The nervous system is connected to every other system in the human body. The muscles, the lymphatic system, the digestive system, the eyes and the other sense organs are all hard-wired to the brain. You can take advantage of this connectivity to monitor your recovery status in various situations—for example, when travelling across time zones or starting an altitude-training camp.
You can monitor your response to stress or training by using the connection between the nervous system and the body to determine whether you're adapting positively or negatively to your environment. This monitoring works because the nervous system detects stress in the body and then sends these signals to the brain. The brain then activates either the parasympathetic nervous system via the vagus nerve, or the sympathetic nervous system via the sympathetic ganglia.
If the body is recovering nicely and is in a rested/adaptation condition, then the parasympathetic system dominates and the vagus nerve will slow your heartbeat. Alternatively, if signals are being sent back to the brain indicating that the body is under-recovered, stressed or even trying to fight an infection, then the sympathetic ganglia will increase their activity and your heart rate will increase.
Heart rate can be measured easily with little or no equipment. A simple heart-rate monitor works really well, or you can just take your pulse. This techniques can also predict illness several days before symptoms become visible. So if you do monitor consistently over time, you can detect patterns, and if your heart-rate response is increased, then you can take action—such as choosing an easy workout instead of an interval session—to prevent getting sick.
The easiest, lowest-cost and possibly most effective tool you can use to track your recovery status is to measure your resting heart rate. Simply take your pulse for 60 seconds first thing in the morning. Make sure you do this as soon as you wake up and while still lying in bed; even sitting up will increase your heart rate. If you take this measurement every morning, you should notice a relatively constant resting heart rate.
Once you have collected some data continually over a few weeks, then you will notice that your resting heart rate changes slightly from day to day. If there’s increased stress in your life, or if you had a particularly hard workout the day before, your resting heart rate will likely be higher.
If you are doing a training program, as your cardiovascular fitness improves, your resting heart rate will gradually decrease. This decrease in heart rate is a good thing because it shows that the parasympathetic system is starting to gain dominance; your body is letting you know that it is adapting positively to the exercise stimulus.
Retake the Recovery Survey to see how you've improved over the past month