We are thrilled to see an increased focus on health and wellness in society today. Focussing on diet and exercise is a key part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, many are unaware they are actually over (or under) functioning ...until an injury occurs, alerting them to this fact. A common question we hear from patients is, “So, how do I avoid injury?”
Research and evidence suggest that heart rate variability (HRV) can be used as a reliable marker to prevent injury! You may be sitting there thinking, what does that even mean? It’s a fancy way of saying the “difference in time between each individual heartbeat”. HRV is not the same thing as your heart rate, however. Let’s look at a practical situation; when an individual is not exercising and their heart rate is low, the time span between each beat is longer. As they begin to exercise and their heart rate increases, the time span between each beat is shorter. The difference is HRV, or a representation of the fluidity of the system to ramp up and down as needed.
Now that you understand what HRV is, we can explain how it can be used to monitor for possible tissue overload prior to the onset of pain or injury. This is exciting stuff! Within your body is something called the autonomic nervous system or involuntary nervous system, which controls various things like reflexes and actions that you do not have conscious control over, such as regulating pain, inflammation and tissue muscle repair. HRV can be used to track how well a person’s autonomic nervous system reacts to their training regimen or lifestyle demands and give us foresight into possible tissue overload prior to damage or injury. Tracking HRV daily sets the baseline. Once we have a baseline, an increase in heart rate variability indicates that a person is well adapted to their daily demands or training program. A low heart rate variability may make someone less adaptable to changes in daily tasks or training programs, increasing fatigue and injury potential. Your practical example for this would be when you need to hop outside to shovel that heavy snow your system is prepared to handle that stress. Conversely, when it’s time to shut down and rest for the night you can quickly switch modes and be ready to sleep and recover.
Here are some important things to consider:
It is very easy to under or over train! This reliable marker can help athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike understand what their body needs.
We cannot control our nervous system, but we can control our workload.
HRV can be easily tracked! We have found the HRV4Training app simple and painless to negotiate.
“Go hard or Go home” takes on new meaning when you don’t have to “Go home” because going hard injured you.
Do you feel strong and healthy?? If not, stop in and see us.
Williams S., Booton T., Watson M., et al. Heart rate variability is a moderating factor in the workload-injury relationship of competitive crossfit athletes. J Sports Sci Med. 2007;16:443-449.