I was reading an Outside Online article on “What is Heart Rate Variability” when I noticed they mentioned a new iPhone app, Hrv4 Training, that measures your heart rate variability using the camera instead of a chest strap. That immediately got my attention since the best time to measure your heart rate variability is in the morning when you first wake up, and having to slip on a chest strap every morning for a one minute reading is a real pain!
I’ve been using an iPhone app to measure my resting heart rate every morning and it uses the camera to pick up my heart rate, so I know how simple and cool this feature is. You just click on the app right after you wake up, put your index finger over the iPhone camera lens, and hold still for a minute while it takes a reading. Then save and you’re done!
So What is Heart Rate Variability?
Heart rate variability is a measurement of the intervals between your heart beats. Here is an excerpt from the article:
More than 50 years ago, scientists discovered that the more variation in the time between someone’s heartbeats, the healthier the heart is. More variability indicates your heart is reacting well to the second-by-second changes in your body, such as the peaks and valleys in oxygen when you inhale and exhale. “Another way to look at it is that HRV is a good indicator of whether your central nervous system is in a fight or flight mode [low variation] or a rest and repair mode [high variation],” says Couzens.
Over the last 20 years, elite trainers have begun to use this data to measure how well their athletes recover from big workouts. We all have fluctuations in our HRV, but consistent readings of high variation are a strong indication of good recovery and the heart’s readiness to take on another training block. Yet until recently, tracking HRV required complex, expensive equipment and was often only used by pro or Olympic-level endurance athletes. Now, there are dozens of HRV-specific apps on the market (the function has been added to many fitness and sleep wearables) and they have become a popular tool for endurance athletes who are hoping to quantify recovery.
How do you track Heart Rate Variability?
For us recreational athletes to now have this powerful tool in our hands is really neat. You will need to record your measurements every morning for a month to build a sufficient base of data. Then you will be able to tell in the morning that you have not fully recovered from the previous day’s workout or additional stress and tone down the intensity of your workout for that day. This will help reduce the chronic buildup of stress from your workouts and keep you from over training.
This is perfect for runners on my Aerobic Max training where you control your workouts instead of following some pre-subcribed plan. If you want to learn how to maximize your training to build your aerobic fat burning system, check out my “Run Your Fastest 50K” video series by click the green button.
So I strongly recommend you download the iPhone app for the Hrv4 Training and get started on monitoring your stress levels today! Give it a try and let me know how it’s going.