Joe Bauer is a fitness and weight loss expert with over 13 years of experience as a CrossFit coach and personal trainer. Joe’s known as AllAroundJoe on his blog. He was able to make some very interesting discoveries using
SweetBeatLife’s HRV for Training feature. Read below for his blog post and a link to the full podcast.
“When it comes to CrossFit it’s easy to get addicted. You start to see improvements, it’s fun, you see more improvements, you’re looking amazing, you see more improvements, you’re getting competitive, you see more improvements, you push even harder, you start to feel like crap.
You cannot figure out why you feel like crap. You’ve been eating great. Mostly Paleo, lots of calories.
You workout all the time. Sometimes up to 2 hours a day. You drink tons of water. You take all of the recommend supplements for muscle growth and recovery.
In order to start feeling better for your workouts you take pre-workout supplements loaded with caffeine, or drink coffee. It works for a little while, and you crush workouts.
What you don’t realized is that you are fatiguing your insides. You hormones are drowning.
Finally you hit a wall. You can’t sleep (or you can’t stay awake). Your energy levels just don’t feel right unless you’re jacked with caffeine.
And finally you’re workouts start to suffer. You can’t hit the numbers that you used to hit, and when you tell your body to push… it literally shuts down, and you can hardly move.
When you ask your coach they probably say to take some time off, and eat more.
You take a week off, and when you get back to CrossFit you feel better. Well, you feel better for a few days or weeks. It really depends on how many times you’ve gone through the overreaching cycle.
The problem is that every time you train you don’t fully recover.
Eventually your hormones can’t keep up. And in my case it was my adrenal glands.
These are the glands that are located on top of your kidneys, and produce that hormones that are responsible for your fight or flight (sympathetic), and rest & relax (parasympathetic) nervous systems.
In my case the fight or flight system became fatigued, causing all of the above symptoms.
The initial feeling of fatigue is what lead me to the Ben Greenfield podcast, and the SweetBeatLife iPhone app.
The SweetBeatLife app measures your Heart Rate Variability (HRV), and the power of your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.
The coolest things is that the HRV can tell you how recovered your body is, and if it’s ready for another CrossFit workout. It will literally tell you to have an easy workout day, or even take the day off. It does this when you simply open the app and take your heart rate for 3 minutes in the morning.
The SweetBeatLife app is so beneficial that I’ve asked ALL of our competitive athletes at StoneWay CrossFit to start using it daily. If the app says to take the day off there’s no arguing.
We all want to get better, and we get better during rest from hard training.
I’ve always told people to listen to their bodies, but the real truth is that we can listen, but without tools like the SweetBeatLife app we have no idea what our bodies are saying.
In this episode you learn about CrossFit and overtraining, plus…
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There is a known Bluetooth issue on Apple’s newest iOS 8. Many of you have noticed this issue is affecting your heart rate monitor Bluetooth connection (along with car connections, headphones and speakers). Note: If you have not updated to iOS 8, we do not advise doing so.
Already updated to iOS 8?
According to Apple developers, they have resolved the Bluetooth issues in the new iOS 8.1. This version is rumored to release on October 20th. It is our highest priority to assist Apple in fixing this issue. We want our users to get their daily HRV readings!
The good news!
We have submitted a new version of SweetBeatLife and Bulletproof Stress Detective to the app store, which includes a working firmware update for iOS 8 and the HealthPatch. As soon as it is processed by Apple, it will be available for download. SweetBeatLife and Bulletproof Stress Detective users with the HealthPatch will be ready to run sessions on iOS 8.
Note: Once the apps are processed by Apple, we will send out an email to let users know to update their HealthPatch firmware.*
Update Your App!*
SweetBeatLife and Bulletproof Stress Detective users can update their applications. This update includes SweetBeatLife 1.2.2 or Bulletproof Stress Detective 1.0.2 with a pre-installed firmware update for the VitalConnect HealthPatch. The HealthPatch is now compatible with iOS 8!
How come the HealthPatch works but other Bluetooth Low-Energy (BTLE) monitors may not work?
For security reasons, the VitalConnect HealthPatch uses a more complex “handshake” to connect via Bluetooth. BTLE chest straps use “open” Bluetooth. Apple hopes to resolve the open Bluetooth issues in the new iOS 8.1.
How do you update?
Some of you have your app store set to update automatically. If you want to see which version of software you are running, select the General tab > About. If it matches with the mentioned versions you are good to go! If it doesn’t – go to your device’s App Store. You will see the Updates tab (bottom right corner) > Update SweetBeatLife or Bulletproof Stress Detective. If it says, “Open”, you already have the most recent version.
We believe that sharing data between multiple devices and software providers is a vital key to understanding and creating meaningful feedback. Over the last few years, we have found several partners who feel the same way. Through collective design we have brought our users the most comprehensive view of their health and fitness.
The partnership between Restwise and SweetWater Health offers athletes the world’s most accurate, comprehensive picture of global fatigue state outside of a laboratory. Users of SweetBeat and SweetBeatLife will be able to export their heart rate (pulse in Restwise) and heart rate variability to Restwise with ease.
What is Restwise?
Restwise design was driven by two principles: simplicity and accuracy. The biggest challenge in recovery monitoring is getting athletes to adhere to the protocol, so the process needs to be fast and easy. But it also needs to paint a reliable, global picture of recovery state. To achieve these goals, Restwise combines several bio-markers, each of which is easy to record and is clearly supported by sports science, into a single algorithm. Restwise takes less than a minute to complete, and it has been validated through work with UK Sport and through years of successful field use.
If you have a Restwise account and SweetBeat or SweetBeatLife, please follow these instructions to authorize the export:
Enter your Restwise account information and click “connect”.
IMPORTANT: After you finish a SweetBeat or SweetBeatLife session, it is important that you save the session as the pre-existing tag, “HRV”. This ensures that your latest heart rate and heart rate variability numbers export to Restwise.
A message from Restwise to their users:
Heart Rate Variability in Restwise Your Enter Data page has a new field: HRV, which stands for heart rate variability. HRV is a relatively new recovery marker, but there is a rapidly growing body of evidence that it is a reliable indicator of central nervous system fatigue.
Why are we adding HRV now? There are two reasons. First, you asked for it. When we initially designed Restwise we chose markers that give you the most accurate picture of your global fatigue state possible in the least amount of time. Completing Restwise takes less than a minute, whereas getting a reliable HRV reading takes 3 – 4 minutes. We simply did not want to require users to spend this much time. But enough of you have said you are willing to invest a few more minutes to get a more complete picture of your recovery state that we are now providing this option.
The second reason is that we have found a great partner, Sweetwater Health. They offer a simple, accurate, and affordable way to capture HRV. If you take HRV using the SweetBeat or SweetBeatLife iPhone apps, your HRV and pulse numbers will automatically load to Restwise, where you can chart HRV against your Restwise Total Recovery Score, Load, and other individual inputs.
What’s next? HRV does not yet affect the algorithm, but it will soon. We will also update our apps to capture and display HRV. Meanwhile, if you want to get a better understanding of HRV, listen to Ben Greenfield’s 20-minute Podcast featuring Sweetwater CEO Ronda Collier.
Don’t have a Restwise account?
We are working with Restwise to provide our users with a free trial using their intelligent recovery system. Check back soon for instructions on how to sign up!
Other partners in data-sharing:
Our newest application, SweetBeatLife, includes the ability to import data from Fitbit, MapMyFitness and Withings for correlation with the app’s metrics. To authorize these fitness devices to work with SweetBeatLife, please read over, “Starting Up With SweetBeatLife”.
Both SweetBeat and SweetBeatLife work with AchieveMint, the dashboard that earns you money. To authorize your AchieveMint account go to your app’s account settings and select AchieveMint login. You can create an AchieveMint account from there or enter your already existing AchieveMint email.SweetBeatLife
Update: The HealthPatch is no longer available to consumers. We are disappointed by this news, but are continuing to search for consumer patch partners. This article has been edited to exclude the old HealthPatch metrics.
The new SweetBeatLife “stats” screen, more widely referred to as the “geek” screen, shows all the metrics used in the algorithm calculations. These are the metrics explained in order from top left to bottom right:
Low Frequency (LF) – The low frequency metric shows the real-time power level of your sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system in raw form.
High Frequency (LF) – The high frequency metric shows the real-time power level of your parasympathetic (rest and recover) nervous system in raw form.
LF/HF – Stress is associated with a high LF with respect to HF, or a high LF/HF ratio. By selecting the settings wheel in the top right corner, you can choose your “Stress Sensitivity Level”.
TIP: If you find that your stress level is always in the blue or the red, then you most likely need to change your “Stress Sensitivity Level”. If you are always in the blue, this means you need to base your stress level on a smaller ratio (high sensitivity level). Challenge yourself by moving up a level or two. If you are in the red, then you might need a higher ratio (lower sensitivity level). A good indication that your stress management techniques have worked is when you need to change your sensitivity level to a higher sensitivity level.
Root Mean Square of Successive Differences (rMSSD) – In other words, the square root of the mean of the sum of the squares of the successive differences between adjacent RR Intervals. I swear that’s in English. I suggest checking out our library and reading our HRV Measurements slides (slide 15) to thoroughly understand the different domains. The important thing to remember is thatrMSSD is a time domain standard and is just one of the several parameters that measure heart rate variability.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) – HRV is the variation in the time interval between one heartbeat and the next. If only it were that simple; read our HRV backgrounder to learn more. In SweetBeatLife, HRV is a real-time scaled version (between 1-100) of rMSSD and represents the state of the autonomic nervous system and its ability to respond/react and recover from internal and external stressors. These stressors include orthostatic (standing and sitting), environmental and psychological.
TIP: The HRV for Training function of SweetBeatLife uses a special algorithm to customize your reference line and manage your training.
Heart Rate – Heart rate is the speed of the heartbeat, more specifically in this case, it is a real-time measure of your beats per minute.
*Respiration – Breathing correctly is an important factor in stress management and HRV for training. This is why we include a breath pacer. There are many different theories on which kind of breathing is best for your health. We use a specific pace meant to balance your nervous system.
TIP: The breath pacer featured on the relax screen within SweetBeatLife is proven to help balance the autonomic nervous system.
RR – On an EKG the heart rate is measured using the R wave to R wave interval (RR Interval). The RR metric is shown in real-time and quite necessary for the measurement of HRV.
TIP: Only heart rate monitors that are Bluetooth low energy (BTLE) and record RR Intervals can be used with SweetBeatLife for accuracy purposes. Pulse oximeters (watches, finger sensors, etc.) measure heart rate by pulse detection, which is not accurate enough for HRV. Please visit our compatibility chart for help and visit our health sensors page to purchase one.
*Steps – Another metric that may be familiar to you if you have ever used a fitness tracker. Your steps can be imported and tracker through your other wearables: Fitbit & Withings.
Below is a short explanation of the podcast and a link to listen!
“Expert Ronda Collier, CEO and co-founder of SweetWater Health and the SweetBeat app, joins the show to give a detailed chat on heart rate variability (HRV) and how to understand it, use it for training, use it to monitor and lower stress and more. On the show we explain what HRV actually is and what it measures, including details on the nervous system, the components of HRV and stress including high-frequency waves, low-frequency waves, rMSSD, and how to make sense of and interpret those. We also discuss what numbers are “good” and “bad” and what you want to see based on age/gender, when to measure HRV, how athletes can use it for their training programs, stress vs. HRV on the SweetBeat app, psychological components to HRV, other HRV apps available what you need to get started with HRV, and much more including a couple specific questions from listeners.”
This is an excerpt taken from the article mentioned above by Ben Greenfield, in which he has used SweetBeat to monitor his training and recovery. He goes over a little bit of background information about heart rate and heart rate variability. Followed up by some very interesting graphs from his personal sessions.
First, I’m going to explain HRV to you, and then I’ll tell you the best way to track your HRV.
The origin of your heartbeat is located in what is called a “node” of your heart, in this case, something called the sino-atrial (SA) node. In your SA node, cells in your heart continuously generate an electrical impulse that spreads throughout your entire heart muscle and causes a contraction (Levy).
Generally, your SA node will generate a certain number of these electrical impulses per minute, which is how many times your heart will beat per minute. Below is a graphic of how your SA node initiates the electrical impulse that causes a contraction to propagate from through the Right Atrium (RA) and Right Ventricle (RV) to the Left Atrium (LA) and Left Ventricle (LV) of your heart.
So where does HRV fit into this equation?
Here’s how: Your SA node activity, heart rate and rhythm are largely under the control of your autonomic nervous system, which is split into two branches, your “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system and your “fight and flight” sympathetic nervous system.
Your parasympathetic nervous system (“rest-and-digest”) influences heart rate via the release of a compound called acetylcholine by your vagus nerve, which can inhibit activation of SA node activity and decrease heart rate variability.
In contrast, your sympathetic nervous system (“fight-and-flight”) influences heart rate by release of epinephrine and norepinephrine, and generally increases activation of the SA node and increases heart rate variability.
If you’re well rested, haven’t been training excessively and aren’t in a state of over-reaching, your parasympathetic nervous system interacts cooperatively with your sympathetic nervous system to produce responses in your heart rate variability to respiration, temperature, blood pressure, stress, etc (Perini). And as a result, you tend to have really nice, consistent and high HRV values, which are typically measured on a 0-100 scale. The higher the HRV, the better your score.
But if you’re not well rested (over-reached or under-recovered), the normally healthy beat-to-beat variation in your heart rhythm begins to diminish. While normal variability would indicate sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system balance, and a proper regulation of your heartbeat by your nervous system, it can certainly be a serious issue if you see abnormal variability – such as consistently low HRV values (e.g. below 60) or HRV values that tend to jump around a lot from day-to-day (70 one day, 90 another day, 60 the next day, etc.).
In other words, these issues would indicate that the delicate see-saw balance of your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system no longer works.
In a strength or speed athlete, or someone who is overdoing things from an intensity standpoint, you typically see more sympathetic nervous system overtraining, and a highly variable HRV (a heart rate variability number that bounces around from day to day).
In contrast, in endurance athletes or people who are overdoing things with too much long, slow, chronic cardio, you typically see more parasympathetic nervous system overtraining, and a consistently low HRV value (Mourot).
In my own case, as I’ve neared the finish of my build to any big triathlon, I’ve noticed consistently low HRV scores – indicating I am nearing an overreached status and my parasympathetic, aerobically trained nervous system is getting “overcooked”. And in the off-season, when I do more weight training and high intensity cardio or sprint sports, I’ve noticed more of the highly variable HRV issues. In either case case, recovery of a taxed nervous system can be fixed by training less, decreasing volume, or decreasing intensity – supercompensation, right?
But wait – we’re not done yet! HRV can get even more complex than simply a 0-100 number.
For example, when using an HRV tracking tool, you can also track your nervous system’s LF (low frequency) and HF (high frequency) power levels. This is important to track for a couple of reasons:
-Higher power in LF and HF represents greater flexibility and a very robust nervous system.
-Sedentary people have numbers in the low 100’s (100-300) or even lower, fit and active people are around 900 – 1800 and so on as fitness and health improve.
Tracking LF and HF together can really illustrate the balance in your nervous system. In general, you want the two to be relatively close. When they are not, it may indicate that the body is in deeply rested state with too much parasympathetic nervous system activation (HF is high) or in a stressed state with too much sympathetic nervous system activation (LF is high). Confused as I was when I first learned about this stuff? Then listen to this podcast interview I did with a heart rate variability testing company called Sweetbeat. It will really elucidate this whole frequency thing for you.
So how the heck do you test HRV?
When it comes to self quantification, there are a ton of devices out there for tracking HRV (and hours of sleep, heart rate, pulse oximetry, perspiration, respiration, calories burnt, steps taken, distance traveled and more).
For example, there is one popular device called the “emWave2″, which seems like it is the ost popular heart rate variability tracking device among biohackers. The emWave2 is a biofeedback device that trains you to change your heart rhythm pattern to facilitate a state of coherence and enter “the zone.”
Basically, when you use the emWave2 a few minutes a day, it can teach you how to transform feelings of anger, anxiety or frustration into peace and clarity. It actually comes with software that you run on your computer which teaches you how to do this. But the emWave2 is kinda big, and you certainly can’t place it discreetly in your pocket or take it with you on a run – although they have just developed a phone app called “Inner Balance” that can allow for a bit more portability and ease-of-use, albeit with less biofeedback potential.
Then there are devices such as the Tinke. A small, colored square with two round sensors, the Tinke, made by a company called Zensorium, is designed to measure heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen level, and heart rate variability over time. Every time you measure, it gives you your “Zen” score and your “Vita” score, and you can simply use a measurement like this every morning to see how ready your body is for the rigors of training.
All you need to do is attach the Tinke to your iPhone, and then place your thumb over the sensors so the Tinke can measure cardiorespiratory levels. Tinke captures blood volume changes from the fingertip using optical sensing and signal processing. It takes about sixty seconds to measure all the parameters you need, from you stress level to your breathing and more.
You can use the Tinke anytime, anywhere, and it’s designed primarily to encourage deep breathing exercises in order to promote relaxation and alleviate stress levels. While it’s not a medical device, it can assist in stress relief and recovery when you combine it with regular deep breathing exercises, and I’ll admit that as a self-proclaimed biohacker I am addicted to playing with my Tinke every morning (which almost sounds a bit perverted to say).
Then there are simple apps that simply use the lens of your phone camera to check your heart rate or heart rate variability, or even teach you how to breathe properly. The Azumio Stress Check App is a perfect example of that. It’s not incredibly accurate, but it’s inexpensive and a good way to start.
Of course, there are also wearable body monitoring units you can clip to your body throughout the day, such as the Jawbone UP and FitBit, which measure sleep, movement and calories, but won’t measure heart rate, pulse oximetry, or heart rate variability – so I don’t consider these to be ideal recovery monitoring devices per se. Finally, there are wristwatch-like units that are getting fancier, such as the new MyBasis watch, which is a multi-sensor device that continuously measures motion, perspiration, and skin temperature, as well as heart rate patterns throughout the day and night – but once again, this device doesn’t measure things like heart rate variability and pulse oximetry (although there is a similar device under development called a MyBoBo which may offer these measurements).
And while I’ve experimented with a variety of heart rate chest strap style measurement tools, include the Bioforce and Omegawave, my top recommendation for measuring your heart rate variability is the SweetBeat system, and this is what I personally use every day to track HRV. I like the SweetBeat because it’s easy-to-use, intuitive, allows you to track your heart rate variability in real time (such as when you’re out on a run or working at your office) and is also something you can use with meals to test food sensitivities by tracking heart rate response to foods.