Slow and Steady Doesn’t Win the Race
Will knowing this number help your performance?
Your Variable Heart Rate (VHR) may be the new number tracked by high-level athletes and could help your health.
Many people think your heart should beat at a steady rhythm.
And that would be wrong.
The only time you have a steady heartbeat is when you are under stress.
Think about when you are late, and you can feel your heartbeat pulsing in your temples. It is usually throbbing at a constant pace.
But most of the time, your heart beats irregularly. It’s not skipping a beat at all; it’s just behaving normally.
What does this mean to your workouts?
An irregular heartbeat actually shows that your body is not stressed or inflamed and is ready to workout.
And knowing this could help you know when to work out and when you need to recover.
Your VHR number is something that can be tracked using various apps on your phone. They utilize either your smartwatch or a chest strap heartbeat monitor.
The greater the irregularity of your pulse rate, the more relaxed you are. And the higher the number the more intense a workout you are ready to take on.
Experts caution that just taking one reading is not enough. You need to use the app for weeks to get a sense of your range in order to make this number work for you.
You may be predisposed to have relatively low variability normally, or it may be highly variable.
It all depends, and it is not necessarily an indication of your overall fitness level.
Studies of high-level cyclists show that their numbers are all over the place.
But when these programs are optimized for their individual VHR, and when they train hard when their VHR numbers are at the highest, they see major improvements in their performance.
One of the best indicators of fitness is VO2 max.
The is the volume of oxygen the body is utilizing, the higher the amount of oxygen the body is using, the greater the amount of exertion the body is capable of.
You can train your body to get more oxygen in your blood through aerobic exercise, raising your VO2 max.
While aerobic exercise is stressing your body, the more relaxed you are going into a workout as seen by a relatively high VHR number, the more work you can do.
In other words, adding more stress to an already stressed body doesn’t maximize your workout, it actually cuts down on your gains.
Which is why so many athletes try relaxation techniques like meditation to aid in their recovery.
Being more relaxed helps increase the VHR allowing them to endure more stress when they work out which improves their VO2 max.
So, staying stressed all the time actually works against your overall fitness goals.
There are many variables which affect VHR. Diet and sleep quality to your overall stress level play a part in getting the best VHR for you.
Bonus fact, one sign of cardiovascular fitness is a lower resting pulse rate. The fewer the beats per minute, the more efficient your heart actually is.
So, monitoring your average resting heart rate and your variable heart rate are two good indicators to see if your workouts are being effective for you.
Again, this is not a number you just check once to see where you are but monitor over time to see where you are and if you are improving.
A good goal is to reduce your resting heart rate and raise your heart rate variability.