WHOOP Strap 3.0: What Is a Good HRV?

Measuring your heart rate is a great way to take a scientific approach to your fitness. Rather than just “going hard,” manually calculating your heart rate gives you real empirical data that you can learn from and, most importantly, incrementally improve.

Standard heart rate methods, though, are no longer the industry-standard. In fact, putting a few fingers on your neck or wrist these days looks flat-out dated. Instead of just old-fashioned heart rate, today, athletes are more interested in advanced measurements like heart rate variability (HRV), which are a far better indicator not only of how hard you are working, but also of your overall fitness level, and your daily fatigue. But what is a “good” HRV?

What Is Heart Rate Variability?

Heart rate variability measures the amount of time between individual heartbeats. Realize that when you or your doctor measures your standard heart rate and says, for example, you have 100 beats per minute, you might assume that means the time in-between each beat is identical. But, actually, it isn’t, and the difference (or variability) between these beats is a significant health indicator.

Your body’s internal pacemaker, by the way, is something called a sinoatrial (SA) node, which is responsible for controlling the number of times your heart beats per minute.

Heart rate variability relates closely to your autonomic nervous system—namely, in its balancing the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems. The parasympathetic system is often referred to as “rest-and-digest,” while the sympathetic system is called “fight-or-flight.” Either way, the autonomic nervous system plays a critical role in the functioning of the body.

What is the best way to measure the health of your autonomic nervous system? With heart rate variability (HRV)!

The problem with HRV is that, unlike the standard heart rate or your resting heart rate, a high HRV is actually a good thing as it indicates fitness and sufficient recovery. A low HRV, on the other hand, means you are either tired, sick or overstrained.

Generally speaking when thinking about HRV measurements, here are the rules of thumb:

  • Higher HRV = Good
  • Lower HRV = Bad

This, though, is a major simplification, because a low HRV does not mean you should necessarily rush off to the doctors. It does, however, give you valuable information about your rest and recover. For example, if your HRV levels are below your personal average even after you wake up, then you may not be getting enough sleep. Or, if your HRV levels tend to dip dramatically during the day, it might be an indicator that you should try to incorporate a small 20-30-minute nap into your day. HRV levels can also have implications on your diet as certain foods can help your recovery and elevate your HRV levels over time, while others may hurt it.

What Is a Normal Heart Rate Variability MS?

Along with energy levels and other important health indicators, HRV decreases as we age. At 25 years old, the average HRV range is between 55-105 (ms). At 60 years old, though, the range is between 25-45. As you can see, this is a pretty abrupt decrease. Researchers believe the decrease in HRV rates has to do with the aging of our nervous system. Specifically, the aging of our parasympathetic nervous system. The aging of nerves and neurons is being traced as the result of more and more age-related diseases. For the time being, there is no miracle cure to stop your parasympathetic system or autonomic nervous system from again. But you can use tools like the WHOOP fitness strap to measure your HRV and manage them in the best ways possible.

Also, another thing to keep in mind about your individual HRV rate is that is varies depending on the time of day and how you feel. That is why it is important to establish a base metric to fully understand and make choices based on your HRV. Things like overtraining and other actions can have a tremendous impact

How to Use HRV

Measuring your HRV can give you the raw data you need to optimize your personal physical performance. Standard heart rate measurements are great for cardio, and while you are actually in the gym. But when it comes to things like recovery, your sleep choices, how you should plan your weightlifting for the day, HRV is much more important. There are some days when your body is ready to go heavy and get strong, and there are others when you should focus on high-rep and low weight. Knowing your HRV can help you make these kinds of decisions in an informed way.

Some of the best reasons to measure and track your heart rate variability include:

  • For Training Optimization
  • For Recovery
  • For Sleep
  • For Travel

There are other important health indicators relating to the health of your cardiovascular system like blood pressure are also important. Your HRV reading is not the only thing you should be thinking about but, especially for athletes, it is definitely something to look at and consider when thinking about your overall health.

How Does Heart Rate Variability Work?

Your heart rate variability is controlled by your parasympathetic and autonomic nervous system working in conjunction to determine how much time elapses between each heartbeat. The number can be changed and improved, and, as mentioned, the higher your HRV, the better.

If You Train Hard, Get Your Sleep

Your quality of sleep is incredibly important. Yes, there are many recommendations about the number of hours you should sleep every night and, for the most part, those 7-9-hour recommendations are useful guides—but the main thing to understand about sleep is that its quality that matters. And quality relates largely to the reasons why you’re sleeping. At the end of a normal, non-stressful workday, you probably won’t need as much sleep as you do after a stressful day or after you went hard at the gym. You should plan your life accordingly. If you just had your hardest day of the week in the gym, then guess what? Turn the TV off an hour early and get your butt in bed! Knowing your HRV rate can show why this is so important as it can illustrate with real-time data, the results of getting more sleep after particularly long or hard days. If getting more sleep at night is not an option, then consider a 20-30 minute nap during the day—they can work wonders.

Meditation and Yoga

Meditation and yoga practices where slow, deep breathing is practiced have been known to have a positive impact on HRV levels. A lot of times, when people think of meditation, they equate it with sleep—as if meditation is only something you would do before bed to relax you. But those who regularly practice yoga know that this is not actually the case. Meditation can be done at any time of the day, and when done right can, in fact, help you feel rested and rejuvenated.

Train Below Your Aerobic Threshold

While there is certainly something to be said for High-Intensity-Interval-Training, that does not mean that HIIT or CrossFit based workouts need to be your go-to forms of cardio all the time. Doing low-intensity aerobic exercise below your aerobic threshold has tremendous benefits to your cardiovascular system.

Pay attention to your diet

A Mediterranean diet has been associated with raised HRV and longevity. The starting point is to eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, use both alcohol and caffeine moderately, and to avoid refined carbs and sugars whenever possible.

Take Cold Showers

Cold showers are one of those things that have plenty of odd benefits. The topic, though, has been quite well researched, and it appears that not only are cold showers good for your cardiovascular system and your heart rate variability but apparently they also boost your immune system. Good news: You only have to make the last 20-30 seconds of your shower cold to receive the benefits!

Is a High HRV Good?

Yes, a high HRV is good. A high HRV score indicates restfulness and can even suggest a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. Sustaining a high HRV level on a consistent basis can be useful in preventing things like heart disease and other problems related to your overall health and physical wellbeing.

Why Does HRV Matter?

HRV impacts how you feel throughout the day and how well you perform mentally and physically. You don’t have to pay attention to every piece of data in your body, but HRV is one of the keystone pieces of data that really matters. The key is using a device that makes tracking your HRV easy and actionable. One such product is WHOOP, which gives you great fitness and sleep tracking based on HRV and other metrics. Unlike your old fashioned heart rate monitor, WHOOP is comfortable to wear (even more so than the Apple watch) and it even looks good. WHOOP also comes with an HRV app that you can use like other fitness trackers to look at things like HRV values, HRV data, and HRV trends to help make decisions. If you’ve never tried wearables and are into fitness, give WHOOP a try and see the tremendous impact it can have on your health and life.