HRV research has been available for a long time but it has only appeared in the spotlight recently because technology has become so advanced that we are now able to measure HRV accurately with our smart devices.
But what is HRV exactly?
First of all, HRV tracking is backed by science. There are dozens of studies that show HRV is an effective tool to use for optimizing training. Source #1, #2 and #3. There are plenty more studies available on this subject.
Put simply, when measuring your HRV, you’re essentially measuring the interval of time in between each heartbeat. This interval is controlled by a primal part of your nervous system, the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is subdivided into two system – the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
Sympathetic – the system that allows you to enter fight or flight mode;
Parasympathetic – the system that allows you to relax and recover.
Ideally, you want these two systems to be balanced. In sports, too much stress can lead to injuries. On the other hand, if you don’t push hard enough, you won’t improve as fast as you can. The interval of time in between your heartbeats can show us which of these two systems is predominant in your body. If these two systems are out of balance, you’re either heading towards injury or you simply won’t improve. And that’s HRV in a nutshell!
How can I apply HRV to my training?
There are a few tools available on the market but the one I’m going to write about has a different twist built into it. How? Most tools measure your HRV and present the results in numbers (on a scale from 0 to 100). The tool I use, mySASY (my Spectral Analysis System), gives you a chart showing your results and WHAT they mean – which is super useful.
Moreover, mySASY has an amazing tool which is my personal favorite – the supercompensation graph tool (but more on this later!). mySASY is basically like having a running coach by your side, telling you when you should train hard and when to take it easy.
How I use mySASY
Every morning, when I wake up, I go to the bathroom, wash my face and strap the HRV monitor around my chest (you can use your own HRV strap as long as it is Bluetooth enabled and can accurately measure the RR interval to one-thousandth of a second).
When I have the chest strap around my chest, I turn on the mySASY app and connect my iPhone to the device. After, I lay down on my couch (but you can also go back to bed) and let the device take the measurements. There are two different types of measurements:
The long version measures your HRV for 840 heartbeats. 120 in a supine position (laying down), 360 in a standing position and another 360 heartbeats laying down. The mySASY app lets you know when to switch positions. In total, the standard measurement takes around 15 minutes, which will give you some extra time to relax after you’ve woken up!
If you’re in a rush, you can use the short version, which lasts for 240 heartbeats (approximately 4 minutes) in the supine (laying down) position. The short measurement is only available after you’ve completed 15 standard measurements. By having these 15 long measurements, mySASY will be able to draw data from your previous standard measurements and present accurate data for your short measurements!
Let’s get to the exciting part!
The data! If you’re anything like me, you really enjoy analyzing your training data, and that’s where things become interesting with mySASY. Let’s start with the dashboard – the home of all you stats. Here’s my dashboard:
Just from a glimpse, you can tell that mySASY has a lot to offer. In one fell swoop, mySASY’s dashboard tells you your body’s current state and past measurements (training capacity), indications for your next training session (compensation level) and your functional age. Functional age is a reflection of your bodies ageing process, which in this case is measured by your heart rate. In the top toolbar, you also have your ‘Training Profile’ which we will get to in the next few paragraphs!
Let’s dive deeper into each category.
Too many red measurements and you may be training too hard and not recovering adequately. I seem to have a good mix between red and blue, but I believe my recovery could be better – I don’t have many green readings. This is something I’m currently focusing on.
Everyone’s measurements will be placed in a different area of the graph depending on the individual’s Training Profile (more about it later). Within your scope of measurements, moving to the top right is positive whereas moving towards bottom left is negative, or meaning that the previous stress was really high and you did not recover yet.
To further understand my measurements, I was invited to a mySASY live Facebook webinar. I spoke to Pavel Mráz (mySASY’s COO) and we figured out that a few of the ‘red’ measurements were influenced by a few late nights which hindered my recovery! Also, my first few readings were done incorrectly, so this influenced the results as well. I highly recommend you watch the webinar to further understand this concept.
Lastly, the quadrant on the top left is where things get serious! If your measurements consistently land within this quadrant, it is an indication that you are there may be an underlying issue or that you may possibly be ill. That’s right, HRV readings have been known to predict illness as well.
To summarize, I can understand (just by glancing at my graph) that I should prioritize recovery and include a few lighter workouts in my training plan. Maybe this will get my coach to take it easy on me!
The thing that really appeals to me is that mySASY truly focuses on using methods that are backed by science. mySASY cleverly takes your HRV measurements and creates a chart to show your supercompensation levels.
Supercompensation is a sports science theory that has been used by coaches and athletes for years. Essentially, supercompensation is the science of planning and applying bouts of hard effort and allowing for adequate recovery, in order to increase your base-level performance overtime. It’s a complex method that takes into account various stress and recovery indicators from your body.
And mySASY lays it out like it’s super simple. I don’t know how mySASY does it, but the supercompensation graph, and the tips their system gives you, are on point.
As if the metrics above weren’t enough, mySASY attempts to take things further with training profiles.
mySASY has reportedly gathered thousands of measurement results and created a system which can indicate what kind of training profile you fall in to. I’m 54% Classic and 46% Threat. This may indicate that I’m prone to injuries and stress (possibly due to low recovery quality) but this might be because I my first few measurements were done incorrectly. In a month or two I will be creating another training profile to see if anything has changed, according to newer HRV measurements.
Here’s a deeper understanding into each profile, as explained the Measurement Analysis webinar:
Threat: low level of regeneration, often accompanied by a significant negative overall response to stress. There is a solid threat of overload.
Classic: Both the regeneration and adaptation systems show corresponding dynamics. Individuals are well disposed for training with a good response to their training load and the ability to adapt to the load.
Holder: Both the regeneration and the adaptations systems show significant stability. Individuals have a lower risk of overload, and low adaptive response. Adaptation and regeneration are not very effective.
Talent: Stable high-level regeneration system balanced by a strong response of the activation system. Excellent disposition for training. Excellent trainability. Low risk of overload.
And these were the main tools I wanted to talk about in this article! As I keep exploring mySASY, I will dive deeper into their tools and eventually I will attempt to schedule my training by simply following their system’s recommendations.
For now, I will continue to measure daily and I will report back within 6 to 8 weeks to give an updated report on my measurements. I’m currently keeping my eye on the supercompensation chart, trying to keep it on the rise!
In conclusion, I would say that mySASY is definitely an advanced measuring tool. It requires you to spend some time analyzing the data and understand the way it’s represented but it’s definitely worth it.
If you enjoyed this article and you’d like to give mySASY a try – please do! You won’t regret it! As I said in the beginning of the article, if you don’t have a mySASY HRV monitor strap you can use your own HRV strap as long as it is Bluetooth enabled and can accurately measure the RR interval to one-thousandth of a second. After acquiring your strap, all you need to do is create an account and you’re ready to start!
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