HEART RATE VARIABILITY - HRV4Training
HRV - Training and Recovery
I start with an experience that I had a few years ago.
It was a cold winter’s evening in the suburbs of London, England and the central heating was just warming up. I was following whatever lifestyle routine I had in place during that time, when I had this strong desire for hot chocolate (cocoa). I had never had this feeling before, and never since, but it was strong, Man! So strong that I put on my coat and walked one mile to the local supermarket.
As I entered the store I could feel the desire grow. With eyes wide and mouth watering, I arrived at the hot chocolate section. But everything changed in a heartbeat, (excuse the pun). I was greeted with a shopping aisle that was 100 metres wide and 10 metres tall! Ok, I’m exaggerating but it was BIG! Wall to wall hot chocolate! There must have been at least 100 different versions of this one simple product.
With absolutely no idea where to start I became overwhelmed and left the store empty-handed. The choices were just too great for my small brain to compute. I didn’t reach my aim but I did get to walk a couple of miles!
This experience gives an indication of my current view of the ‘health and fitness’ market. With an industry that is filled with gimmicks, gadgets and gurus, it is very easy, in my humble opinion, to get overwhelmed with the offerings. A plethora of choice can sometimes equal confusion, distrust and apathy; for me, anyway.
Putting potential cynicism aside I recently came across a health and fitness concept in the huge wellness ocean that captivated me. It actually blew me away once I grasped the concepts and I write this article to chart my journey from discovery to implementation.
Clearing The Air!
Before we begin, let's get this out of the way.......I'm biased!
This blog post may sound like a sale's pitch for HRV4Training and when writings are compiled with passion, one can be forgiven for thinking so. But. The following is an honest opinion of an app that (for me personally), has kicked nearly all its competition to the kerb. Some may disagree. That's fine. I believe in what I am writing, and I alone lived the experiences to come to the conclusions that I possess today.
Heart Rate Variability – A Discovery
In May of 2015, I was scanning an article in cyberspace when I saw a link to something labelled 'heart rate variability'. I was not familiar with this term and immediately thought it was a fancy way of describing heart beats per minute. It killed the cat but wasn’t going to do me over. Curiosity resulted in a click of the hyperlink and opened a doorway to new exciting knowledge.
I devoured the subject matter and light bulbs went off in quick succession. Alas I cannot link to the original article due to forgetting where I read it but no matter. I will provide links to other resources on the subject.
With juices flowing, my ‘all or nothing’ personality lit up and I began to research.......
What Is Heart Rate Variability?
(Taken from the HRV4Training web site - https://www.hrv4training.com/blog/heart-rate-variability-a-primer)
Each beat of our heart is triggered by an electrical impulse that can be easily recorded by an electrocardiogram (ECG), one of the most common ways to monitor heart activity. However, our heart doesn't beat at a constant frequency. When we talk about heart rate variability (HRV), we are interested in capturing the variability that occurs between heart beats. (Use link above to read the full article on HRV4Training's web site)........
I believe that by acting on insights derived from HRV, one can optimize one's training, manage stress, improve health, and maximize the competition that is our daily lives.
What Is Required?
- Smartphone App
- Compatible Heart Rate Monitor or a finger!
- A couple of minutes a day
Journey to HRV4Training - 2015
My initial research back in 2015 led me to a system called Bioforce HRV. It looked impressive but the price-point was too high for me personally. Although I was interested in this new exciting concept I was not ready to make a substantial financial investment.
It was while I was browsing though my iPhone apps that I decided to do a quick search for HRV. I'm not big on apps so this approach was relatively new to me. Boy was I glad I took this approach. A list appeared on the phone and the downloading commenced. The journey was now well underway.
Armed with in-depth knowledge and a new shiny Polar H7 that I had just purchased (still using the same one in 2019), I began daily monitoring………after a few days of recording I developed a real appreciation for this technology and the potential benefits that it can offer:
- Optimise training
- Balance work and recovery
- Measure stress levels and enhance the ability to reduce stress
- And much more.....
Current Location on Said Journey - 2019
Fast-forward four-and-a-bit years! Back in 2015 I originally started off with the HRV app that I believe pioneered the HRV Smartphone revolution. At that time it was enough for dipping the toe into this vast ocean.
Within a relatively short period of time it became apparent (to me), coupled with the observations of notable experts within the field, that simple HRV numbers and/or accompanying colour indicators was not enough information to make informed training (and other lifestyle) decisions.
Enter HRV4Training.......This was the third app that I tried and the one that I have come to love. I have been using it since August 2015 and have had the pleasure of watching it grow into a 'thing of beauty' (as Mickey said to Adrian in Rocky 3!).
HRV4Training - Screenshots from my iPhone
There are myriad benefits to using this app over others (biased exaggeration, course!), but the thing that really stands out to me is the passion from the founder(s) and their attention to detail with app-development and testing data. These guys are putting their money where their mouth is!
I also love how they are willing to make big changes as new data/information becomes available. A couple of years back they made the decision to remove paced breathing from the app. I am sure it was a controversial thing to do at the time, but I applaud it as the right approach based on current research.
It's here that I return for a third time to the word 'bias'. Bias is a hard thing to overcome in any facet of life, but the willingness to suspend bias in favour of a 'better' way shows true character. I don't know HRV4Training personally but I am sure they have their own biases with regard to HRV. While I can feel the bias from some of the other HRV apps in terms of application, I don't feel that with HRV4Training. I see a company that has an open mind and is in search of the best version of the truth with regard to this simple but complex metric!
In no particular order, I list how HRV4Training has helped with consistent measurement taking and training optimisation:
i) Ability to take PPG readings using the finger. I'm a heart rate monitor guy (Polar H7), but sometimes miss a reading at home if in a rush. I can take a PPG reading a few minutes later on the way to work. And yes! One semi-inconsistent reading is ok! Trends are more important that isolated moments and I choose to take consistent daily readings.
ii) Analysis of Training Load.
iii) Acute HRV changes, particularly CV (coefficient of variation). A nod to Andrew Flatt for highlighting this useful metric and a thank you to HRV4Training for including it within their app.
ii) VO2Max estimation.
iv) Training Polarisation.
v) Lactate Threshold estimation.
vi) Population Comparison
vii) Visual history with subjective metrics.
viii) Lots of other cool stuff that I have not played with yet!
I highly recommend it :) Other stuff:
- Feature packed without being overwhelming
- Crisp clean user interface
- Export function
- Great support
- Data is stored online (great backup)
- Web application for further analysis
My experience to date has been wonderful. The app is very impressive and offers a host of features. The information on the web site has been exceptionally useful and my interaction with one of the founders, Marco Altini, has been a joy.
If I was to throw in a 'negative' just to elicit balance, I would say that new users of HRV may get a little overwhelmed by the volume of insights available. That being said, HRV4Training offer a basic and advanced view to facilitate this.
HRV4Training - Screenshots from my iPhone
I have tried many of the HRV apps over the last 4+ years and HRV4Training has become my top choice. It is now the app that I solely use and the one that I recommend to others. There is a small financial outlay that provides big returns in terms of quantifying workload, defining trends and using said data to drive one's training forward.
Heart Rate Variability is something that I am delighted to have ‘discovered’. It has changed my approach to training and helped me to optimise recovery. I currently follow what I believe to be a very clever and intuitive periodisation process within my training (both in the macro and micro cycles) and have been able to fine-tune this with actual data.
HRV also goes beyond just training and recovery and I have yet to investigate the other 'non-training' elements in the future.
In HRV4Training, a powerful tool is available that I believe to be a 'game changer'. Thank you to HRV4Training for making this an affordable way to acquire such great technology. This app and the company continue to surprise me with innovative new features and useful additions to its growing arsenal of valuable insights and metrics.
My journey of HRV discovery has finished but the real journey has just begun……………oh, and no more hot chocolate.
HRVTraining logo taken from their official web site http://www.hrv4training.com.com
All other images are from my iPhone. I use dark mode, but there is light mode available as well.
HRV4Training – Official Web Site
Link to HRV4Training's FAQ Page
Link to founder of HRV4Training's web site, Marco Altini
HRV Training - Andrew Flatt's Web Site (Wonderful resource for training and HRV)
Wikipedia Article on HRV
Note 1: None of the external links on this page or throughout this web site are affiliate links. I provide links to give access to further information about the training I undertake. I have absolutely nothing against affiliate links but I don't personally run any.
Note 2: Sometimes I will provide details about a training program but only details that have been put into the public domain by the program creators.
"Knowledge is NOT power. It is what you do with the knowledge that creates the power."