Since May 21st I have been getting up every morning, strapping on my heart rate monitor and opening up my Bioforce HRV app on my ipad. Like clockwork between 6 and 7am every morning, the same routine. As a scientist I know when collecting data it is more powerful and interesting to look at trends over time then to try to make sense of the seemingly chaotic and random day-to-day. The longer I collect this HRV data the more patterns I am likely to find.
So what is HRV?
HRV or heart rate variability is basically the measurement of time between each heart beat. The variability in your heart rate gives significant information about the state of your autonomic nervous system. Thus measuring HRV can give an athlete useful information about how their body is reacting to the stress of training, and whether or not they are in danger of overtraining. The Bioforce app basically takes my resting heart rate (through the use of my polar heart rate monitor) and performs a series of calculations that give me a heart rate variance score. Higher scores indicate parasympathetic (or recovery) activity, and lower scores indicate sympathetic (fight or flight/stress) activity. As I go through different phases of my training cycle as well as the adjustment to increasingly heavier kettlebells my HRV scores will fluctuate. Knowing whether or not my body is in a period of recovery or a period of stress is a powerful tool to have when deciding how to proceed with my workouts. The Bioforce HRV system goes one step further than just providing an HRV value. It also provides a daily readiness score from 1 to 10 (1= low amount of readiness, 10=high degree of readiness) which can also be used to dictate training loads or rest days.
My 1 Month Findings
Typical scientist answer – but I need more time to collect more data. It’s too soon for me to really tell any noticeable patterns at this point. Unfortunately I started measuring my HRV when I was at the tail end of a training cycle only a few weeks from competition. Not being in a rested state it is a little hard to tell what my baseline HRV value is, but with more time it will start to even out and be more distinguishable. Right now it appears as though my baseline could be between 75-80. This fits into Jamieson’s range for strength athletes. From my graphed data I have noticed that during periods of mental and physical stress (e.g. death of my cousin, kettle sets with the 20kg, or longer sets with the 18kg) my HRV scores have over a 24-48hr period dipped lower (65-70) which has then corresponded with a subsequent increase into parasympathetic territory (over 80) before “stabilizing” around the 75’s. It will be interesting for me to compare these graphs in a year’s time when I am working with the 24kg kettlebell to see if my adjustment is similar to the 20kg. I also noticed during my “stage 5” week I had mostly periods of high HRV scores during recovery but by the end of the five days my scores were very low (in the 60’s) prior to commencing training again, which I attribute mainly to work stress and poor diet during this time. I will definitely make a more conscientious effort towards my diet during stage 5 next time around and compare values. Overall it shows that my month HRV load has been moderate/medium with a month change of -1.5.
I just keep following my routine and recording more data. I don’t pay too close attention to the daily scores to guide my workouts as they are given to me by my coach Jason. There have been training days when I had a low HRV score but my heart rate data and performance during my workout did not feel compromised. Instead I am paying closer attention to weekly and monthly trends, which as of now I only have 3-4 sets of data to look at. I need more. I can definitely see how this is a useful tool, but there is still more for me to learn. I think the combination of the heart rate data I collect during workouts, my HRV scores and my anecdotal notes on sleep, diet, life etc…. will help me paint a solid picture for the direction of my training and hopefully avoid injury and over training. I’m also hoping this information will help guide me when I graduate and progress to the 24kg kettlebell and help me and my coach make that transition as smoothly and safely as we have done for the 20kg. BOOM!