It’s important to not only understand what HRV is, but how to interpret your HRV readings. Let’s jump into some common mistakes we see people make:
- Thinking low HRV readings are always bad.
A chronically low HRV is usually not a good thing, however a single low HRV reading doesn’t always mean something’s wrong. A quick drop in your HRV can actually be a good thing, as long as your HRV returns to your normal or better ¹.
But why is it good? Well, because this means your body is capable of taking on stress, responding to it and adapting positively to the stressors by returning your HRV back to your normal level or better!
2. Thinking high HRV readings are always good.
Similarly, higher HRV readings do not always mean you’re healthier or gaining increased fitness. While one or two high HRV readings are not always good, it’s your HRV trend that is more important. An increasing HRV trend is proven to be associated with increases in fitness ².
However, it’s important to note that an increasing trend is not always positive. Here are some examples of when it’s not positive:
- Certain illnesses can cause a dramatic increase in HRV as the body is trying to recovery and fight off the illness. This should not be seen as an increase in fitness.
- Studies show that overtrained athletes show an increasing HRV trend, but once they reduce the amount of training, their HRV values lower and return towards their baseline.
3. Relying on one single HRV reading.
I think we’ve been pretty clear that one single HRV reading on its own pretty much tells us nothing. HRV is a measure of our nervous system, and since our bodies are constantly responding to our lifestyles (stress, food, activity, etc.) our HRV will change drastically throughout a 24-hour period.
It is important to measure your HRV on a regular basis and to first establish your own unique Baseline Range to have something to compare each daily HRV reading back to. Your HRV is going to change from day-to-day, and that’s okay – in fact, that’s normal ³.
4. Not being consistent with how/when you measure your HRV.
This might be one of the biggest mistakes you can make when adding HRV to your fitness routine. Consistency is key, here 🔑 As I mentioned above, HRV is a highly sensitive metric, meaning many things have a big affect on each HRV reading.
How to take consistent HRV measurements:
- Always take your HRV at the same time each day. We recommend taking your HRV 5-10 minutes after you wake up in the morning, and after you’ve gone pee (weird, I know).
- Choose one body position and stick with it. If you take your readings sitting down, always take them sitting down. If you take them standing up, always take them standing up – you get it.
- NEVER have coffee, a meal or a cigarette right before taking your HRV reading – these things will dramatically affect your reading.
Try to create a habit around when you take your morning HRV reading – it helps to increase the accuracy and your experience using Loops!
5. Only measuring your HRV on days you want to use Loops.
First, Loops was designed so that you never feel guilty or “need” to take a day off of using the app – that’s the beauty of following a balanced fitness routine.
Oftentimes, people only measure their HRV on days they deem “important” or valuable to know their HRV. This thought process defeats the entire point of tracking, measuring, and using HRV to better your life! Every single day has an impact on your HRV and your stress and recovery loads on your body. So, not taking an HRV reading on a day where you don’t necessarily want to train or workout, is leaving out important key pieces of information in your puzzle.
- HRV values are highly individualized and we cannot rely on one singular reading to give us an absolute answer – context is king!
- Consistency is one of the most important things to aim for when measuring your HRV – be consistent with each reading, and consistently taking readings!
- Don’t get caught up dwelling over one or two readings – what is more important is our HRV trends over time.
- Pratap Abhishek, Steinhubl Steve, Neto Elias Chaibub, Wegerich Stephan W., Peterson Christine Tara, Weiss Lizzy, Patel Sheila, Chopra Deepak, Mills Paul J. Changes in Continuous, Long-Term Heart Rate Variability and Individualized Physiological Responses to Wellness and Vacation Interventions Using a Wearable Sensor, Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, 7, 2020.
- Routledge, F. S., Campbell, T. S., McFetridge-Durdle, J. A., & Bacon, S. L. (2010). Improvements in heart rate variability with exercise therapy. The Canadian journal of cardiology, 26(6), 303–312.
- Javaloyes A, Sarabia JM, Lamberts RP, Moya-Ramon M. Training Prescription Guided by Heart Rate Variability in Cycling. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2018 May 29:1-28.