How I monitor my health using one simple number

In the last of my series of blogs on goal setting for lasting and sustainable change, I’d like to share with you how I track and monitor my health using just one simple number. Maintaining this number is one of my goals for 2018, and in keeping it simple, it makes it easy for me to achieve.

The number that I’m tracking is my Heart Rate Variability. (FYI, I’ve blogged about this before, click here to read the article). Heart Rate Variability (or HRV) refers to the inter-beat interval, or the gaps between heart beats. It’s impossible to monitor unless you use technology to do so, but it is a very good indicator or how rested and recovered you are and therefore a good indicator of general health. I like HRV because it indicates how parasympathetic dominant I am, and helps me understand what state of recovery my body is in.

What’s a good HRV reading

HRV is interesting because the more variability there is between the beats, the better. This seems paradoxical, but a fit and healthy heart has a (almost indiscernible) variation between beats, not a regular inter-beat interval as you might expect. So, usually a higher HRV reading is what you’re striving for.

The actual number varies a lot between people, even those of similar fitness, age and gender. If you’re tracking your HRV, it can sometimes be useful to compare against people in a similar demographic, but I prefer to use my own data to benchmark against. There are so many variables affecting HRV that comparisons with others isn’t always helpful or accurate. My average HRV is around 105, yet my co-founder’s is around 45, yet we are similar in age, gender and fitness levels.

Why I track HRV

I’m tracking my HRV daily using my trusty piece of wearable tech, the Oura ring. I wear the ring 24/7 and it tracks my sleep composition data, my activity / inactivity data and surfaces important variables such as body temperature, resting heart rate and HRV. I do pay attention to the rest of the data, but I’ve chosen to track HRV because it’s such a good indicator of recovery, and as someone who’s burnt out before, that’s what I’m interested in.

My goal is simply to maintain an HRV of 120 or above. This is my objective, but I do know that there will be times when it will be lower. For example, this weekend I’ve done a lot of running as part of my London Marathon training. My HRV this morning was 107, which if anything was a little higher than I was expecting. I’m not concerned that it’s below 120 but my goal now is to do what I need to do to get it back up. That means I started the day with 15 minutes meditation, and I’ll be focusing on getting a good night’s sleep tonight, eating well today (basically lots of vegetables and minimal sugar), getting a light amount of movement (walking) and tonight I’ll do 10 minutes of foam rolling and stretching.

Less is More

By focusing only on one goal – my HRV – is makes it easy to achieve. If I set a series of goals around meditation, sleep, nutrition, stretching, foam rolling and movement/exercise, it’s likely that at some point it would all become a bit much. I’ve kept it simple, and therefore it’s sustainable.

Useful links

If you’re interested in learning more about HRV, check out our podcast with Jason Moore (episode 23). If you’d like to explore the many benefits of the Oura ring, please click here to find out more and if you’re ready to purchase, use the code bodyshotoura for 10% off (applicable to pre-orders of their new ring only).

What’s your Health IQ?

If you’re reading this, you’re are probably in a reasonably senior position, running your own business or have a busy life running the home and juggling other responsibilities. Either way, you’re busy. The convergent pressures of work and family life have probably meant that the time you did have to spend on health and fitness has disappeared. Why not talk to us and see how we can help.

Click here to take our test.

Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit www.bodyshotperformance.com or email info@bodyshotperformance.com to register your interest in our services and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.