Tracking recovery – Heart Rate Variability (HRV): I ditched my Fitbit last year and switched over to an Oura Ring. While my Fitbit was a great tool to get me off the couch, I realized I need less motivation to get up and moving, and more incentive to rest and recover. Now, instead of being ultra-competitive with step challenges, I wake up looking for high recovery scores.
The Oura (like the Apple Watch) tracks Heart Rate Variability, or the beat to beat variance in heart rate during sleep. This data provides a good view on your autonomic nervous system activity and recovery status. HRV is lowered with an overactive sympathetic nervous system, or your “fight or flight” system, and raised as parasympathetic “rest and digest” activity increases. Said another way – HRV will be low when constantly stressed and will be high with proper rest and recovery. This is a measure of recovery separate from the physical soreness experienced after training. For example, it takes me about 2-3 days to not be physically sore after a marathon, but a bit longer for my HRV numbers to get back up to normal.
The Oura then takes this data, along with sleep quality/timing, resting heart rate, body temperature, breathing rate, and other metrics to calculate a recovery index. It’s an in my face reminder to take a step back and allow my body to recover. Last year, I was regularly training off <2 hours of sleep or when I didn’t feel well. It had become so normal that I didn’t even notice there was anything wrong. Now I’ve become more aware of my body and shifted my attitude. I was exhausted yesterday, so I didn’t train and got some sleep. The world didn’t collapse, I didn’t lose all the work I’ve put in, and I’m ready to go again today with the highest recovery score I’ve had in a while – funny how that works huh?