You’re resting heart rate (RHR) can tell you a lot. It can be used as an insight to your body, giving you enough information to know when to push and when to rest. It’s that exact reason that it has become a staple daily ritual for the world’s best athletes.
The best piece of equipment to use to track your resting heart rate is through a wearable heart rate device, such as a Polar or Garmin. But if you don’t have access to either one, then try using the Instant Heart Rate App by Azumio that uses your phones camera and light to read your heart rate through your index finger to give you a reading of your heart rate. Although not 100% accurate, the app is generally within 2 – 3 bpm of the wearable devices, giving you a good enough estimate to base your readings off of.
Taking your RHR:
When measuring your RHR, you are most likely to get the most accurate reading when you’re completely rested, making the best time to measure it being right after you wake-up in the morning. After waking-up, try to avoid getting out of bed by having your heart rate device in reaching distance. Then, set you’re alarm for 5 – 7 minutes time (this tends to help you relax a little more by taking the worry away of falling back asleep and over-sleeping) before closing your eyes and starting your monitor. Whilst your monitor is taking your reading, ideally you want to doze-off again to allow your heart rate to return to a completely rested state, so avoid any distracting thoughts such as your day’s schedule that could cause a rise in anxiety. Once the time is up, stop your device and write down your average heart rate in beats per minute (bpm).
Reading the data:
Now that you’ve got this data, it’s important to know what to do with it. With resting heart rate, we’re looking at consistency. Although a very genetically determined number, when your RHR starts to rise it can be the first sign of stress on the physiological system. The great thing about this, is that it can often be caught 2 – 3 days before it actually sinks-in, helping you to make some changes to avoid any drastic illness or burn-out from ruining your long-term training goals. After taking your RHR for a few day’s you’ll begin to notice a general number that it floats around. For some elite athletes this number can be as low as mid-30’s and in elder athletes can range up to high 70’s. When this average number rises, the following guidelines should be used as a rule-of-thumb to help you make the correct changes to your program:
- If your average RHR is between 5 – 7 bpm higher than normal, your days training should be adjusted and a low intensity, active recovery session should be completed.
- If your average RHR is more than 7 bpm higher than normal, then a complete rest day is needed.
Your RHR also provides you with more than just a cautious beacon for over-training. Monitoring your RHR for a decrease is equally important. A lower than average RHR can be a sign of under-training, showing that your body is quiet easily adapting to the demands being placed on it during training. If you’re either in a recovery week or tapering block, then this is great – however, if your RHR is more than 5bpm lower than average during any other time of your training cycle, then you are most likely under-training.
Putting it to practice:
Now that you know how to track and monitor your RHR, the next step is getting in a habit of routinely checking it. My suggestion to you is to back-track 7 minutes from when you need to be awake and set an alarm titled along the lines of “Take RHR”. Strap your heart rate monitor on (or open your Argus app), start a workout on your device to begin tracking then close your eyes and wait for that seconds alarm.
After that, write your RHR down immediately either in a file on your phone or in a diary kept on your bedside table. This will help you have an immediate referral to your previous RHR and allow you to easily notice a trend. Do this for a couple of days, and before you know it you’ll be in a routine, tracking, monitoring and analyzing your RHR data just like all those other pro’s out there!
Once you know your RHR, the next step is taking a fitness test and calculating your personal heart rate zones. See my blog “How To | Calculate Heart Rate Zones” for a step-by-step guide!