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Heart Rate Variability- Get the most out of your smart watch!

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)- chances are you have seen this on your Apple Watch or Fitbit. I know you have seen it if you have a Whoop, you can't get by without seeing it. Do you know what this number means and how you can use it? Let's dive into what that number means to you and why it is important to track. If you haven't seen it at all, look at your smart watch to see if it has that as a feature and take advantage!

HRV measures the difference in timing of the beats of your heart. If your heart rate is 60 beats per minute, your heart is not beating once per second. It varies more than that: .9 seconds then 1.1 seconds and so on. This is a direct measurement of your autonomic nervous system (fight/flight and rest/digest systems)- which gives you a snapshot of how your body is responding to life and its stressors. A higher HRV is indicative of a healthier cardiovascular fitness level and your body's ability to respond to stress. Bottom line- higher is better. This also gives you the ability to see what behaviors your body responds better to (think sleep and meditation) or doesn't respond well to (think alcohol and foods).

What is a good HRV?

It depends on you! It is one of the few variables that doesn't have a "norm" per se. Heart rates have a norm for resting hear rates. HRV does not a specific norm but a much wider range. You may have 2 people with generally the same fitness levels and their HRV could still vary greatly. It is important to compare you HRV to you and your consistent data. Still generally the higher, the better. But ultimately track your data over the course of time to determine you average norm, and you can then compare your daily data to where you "should be". (See the chart below for my data over a 3 month period- you can see how greatly it can vary)

If you are tracking or can track your HRV you can begin to learn your body and how your body responds to various factors. For example, if you are tracking your HRV and see a sudden drop following drinking alcohol (which you will) then you have a visible measurement to see how it affects your body. If you really are interested in optimizing your body you can see how carbs affect you, eating keto or paleo. You can determine how well you are sleeping and how it affects your body. Your stress levels, travel, work-outs etc.

HRV is a good indicator of your body's recovery too. Multiple studies have indicated improved training and fitness effects if you train harder when your HRV is higher and do lighter, active recovery work-outs when your HRV is lower. Why work harder than you have to? If I am gonna bust my butt in the gym, I want it to count. If you have a whoop, it will automatically calculate your "recovery" based on your HRV, amount of sleep and resting heart rate.

If you haven't yet, see if your device has an HRV setting or download an app (try HRV4Training) that will read your HRV as well! Get to tracking and start optimizing your recovery and enhancing your training!!

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