In an unexpected twist, Garmin added the HRV case to its Fenix 6 watch series in last night’s Public Alpha firmware update. HRV Status is a feature that Garmin launched on the Forerunner 955 & Forerunner 255 last month that tracks nighttime heart rate change values while you sleep, then plots them against the baseline after the calibration period. The idea is that you can use it for the long-term trend of how your body deals with everything from a training load to recovery, alcohol consumption, or a positive COVID-19 test.
I wrote a little more about how the HRV case works in my Forerunner 955 review, and discussed it more in my video tutorial if you want to look into that section here. HRV is of course not new in the industry, either to Garmin or other gamers. Companies like Whoop have built entire products around it. Polar has for years included it in a limited form within sleep data, and even Garmin itself has tracked it in various forms over the years, albeit not usually visible to the end user.
HRV status idea makes it clean and easy to see in watch widgets when you wake up. For context, here is my HRV status data from last night from the Forerunner 955:
Anyway, Garmin hasn’t previously committed (or even hinted/suggested) that it might make it to the Fenix 6. Instead, it was only to be rolled out in the Fenix 7/Epix series/variants, along with the Instinct 2 series/variants. But this has changed.
The most recently released public alpha build of the Fenix 6 last night started with these two items:
1) A major update has been added to the Training Status Tool. The main tool now displays the training status, HRV, and sharp loading data. The tool also has its own at-a-glance with acute load data, load focus, VO2 Max, recovery, heat acclimatization, and altitude acclimation data.
2) A new sharp loading graph has been added, which can be accessed via the updated Training Status Tool.
(Note: This is for Fenix 6 Series, Tactix Delta Series, Enduro and MARQ watches)
This first line is about loading an item as far as you can get. While it doesn’t include the new Training Readiness feature found on the Forerunner 955 (and in beta on the Fenix 7/Epix Series), it does provide the bulk of the HRV status feature. It also revamps the Training Case parts to include the steep load and other notable FR955/Fenix 7 changes.
After updating the firmware, you will see the new training status page, which includes the HRV section. Garmin says a custom HRV widget is coming in the next firmware iteration. In black below is my Fenix 6 Pro with updated training status page (after update, sans-data), while on the left is my FR955 showing HRV status page, Fenix 6 will gain soon (once I have sufficient data).
Of course, keep in mind that the HRV status period mainly consists of two parts:
a) Immediate Honor: This will instantly display your last night’s HRV values, including some neat graphs, average values, and nightly maximum values.
b) Non-immediate gratification: After 19 nights of sleep data, you’ll start to get the color coding you see that shows whether or not your HRV is in balance. It takes 19 days to develop your baseline. Other companies have varying titration periods, usually in the 10-14 day range, but with HRV, more data is better.
As with any baseline job, if you did something funky in the titration period (the first 19 days), the baseline data would not be accurate. So if you’ve contracted COVID during that time frame, done a Tour de France, or gone on a three-week meditation retreat to Bali – it will initially affect that baseline period.
Anyway, all of this data is sent to Garmin Connect, where you can see it on your Garmin Connect account on the website or mobile app – like:
Garmin says the HRV here is part of Training Status 2.0, which is why you see the sharp loading bits (replaces the 7-day load) and the revamped user interface. In fact, if you look at the Acute Load option inside the Fenix 6, you’ll now see the new green “tunnel” showing your ideal load. The acute load represents the last 7 days of effort better than the previous 7 days tool, because it burns off the oldest pregnancy. Meaning, a big workout 6 days ago is much less important than recovering from a big workout yesterday.
While I have Physio TrueUp enabled on my watch, it doesn’t completely sync my upload from other watches, for some reason. Note that the HRV case is not yet part of Physio TrueUp, which is coming later this year.
So, with all that said, if you have a Fenix 6 and would like to join the beta, you can either head over to the Garmin Beta subscription page here and stumble upon it. Or you can read my previous post when signing up for the Garmin beta program here.
Since this is the *first* public alpha release, this version must be sideloaded (meaning, copy it to the watch from a computer using a USB cable). Whereas, once it reaches the official Public Beta stage, you can go ahead and have it wirelessly deliver it to your watch automatically. And as always with any beta or alpha version, be aware that it can lead to bad things, including data loss.
With that – thanks for reading!