Saturday 6 November 2010

What can you learn from your resting heart rate?

One's resting heart rate can be a great friend. It tells us how fit we are, whether there's an illness on the way (or maybe just a bit too much red wine), when to push the exercise, and when to hold back.  Many athletes track their resting heart rate each day to keep a close eye on how their bodies are coping with life.  I've managed to learn that much and more!

So, how can you make best use of this fabulous tool?  Well, it's simple, really.  Take your heart rate every morning when you wake up, say all the books, articles, etc.  Track the line.  Gradual changes relate to fitness (up=bad, down=good, zero=dead).  Sudden jumps relate to condition on the day (up=body working hard to fight off illness / yesterday's training / night out, down=can't count).  It's all just so easy!  Or, is it?

For those 90% of us who don't naturally wake up, it can be quite difficult to assess heart rate first thing in the morning.  I expect I'm not the only person who is woken by an alarm (radio, in my case), swears at the interruption, and then quickly jumps up to turn the thing off before incurring the wrath of a woman awoken.  It's not as scary as that of a woman scorned, but it's not nice for either of us.  So, to make a short story long, I am very rarely in a state of rest by the time I can see a watch or count past 3.

I've tried to grab a RHR at weekends, when I do have a chance now and then to leave the alarm off.  But, it turns out that I generally wake up from some active dream or another, with my HR at around 65 - quite elevated for first thing in the morning.

How am I supposed to make use of this great tool, if I'm never both at rest and awake enough to count? Well, apparently I am sometimes quite chilled when I'm driving.  I know this by checking my HRM when I drive somewhere for a run.  Because the HRM isn't all sweaty, I double check with a pulse count at the odd stoplight.  According to my heart rate, I generally drive around half asleep.  The other night, I noticed the HRM showed 47 - I've never actually seen it that low, even though that's roughly what I estimate given when I can measure it.  I pulled over to a) check it was true and b) give myself a bit of a slap.  I was driving, after all, so I didn't need to be quite that chilled! 

So, by loosely tracking my RHR over the past few months, I've discovered:
  • I am getting fitter
  • I managed to shake off the worst of my cold (but not entirely recovered from it) in time for a race
  • I have really weird dreams in the hours between my normal alarm and my weekend wake-up time
  • I drive in something ranging between relaxed ambivalence and a coma...
So, get your watch, take your pulse, and see what kind of deep insights into your life you can find!

1 comment:

  1. Inherited traits: driving chilled, me; unable to wake up without an alarm, your mother. Driving hr about 8 beats over restful sleep hr. My best, when marathon trained, 38.