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HRV readings influenced by emotions

Hi guys, 

I'm about to return to training after a long sedentary period and started taking HRV readnings one week ago.

This isn't as straight-forward as I hoped it should be. I'm having trouble getting consistent meaningful readings. So far I have measured HRV supine just after waking up. My baseline appear to be around 85. My first real workout in months, a 90 minute sRPE6 mountain walk, brought HRV down to 75 the following day, which was saturday. Red indicator and I didn't exercise that day. On sunday I woke up after sleeping a little bit less than usual, and I felt agitated and nervous because I planned to do strenuous exercise that day. I felt I couldn't relax well while taking the HRV reading, and I got a figure in the 70s. That didn't seem meaningful for me. I meditated for a while, got relaxed, and measured HRV to 91.

Late in the day yesterday I did a heart rate-based workout with kettlebellwings that lasted for more than an hour, sRPE6. Today I would expect HRV to have fallen to just below 80. Straight out of bed I measured it to be - 89! This is even with less sleep than usual.

My heart rate around 60 while taking the readings.

I also do Polar OwnRelax readings at the same time as taking HRV. The figure I get from there vary wildly but the conclusion from it has so far always been "well rested".

I'm not sure what to make of this. 

I usually meditate each morning, seated. I might try take readings just after the meditations ends, before moving. That could help remove influence from temporary emotions, though belt moisture might be a problem.

Has anyone else experienced similar problems?

Hey Are-Harald, first off, emotions can definitely cause a change in your HRV score.  It is not uncommon for athletes HRV scores to be down "sympathetic" on game days.  This is the body's way of preparing for the event. So when you woke up feeling anxious about the planned strenuous workout, you were simply preparing for it. 

Remember, higher HRV scores don't always mean better.  That's why we recommend 7 to 10 days of readings to establish a baseline. You can be amber or red "high" as well as amber or red "low."  After your baseline is established, you will have a better idea when you need to adjust your training session based on your HRV score.  There is an excellent explanation in the book talking about amber or red high and amber or red low, and how to adjust your training for the day.

When measuring the autonomic nervous system with HRV, stress is stress.  Physical, mental/emotional, lack of sleep, bad diet are all factors that will affect your score.  With your situation, I think the information you are receiving is meaningful. 

For what it's worth, if I wake up late and feel like I'm behind schedule, my HRV will reflect the immediate mental stress I'm experiencing.  That's why its important to, as the app says, "Relax and Breathe normally."  Yes, sometimes it's easier said than done.

Let me know if this information is helpful.  If you still have questions, let me know and I'll ask Joel and get back to you.


Yes Howie thanks for your reply. I have two weeks of recordings now and overall they do make sense. I think also if I do get unprecise measurements one day it will correct itself pretty quickly.

I have looked at one of Bioforce's Finnish competitors testing protocol. It is more rigorous. For example they want you to lay in bed two minutes before starting the measurement and avoid swallowing.

I guess the point of laying in bed for two minutes and not swallowing is to eliminate anything that can affect the reading.  Personally, I lay down for about a minute or so before I hit "start."  I just do it to make sure my HR is stabilized, even though the test doesn't begin until it recognizes a stable HR. 

As for the not swallowing, I'm not sure why they do that but I bet they have a good reason.  I can ask Joel to see if he has heard of this before if you'd like. 

Lastly, you are correct, if you don't get precise measurements, it will sort itself out over time.  That's why I tell people to monitor their "weekly" and "monthly" HRV loads.  It's not necessarily that one bad day but more so the accumulation of fatigue that causes bigger issues.

Good luck with your training.


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