Stress, Exercise and Readiness to Work Out: My thoughts on heart rate variability and the workout readiness feature

By Dr. Jesse Slade Shantz 

For athletes overtraining has been a major concern for many years. In the leadup to competitions it is essential that the body recovers fully to maximize game day performance.  Repeatedly pushing physiologic boundaries during training can lead to a chronic fatigue that affects performance. OMsignal just launched the workout readiness test, a feature that uses heart rate variability (HRV) to give on-demand guidance to ward off overtraining.   

Heart rate variability (HRV) has been one of my favorite features since becoming a tester of the OMsignal prototype shirt two years ago. It has really given me a window into my body’s response to stress.  It has also been a metric I use to see if physical activity really does decrease mental stress.  Now, with the enhanced test I’m looking to see if I need to burn off steam with the Workout Readiness test and to perform the test after working out to see if my stress has decreased (a little off-label use of the test which is really only calibrated for pre-workout use)

But, what is heart rate variability and what else can it tell us about ourselves? 

Heart rate variability is the slight variation in heart rate from beat to beat.  It is measured mathematically and with a few calculations it can shed light on the autonomic nervous system and our fight-or-flight response.  So, what activities get our autonomic nervous system firing?

The obvious answer is physical activity and recovery.  Leaving everything on the field and getting ready for the next sprint puts your autonomic nervous system on overdrive.  Because you need to take tight control of cardiac output beat to beat variability is minimal during intense competition.  We’ve found that reduced HRV is also present as the body builds back its strength, and that’s what the Workout Readiness test is all about.

Other things in our life that get the fight-or-flight response going include: life stress, concentration and engagement as well as anxiety.  Mental stress can really affect HRV, releasing the same chemicals into the body as a hard workout.  Having a passionate discussion can have the opposite effect. Finally, medical conditions such as anxiety have been linked to decreased HRV.

So, we’re confident that the new Workout Readiness feature in OMsignal will be the first biometric test that successfully guides athletes to the right workout intensity.  We also see a world of possibilities to provide tons of insight to our users by measuring HRV. I’m hoping that others join me in some hacking with this feature to discover the many other uses of HRV.   

Leave a comment