The excitement of climbing heightens the good feels all over. The feeling of the possibility of something going wrong does the opposite. How does your nervous system respond to such polarizing differences. Some of us may perceive to be handling it all just fine, but when the measurements are taken a different story is told. So what is really happening? The individual may very well be doing fine and complete their summit bid without a hitch, but there could also be an underlying issue leading to a risky situation for everyone if left unaddressed over a long expedition.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is our first warning system telling us the body is responding positively or negatively to a stressor or several stressors. Our ANS is always doing this, but if the stressor or stressors are too great the body may react negatively. The stressors from outside can effect any of the body systems. The 4 focused on at Mountain Fitness Research are cardiovascular, pulmonary, digestive and muscular. These systems are used at a higher level in mountain environments to accommodate the need and can push the other systems to compensate when they are not able to keep up with the demand and in turn pinging the ANS to respond in survival mode. If the ANS could be monitored prior to train the body to adapt to the mountain environment to a higher level, then the success of enjoying the journey would be increased.
By taking a look at measuring the ANS via heart rate variability, we can see trends of how our body reacts to the stress of training and recovering over extended periods of time. This can be very valuable as you work through your training cycles or recover from challenging days in the gym or training on a mountain. Knowing how your ANS responds to these stressors lets you know what to expect prior to your summit bid. It will also let you know if you system is going beyond what it normally handles in the particular situation. This does not mean you cannot or should not do what you are doing. It merely means you should know how your system is dealing with it.
Many are often initially shocked on ow much of a mess their system is in. If we take a step back, we will see our daily choices in training and diet may be what is really a mess and can be easily adjusted to match the needs of your body in training levels. We often ping our thresholds more than necessary to see how far we can go, but over time this can become a chronic issue your system no longer wants to manage. This is the value of using heart variability to maximize how we perceive to be handling the training and adjust accordingly. To learn more about heart rate variability, please visit eliteHRV.com.