As I try and further my understanding of the seeming incomprehensible autonomic nervous system I try to simplify the role HRV may play in monitoring athletes. There is one main issue I’m having; I don’t yet fully grasp the ANS (does anyone?) and therefore I still have a ton of unanswered questions.
I’ve noticed that there are some extremely intelligent people who are strong advocates of HRV usage as a monitoring tool. I’ve also noticed there are equally as intelligent people who are very skeptical and even doubtful of its efficacy and applicability. I’m doing my best to understand both sides of this argument. The best I can do to contribute to this discussion (at the moment) is draw attention to research and offer personal experience.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted and discussed some of my HRV trends so today I will do this as well as share some observations a colleague of mine has made at McMaster University.
Below is a screen shot of my HRV trend from the last 30 days:
- Horziontal Blue Line = HRV Baseline
- Vertical Purple Bars = sRPE (absence of these indicate no training)
- White Lines = Day to day HRV scores
Training structure has been as follows:
- Monday – Squat
- Tuesday – Active Recovery
- Wednesday – Bench Press
- Thursday – Active Recovery
- Friday – Deadlift
- Saturday – Off
- Sunday – Off
Strength workouts range from an RPE rating of 7-9 while the low intensity “recovery” days range between 3-5.
- Much of what I’ve seen is consistent with what I documented in this post so I won’t discuss these in too much depth again.
- Normally my HRV will be at or above baseline after a weekend (no training). In the first weekend you see my HRV dropped quite a bit Monday morning. I assume this is because I was away that weekend and I spent much of Sunday in the car and then was frantically trying to get caught up on things once I got home before Monday.
- I trained at an sRPE of 8 on Monday and as expected another drop and a red indication for Tuesday. Active recovery typically will bump HRV back up the next day however Tuesday night I unknowingly went to sleep with my friends cat hiding under my bed. Around 2am I got a startling wake up as the animal tried to snuggle with my face. It took me nearly 2 hours to fall back asleep after. HRV that morning is another red and I feel like crap. I take a deload day on Bench (sRPE 7), sleep well and HRV comes back up the next morning.
- Things remain consistent during the week shown in the middle of the trend. Moderate dips in HRV in response to sRPE 8’s with returns to baseline after low intensity days. HRV is high after a restful weekend.
- The following week I start doing a little more work in my workouts (more heavy sets) and therefore a higher sRPE rating (of 9). Along with higher amounts of soreness and perceived fatigue I saw larger dips in HRV the following day. On Friday (deadlift day) I keep things conservative due to previous lower back injuries and perform an sRPE of 8 and see less of a drop in HRV the next day. I’m happy to report that the back has been feeling good and I have started deadlifting again recently. I stopped deadlifting for a while as I was experiencing pain during the lift (no surprise it was an underactive multifidus) Video below of a recent deadlift.
- HRV is high after a restful weekend. sRPE of 9 on Monday (squat) of the last week shown on the image and I again see a larger dip in HRV (today). Will do some low intensity stuff later on after work.
Collaborating with Steve Lidstone at McMaster University
Since moving back to Canada I’ve been working on getting an HRV project going with Steve Lidstone, the head strength coach at McMaster University (a huge rival of mine in my football days). After some e-mail discussions I sent Steve an ithlete to try out. After a few weeks Steve sent me this update;
“I’ve been monitoring my HRV for 3 weeks now every morning.
I started off with HRV at 88 with a HR of 60bpm.
In times of poor sleep (we have 2 kids ages 2 & 4) or high stress my HRV has plummeted to 55 and resting HR of 79.
It is also interesting to me as I am in my 5th week of post concussion symptoms. When my HRV is low my symptoms are escalated.”
At this point we’re looking at getting two of his teams started with ithlete (about 8 players in total). Should make for some good data to discuss.