Follow your heart, but don’t let it be the sole metric when tracking your fitness routine
We’ve all seen the color-coded charts pasted on workout machines at the gym—those vertical or horizontal bars of red, black, and green printed everywhere. These charts serve as steady heart rate zone reminders, in easy view, while you pound out your run on the treadmill or grind out your ride on the stationary bike.
Sometimes, a digital readout of your heart rate appears on the same machines, all in an effort to tell you where your heart rate needs to be in order to achieve optimal benefit from that particular exercise. In short, it gauges the intensity of your workout—nothing more, nothing less.
If you use a fitness tracker while performing other activities outside the gym, the central focus often mimics the gym’s equipment: your heart rate. But is your heart being true in this instance? When looking for your perfect partner or soul mate, it’s fine to listen to your heart, but you must also account for other factors, right? Well, the same holds true for fitness tracking.
To gain a complete picture of your progress and fitness levels, you need to lighten up on your infatuation with heart rate and start swimming with the other fish in the fitness data sea.
It’s More About the Space Between
Let’s start with HRV. Wait, don’t worry; it’s not a virus. Heart rate variability (HRV) consists of a measurement between heart beats or pulse. While heart rate is recorded by most fitness trackers on a beats-per-minute basis, the HRV monitor focuses on the smaller fluctuations between heart beats.
According to an article in Harvard Health Publishing, the Harvard Medical School’s online health news site, many fitness trackers prove fine for recording heart rate, number of reps or steps, and your goals for the day. However, very few trackers, like the Biostrap, and their accompanying software produce feedback based on published evidence, the article reports.
HRV stands out as one example. The medical school’s article notes how each individual’s heart rate and HRV varies. By just measuring the heart rate, a tracker or other device is not accounting for an individual’s inherent health conditions.
For example, some people who tackle an exercise routine carry more baggage than others. Years and years of a sedentary lifestyle might precede their head-first dive into the pool of fitness. Your most common posture during the day (think sitting at an office desk) must enter the fitness data and assessment equation. Someone may suffer from a chronic illness or condition that others don’t.
The Biostrap platform knows this is why HRV proves so critical in your overall fitness equation, as it accounts for individual factors. In fact, HRV serves an indicator of diabetes, hypertension, and autoimmune problems when integrated with other data. In terms of fitness routines, the longer the gap between heart beats, the more prepared you are for a meaningful, intense workout. It also indicates you are well rested. Short gaps may indicate that you carried a high degree of stress or fatigue into your exercise routine.
HRV monitoring can provide a heads-up that reminds you to evaluate the rest of your fitness program before continuing with your physical routine. Conversely, it can tell you to step it up on certain days and even raise your goals while in the middle of your workout, providing amazing flexibility within your workout routine.
Slack Time is the Best Time (To Measure)
You want to know what is even better for tracking your fitness levels when it comes to heart beat? Look at your resting heart rate: the rate during your leisure hours instead of during your workout hours. “The more you exercise and the harder you train, the lower your resting heart rate,” says Dr. George Welch, a cardiologist at Manhattan Cardiology.
And when’s the best time to check your resting heart rate? Just after waking up in the morning, according to Dr. Welch in a Self.com article. “During the day, changes in your activity level, body position, emotional state, caffeine intake, and hydration levels all will affect your heart rate,” he says. By checking your resting heart rate right after waking up, you nullify all of these influences and gain a true indicator of your fitness and heart health.
Trackers Without HRV Aren’t as Precise
Dr. Welch and others warn that trackers without complete software aren’t always spot on. They prove useful, says Dr. Welch in the Self article, but their findings should be “taken with a grain of salt.” The HRV calculation feature of the Biostrap and other trackers provides a more complete picture of your overall health and fitness level continuously throughout your workout regimen.
However, even with a state-of-the-art fitness tracker, it’s important to never underestimate the way your body feels, regardless of your heart rate readings. See a doctor in person if any of your heart rate numbers or other tracker data draws your concern.
Ready to start tracking your heart rate and more? Join the Biostrap movement.