Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a huge topic amongst Strength Coaches to track training status, recovery, and/or readiness of their athletes. I’m not here to debate the validity of HRV, its potential usefulness, or any of the piles of research collected on the topic but merely offer my viewpoint. If you have no idea what HRV is then this may not be the blog post for you because i am not going to give you a historical background citing research from the world of physiology. Google it! Then again if you need to google it, don’t bother reading this post because it will not mean much to you.
HRV can be an amazing tool for Strength coaches and Sports Scientists to collect data on training status from day to day. It seems as though changing your daily plan may be a little extreme but I do know of coaches that use HRV in just that matter while other Strength Coaches use it to track changes over the course of a training block or competitive season which makes more sense to me rather than chasing a daily number.
Here is my fear and the limitation of HRV in my environment…
For HRV to be reliable it needs to be performed at the same time each day. In the NBA we rarely work at the same time of day. Take this week for example…
Monday – off day: half of the team comes in for voluntary extra workouts around 11am
Tuesday – home game day: everybody must be ready for shoot around at 9:45am so players start coming in at 7:45 depending on their treatment schedule. Afternoon off before 7pm game time, fly to Charlotte following the game.
Wednesday – noon breakfast meeting before 7pm game, fly to Houston following the game (change time zones)
Thursday – off day/voluntary workouts begin at noon
Friday – shoot around at 11am with treatments beginning around 9am. Afternoon off before at 830pm game, fly to Dallas following the game.
Saturday – practice at 2pm
Sunday – 11am shoot around, afternoon off before a 7:30pm game, fly back to Indianapolis (time zone change).
As you can see it would be very difficult to have any sort of consistency in testing HRV. Even the most dedicated professional would have difficulty waking up to keep a consistent 8am (just a time example) HRV check considering that often times we get into a new city around 2am when flying after a game. This irregularity in timing can have a significant impact on your HRV number rendering it near useless. I will say that the company Proteus is collecting some interesting information with their wearable technology that makes capturing HRV a whole lot simpler by wearing what amounts to a band aid on your body for 36-72 hours (depending on how sticky your skin remains).
Another drawback of HRV is the “bad days.” If we convince a player that HRV is important, what happens when it is a game day and the number tells us that the player is not ready to perform at a high level. The psychological ramifications are huge and for those of you that think that you can just track the information without sharing the data with your athlete, you are wrong. Any player that is willing to be monitored is going to want to know the results! If they dont feel like they are an active participant in the process chances are they will not want to participate. So on that “bad day” i tell the athlete that they must foam roll, nap, hydrate, massage, etc…how is that any different than how they should already be preparing?! The recovery message is the same everyday or at least it should be. I’m not going to even address those of you that think that the player should get less minutes because you are insane to even think it! And finally, what happens if that player goes out and has a great game? Don’t bother asking him to sit still the next morning and ask him to do an HRV analysis because you already lost him the night before.
When an athlete competes once a week with an unchanging schedule during their practice week i think HRV can be a valuable tool but if your schedule is like the NBA, MLB or NHL then i dont think it is a sound investment of your time unless you love collecting useless data. Just my two cents.
Nothing beats experience. I know young strength coaches don’t want to hear this because I felt the same way when I was a young strength coach!!! I always felt that I could do the job above mine because i was well read and had all these certifications that made me feel special. The reality is you are never prepared for the job above you until you have walked a mile in that new role. That’s not to say that all experienced strength coaches are good or better than young strength coaches but experience allows you to have history on your side. Experienced strength coaches have seen fads/trends come and go not to mention numerous opportunities to fail with program design, coaching, and leading athletes. I love the phrase, “you don’t know what you don’t know,” because you really never know what piece of information you are missing until you discover that hidden gem. Even at nine seasons as an NBA strength coach i could read something tomorrow that could change my whole outlook. I may think that i could be an NFL Strength Coach but i have never worked in the NFL…I don’t know the schedule, the unspoken rules/traditions or even what the Head Coach/GM/Player/Agent expects. My 15 years experience as a Strength Coach would shorten the learning curve but there would still be a learning curve during the transition. I would probably learn that what works in the NBA does not work so well in the NFL.
Each job change allows you to reinvent yourself as a strength coach. Every weight room is unique, as is every athletic department, head coach, and weight room. All of those things force you to adapt and grow which is what adds to your experience. Some of you may think that I’m a miserable old strength coach when I shoot down internet gurus or different topics but it is because my experience reading, coaching, failing and refining many times over has given me a pretty good bullshit meter. I find it very frustrating when somebody tells me that I should be following a certain routine or exercise, or telling me how I should be doing my job when in actuality they have no idea what my job even entails or what I do on a daily basis. Stay in your lane people! Unfortunately, I was one of those young dudes that had “all the answers” mocking programs and people but luckily I didn’t have a platform to make an ass out of myself.
You have two eyes, two ears and one mouth so that we can watch and listen more than we speak so before you proclaim yourself as the smartest Strength Coach/Personal Trainer watch and listen to people that have been in the trenches honing their craft for years before you dismiss their program. Our egos get the best of us and we want to proclaim our greatness however I hope we can all hold off.
If you’re at all like me, your lower body workout programs cannot result in any knee pain for your athletes, period. Check out my 3 keys to writing a great lower body workout program that prevents knee pain. Click to read the rest