I’ve been measuring my resting heart rate most mornings since December 2016, as part of my morning routine.
Scroll down or click here to watch the supporting video to this blog.
Why measure your resting heart rate?
Measuring your resting heart rate is a great way to track your:
– recovery from exercise & training
– fitness level
– physical health
From the reading, you can assess:
– if your body has recovered from your previous workout(s) or needs more rest
– if you are getting fitter
– if you are becoming unwell
It’s important for me to tell you I am not a doctor or anything similar. I write this blog as a point of reference, from my own experience and research. What I write could be true in the majority of cases but not all. If you require medical advice on your heart, please seek advice from a professional.
Why I find measuring my heart rate useful
Measuring my heart rate (HR) each morning gives me a good indication of what condition my body is in.
If my heart rate is higher than usual it suggests my body needs more recovery, and I should either rest or take the exercise intensity down.
There are mornings when I get out of bed and my mind feels tired, and it’s easy to find a reason (excuse) not to train, blaming it on tiredness. When I feel like this, about 50% of the time, my HR reading comes out normal which shows the feeling is in my head and not in my body.
Then there are the days which are the opposite – I feel pumped for training but my heart rate will display a higher than usual reading, suggesting I need to take it easy.
It’s fascinating how there are times when my body and mind do not match up. Measuring my heart rate is a great tool to have in the toolbox of self-awareness and body health.
Over the years of measuring my HR and taking care of myself, I have seen it decrease, which is an indication of me getting fitter.
In the past, I have suffered from anxiety, which I’m sure had a negative effect on my health. I’ve nipped that in the bud and as a result reduced my HR.
Physical Health *
Our resting heart rate can increase when we are falling ill. Our immune system will work harder to keep us healthy which causes our heart to pump faster.
*There isn’t scientific evidence to show that this is true but from my experience, the process appears to be accurate.
How to measure your resting heart rate
There are a number of different ways you can measure your resting heart rate:
– the old fashioned way, using fingertips and a timer
– phone app
– fitness watch
– heart rate strap/monitor.
To get a reading, the app shines the torch and you place your finger over the camera. The light shines through the skin so your pulse can be measured, and then it gives a reading on the screen. It takes about 10-15 seconds. Very clever!
- Use an app, fit watch or the old school manual method to measure your HR
- Record the results each day so you know what an accurate figure is. I record mine in my journal.
- Do it in the morning before you move around, eat or drink. All of these will increase your HR.
- Some people get ‘white coat syndrome,’ where the heart rate increases on the basis it is being measured. If this is you, take some deep breaths and relax before for the reading. (I am one of these people).
How to analysis the reading
After doing a reading each morning for 2-4 weeks, you’ll learn what your resting HR is. I sit around 48-50 beats per minute (bpm).
When you get a normal reading, it means you are good to train reasonably hard. It shows the body is well-rested and not under stress.
If the reading is 5+ bpm higher than usual, it shows the body may be overtrained, tired, or needing more time to recover.
I trust that this simple process is accurate for the following reasons:
After my 24 hour indoor row, my heart rate was higher than usual and took 4 weeks to return to normal.
After my Atlantic rowing challenge in 2018, my heart rate took 4 months to return to normal – it was around 10 bpm higher than usual! This was a huge indication that my nervous system needed many weeks of recovery after 43 days at sea!
Here are the pictures to show you the difference:
– February 2019 – returning back from my Atlantic row – average HR is 56 bpm
– March 2020 – after many months of learning how to take care of myself – 49 bpm
There have been times where my resting HR has been higher than usual (5+ bpm) for a few weeks. With 2-3 days of self-care (rest, sleep, lots of healthy food, reading, stretching, walks, yoga) it returns to normal. The power of rest!
It feels so good to have a simple tool to assess my health and well-being. Our body is a machine after all and we need to take care of it and maintain it like we could do any other machine.
Do you do something similar to assess your fitness and recovery?
Will you start measuring your resting heart rate as a result of this blog?
I’d love to hear from you – come and find me on social media and let me know.