Building resilience to increase physical and emotional workload for sportspersons with HRV

Heart’s parameters (especially heart rate and variability i.e. HR and HRV) have been used for a long time to monitor athlete’s fitness levels and also recovery from previous workouts.  Any additional physical workload or stress usually impairs HRV (since sympathetic drive or increased physical or emotional workload reduces HRV and parasympathetic drive or recovery increases the HRV).  Similarly, a rest (or recovery) after the exercise usually improves HRV.

How can I use HRV?

At Wellness Space, we work with athletes (e.g. crickets, badminton players and also individuals who just want to build fitness levels !) for building the resilience and capacity.  Autonomic nervous system resilience is critical foundation along with other challenges and opportunities which needs work especially for athletes.  The article demonstrates how workload (training intensity) impacts autonomic nervous system and therefor reducing the ability of the player to play at the fullest potential. The case study explores what can be done to improve the capacity and slowly build training capacity.

Case Study: Sportsperson’s morning HRV and training load data for decision making

This person increased the training load significantly (on day 1) which resulted in a decrease in HRV (on Day 2).  When the increase in the work load was less drastic, the HRV not only was maintained but it increased slightly (HRV, SDNN and LnRMSSD – all were favourable).

The goal:

  • Build capacity (to manage increase training workload and emotional stress) by increasing the HRV (while monitoring training workload and recovery).  (Note: In other words, be smart by adding the work load and also maintain or increase the HRV !)
  • Release emotional and mental blocks (topic of another article some day !)

Summary of findings:

  • Activity increased to level 7 on Day 1 (1=low, 1=high) resulting in decreased HRV (~21% decrease from 64 on Day 1 to 50 on Day 2, SDNN also decreased from 118 to 65).  This confirms either the training load was too much and/or the recovery after the training was not sufficient.
  • When the activity level was maintained (Day 3 and 4), the HRV increased slightly (i.e. sustained !) and SDNN level was also maintained confirming the ability of the athlete to sustain a particular activity level and recovery.

Interpretation and action plan:

  • An increased activity (on Day 1) resulted in lower HRV (on day 2) confirming that either the load must be decreased and/or the recovery must be added after the increased load.
  • On a day when HRV was healthy and the activity level was (more or less) maintained, the next day HRV and SDNN were sustained and/or increased.

Implications & Suggested Actions:

  • Add recovery and relaxation on the days of “increased” activity and observe the impact on HRV (Hypothesis: HRV must not go down drastically if sufficient recovery is added). If this does not work, add “recovery processes such as relaxation, breathing, rest” and observe the effect.
  • Explore the impact of deep relaxation and hypnosis script (with imagery) on the HRV/SDNN.

Are you keen to do this for your activity level and well being ?(be it sports or just regular fitness or a struggle to balance work, life and sleep)

Please call us or write to

Gunjan Trivedi, Life Coach