Ever wonder why some days you feel great, and others you’re slow and sluggish? Or how to know whether to do that long run today, or whether it needs to wait until tomorrow? There’s a very simple indicator you can use to tell if your body’s tired or ready to go for whatever you have planned ahead.
It’s measuring your heart rate first thing in the morning. This is something I teach all my athletes to do. It’s a very simple indicator of fatigue, hydration, inflammation, and even impending illness or infection.
Take your heart rate each morning, preferably first thing after you wake up. You can do this by simply putting your index and middle fingers on your wrist, while watching the second-hand on your watch. Count your pulse for fifteen seconds. Multiply the total number of pulses you counted by four and that’s your resting heart rate.
Or you can slip on your heart-rate monitor and let it do the counting for you. Stay nice and relaxed while you’re doing it, and if you’ve hopped out of bed already, go back and lie down for five minutes before measuring, we want your RESTING heart rate, not your UP-AND-ABOUT one.
Jot down your resting heart rate each morning. For the first few days the numbers won’t tell you very much–we’re just getting a baseline. However, with just your heart rate, we are getting you to start the most rudimentary logbook and that has benefits all-too-itself.
We’re not concerned if your heart rate is 50, 70, 40, or wherever…and contrary to what you’ve heard, one heart rate over another doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in shape, out of shape, a pro athlete, or a couch potato…though in general your numbers decrease with training. What we’re looking for is your average morning heart rate.
From there comes the magic. After you get your average morning heart rate, watch for any spikes in your resting rate. A small spike may not be significant, but a big spike means you need to take the day off. Often we don’t know when to rest until after we get into a workout and find ourselves feeling like we’re under water. At that point it’s often too late. We end up with an ache or pain, pull something, or more likely, find ourselves sick or with a cold the next day.
So watch your heart rate, if it’s up by 10 points or more over your average, it’s time to take a rest day, no matter what. It means your body’s working over time to heal, recover from a past workout, overcome a mild infection, or deal with an overload of stress, pressure, or anxiety (these things are real). Whatever the reason, it means a day of rest or more, until the heart rate’s back down.
Don’t worry about taking time off. You only lose 7% of your fitness even after 2 full weeks off. Pushing through and getting sick or injured will cost you WAY more than that. And if you take time off, you come back fast, because you’re FRESH!
This simple mindful exercise can help keep you from getting sick and injured, and help you have the most effective workouts possible. It’ll also keep your mind fresh and help you stay motivated, because pushing through a tired body never feels great.