Sarasota Florida where I live is an area rich in circus tradition. Many circuses and circus performers still winter here. When I read all the nonsense regarding heart rate monitoring and it’s various permutations I am reminded of the carnival barker at the sideshow here at the circus. Just imagine that we are at the strength and conditioning circus walking around looking at all the freaks when you hear the side show barker call out: “Pick a number, any number, we will find a meaning for it! We can teach you to fool anyone with the numbers we can generate on our magic machines. Come on folks, step right up and we will hook you up. See the magic beating heart. Step right up and pay the pretty lady.” In the best Barnum and Bailey tradition we now have the fully integrated heart rate side show complete with freaks and clowns. It is amazing what marketing and hype can do. Is heart rate a valuable training metric? It certainly is not as valuable and important as some are making it out to be. It really depends on what you want. What are you looking for? You can do whatever you want with the numbers, just look around and see what people are doing. It is borderline ridiculous. It’s a convenient measure, relatively easy to monitor even without technology, but is it really meaningful as a measure of training intensity or workload? As coach I have been fooled by it. I over relied on it; I took it out of context. I learned the hard way that it is not a stand-alone measure or even something to use peripherally.
I certainly would agree that HRV is intriguing. It seems to make scientific sense, but so did simple heart rate at one time. I respect the sport scientists, who have commented positively on it, but I am still skeptical; I want to see more real world evidence and valid scientific studies. Not pseudo scientific studies sponsored by a companies that manufacture monitoring technology or anecdotal reports from a coach or scientist who is being paid by a company. Before you jump on the heart rate bandwagon study all the research and then draw your own conclusions to see if you think it can be a useful measure for you in the sport you are working with. I have done that and for 95% of the sports and situations I work with it or have worked with, it would not enhance my ability to more effectively monitor the training and coach the athletes. Pass up the heart rate sideshow and go watch the lion tamers.