If you frequently exercise or train for sports events, you understand the importance of keeping track of heart rate for optimal health. Did you know monitoring your HRV is just as important? Monitoring your HRV not only increases your physical performance, but it also helps you monitor your overall athletic performance. In this article, we will explore the ways HRV is being used in sports and how it can benefit athletic training.
What Is HRV?
While some people may consider heart rate variability (HRV) and heart rate the same thing, they are two separate terms. Heart rate refers to the number of times your heart beats in a certain time period. Heart rate variability (HRV) is the fluctuations within that time frame. These fluctuations are often the smallest area where your heartbeats move slightly up or down.
Monitoring your HRV can help you maintain optimal health and wellness, increase physical endurance, and help you avoid overload training periods. Understanding your HRV can also help prevent health conditions that reduce athletic performance.
Monitoring and measuring HRV is one of the best things you can do for your health, especially as an athlete. Keeping track of heartbeat fluctuations at certain intervals can help determine training intensity and proper recovery methods. HRV has a strong connection with the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic functions of the body. We will explore this area later in the article.
Since the fluctuations in your HRV are small and best detected with a machine like an electrocardiogram, it can feel overwhelming to measure them. However, there are simple ways to keep track of HRV. Using a simple heart rate monitor is a great way to track your HRV during the day or while you’re sleeping.
What Affects HRV?
There are several factors that affect HRV and how the body responds in certain situations. Emotional trauma, age, genetics, ethnicity, gender, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices all contribute to HRV. When measuring HRV, it’s important to remember that everyone has a unique range according to the factors above. Age and gender are two common factors that affect HRV and how it fluctuates. Generally speaking, a higher range shows good physical and mental health.
Activity and rest also affect how HRV fluctuates in the body. An insufficient amount of either one can lead to an under-active nervous system. The key is finding the right balance of rest and activity for optimal health and wellness.
HRV and the Autonomic Nervous System
As we mentioned above, there is a distinct link between HRV and the autonomic nervous system. When stress occurs in the body, it can alter how the nervous system functions, especially the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. These systems control the body’s response to stress and help the body recover after a stressful situation, such as sickness or other emergency responses.
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) controls the body’s stress responses, such as during exercise or stress, when the body experiences lower HRV. When the body experiences stress, physical performance also decreases. After the body calms down, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) takes over and balances out the body, preparing it for repair. During this time, HRV increases and the body is more ready for physical activity or athletic training.
What Is The Role of HRV in Sports Physiology?
If you’re a trained athlete, you may have wondered what HRV has to do with your specific field of training. Why is it so important in sports physiology? Research shows the role of HRV in sports medicine and physical fitness has everything to do with physical endurance, intensity, recovery, and more. According to studies, heart rate variability and how it's measured is a clear indicator of the health of the nervous system. It’s one of the best tools for tracking cardiovascular health and how well athletes adapt to training loads. Whether you’re training for a solo sport or you’re a team sport athlete, tracking HRV can help you optimize your training potential.
HRV and Sports Training
Many athletes understand the importance of rest and recovery after training and exercise. HRV and recovery depend on many factors, including exercise resistance training and the intensity of the training. If athletes neglect sufficient recovery, they may experience lower performance times and endurance levels.
Recovery plays an essential role in HRV measurements and in preventing injuries from training. By measuring HRV, athletes can better track their recovery and learn how to boost their nervous system. Managing recovery times and learning how your body responds after training can actually improve your endurance and performance levels.
Using HRV To Monitor Sports Training
When you’re training for sports, you want to maintain optimal health to boost physical endurance and athletic performance. For this to happen, training and athletic ability should match as closely as possible. Research shows tracking HRV in athletes can allow better program designs to support accurate training loads for athletic performance. Accurate training loads can bring balance to the body, but this can only happen if the body both trains and recovers properly.
HRV Guided Training
HRV-guided training can help elite endurance athletes improve their endurance and enhance performance fitness. For example, runners can use HRV to increase their intensity and better adapt to their cardiovascular capabilities. Any athlete can use HRV to monitor sports training.
You can also use HRV to monitor resistance training. Whether you’re lifting weights or running long distances, HRV affects your recovery. HRV also depends on your physical needs. The balance of the nervous system can experience disruption with less rest and increased activity.
Monitor Your HRV For Athletic Performance
Keeping track of your HRV with regular monitoring will help you determine if your nervous system is functioning well. If you have optimal health and wellness, you will also improve your athletic endurance and performance. It’s one of the best and easiest ways to monitor your exercise and recovery. However, only monitoring your HRV will not give you an accurate assessment of your physiological health. When it’s used with nutrition, rest, mental health, regular exams, and other tools, HRV can greatly benefit your training.