One of the most common misconceptions in the world of HRV is the when HRV goes up that's always good and when HRV goes down that's always bad. Unfortunately many HRV measurement devices and apps have adopted this as the way things are. But it's definitely not true and it's certainly not that simple.
But here at Morpheus we understand this at a deeper level and have taken steps to make sure that you understand what your HRV and recovery score actually mean.
When your HRV on a particular day is higher or lower than your 10-day rolling average, your recovery score % will be lower on that day.
But LOWER HRV with LOWER RECOVERY SCORE means something entirely different than HIGHER HRV with LOWER RECOVERY SCORE. And you should approach these situations differently from an exercise and recovery perspective.
Below is a picture that shows you what to look for in the Morpheus app and what each situation means. Further on in this article to learn more about specific regeneration methods you can use depending on which of the situations described above and shown below you are in on any given day.
When your recovery score drops below 60% after a morning recovery test, it's a good idea on that day to implement some sort of regeneration method.
These methods can actually help you recover faster and more fully than simply taking the day off from any sort of exercise or movement.
LOWER HRV with LOWER RECOVERY SCORE means that your body is driving more energy toward being in a sympathetic dominant state. This means that regeneration methods should be geared toward RELAXATION.
HIGHER HRV with LOWER RECOVERY SCORE means that your body is driving more energy toward being in a parasympathetic dominant state. This means that regeneration methods should be geared toward STIMULATION.
Just as a low HRV reading is not always bad, a high HRV reading is not always good. If a single HRV measurement is abnormally high compared to your baseline rolling average (white line in the app on the HRV graph), then it can mean something is off.
Here are a few examples of when a high reading does not always indicate better health, fitness, or resilience.
- For certain mild illnesses or sicknesses, an elevated immune system can increase Heart Rate Variability. This is favorable for recovery from the illness but should not be seen as an increase in health.
- If you are in a state of hyper recovery, your HRV can be abnormally high. When the body accumulates too much stress to the point where it can no longer effectively handle the stress and resources are depleted, the body might force itself into a hyper-recovery mode as a last resort to protect itself. This state is not ideal for long-term health or performance.
- Continuous low grade stressors can cause HRV to be higher in the short term because the body is constantly trying to recover from them. If your HRV is high but you frequently feel fatigued or drained, then you might be exposed to chronic low grade stress that is constantly stealing energy and resources from your body. This is not ideal and over the long-term, if these accumulated low grade stressors are not dealt with, they can eventually cause HRV and health to decrease.
A high reading does not always indicate better health and resilience.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: A single daily change in HRV (up or down) is NOT at all predictive of athletic performance on that day.
If you compete in any sort of sport or other activity, and you wake up on the morning of the competition, do your recovery test, and your recovery score is LOW and your HRV IS LOW, that can be a GOOD thing. It means that your brain and your body are "prepping" for the stress of the competition by driving energy toward the sympathetic side of your autonomic nervous system. If this happens to you, you're ready! So go crush it!
If the opposite happens - you wake up and your recovery score is LOW and your HRV IS HIGH - that simply means that you might be mentally and physically relaxed. Probably means you're a veteran of the sport and you've competed before and you are not at all worried about it. And you'll do your pre-competition routine to get yourself amped up and start driving energy toward your sympathetic nervous system to get ready. So go crush it!
Below are more specifics about different types of relaxation and stimulation methods.