This is essential: why didn’t I just identify and change my drinking habit before? Did I need to monitor HRV and resting HR to make that change?
Obviously not. Any idiot could have inventoried my lifestyle habits, identified drinking as my greatest rate-limiting factor, and said, “Hey, uh, maybe you should chill out on that if you want to get closer to your cycling potential.”
As I’ve emphasized, athletes are their own worst blind spots, and the effect of your lifestyle habits aren’t salient when they’re routine. Part of what contributes to that blind spot is that the acute result of that change, even if it’s incredibly powerful, might not be evident enough for you to notice when you make a change. If you can’t feel or see the results, you doubt whether it really matters.
However, when you’re monitoring your HRV, there’s no question that something is happening. That data stream, even collected imperfectly, shows a strong and clear directional trend that confirms that results are happening.
I harp on data overload in my articles but using HRV to test lifestyle change is a clear example of data’s utility. Again, data are only useful if they inform action. For instance, cyclists love using a power meter because recording it provides a black and white indication of how they’re performing. It would be much more challenging to know if their fitness was improving without a power meter.
Like a power meter, HRV shines a light on the effect of various lifestyle changes that might improve your health and performance. Change your diet, sleep more, cut out something, meditate, etc. Then watch your HRV trend over time to see your body’s internal response.
Seeing progress reinforces lifestyle change. As the psychological literature points out, achieving a goal is only a small part of what makes us happy – noticing incremental improvement toward your goal contributes the most to happiness in any endeavor.
So, should you monitor your HRV when at best, it’s going to tell you the things you already know are holding you back?
If you’re serious about your performance, yes.
Look, you might tell yourself ‘I don’t need to measure something to tell me to sleep more, eat better, drink less, drink more water, etc.”. You’re right – you don’t. But why aren’t you doing it yet?
I’ll turn to an old maxim here – you manage what you measure. It’s harder to spend too much money if you check your bank account every day. It’s harder to overeat if you weigh yourself every morning. If you’re serving up an HRV score every morning, it’s harder for you to keep doing what is holding you back because you’re constantly reminded that you’re not all there. Most people can only look at rock bottom feedback about their lives so long before choosing to double down on what they’re doing or turn painfully (but correctly) into change.