Oftentimes we hear the assumption that if your Heart Rate is high this means you have worked hard, and you can give yourself a pat on the back for your efforts. Surely it means I had a good workout, right? If my Heart Rate is higher than somebody else’s on the team, then I worked harder than they did, correct? Sure, this could be a possibility. However, it might not be that simple…
Let’s draw two comparisons here:
- Player A has just spent 30 minutes of a 90-minute activity working in their “Red Zone” (over 80% of their Max HR).
- Player B spent just 15 minutes of the same 90-minute activity working in their own relative “Red Zone”.
The assumption from these two data points is that Player A worked harder than Player B. This could be a logical conclusion. But now let’s insert both player’s Active Participation (AP) scores in to this equation:
- Player A just spent 30 minutes of a 90-minute activity working in their “Red Zone” and their Active Participation (AP) was 60%.
- Player B again spent just 15 minutes of the same 90-minute activity working in their own relative “Red Zone”, however their Active Participation was at 80%.
Now it seems those Red Zone minutes might look a little bit different? Player A spent double the time of Player B working in their Red Zone but Player B had a significantly higher AP! In other words, Player A’s HR was high despite having a lower AP. Yet Player B’s HR was low despite having a far higher AP…
So, what could this mean?
- Player A might not be as “fit” as Player B. Their Heart Rate is higher simply because their heart has to work harder to cater to the player’s activities.
- Player B may just be super fit and healthy! They are able to maintain high levels of activity without having to work so hard. Also, the fitter the player the quicker their heart is able to recover, meaning it can go up fast and drop quickly as well!
- A combination of the above with neither case being an extreme but still holding some truth!
- Additionally, there could be significant genetic differences between Player A and Player B relative to their Heart Rate Maximum (HR Max). So Player B might just have an extremely high HR Max and needs to be pushed much harder than Player A (whose HR Max is lower) to achieve those Red Zone minutes.
- Other factors outside of the activity can have a huge impact on one’s HR response to exercise. These can include sleep (duration and quality), stress, hydration, nutrition etc. So maybe one (or more) of these factors played a role in Player A’s higher HR in the session? If this player’s HR response seemed unusually high compared to other sessions, this could be a good opportunity to ask them if they are experiencing any of the above? Maybe you know this player just came back from an injury and the higher HR was expected – and that’s fine too!
So, in summary we want to provide a very general guide in interpreting the possible relationships between these two dials:
- If HR and AP are both high, the player probably had a strong session. They moved a lot and their HR matched.
- If HR and AP are both low, the player had a lighter session. Lower movement is likely going to generate a lower HR, so this one is easy.
- If HR is low but AP is high, the player could be pretty fit and healthy because their activity was high, and their heart did not have to work too hard to achieve this.
- If HR is high but AP is low, it could be due to points 1, 4 and 5 made above! The player might be fatigued, coming back from injury, slightly unfit etc. We hope this can open up a dialogue for the coach to simply ask, “Hey, are you feeling OK?” This is VERY powerful!
The above examples offer just a glimpse to how we might begin interpreting the Heart Rate and Active Participation metrics in relation to each other. While these two metrics can indeed offer an insight into how hard a player might have worked (or might not have worked) during a session, there is still significant nuance that could affect these conclusions. In our next blog, we will begin to explore how Distance and High Speed Running also have an impact in understanding how our players are training – and guess what, they are also related to HR and AP too!