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Blog, Recovery, Training, Triathlon

In two of my previous posts I have talked about the importance of recovery and how to use HRV to measure your fatigue and your level of recovery. I want to expand on this topic a little bit more as I think it’s really important when it comes to endurance training.

A while ago I came across the website RestwiseTheir mission is to provide athletes a tool to increase their performance through intelligent recovery. That caught my attention and I decided to give it a try to see what it is all about. As it says on their website…

Using evidence-based research, rigorously-tested variable weightings and a proprietary algorithm, Restwise has defined a patent-pending solution to the question that plagues every athlete: “am I training too hard… or not hard enough?” Make better training decisions, and do so with confidence

As athletes we should all understand the importance of recovery but even this understanding makes it really difficult to strike the right balance between recovery and training. What is the right dose of training and recovery? Am I training too much and have too little recovery? Or do I have too much recovery and don’t get any fitter, stronger or faster? These are all interesting questions that we ask ourselves quite often during our training.

What I found out is that we all love to track our training progress, as we do on training platforms such as training peaks. These are great tools and help to plan and structure your training but in my opinion it doesn’t give you much capabilities and insights to monitor and track your recovery levels. It doesn’t factor in things such as

  • Sleep time and quality
  • Resting heart rate
  • HRV
  • SP02
  • Weight
  • Your energy levels, your mood state, your appetite, muscle soreness, injuries etc…

That’s where a tool such as Restwise becomes really interesting as it’s trying to close that gap between monitoring Training + Recovery. Their solution is quite simple but effective

  • They identify the research-based markers that relate to recovery and over training
  • They determine their relative importance and build an algorithm which puts all the data together in a way that the resulting calculation is meaningful
  • They wrap it into a web-based tool that doesn’t require a PhD to understand and make it accessible for athletes and coaches
  • The tool generates a score that tells an athlete how prepared their body is for hard training (this is the key)

I think from an athlete perspective this is an interesting way get more insights into your training adaptations but I reckon the real benefit here is for coaches. They have the ability to track the recovery levels across all their athletes and see how “ready” they are for training! They can use that data to design and adjust the training plan accordingly to maximise the training outcome for their athletes. That way they can make sure their athletes are fully recovered come race day to perform at their best. For individual coached athletes this could be helpful to decide it a hard training session should be skipped or changed to an easier session to limit the risk of injury, over training and more fatigue.

So how do you get started using Restwise. It’s pretty simple. You need to subscribe to one of their plans they offer on their website. They provide a 30 days free trial and then you can continue on a 12/6 or month by month subscription. It’s $19 per month but you get it cheaper if you buy a 12 months subscription for $149.

To get the full benefit out of Restwise you should also invest in a pulse oximeter ($20 on Amazon). Unfortunately Restwise does not use HRV in their algorithm at this stage. Based on the information on their website this will be included soon. Despite that missing feature I still use HRV on a daily basis as it is still one of the best measurement tools for your fatigue level in my opinion. You can still enter and track your HRV scores on Restwise. For more information on HRV check out my blog article here

Once you have a subscription you can download the Restwise app for your smartphone. I usually check my Resting HR, SP02, HRV, Sleep time & quality after I get up. I try to do it first thing in the morning to have consistent data over a longer time. You then have to enter the data into the app (you can also do it on their website if you prefer). It will ask you a few questions that you need to answer

  • Resting heart rate
  • SP02 (Oxygen saturation level)
  • Weight
  • Hours slept
  • How well did you sleep
  • Energy level today
  • Mood state today
  • Yesterday’s training performance
  • Your appetite
  • Do you have any sore throat, headache or other illness
  • Do you have muscle soreness
  • Any injuries that are affecting your training
  • Urine shade

Once you enter all the data (be very honest here with yourself when answering the questions) you can upload them and Restwise will provide you with a test score and some recommendations in regards to your training. If you have the coach subscription you will be able to add all your athletes to your profile to track their results. That’s a pretty handy tool for a coach in my opinion.
restwise1

restwise2

If your coach is not using Restwise but is tracking your training on training peaks, you can upload your results to your training profile. That way your coach can analyse your results and make recommendations in regards to your training. Very handy indeed.

Wrap up

I personally have mixed feelings when it comes to using the tool. I use it at the moment and find it interesting but it might be an overkill for some of us.

Ok, from an individual perspective, I think it’s interesting for self quantification. You get feedback on how your body responds to training load. It can help to prevent over or under training if you are honest with yourself and the information you put in. Obviously it’s easy to fake your results (oh I had a shitty sleep tonight and feel sore this morning but I still want to have a good recovery score so that I don’t have an excuse to miss my training session today and slack off). Again, this tool relies heavily on your input, so if you cheat and fake your answers the results are pretty much useless.

In my opinion Restwise is a very interesting tool when it comes to tracking athletic performance and recovery. I think it is mainly targeted for professional athletes and sport teams, rather than the recreational amateur athletes. Saying that I still think there can be some benefits for high performing age group athletes. Especially if they are coached or on a specific training program and aiming to optimise their performance and get the most out of their training investment. I think the real benefit comes in for a coach, who needs to design training plans an track the progress and development of these athletes. Using this data could help to adjust training load, volume and intensity for individual sessions based on the recovery level of each athlete.

If you are a high performing age group athlete and love to analyse data, this might be something for you. There are some good videos on the Restwise website that are worth checking out. I have posted them underneath in case you are interested.

For Athletes

For Coaches

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Blog, Recovery

Quite often when people hear the word recovery in sports, they jump to the conclusion that it’s just an excuse to make training easier.
In fact, recovery is not a shortcut to improve your performance in any way and it’s not making your journey to become a better athlete any easier. What I have learned is that recovery is an enabler to train more consistently and harder. Consistent and hard training is the fundamental element for better performance, so recovery is your key to unlock that door.

There are different elements that make up recovery in your training.

The first one is your training plan and how it incorporates recovery. A smart training plan will allow enough room to integrate recovery on a weekly, monthly and whole season basis.

Another important element is your lifestyle. Some things are out of your control to change or influence so you want to look at two aspects that you can control. Sleep and nutrition. They are key elements and should never be neglected. Get enough and good quality sleep, make it a priority and make sure you eat enough and healthy.

The next one are recovery modalities that we can use on a regular basis and incorporate into our training program.

Here is a list of my preferred methods that I use on a regular basis.

  • Massages: Get a massage on a regular basis. I prefer frequency over duration. So once every 2 weeks. Try different ones such as remedial deep tissue, trigger point, thai, sports massage etc…
  • Acupuncture: A good alternative to a massage, good for pain relief and also good to clear energy blockages.
  • Hot and Cold therapies: Big fan of this, I use both quite regularly. Having cold showers on a daily basis and sitting in a hot dry sauna after a workout. Great way to wind down.
  • Compression gear: I use it after a big workout, usually not during racing. Always a must wear when travelling on a plane.
  • Foam rolling: I use foam rolling rather than stretching to release muscle tension. At least once a week I do a longer foam rolling session.
  • Trigger point balls: Mainly use it to treat specific areas such as glutes, upper back and neck to release stiffness and knots
  • Kinesiotape: Good in combination with compression gear post workout to increase the blood flow and reduce inflammation
  • Massage stick rollers: A very handy tool to have in your bag when travelling. Can’t get as deep as a foam roller but good for calves, forearms, necks and hips.
  • Yoga and meditation: Both are great ways for stress relief. Should be part of every training program or life in general 🙂

If you are serious about endurance sports and performance, recovery should be high up on your list and not just an add-on to your regular training. Make it a priority!

There is a lot of good information out there on the web and for me personally it’s a lot of trial and error. You need to find out what work best for you. A very good resource that I refer to quite often when I want to try out new things and geek out a little bit is Ben Greenfield’s Recovery guide. It’s worth checking out as it gives a very broad overview of recovery methods, even though some of the methods described might be a bit too extraordinary or simply too expensive to afford.

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Recovery, Training

A while ago while researching different topics on training stress, fatigue and recovery, I stumbled across HRV  (Heart Rate Variability) and how it is used to enhance athletic performance. This got my attention and I wanted to find out more about it.

When it comes to recovery, most athletes know that getting enough rest after exercise is essential to improve fitness and performance, still many of us over train and feel guilty when taking a day off. Rest is as important as training and necessary so that the muscles can repair and strengthen. If that part is neglected, continuous training can actually weaken the athlete. Not what we really want right.

Coaches tell us to listen to our body, check our RHR (Resting Heart Rate) to decide when it’s necessary to take a day off or skip a session. We have training plans which incorporate easy workouts and recovery days to avoid over training. That’s all good and important but in the end it is an individual decision when recovery is needed. For example there are genetic factors, age, gender and baseline fitness which are determinants of individual differences. That makes it difficult to draw a general approach to recovery. I have often wondered when I felt a bit flat, if it’s fatigue or just a lack of motivation. To get optimal adaptions from your training, fatigue is an important aspect that needs to be considered.

Hence I was looking into something more reliable, a method or tool that gives me more insight into my body and how it reacts to training. I was looking for a way to control my training load in a better way in order to achieve better outcomes! That’s when I learned more about the power of HRV.

So what is HRV?

Heart rate variability (HRV) is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_rate_variability

From a fitness standpoint, we know that the heart rate increases when we exercise, because the heart needs to pump faster to deliver oxygen to our muscles. The autonomic nervous system plays a role in speeding up and slowing down HR. There are basically two branches to the ANS that influences heart rate:

  • Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)
    speeds up the heart rate
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)
    responsible for slowing the heart rate

SNS is often referred to “Fight or Flight”, and PNS to “Rest and Repair”. These 2 branches can now be measured using HRV analysis and permit insight into this control mechanism.The way I see it, these 2 components need to work well together, we need the SNS to accelerate and PNS to break, like with a car. If these two are not in balance or working properly we run into problems.

I have added some links at the bottom of the post if you are interested in the science behind it in more depth. I am no expert by any means in this field but find the science behind it incredibly interesting. Nowadays modern technology offers us an easy and very convenient way to measure HRV.

What do you need to measure your own HRV?

It’s actually quite, we can use an app on our smart phones to do that.There are huge number of different apps available that you can choose from. I personally use the Sweet Beat HRV app on my iPhone (it’s not a free app but can be purchased for $9.99, sorry only for iPhone). Other apps which I personally haven’t used are e.g. iThleteBioForce HRV, HRV beta, Elite HRV

The other equipment you need is a heart rate monitor that is Bluetooth compatible. Here is a list of compatible devices. I currently use the Polar H7 monitor.

How to measure your daily HRV

There are a few important variables measuring your HRV such as: Time of the day, movement, mood, food and sleep. I measure my HRV at the same time every day to get more useful results over a longer period of time. It’s right after I wake up. So my usual routine looks like this.

  1. After I wake up I put my heart rate monitor on
  2. I lay down on my back and start the app
  3. I breathe normally in and out through my nose and let the app run. I keep my eyes shut and concentrate on my breathing
  4. The app will run for about 3 minutes. Once it’s finished you can check your numbers on the screen. The higher the HRV score the better it is.

It will take a few days of measuring until the numbers make sense and will be more meaningful. I add my HRV numbers into my training plan to be able to compare and find correlations between my workout days.

Lately I have experimented a little bit to see if I can increase my HRV. The following things seem to help improving it

  1. Meditation and Yoga – Measuring HRV after a yoga or mediation session has a positive effect. Especially on the Parasympathetic Nervous System
  2. Cold Showers – Straight out of bed and into the shower. Shower with cold water for a few minutes, go back to bed and measure. I was surprised how much my HRV improves by taking ice cold showers.

Here are a few screenshots of some of my HRV readings with an explanation beneath:

image1image3

image2

image4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screenshot #1 – This shows the HRV, Heart Rate and Stress level over a period of time. (blue line = HRV, orange = Stress level, green = HR)

Screenshot #2 – These are the power frequency readings (SNS, PNS) over a period of time. This was during the lead up to a big race. As the chart shows, in the last week which was the race week, my power readings sky rocketed. That is a good indicator that I was fully rested and recovered come race day.

Screenshot #3 – HRV reading a day before a big race. Both LF, which is the power frequency of my Sympathetic Nervous system and HF which represents the Parasympathetic Nervous System  are well balanced. The LF/HF ratio is almost 1, which is a good indicator that your nervous system is well balanced. HRV score is 97 which is a very high score for me.

Screenshot #4 – Compared to the reading in the previous screenshot, this one clearly indicates that I am in a fatigue state. Both LF and HF are low and more importantly the ratio LF/HF is way out of balance. HRV is 68 which is quite low. I had low HRV readings for 2 days in a row and the app suggested to take a day off to recover. Even though my heart rate is in normal range which would not raise a concern by itself. Most likely I would have continued training if I just considered my HR but looking at the HRV it’s a clear sign to take some rest and recover.

Conclusion

It’s really interesting to see how sleep, food, stress and training can affect your heart rate variability and your overall fatigue level. In my opinion recovery is a crucial component in endurance sports and thanks to modern technology it’s very easy and affordable to measure it. So why not making use of it?! It’s a relatively simple measure that you can use to tract how well you are recovering. It helps you to prevent over training, reduces your risk of getting sick and in the long run makes you are stronger, healthier and fitter athlete.


 

References

Further articles to read

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