit from monitoring their HRV. See this post if you are a non-athlete or recreational lifter.
What evidence exists to support HRV training?
For plenty of research that lends support to the efficacy of HRV training please see this post.
For more relevant information browse the following posts:
If you have any questions that were not addressed in this post or the ithlete Q&A please send me an e-mail. The purpose of this post was to show everyone how the ithlete HRV app functions and to provide information about why HRV monitoring can enhance your training and lifestyle.