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.

Generally speaking higher average HRV over an extended period of time can be considered a good thing.  But that is very different than a single day of high HRV far above your rolling avg HRV.

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.  There's obviously a lot more detail and data that goes into the daily recovery score but HRV and RHR "today" versus where you have been recently sets the basis for recovery score.

You can have lower than avg HRV with low recovery score or you can have higher than avg HRV with low recovery score.  

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.  When you have a low recovery score, it is important to know if your HRV is well above avg or if your HRV is well below avg.  Because knowing this may help your workout and lifestyle decisions for that day. 

When your recovery score drops below 60% after a morning recovery test, it may be 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.

Sometimes it can be difficult to determine what caused an up or down change in HRV relative to your recent average.  Because HRV is your body's response to ALL stress, it's important to understand that workouts are only a very small piece of the stress puzzle.  It's often factors outside of the gym that impact HRV and recovery more than the workout itself.  

To the body, stress is stress.  And mental stress can impact workouts and recovery just as much, if not more than, the workout itself.  Recovery sets limit for results that can be gained from exercise.

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 HRV 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.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:  A single daily change in HRV (up or down) is NOT at all predictive of athletic performance on that day.  

In terms of making workout/training decisions, it is important to understand that a low recovery score does not mean that you must take a day off or that you cannot just follow your normal plan.  There is context to consider when using HRV and RHR and other related metrics to make daily and weekly training decisions.

Does having a higher recovery score mean you can train hard and a lower recovery score means you should stay at home? Do all low recovery scores mean the same thing?

To get to the bottom of what recovery is and how Morpheus works, we have to discuss two things: stress and energy.

In simple terms, adaptation is the process the body goes through to become more fit to handle the demands of its environment.

This is how training works.

You lift heavy weights, you gets stronger. You run long distances, you gets more efficient. You practice a specific lift or movement, your technique gets better.

This is nothing more than the body’s adaptive mechanisms at work. There are two parts to this process: stress and recovery.

When you’re training, you’re putting your body under stress. This means your stress-response system is working hard to crank up energy production.

Once the workout is over, that’s when recovery begins.

The most important thing to understand about recovery is that just like stress, it’s all about energy. In this case, the body needs energy to repair and rebuild stressed muscle tissue, add new mitochondria, etc.

This use of energy is what we call recovery.

In other words, recovery is the process of using energy to adapt to the stress of our environment.

A lot of people have been led to believe that a low recovery score on an app means that their body can’t train hard or perform well.

They are often confused when they get this low recovery score even though they feel just fine. Or, they are surprised when they choose to train hard anyway and then hit a PR - a recovery score is not a predictor of what your body is capable of, or how well it will perform at any given time.

Instead, the most accurate way to understand a recovery score, particularly the one Morpheus gives you, is as a gauge of the balance between the amount of energy you’ve been spending on stress vs. recovery.

In summary, the best way to think about a recovery score driven by HRV is that it gives you insight into what you SHOULD do but it does not dictate what you CAN or CANNOT do.  

Life is all about making decisions.  Hundreds of times per day.  Use Morpheus to help you make smart decisions that will help you improve your health and fitness.  

Below are more specifics about different types of relaxation and stimulation methods.