Heart Rate Recovery: An easy way to track your fitness

Heart Rate Recovery: An easy way to track your fitness
Written by: Coach Slater

We know you watch our TV monitors to see how your heart rate escalates during WODs, but do you watch it as closely AFTER the workout to see how quickly it deescalates? Didn’t think so… let me tell you why you should.

The time it takes for your heart to return to a normal, resting heart rate is a strong indicator of fitness and mortality, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. The decrease in your heart rate two minutes after exercise is known as your Heart Rate Recovery (HRR). In general, people who exercise regularly, and therefore are more likely to have healthier hearts, have faster HRR times than people who do not regularly exercise. Hopefully that’s obvious.

To learn your HRR, check out the TVs in the gym to see what your heart rate is immediately after you finish a workout and write this number down. Watch the clock or grab your phone and watch for a minute to pass. At the end of a minute, write down your heart rate again. Wait another minute and write down your heart rate after two minutes have passed post-WOD.

The difference between your heart rate immediately post-WOD and two minutes later is your official HRR, but you want to see AT LEAST a 12 beats per minute reduction per minute for each of the two minutes you’re tracking. (Sorry for writing “minute” so many times there.) If your heart rate decreases less than 12 bpm each minute post-exercise, then you might have a hidden heart condition that warrants a doctor’s visit.

Here’s a scale to consider for judging your HRR:

You have a healthy heart if your HRR is between 53-58 bpm two minutes post-WOD.

You have a healthier heart if your HRR is between 59-65 bpm two minutes post-WOD, you exhibit a greater fitness level, and your physical age is moderately less than your calendar age.

Very Healthy:
You have a very healthy heart if your HRR is more than 66 bpm, you’re considered very fit, and your physical age is a lot less than your calendar age.

Here’s what you can do with this new info. If you’re someone whose heart rate takes longer to recover, it may be a good strategy to pace your workouts until your recovery rate increases. However, if you recover quickly, you should be increasing your intensity to see how high you can allow your heart rate to reach.

Happy monitoring!

(1) “Heart-Rate Recovery Immediately after Exercise as a Predictor of Mortality”. Cole, Chris. N Engl J Med 1999; 341:1351-1357.

(2) “Cardiovascular System Science: Investigate Heart-Rate Recovery Time”, Scientific American.

(3) “Heart rate recovery after aerobic and anaerobic tests: is there an influence of anaerobic speed reserve?” Del Rosso, S. J Sports Sci. 2016 Mar 28:1-8.

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