Why You Need to Check Out Heart Rate Variability Testing
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) testing is relatively new in the training world. Yes I know somebody reading this has been doing it since “before you were even born”- congrats on that. For the rest of us, HRV is yet another new tool to help us plan and track our workouts. And, unlike many trendy gadgets and tools in the fitness and athletic world, this one is actually worth a try.
Why Use Heart Rate Variability Training?
We are constantly trying to enhance our experience based on our own ability to perceive and process the environment, whether internal or external. We have a brilliantly complex body that is continually scanning itself and taking stock of what’s going on in every system. Almost all of this takes place subconsciously and only some of that information actually makes it up to the thalamus and becomes conscious to us.
Even once it is conscious, we may only get the feeling of being “tired” or “off” or “energized”. From those feelings, we then have to determine our workout for the day and what will be best for us to do in order to decrease the risk of injury and keep us headed towards our goal. Some people develop a balls-to-the-wall mentality and go hard every day regardless of what their body’s telling them. For a small group this works, but for many, this way of approaching training leads to an overflow of stress in the body, resulting in injury and/or endocrine dysfunction. For others, there’s an attitude of only working out when they feel great and never when they’re tired or sore or sad or it’s a Wednesday or (the list keeps going for many people). This approach creates the average American- someone who ends up continually dealing with aches, pains, poor health, poor self-esteem, and any number of other issues.
For the rest of us that fall outside of these two extreme categories, we are left trying to determine how to push ourselves beyond our own limits and towards health, fitness, and athletic performance, but without going over the edge into injury and overtraining. And of course this is an incredibly difficult task. We are often left shooting in the dark, using trial-and-error and hoping that we will find something that works for us.
Enter Heart Rate Variability. This tool helps us to transcend our subjective analysis of what’s going on in our bodies and to use an objective measure to determine what we should do each day for our physical practice.
HRV readings involves a heart rate monitor and something to read and interpret the results (there are a number of apps out there for it). Taking the readings takes only a few minutes, once a day. It looks at the variations in how our heart muscle is contracting and from that, paints a picture as to the amount of stress that the body is experiencing and how the body is responding to it. By no means does HRV replace our need to tune into how our body is feeling, and in fact, once you begin tracking and recording the subjective (feelings) and the objective (HRV) measures of the body together, that is when you can really make informed decisions as to what the best course of action for the day is.
The Result Cult Guide to Heart Rate Variability
So then what’s the best way to get started with HRV training?
My guidebook for getting into HRV has been The Result Cult Guide to Heart Rate Variability. In case you aren’t aware of The Result Cult, it’s the brainchild of super-duo Mike Ritter and Michelle Richards. They are not only super trainers, but they also have an incredibly progressive view of health and fitness and they know how to communicate it effectively. I first got hooked on their stuff when I read Mike Ritter’s 4-part series on stress and allostatic balance that he wrote earlier in the year for Rob Wolf’s site. If you haven’t read those articles, you definitely need to check them out (here).
I had heard a little bit about HRV over the last year or two, but it wasn’t until I picked up and read their book on HRV that I decided that I needed to check it out. Not only does it explain why you should use it, but it also does an awesome job of walking you through the step-by-step of getting started. From easy-to-use charts that allow you to document your progress, to in-book links to the equipment/apps that you need to get started, this book really is an all-in-one package.
And it’s only $6.99… to be fair, to get started you will also need a Bluetooth-ready heart rate monitor and an app to read and track your HRV (both of which the book will direct you towards the right stuff), but all of the information that you could ever really need to know about HRV is in this book.
The goal of The Result Cult Guide to Heart Rate Variability is to try a 60-day HRV training program and see what happens. I’m currently in the middle of my 60-day challenge, and using the HRV has definitely changed the way that I understand how my body is functioning, and how to use that knowledge to plan my training.
Bottom line is there’s really no reason not to check out this tool and get started using HRV. Click on the book pic above or the link here to get the book. As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to hit the “Contact” button in the top left of your screen and we’ll get back to you ASAP… And for more info about The Result Cult, click on their pic below and it’ll take you to their “About” page.
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