HRV 101 Pt. 2: Let鈥檚 Talk About HRV Training

HRV 101 Pt. 2: Let鈥檚 Talk About HRV Training

Let鈥檚 start with a quick reminder; what exactly is heart rate variability (HRV)?

HRV is a measure of the variability between heartbeats, a function controlled by your autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) has two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest). HRV is not the same as heartbeats per minute. Say a heartbeats 60 beats per minute; the space between these 60 beats isn鈥檛 consistently one second 鈥 it varies. The variance is an HRV measurement. Here鈥檚 a link to a greatreview articleby two HRV experts聽for a deeper聽dive into HRV data if you鈥檙e interested.聽

Think of HRV as an indicator of general well-being and resilience to stress.

What is HRV training?

Heart rate variability training is training our mind and body to be as resilient as possible to stress. Learning these skills maximizes our innate ability to adapt to changes as fluidly as possible and recover as quickly as possible whenever we can.

Another way to look at HRV training is flow state training 鈥 the goal is to train yourself to be in a flow (or peak) state as often as possible, allowing us access to our greatest human potential and our highest level of functioning at all times.

Why is HRV training important?

Bruce Lee said it best: 鈥淒on鈥檛 get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless 鈥 like water. Now you put water in a cup; it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle; it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot; it becomes the teapot.鈥澛

Does this feel far-fetched? It鈥檚 not. Bruce Lee鈥檚 sentiment reflects the ancient Buddhist idea of letting go of resistance and giving in to change around us. If we resist change in a state of fear, we perpetuate suffering. Water forms to its natural surrounding, and as humans, we can too. If we learn to flow with change, we鈥檙e closer to achieving our fullest, most whole potential. HRV training is training our mind and body to flow with the changes in the environment.

Our environment and surroundings are changing quickly in an unprecedented fashion. Change is new and new can be frightening, particularly if we are already overwhelmed and underslept. If we cling to the old, it creates blocks and creates resistance to the new.

The ability to train ourselves to better adapt to change has always been a theme in many ancient Eastern cultures, and now we have the data and science to back this up. The higher our HRV is, the more fluidly we鈥檙e embracing this idea. HRV is a measure of how smoothly and fluidly we adapt to change; in other words, how quickly and effectively we are to overcome and bounce back from challenging or stressful situations.

Elite athletes, medical professionals, and military personnel now recognize that we cannot sustain peak athletic performance and overall health without peak recovery training. HRV guided training is doing precisely that. We want to maximize our ability to transition into peak recovery between stressors with the appropriate training load, resulting in higher HRV. Uncertainty is a stressor. When we focus on uncertainty, we鈥檙e focusing on something that we cannot control, triggering a sympathetic fight-or-flight-or-freeze stress response.

By focusing on what we can control in this moment (ie. our breath), we put ourselves back into the driver鈥檚 seat of our lives (where we all too often feel like a passenger along for the ride), with the recognition that we are in control in this moment (starting with our breath), which reminds us that we are safe. Breathing in this way, and other similar practices result in balancing our often over-activated, over-sensitized sympathetic system with safety signals (ie. breathing) that boost parasympathetic rest-and-digest activity that can be measured by HRV improvementswithin minutesor overtime if breathing is practiced on a routine basis.聽Engaging in a training session daily can begin the process of improving blood pressure, metabolic health, and respiratory rate so you can find the heart health you deserve.聽

Who should do HRV training?

HRV guided training is truly for everyone. No matter your job, family life, past, or any number of the experiences that make our situations unique, everyone would benefit from being more present more of the time. After all, it is within the present moment that most of the wonder and magic of life hang out. There are many of us who find that our minds tend to occupy a space in time where they鈥檙e continually dwelling in the past or predicting the future based on the past, despite knowing deep down that the most critical opportunities to make choices that improve our lives exist only in the present. Thankfully, our bodies are always present in the here and now moment, which is why techniques that center our minds back in our bodies like breathing, soothing touch, meditation, music, and the Apollo wearable are such important tools to integrate into our lives.聽 By training ourselves to flow with change, we鈥檙e becoming more present, freer tojust be.

HRV is also a measure of how well we鈥檝e recovered from past stresses, whether it鈥檚 emotional, physical, or spiritual. When we鈥檙e engaging in HRV training, we鈥檙e training our body to recover from the impact of change, or the stressor, as quickly as possible. We鈥檙e achieving a balance between peak performance and peak recovery. It鈥檚 becoming abundantly clear from the scientific literature, clinical studies, and sports medicine that we can鈥檛 sustain peak performance without peak recovery. This notion is respected and adhered to by elite performers of all types including athletes, medical professionals, and military personnel.

When we consider who has the lowest HRV, we see the overworked, stressed, sleep-deprived, physically over-trained; those who have PTSD, physical or head trauma, chronic pain, or anxiety. These people tend to benefit significantly from training and HRV monitoring. People with higher HRV (>80ms) are less likely to get sick and more likely to sustain peak athletic and cognitive performance, and more likely to get better when they get sick.

There鈥檚 no debate that our society values productivity over well-being andjust being. We choose to measure worth by productivity. It鈥檚 essential to build your toolbox of skills that help youjustbe, many ofwhich are the same tools for HRV training.

Ready to get started?

Head to Part 3 in our HRV series on how to do HRV training.