Heart Rate Variability
Think of Heart Rate Variability (HRV), as a lens into your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Your ANS regulates two branches of your nervous system - fight or flight and rest/digest. Monitoring your HRV gives you insight into how your body is handling stress. Your allostatic load is how your body is handling the wear and tear of stress. Think of this as scales - you are looking for a balance between the two branches. You can go too far each way and both have their repercussions over time.
Most of us are stuck in a fight or flight state which is causing our body to be stuck in a stressed state. I will have clients who swear they are not stressed wear an HRV tracking device and suddenly see they are stressed out. Which of course helps them understand why they are not achieving the results they feel they should be.
Stress will stop progress in terms of weight loss, muscle gain, and recovery because your body is not able to handle the stress of dieting, working out, and often poor sleep quality on top of the stress life, work, kids, bills, etc. I use both an OuraRing and Whoop to monitor my HRV.
For all intents and purposes I like Whoop better and my clients echo the same thing as well. Research different HRV products and then decide. Pictured as the picture for this post is my own recovery over the past 7 days. According to WHOOP, I am managing my recovery and my strain (output, things like my workouts, cardio, HIIT based work, etc.) very well which attributes to continual progression which is what I am chasing. If you are not recovering properly, your hard work is in essence holding you back. Insight into recovery is insight into the progress your body ultimately will or will not make.
I believe understanding this variable will be something that helps all of us get better at managing stress and ultimately living a better quality of life since HRV is a predictor of mortality.