I am a big fan of using technology as a performance tracking tool and something that can help and protect you from overtraining and injuries. We have to agree that these days the sports market is filled with various performance-enhancing gadgets that promise wonders. Some of them are pretty cool, and some are just waste of money.
There is one gadget that we use on a regular basis, sometimes more than we should, that can be used as a diagnostic tool. That’s our mobile phone together with a mobile application, such as NatureBeat or HRV4Training.
The apps mentioned above are used for measuring something called Heart Rate Variability (HRV). HRV measures the time between each heartbeat where information gathered provides us with information related to our sympathetic (fight and flight) and parasympathetic (“rest-and-digest“) nervous systems and whether they are in balance or not.
Under stress, danger or intensive exercises, the sympathetic nervous system gets affected. On the other hand, activities that occur while the body is at rest such as digesting or breathing exercises, the primary role belongs to the parasympathetic system. Although it’s all about a balance between these two, the overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system for a more extended period can jeopardize the ability of the body to recover correctly, pushing it toward a state of overtraining. This result of decreased performance and in the worst case scenario, injury.
The beauty of all this is that you will acquire valuable information through a process that does not involve any particular skill, it’s budget friendly, noninvasive and fast. All this can be done in 5 minutes from the comfort of your home.
The numbers and all the information (info tables and graphs) provided by the app show the current state of the sympathetic and parasympathetic system. Low HRV value, which indicates small time variation from one to another heartbeat) indicates possible fatigue onset and health problems in the future. This is counterintuitive, I agree. Who would say that low time beat to beat variation is a sign that something is not right? But that’s how it is.
On the other hand, high HRV value represents balanced work of the sympathetic and parasympathetic system together with different physiological systems. High HRV number means high time variability from beat to beat.
I usually practice what I preach, so here is an example of my HRV data.
On the picture, we can see results from three separate individual readings. The most recent measurement (Today) is on the left side. In the center is the HRV value of the previous day, and the one on the right side shows the HRV value taken in the last week. These tables represent average values (for me) that provide a picture of balanced work of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. This information has been provided according to previous data gathered from the earlier readings. Bigger data pool, more accurate reading.
For more information, swipe to the left, and you’ll get this table with more details. This reading had been taken after a long flight and 24 hours accompanied with no sleep, a decent amount of caffeine and unbalanced meals.
Looking at the numbers, you can notice low HRV accompanied with high heart rate readings (59bpm). This indicates “tired” nervous system and heightened sympathetic activity (LF 3605 – low frequency) and impaired operation of the parasympathetic nervous system (HF 294 – high frequency). LH/HF represents the ration between LF and HF, which value should be lower than 1.5 (<1.5). In this situation, it’s 12.4. .At this point, you would like to pay attention to adequate recovery that will protect you from overtraining and injuries.
Breathing techniques and herbs for better HRV values
Since I moved to China, I’ve been experimenting with some herbs and mushrooms. And just to clarify, I am not talking about any psychedelic mushrooms. At least not yet. However, I am interested in their administration for stress regulation. Here we are talking about adaptogens and medicinal mushrooms, and performance enhancing properties. And this is what I’ve come up with. See picture.
On the picture above, you can see a high HRV reading, which is good. At that moment, I was experimenting with breathing techniques as well. This resulted in balanced work of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, with a slightly heightened activity of the parasympathetic system. Ommmmmm.
The information shared above shows the possible positive implications of using specific breathing techniques accompanied by a controlled usage of adaptogens. These days the frequency of competitions (Karate1 Premier league) is high. Traveling from one to another time zone every week puts significant stress on your body and your Central Nervous System (CNS) in particular.
On top of this, we have to take into consideration the nature of the karate sport. Whether we talk about kata or kumite, explosive movements with short duration are the primary building block of the performance. This tells us that sympathetic nervous system is the one targeted the most. Frequent traveling, plus a high level of exertion during tournaments, followed by weak recovery, overstimulated sympathetic nervous system and suppressed parasympathetic nervous system might result in overtraining and decreased performance.
What do you need to be able to implement HRV in your training regimen?
How does the procedure look?
First thing in the morning, before getting off the bed, or immediately after, place your transmitter and connect to your phone and app. The whole procedure lasts for 3-5 min. That’s it.
Wrapping it up
“You are what you can recover from” – Vince DelMonte
HRV is a great instrument that can help you in monitoring and be in charge of your overall health, providing valuable information about how different training methods affect your body and its ability to recover. The information provided gives a picture of the current state of your autonomic nervous system.
There are many other apps and resources that you can use, however, since I usually preach what I do, I can talk about NatureBeat app., which I have no affiliations for.
The test should be done every day, at the same time, most appropriately in the morning. As for transmitter, my personal experience is with Polar H7, which is a chest strap that can be used on other devices.
What about you?
Do you have any particular recovery technique or routine that you find beneficial? If yes, how does it look like?
Did you find useful the information shared in this article? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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