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Digital Subscriptions > Men's Fitness > September 2019 > LISTEN TO YOUR HEART

LISTEN TO YOUR HEART

YOU COULD BE FORGIVEN FOR NOT HAVING A CLUE WHAT IT IS, BUT HRV TESTING COULD BE SET TO REVOLUTIONISE THE WAY YOU TRAIN

Think of a stressful situation: a tough work meeting, your commute, or just getting the kids to bed might spring to mind. But the reality is there’s no end to the amount of scenarios capable of increasing physical and mental stress on our bodies: from high-intensity interval training (HIIT), to cooking, or simply feeling run-down. And when it comes to maintaining an effective training regime, understanding how these stressors impact your body’s requirements for recovery is essential. But how do we know what daily factors cause us the most stress and, importantly, if we are effectively recovering from them?

Say hello to heart rate variability (HRV) – the measure of variation in milliseconds between each successive heartbeat. While acknowledgement of this natural occurrence is far from new, those outside the medical community are only recently becoming aware that, by analysing how HRV fluctuates throughout the day, we can garner a wealth of information with regards to our training, fitness and health. “When you have good HRV, it means your body and heart are able to respond to diff erent demands”, explains Tiina Hoff man, exercise physiologist at performance analytics company Firstbeat (firstbeat.com). Your HRV is a reflection of how quickly your body reacts to a stimulus: a high figure is considered good and a low figure is less desirable. Professional athletes are able to recover faster and better, as their heart rate returns to resting quicker; whereas the heart rate of a less fit individual stays more regular, indicating continued stress. You can thank (or blame) your parents for some of yours: “around 30 per cent of a person’s HRV is genetically determined,” says Hoff man. However, the remaining 70 per cent is impacted by a host of external factors – all of which can have bigger repercussions than you might expect.

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