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Heart Rate Variability Training (HRV) for Cardio Fitness

It is common knowledge that trained athletes have lower resting heart rate. Now we know that higher Heart Rate Variability (or HRV) is also an indication of good general fitness.

HRV used to only be accessible in hospitals and used as a predictor of cardiac arrest. Nowadays, we see the topic of heart rate variability popping up more and more in fitness circles. 

Let’s see what the hype is all about and how measuring your HRV can be used to take your own cardio training to the next level.

heart rate variability training for cardio

What is HRV and How Does it Work?

Heart rate variability is associated with autonomic nervous system. HRV refers to variation between heart beats over time, meaning that the heart does not beat regularly.

Trained athletes usually have higher HRV and it usually indicates better adaptation to physical stress and domination of parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous system, whereas lower HRV would show domination of sympathetic (“fight or flight”) nervous system.

It is important to note, that one HRV reading is not a good indicator of dominant nervous system, because our lives vary on day-to-day basis. Therefore, it’s crucial to establish baseline HRV measurements and refer to HRV trends when analyzing your nervous system dominance.

 There are two most common ways to measure HRV, that is R-R intervals obtained using electrocardiogram and inter-beat-intervals (IBIs), measured with photoplethysmography (PPG). HRV measurements are usually calculated with rMSSD (Root Mean Square of the Successive Differences) formula. Other popular HRV metrics include HFP (High-Frequency Power) that indicates parasympathetic nervous system domination and LFP (Low-Frequency Power).

Sounds complicated? Fortunately, you don’t have to do any of those calculations yourself, most apps and wearable trackers on the market do it for you.

HRV graph

How to Use HRV for Training

The application of HRV that most people are interested in is tracking physical training adaptation. HRV readings have been used to assess physical readiness and recovery of athletes.

More and more high-level competitors incorporate HRV readings to their daily routine. The study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology took twenty-sex moderately fit males and assigned a 4-week training routine.

HRV-guided training group received individual training program based on individual changes of their HRV. Increase or no change in HRV led to a high-intensity session. If there was a significant drop in HRV or decreasing trend for 2 days, low-intensity session or rest was prescribed.

The study concluded that cardiorespiratory fitness can be improved effectively by using HRV for daily training prescription[1].

Another study, that appeared in the journal of Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine concluded that HRV is a useful non-invasive method to track physiological changes following physical activity[2].

Based on these and other studies, I see the benefits of tracking your HRV and I have been measuring my HRV for 5 minutes first thing in the morning and it has really helped me to opt for “lighter” days when my body needs them. Ultimately, I get high ROI on my workouts and can maintain good results with the minimum effective dose of training!


[1] Eur J Appl Physiol. 2007 Dec;101(6):743-51. Epub 2007 Sep 12.

[2] “The role of heart rate variability in sports physiology” Experimental and therapeutic medicine vol. 11,5 (2016): 1531-1536.

Other Uses for Measuring Heart Rate Variability

Aside from the clinical application, HRV monitoring has also been pretty popular for meditation. A company called HeartMath is using HRV to guide your breathing and give you instant feedback on how to calm down your sympathetic nervous system. This technique has been well liked among high-profile executives and growing in popularity in the athletic community.

HRV nervous system response charts

Image source: ScienceDirect.com

How to Track HRV During Workouts

Nowadays, there are plenty of wearables on the market that are able to track HRV.

Personally, I currently use the combination of Polar H10 hear rate monitoring strap and Elite HRV application. It takes 5-minutes first thing in the morning to calculate my “morning readiness”.

You can view the exact monitor I use on Amazon here.

I am also a huge fan of the Oura ring – the ultimate tracking device that is incredibly small and is perfect for self-quantification geeks like myself. It isn't a cheap device but it not only tracks your HRV, sleep patterns and body temperature, but also helps you determine your circadian rhythm.

Whoop is another great company on the map that works with NFL players, CEOs, Navy SEALs and Olympians. They help athletes and their coaches track their performance and personalize their workouts.

To sum it up, technology is taking over the athletic world and HRV is one of the easiest, non-invasive methods to help you out. Let’s not forget that everyone is different and the key to tracking heart rate variability is establishing baseline HRV and focusing on its tendencies rather than comparing your HRV to others.

I highly recommend implementing it into your own training.

Happy tracking!

Guest Author's Bio: 

Aurimas Juodka –

AJ is a gym owner and biohacker based in Bangkok. AJ strongly believes in taking a multi-dimensional approach towards optimal health and you can find him at:

www.fitwithaj.org

www.crossoverbangkok.com

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How to Train your Body and Mind After 50

Turning 50 is a major milestone. It is a time of celebration and acceptance, and also of creating new goals for the next 10 years.

Having said that, ageing brings about some health concerns too. Around 54 million Americans over the age of 50 are suffering from low bone mass or osteoporosis today, a fact which is a testimony to it. Women

Getting old can be also be frightening for some. This is especially for those who are not prepared for age related changes. Our hairs start turning grey, vision gets bleak and forgetfulness becomes common.

The key is to stay positive and accept these changes. Even if we didn't have the healthiest of habits in our previous years, it’s not too late. We can still lead a healthy life at 50 and beyond.

 Let’s take a look at these useful tips for training your mind and body as you enter the 5th decade of your life.
training after 50

Tips for Training in your 50s and Beyond

1. Keep your weight under control

Though it’s always crucial to keep your weight under check, it becomes even more important after hitting 50. Over 38% of adults in America were found to be obese last year which is almost ⅓ of the group population. This sure is alarming.

As you age, your body needs less energy, so, if you continue to eat the same amount you did when you were younger, weight gain is inevitable.

Ageing reduces muscle mass which slows down your metabolism, thus adding extra kilos to your body.

Being overweight at this age could subject you to a higher risk of severe ailments like diabetes and heart issues. Your weight varies depending on your height and gender so get a BMI done if you aren’t sure.

You can also refer to easy-to-understand charts in order to determine if you’re at a healthy weight.

2. Make smarter food choices

Maintaining a healthy diet matters a lot post-50. Add more veggies to both your lunch and dinner as they provide more vitamins and minerals and keep your heart and brain healthy.

Make sure to cut down on sugary drinks, sweetened foods and saturated fats.

Reduce Sodium - As we get older, our blood pressure tends to rise. Sodium, called by some as a “silent killer” drives your reading up and compels your heart to work harder.

Over a period of time, high sodium foods cause the body to retain water, leading to higher blood pressure. This can cause serious heart problems, including a heart attack.

So it is crucial to cut down on sodium in your diet. In fact, sodium content matters more than fat and calories.

The worst sources of sodium are pre-made and packaged foods. It is recommended that you aim for no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.

Drink less alcohol - Your liver also turns 50 at this age. The ageing of your liver slows down your metabolism and the body takes time to process alcohol. This means alcohol stays in your liver for longer, which can result in liver damage.

Also, muscle mass is lower than it used to be, which means you’re likely to have a higher Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). It’s certainly not what it used to be in your 30s when you drank the same amount. Moderation is crucial hence, at this time.

3. Get a pet

dog sitting

If your children have moved out and you’re feeling lonely, then think about adopting a pet.

People who fill their empty nests with cats and dogs have lower cholesterol and less risk of heart ailments. This further reduces the need for doctor visits.

When you have pets around, you stay busy with them. It alleviates stress and boosts your immunity. This is simple but best of techniques to keep anxiety at bay.

4. Spend time with loved ones

Your 50s are the perfect time to focus on things that really matter. Work is indeed important, but if you’ve been a workaholic for the past 30 years, this is the time to step down a bit and spend more time with your family and friends.

This helps you become more social which actually helps you live longer. Social people have sharper minds, so, they are less prone to having memory problems as they age.

Being social creates important memories for a lifetime. We all love to laugh and stay happy. Isn’t it?

5. Learn new skills

mature couple selfie

Get out of your comfort zone and tackle something new. Fresh experiences build new pathways in your brain, thus keeping your mind active and agile as you age.

When you turn 50, exercising your brain becomes a must in order to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s. The reason is that your mind’s sharpness begins to deteriorate once you go past 40.

Try different ways to stay excited and happy. Go travelling to unusual or extraordinary places. Ask your friends to join you.

Make new friends when out. Learn a musical instrument or a foreign language. Taking a cooking class could be fun as well.

6. Exercise regularly

Get moving to keep your mind and body sharp. Regular exercising will lower the risk of acquiring time-bound ailments. You joints will stay mobile and mind full of optimism.

Exercising improves the blood flow to your brain and helps new cells to grow. All you need is to take a 30-minute walk or do gardening 3 days a week. You’d certainly feel the difference. Trust me.

Walking will also regulate your weight. It is one of the best forms of exercise, especially for patients suffering from cardiovascular issues. If you already have arthritis or weak joints, you could go for low-impact exercises.

Physical activity helps strengthening muscles and joints. You can incorporate stretching exercises such as pilates for a pre-workout warm-up to build joint flexibility. If you are able, lifting weights can also help to slow down the loss of muscle mass and keep your bones strong.

7. Attend regular health check-ups

doctors

Body screening should start as early as in 40s but it’s better late than never.

Go for checkups every 3 months. This way you get to track your weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, heart, kidney and liver health. Your doctor can discover any underlying health problems you may be unaware of.

Visiting a dentist and ophthalmologist is also recommended every 6 months. Blurry vision and dental phobia at this age are common. 

Modern gadgets have made it all easier for us. You can easily keep a track of your health at the comfort of your home. BP, pulse, sugar and other monitors are easily available in the market these days. These are extremely easy to use, not requiring any training.

Final Words on keeping healthy after 50- 

Whether you’re 15 or 50, the goal remains unchanged. A healthy, happy and a long life is what we all desire for.

I agree you are not in the pink at 50 but mentally you are 10 times better equipped to take on what life throws at you. Tell me if I am wrong.

Guest Author's Bio: 

Nikky Watson –

I love all things fun. Drop in sometime and you’ll know what I mean. For living and out of passion, I write and blog. Currently I am writing for Mybodyexpert & other top blogs.

Twitter – @Nikky_Watson

Simple Tips to Improve Sleep for More Strength & Muscle Gains

People, I’m sure you’re aware of this but just in case this tidbit of vital information passed you by, I’m going to repeat it. It’s not the hours spent in the gym that builds muscle, no, when you’re pumping iron you’re actually tearing muscle fibre into little pieces. It's the hours you spend at rest afterward when your body repairs and reinforces your muscle.

So, if you’re looking to find extra time in your busy week to fit in more strength training, the one thing you should never ever cut short is your sleep. Break up with your partner, quit your job, sell your dog, but don’t, whatever you do, sleep less.

In fact, if you’re ramping up your training regime it’s of vital importance that you also increase the amount of time you set aside for rest too. Research has proven that the single biggest indicator of injury among athletes is not how much time they spend training but how much time they spend sleeping. Remember that.

Now, just knowing you should get more sleep and actually being able to do so are two very different things entirely. In today’s modern fast-paced society, getting enough sleep seems to be a challenge for just about everybody.

Well, don’t despair just yet, and please don’t go reaching for a handful of sleeping pills. Sedation is very different to sleep, especially when it comes to how you body repairs itself. Instead, have a quick read of my top three tips on how to improve you sleep quality.

Improve sleep for muscle building

3 Simple Tips for Better Sleep to Gain Muscle and Strength

1. Watch your caffeine

Diet is a hugely important factor in any strength building regime. In order to bulk up, it’s essential to eat enough. That can often mean chowing down on oversized portions and having meals at odd times of the day. What it’s important to remember however is that what we eat and when we eat it can have a big impact on how well we sleep.

For starters, any product that contains caffeine is going to play havoc with how well you sleep. Caffeine has a half life of six hours, meaning that 25% of the caffeine in that coffee or caffeine-enhanced supplement you had a midday is still going to be in your system come midnight. You wouldn’t drink a quarter of a cup of coffee just before bed would you? Then just be wary of your caffeine intake in the afternoon especially.

2. Cut down your evening meal size

Secondly, large protein heavy meals, such as that juicy steak you enjoy so very much, might be great for building up those biceps but they might not be so good as pre-bed meal.

When we lay ear to pillow we want our body to be as relaxed as possible. Unfortunately, large amounts of protein generally demands quite a lot of effort from the digestive system. With all that churning going on down there it can sometimes be quite difficult to drop off. The trick is to give your stomach a little time before bed to get the bulk of the work done. Say an hour at least.

For more hints and tips like this one, the Sleep Advisor is a great place to start. They have mountains of up-to-date information on all things slumber.

3. Train in the evening

A great piece of research by the Appalachian State University has shown that when you work out has an impact on how you sleep. Let's start with the good news, if you’re working out at all you are likely getting much better sleep than people who aren’t. Any form of exercise is great for sleep but weightlifting in particular seems to be very effective.

Lifters who hit the gym really early, say by 7am or earlier tend to fall asleep much quicker than individuals who lift in the afternoon or early evening. Plus, they fall asleep a helluva lot quicker than non-exercisers.

Individuals who hit the gym later in the evening, say around 7pm took a bit longer to fall asleep but tended to sleep a lot more soundly for the entire night.

What this piece of research seems to suggest is that if you have problems getting to sleep then hitting the gym early could be the solution. If you have issues staying asleep for the entire night, then lifting later could be the answer.

The chief researcher involved in the study, Scott R. Collier has a theory that early lifters tend to have no problems dropping off because they’ve altered their sleep cycle, bringing everything forward slightly. Whilst he hypothesis that muscle fatigue combined with increases in body heat are probably the main reason late lifters sleep so very soundly.

Well, there you have it – three ways in which you can dramatically improve the quality of your sleep and with it give your body the best possible chance to resist injury whilst in training. Time for bed methinks, don't you?

Guest Author's Bio: 

Hi there, I’m Sarah. I’m a full-blown sleep addict. When I’m not snoozing away I’m sat at my desk researching and writing about all things slumber-related for the Sleep Advisor. My colleagues and I firmly believe if the world slept just a little better, it would be a happier, healthier and more serene place to live.