November 28, 2013 cburnham

Heart Rate Variability Part.2- How to Dig Out of a Hole

In the last post I detailed how you can monitor Heart Rate Variability to access the health and balance of the autonomic nervous system.  Monitoring HRV allows you to quantify that balance, strategically apply stress (training), and allow for adequate recovery to reach new levels of performance.  But what do you do if your HRV is in the toilet and you dig yourself out of a hole?  These techniques can help even if you aren’t actively monitoring HRV but feel like you need some deep recovery


Time to get out of the toilet

1. Reduce personal stress.  The biggest “X” factor in amateur athletes is stress outside of sport.  Work or personal stress can easily push you over the edge and circling the bowl of over-trained (or more realistically “over-reached”).  Take advantage of any ways you can to reduce or eliminate stresses in your work or personal life.  Ultimately, it isn’t realistic to just up and quit your job if job stress is pulling you down, but you can learn ways to deal with that stress better.  Yoga, spending time in nature, and meditation have all been helpful to athletes dealing with outside stresses we have worked with.  Find what works for you and use it frequently to manage your stress.

2. Get More Sleep.  Sometimes this can be easier said than done but I have found that most athletes do have the ability to go to bed a bit earlier.  Those hours of sleep before midnight are more valuable than the hours after! Turn off the computers, TVs, and anything that provides artificial blue light since that will down regulate melatonin release, a key sleep hormone, in the brain.  If you have to be on your computer in the evening than it may be a good idea to use an app like flux (lux on smartphones and tablets) or buys some blue light blocking glasses like those from Gunnar.  It can also be very helpful to use 500mg of magnesium 30 minutes or so before bed.

CALM Magnesium

3. Cold Exposure.  Fun times right?!  Cold exposure has been shown to reduce levels of inflammation, including CRP and interleukin (cardiovascular and liver inflammation markers), which can help the body dig itself out of a hole a bit faster.  That is also the same reason I recommend ice baths when you need to recover as quick as possible, for example on back-to-back race days or after long course triathlons.

ice bath

4. Anti-inflammatory diet.  There are some foods that have an inflammatory response within the body and others that are more anti-inflammatory.  Omega-6 fats (seed and vegetable oils primarily) are inflammatory in nature.  Omega-3 fats (fish oils, oils derived from algae, flax-seed) are anti-inflammatory.  Saturated fats are neutral if they aren’t oxidized.

5. Ensure good mineral intake.  This can be from supplements like Salt Stick or Hammer Endurolytes, or from food sources like adding a good sea salt to your meals.  For an athlete the primary minerals to be concerned with would be calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium.  These are better to get from whole food sources than from supplements, but if you decide to use a supplement I would suggest a natural sourced trace mineral supplement.

While all these tips can help dig you out of a hole relatively fast, they can be good to incorporate into your daily training regimen to ensure you don’t end up in that hole in the first place.  Be proactive ya all!

Happy Training!

***If you need help to dig yourself out of an over-reached state, contact us for recovery plan options.***


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