Master Your Wearable in 6 Minutes

I’ve talked about how your heart rate variability is one of the most useful measurements on your wearable device. From improving your sleep, to helping you never get sick again, a wearable device is an essential tool in your arsenal.

Understanding HRV is also not that complicated, once you get a hang of it. And once you can grasp HRV, it opens up a whole for you to optimize your health, performance, and wealth. Because of it’s simplicity, I decided to create this video and accompanying ebook, Master Your Wearable.

With Master Your Wearable, you’ll learn everything you need to know to start making real actionable change today with your wearable device.

Watch the video and download the ebook for free.

Oh, and if you’re looking to go really deep with Heart Rate Variability, I also recently wrote an in-depth article for Simpli Faster on how to Manage Your Recovery with HRV.

The 4 Stages of Training

Making progress depends on understanding what phase of your training you’re in. When people first start out, they imagine that by working out consistently and attacking their goals, they will slowly but surely achieve what they set out to achieve.

While consistency is your training is absolutely key, progress does not follow a linear path. There will be some phases of your training where you’ll make incredible progress over the span of a few weeks. Then, even though you’re still training, your body enters a different phase where it won’t shed fat or build muscle because it’s in an overreaching stage

These undulations are part of the training process. Training progress, in reality, is a set of short bursts combined with plateaus for recovery. Over time, with consistent training, the peaks and valleys of progress will average out to a straight line

But, this starts by understanding the 4 stages of training.

In any training state, we can either be in an optimal or maintenance stage, a functional overreaching stage, a nonfunctional overreaching stage, or a restorative state.

The Optimal or Maintenance Phase

This phase of your training cycle is what we would consider “normal.” We’re training consistently and effectively, but we’re not pushing ourselves to our limits or trying new forms of training. This maintenance phase is essential, but if you always stay in this phase, your body will eventually see no reason to continue to make progress. In other words, you will plateau.

In this phase, our HRV and resting heart rate hover in our normal range.

The Functional Overreaching Stage

In the functional overreaching stage, we’re pushing our training to challenge our bodies more, adding additional stress. To make progress, this extra push is vital. Here, you won’t yet see or feel the fruits of all your labor. In fact, you’ll start to see some of the opposite at first: slight decreases in HRV and increases in resting heart rate. 

As we’ve talked about before, the HRV score taken from our wearable device while we sleep measures the internal strain on the body. The more strain we’re putting on externally — in the form of increased workout load — the more we’re going to see the HRV gradually go down.

But if we’re balancing our workouts, other everyday stresses, , and recovery, we’re going to see HRV go up and down. Your HRV curve will decrease from the added workout stress, then increase back up. When your HRV is slightly undulating like this, you’re in a functional overreaching stage.

The Nonfunctional Overreaching Stage

This is synonymous with overtraining. And it’s the one stage you don’t want to get to. This is where we overreach too much in our training, and we’re not giving our bodies enough rest and recovery to bounce back form the strain we’re placing on it. Here we start to see a chronic decrease in HRV and a chronic increase in resting heart rate. We’re going to be more irritable, our sleep will start to suffer, we’ll have more body soreness than usual. Those are all signs that you’re in a nonfunctional overreaching stage. 

The Restorative State

The restorative state comes after the overreaching stage. It’s where you’re placing less strain on the body than normal. Paradoxically, even though in this stage you’ll be training less, it’s when you’ll actually see the progress. Only as we recover can our body actually gather the resources to build muscle, burn fat, and increase performance. This is what performance coaches often call the “deload.”

HRV And The 4 Stages of Training

If you’re using any type of wearable (Whoop Band, Fitbit, Oura Ring, and more), monitor your HRV. Make sure you don’t have four or five days in a row of a decreasing HRV. That’s a sign you’re in the only stage you don’t want to enter: the nonfunctional overreaching stage. If you are, you need to have some type of intervention, such as extra sleep or a decrease in your exercise level. 

Now, the other aspect is resting heart rate. If it increases 4 days in a row, you need to intervene.

Keep in mind, increased training load is not the only variable that causes a decrease in HRV and an increase in resting heart rate. Stress, sleep, nutrition, immune systems function, all play a role. But if we’re just talking about exercise, be sure to understand those four stages: maintenance phase, functional overreaching, nonfunctional overreaching, and restorative.

By looking at your HRV trends, you can know what stage you’re in and use that information to adjust your training and recovery.

A post shared by Justin Roethlingshoefer|Coach (@justinroeth)

Track Something: The Simple Solution for Sustainable Progress

Why should we track something? And what do we mean by ‘something?’

By something, we mean anything. I know, we’re getting very abstract here.

Usually when we talk about tracking, we’re thinking about the wearable devices like Whoop Bands and Apple watches (among others a part of the billion-dollar wearable industry) that monitor sleep, physical outputs, recovery, and more.

But we could also track something like the number of steps you take in a day. I know I’ve done that. When you’re aware of how many steps you get and always try to hit a number, you’re going to take more steps than if you’re not tracking steps. Why?

Awareness.

It’s all about making you aware of what you’re tracking. Things that we are aware of, all of the sudden, become changeable. We can take action on them. Whether that’s steps, HRV, or whatever. In other words, something.

When you stopped using it, and your actual movement went down. It was because you were no longer aware of it. You were no longer as focused on it.

And as much as it goes for the outer energy, it goes for the inner energy as well, because it all comes back to awareness. 

With the inner energy and mindset side, often the concepts can get very abstract. I mean, who really has a good definition for ‘mindset?’ It’s such an intangible thing to think about. So, in order to improve it, we should first bring something tangible to it that we can measure and become aware of it.

That’s why we came up with the concept of the seven levels of energy. When you can identify where your energy is on a scale of 1-7, you can make connections between certain thoughts, feelings, actions, and beliefs, and your level of energy.

In other words, bringing awareness to your mindset.

When you actually measure it, that’s where the beauty of it comes in. You can measure where you resonate, what level of energy you’re at. From that awareness, you can make action plans. I can say, “Okay, maybe in that situation I was frustrated and I showed up at a level two energy but didn’t feel good for me.” Obviously, the goal is to feel better and resonate at a higher energy level. 

So, what can you do? When you measure your energy level, you bring awareness to it, and you can then use that information and take action and make change.

In each of our lives, there’s something you want to change. Whether it’s weight loss, more energy, better relationships, the only way to create long-term sustainable change is to become aware of it. The way to become aware of it is through tracking and measuring. So ask yourself: 

What is it you’re trying to change? 

Spend some time thinking about that. Once you’re clear on one charge you’re trying to make, think about what you can measure and track to bring awareness to that. Just track something; the magic of awareness is half the battle.

How to Use Your Wearable to Never Get Sick Again

We all know the feeling.

You wake up with your eyelids weirdly sticking together. Your head lightly throbs as you wake up, your throat scratches at is yearns for water. Dammit, you’re sick.

The first thing you’ll want to do is sleep in, of course. Then, you’ll grab for the zinc and vitamin D and start steeping the tea. These are great steps to healing, of course, but we all know that by this point it’s too late. The virus has already come, and really, there’s nothing we’re going to be able to do now except ride out the cold or flu symptoms, lying in your bed.

If only you’d known you were going to get sick, you would’ve taken the few previous days much easier and stomped the pathogen in its path. But, obviously you can’t know you’re going to get sick until you’re, well, sick.

Or can you.

Wearable devices like Whoop Bands provide you with all kinds of information. And, if you know what you’re looking at, you can predict when your immune system will be working over time and your body will be predisposed to catching an illness.

In fact, all you have to do is look at these two metrics and, if you respond appropriately, you can glean the information necessary so you don’t get sick at all. Imagine if you all those sick days you typically deal with year in and year out were replaced with some of your most productive, energetic days.

You just have to look at these two numbers carefully: resting heart rate, and heart rate variability

This is why we track 2 metrics that will allow you to prevent sickness and reduce your number of sick days:

Resting Heart Rate and Heart Rate Variability

Before we get into to talking about these two common metrics and their relationship to one another, first we have to understand why we get sick. Now, novel viruses like SARS-COV2 (COVID-19) aside, getting the flu and the common cold — and their effects on us — depends not only on encountering pathogens but also whether our immune system is able to ward off those pathogens.

If we have elevated stress levels, are working out hard, and not sleeping as much or as well as we need to, the immune system will take a hit, leaving us more susceptible to common illness. 

Our immune system’s ability to respond to pathogens, simply, depends on our recovery from all of life’s stresses. So the question then becomes, how can I tell when the stress of my life exceeds my recovery?

Resting Heart Rate 

As your recovery slides and your body becomes fatigued, one fo the first easily recognizable signs will be your resting heart rate. Your wearable will record your resting heart rate while you sleep each night. This will give you a consistent day-to-day log for your RHR. And, generally, you’ll see a consistent number.

If your RHR rises up about 10-15% over the course of two days, that’s a sign you’re more fatigued than normal, and you should take the precautions for recovery as if you were sick. So, if your RHR is normally 50 beats per minute, and suddenly it’s 55, that’s a red flag. If this happens, cancel your workouts, get extra sleep, steep the tea, take the zinc and vitamin D. Ease off of the stress on your body.

Heart Rate Variability

HRV, as the name implies, is a measure the fluctuation (variation) in your heart beats. If your HRV is high, that means your heart rate varies more, a sign that it’s responding to changes in your environment. For example, if you start run, your heart rate will shoot up. The quicker it shoots up, the better your body is responding, and the higher your HRV will be. During activity is an extreme example, but even while we’re sleeping our body has different demands at different moments, and a high HRV is a sign our body is aptly responding. 

When you’re underrecovered and stressed, a drop in HRV will be one of the first signs. It means your body (and heart, specifically) aren’t responding the way they should. A 5-10% drop means you should ease off of your stress levels and prioritize your recovery above all else.

What Happens When These Head In the Wrong Direction

Often, your resting heart rate will have an inverse relationship with your HRV: when one drops, the other rises. If you want to ward off illness before you feel its effects, its paramount ot take action on this data before you start to feel symptoms. Once you’re symptomatic, you’re going to have to ride it out.

Getting sick is a lot like getting a small injury. Nobody wants to stretch when they feel good, but once they pull their hip flexor, you’ll see them on the foam roller all day. When really, if they just regularly stretched their hip flexors when they felt good, they wouldn’t have gotten injured in the first place.

That’s what sickness is like too. Except, with the wearable, you now have to data to know when exactly you need to prioritize recovery and taking care of your body.

Using your wearable device to make small changes is a perfect example of what mean when we talk about the importance of “being a pro.”