Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is so hot right now. In a sport dominated by stats, gadgets and personal scores to tell you how your not training enough and how lousy meat pies are for you, a few key measures have bubbled to the top, Training Stress Score (TSS) and Heart rate variability. HRV is the newer of the two and represents a holistic approach to stress on the body, specifically the autonomic nervous system. Whereas heart rate only measures your beats per minute, HRV measures the relationship between two competing systems, second by second and the relationship between them.
The Sympathetic system controls your fight or flight response increases your heart rate. Conversely, your Parasympathetic system, tells your heart to rest and recover and slows your heart rate. The ‘rate’ of these push and pull changes every heartbeat and HRV measures the balance between the two.
For those interested in the specific science, EliteHRV provides an excellent summary, and if you subscribe, you can receive a 50-page book with enough detail to make you one hell of a hit at dinner parties.
Arghh! I have too many stats already, do I need to worry about HRV?
Well, in short, yes. Ever gotten up for that run, and you’re just not ‘feelin it’? Are you buried into a deep training block, you feel like you shouldn’t train but guilt overrides you and up you get, only to get injured. Having a bad time at work and your workout suffers, and you don’t know why? This is where HRV is invaluable. As athletes we look at heart rate, if its elevated for the day, were sick, so we stop (or should stop).
HRV looks at the impact on your overall Autonomic nervous system, which is affected by more than just fatigue. Stresses at work and in your personal life, sleep, mental calmness as well as training load can put significant pressure on your body, beyond just your heart rate. It’s this overall holistic approach which gives us a much more rounded out picture as to if we can perform well today.
Elite HRV’s Model and Company
EliteHRV is a home gown business built out of a bunch of passionate data guys and gals, with a background in industrial mining equipment management. The EliteHRV model consists of three elements, the athlete HRV Tracking app the associated wearables and the HRV Team Dashboard for coach monitoring and athlete collaboration.
What do you mean its free… there has to be a catch
As an athlete, there’s no catch. The intuitive, simple and fully functional HRV application (available and iPhone and Android) is entirely free. Good work EliteHRV! Once you fire up the app, you have to pair up a compatible heart rate monitor (most Bluetooth 4.0 enabled Heart rate monitors to work, including Bluetooth receivers/transmitters such as your heart rate enabled watch.)
The protocol to measure your heart rate variability is simple and the best time to measure is when you just wake up (your less stressed and least fatigued first thing in the morning). So you wake up, put on your heart rate monitor and take a 2-minute test, where your heart rate interbeat intervals are measured.
Once you are done, the application asks you how your feeling for the day and sleep quality and time for historical tracking, with the ability to add additional metadata if you wish, and the app then determines your HRV score.
The application determines your relative ‘stress score’ for the day, measured from 1 – 10
- Green (7 – 10) means your good to go, your Autonomic nervous system is in check and your good to train at full wallop
- Yellow (4 – 6) means your on a watching brief, you’re slightly overreaching or maybe a bit stressed out. The app recommends mindfulness exercises to relax and rebaseline the next day.
- Red (1 – 3) means you need to slow down, your either overtraining, deep in recovery or potentially sick.. hit up some light exercise or rest for the day
The stats are measured over time, and you can track your history, upload them to you ‘team’ (more on this later) and view advanced charts including stats to compare heart rate and heart rate variability over time. A well rounded and complete HRV Application.
Personally, I never seemed to vary much outside of the green zone, primarily as I’m in a phase of my training that isn’t particularly taxing. I did get the dreaded man flu during the evaluation though, and I started to drift into the yellow markers which allowed me to back off on the sick days, and it motivated me to train light when I wouldn’t have trained. I would be very interested to see how this plays out during an Ironman build.
It’s worth noting that at the time of this review the base application as I previously mentioned is entirely free, EliteHRV is launching a well-priced subscription model ($5USD per month) for advanced analytics, peer comparison, etc. However this feature is coming soon and I’m yet to see it, so I can’t give a blow by blow comparison. Suffice to say the base (not basic) functionality will work for all of you today.
Its all about the wearables
Where EliteHRV currently makes their money from athletes is via the sale of wearables. EliteHRV used to sell Bluetooth enabled Heart rate monitors, however, have recently shifted to selling a ‘finger’ based measurement tool called CoreSense, which was listed on Kickstarter. I like the idea of this, as putting on your heart rate monitor at 5 am requires a level of dexterity that doesn’t come naturally that time of the morning. Just having something next to the bed would make the whole process easier.
The platform seems innovative. However, I have yet to see the new device so can’t comment on its unique features. I have requested an evaluation unit, so hopefully, we can review that some point in the future.
You know the story, you wake up in the morning, cooked from last nights E4 efforts that seem to have been a daily occurrence for the previous six months. You ring up your coach to tell them you need some rest. Boom, a barrage of ‘supportive’ comments comparing your athletic abilities to that of a pregnant yack and just HTFU. Well now, with frankly a life-saving feature, you can demonstrate to your coach, that you need a more relaxed day, pre-training (and maybe a bit more HTFU).
EliteHRV provides a feature specific to coaches and teams called ‘Team Dashboard’ which in essence allows a coach to see the heart rate variability of their team members, provide feedback and historical trending. A coach can conduct a specific analysis of an individual or the whole team to judge how a particular training block is affecting the ability of a squad to backup after training.
The subscription model is $5USD per athlete per month, and as a coach, the data rounds out a training programme beyond just performance-based numbers.
Access to the dashboard is free, with a trial ‘Fantasy’ team. Gimili, it seems needs to have a chat with his coach. The team edition is available on – https://team.elitehrv.com/
EliteHRV is an excellent product and framework. Making the base application free is a smart move, allowing myself as an athlete to build it into my daily routine.
The new finger-based HRV measurement device should make taking your daily sample more straightforward, and the team based coaches dashboard with its advanced analytics rounds out, what is a robust framework invaluable training aid.
Highly recommended across all levels of performance and race distance.