Most of us know about tracking heart rate to measure intensity (usually of cardio) but how many of you track resting heart rate? Perhaps you already take resting heart rate every morning to note “spikes” which might suggest you need to take a rest day.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) takes that one step further.
I was sent a HRV tracker by Bioforce and have been using it for the past month. The data has been really interesting – and it’s revealed a lot more than I thought it would.
HRV doesn’t just take your heart rate. It measures variations in the intervals between heartbeats. Why is this significant to people who train?
Variation in these intervals is physiological, and hugely affected by our sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.
In short, HRV monitoring can give you valuable data into how stressed you are, how well you’re recovering, and how ready your body is to train today.
The phone app (and web interface) charts your data on graph which clearly shows peaks, spikes, and fluctuations in your HRV. Red days suggest you should take it easy, rest, work on recovery. Green suggests you’re well recovered and ready to push hard.
You use a traditional chest strap heart rate monitor* which measures your resting heart rate and sends it to the phone app via Bluetooth (*although Bioforce is about to launch an alternative to the strap – ear and finger sensors).
It measures for 2 mins 30 seconds, to gather enough data (I like the fact that it measures for a comparably long time).
The Bioforce strap and app comes with an impressively large and in-depth book about heart rate variability (written by Joel Jamieson). Its 138 pages cover HRV’s application within sport and fitness, what your results mean, and how you can use the data to optimise your training and recovery. There’s even training and programme design. The book is a huge bonus to the Bioforce product.
I expected to find the data interesting (I’m a bit of a numbers geek when it comes to training, health, nutrition) but what I didn’t expect was to see so many patterns developing. As an aside, I weigh myself every day. Without fail, my HRV was in the orange or red zone on days I also weighed in heavier or the same – suggesting that lack of quality sleep (or a late night) affects my recovery in more ways than one.
I also noticed regular patterns in my HRV relating to sleep, work stress, my menstrual cycle, and my training programme.
Pros & Cons
If you love data and numbers, and find your own biofeedback fascinating, I think you’ll love learning more about heart rate variability by using the Bioforce system. It’s easy to use and has been made very simple to understand (although you can delve much deeper into the research if you want!
The only possible downside I can think of is your morning routine. If you’ve got small kids, noisy neighbours, or an erratic schedule, you might find it a challenge to find 3 minutes to chill out at roughly the same time very day (ideally before you get out of bed).
The Bioforce system has an impressive army of fans already, including powerlifter Jim Laird, Crossfit Games Champion James Fitzgerals, and Molly Galbraith of Girls Gone Strong. If you want to join them (and me!), find out more about Bioforce HRV here.
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.