Travel Stress & HRV

Last update on Sept. 15, 2014.

Travel Stress & HRV

We’ve established that stress can be manifested in many forms, good, bad, and ugly. 

Your nervous system could just as easily be reeling from your surprise birthday party as from a seasonal flu. 

What about simply traveling from one place to another? Surely that can’t be much of a strain…

Here we have a case study from a BioForce user that flew from Washington State to Kentucky:

This user departed on February 7th after a decent night’s rest and arrived at her destination later that afternoon after what she described as, “an uneventful flight.”

As you can see, her HRV (the top line) was relatively normal on February 8th, but her training readiness plunged on the 9th and 10th, as indicated by red and amber readiness scores. 

What happened?

Even though the user did not perceive her travel as mentally stressful, her nervous system told us a different story:

Her HRV increased on February 9th, indicating that her body needed to rest and recovery from the increased stress load placed on it. 

On February 10th, her autonomic nervous system overcompensated for the increase in HRV by causing a subsequent drop, sending her into a more sympathetically-dominant state. 

By February 11th, the user’s autonomic nervous system had effectively adapted to the stress of travel and returned to its homeostatic range.  

Don't Get "Hooked on a Feeling"...

With this case study, we see a classic example of why it is important to monitor our training readiness through HRV rather than trusting how we feel. 

The user felt normal throughout her travel experience, but her nervous system was working overtime to respond to the stressors associated with her travel, including:

Increased exposure to pathogens

Change in diet

Change in sleep environment

Change in time zone (disruption of circadian rhythym)

Change in social environment, etc.

While the term “travel” encompasses different stressors depending on means of transportation, duration, etc.,  the important thing to note is that it does, in fact, increase the stress load on the body regardless of how we feel


The truth is that nervous system is making adjustments to adapt to increased stress long before we sense a change in the way we feel .  Oftentimes the negative symptoms of stress that we feel are circumvented by an efficiently working autonomic nervous system. 

This is why it’s important to avoid the flawed thinking of, “I feel fine so I must be ready to train 100%.”

The way we feel may not accurately reflect the stress placed on our autonomic nervous system, and adding the additional stress of training may push us over the edge into the realms of injury and illness. 

With BioForce HRV, guessing at our training readiness based off of how we feel is outdated, unnecessary, and often inaccurate.

Be savvy: monitor your autonomic nervous system, feel confident in your ability to gauge your actual readiness, and safeguard yourself against unnecessary harm.  


  1. Jamie

    Jamie on 10/10/2014 8:51 p.m. #

    I've been using HRV for 2years now and whenever I travel by air HRV reading hits red.

  2. BioForce Admin

    BioForce Admin on 10/13/2014 3:14 p.m. #

    That has been my experience as well. It's things like travel that really expose the usefulness of HRV in looking beyond the superficial measure of "how you feel," because I never feel overly taxed by travel.

  3. David Kyzer

    David Kyzer on 05/22/2015 11:20 a.m. #

    When I travel i get orange and sometimes red. These ratings also have corresponded to sub par racing results. Pros always show up early to get acclimated and getting rest in your new environment is the ticket.

  4. Ariel Madden

    Ariel Madden on 05/22/2015 4:52 p.m. #

    There is definitely merit to letting your body acclimate and recover following travel. The fighters at our gym usually show up a week early before a domestic fight, maybe more for an international fight. The more you can stabilize your system, the better your can respond to the additional stress of competitive performance places.

Post your comment