Resting heart rate (RHR) is your heart rate measurement taken while awake and without being subject to any exertion or stimulation such as physical activity, stress or even surprise. It represents the cardiovascular system’s efficiency to deliver oxygen and other nutrients to the body in order to function at a very basic level (i.e. keep you alive).
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How do I measure RHR?
Resting heart rate is best measured within a few minutes of waking up in the morning before you get out of bed. This can be done manually by taking your pulse on your wrist or neck (measure 20 seconds and then multiply the beats counted by three). Alternatively, you could use a heart rate monitor. For a more accurate determination of your RHR, take a full week’s worth of measurements at the same time and place and then average the values to come up with your resting heart rate.
Why a low RHR is generally good
RHR varies from person to person but usually falls between 60 and 100 beats per minute (BPM) in most individuals. Athletes however, and particularly endurance athletes, are known to have a significantly lower RHR, usually between 30 and 50 BPM. A lower RHR represents greater (and more efficient) overall cardiovascular fitness. This means that the heart needs to contract fewer times to deliver sufficient volumes of blood to the body.
You can indirectly track improvements to your fitness by keeping track of your RHR over the course of several weeks and months. A downward trend in which your RHR decreases over time is a good indication that your cardiovascular fitness is improving.
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How RHR can influence recovery
RHR is also a useful indicator of the body’s recovery status. If and when RHR is elevated above what is considered normal, this suggests that you have not sufficiently recovered from prior training and stress. If this is the case, it may tbe a valuable indicator that it is necessary to reduce overall stress levels and avoid harder efforts and workouts for a while. Overtraining syndrome is often detected by a sudden increase (of 10 per cent or more) in RHR. If you suspect you may be overtraining, subsequent hard training and racing should be avoided until it returns to normal.