5 months with iThlete — tracking recovery through HRV

When I first learned about iThlete, I was extremely excited to get one.  I knew several NFL teams were using an HRV (Heart Rate Variability) system called Omegawave, but Omegawave was way out of my price range, costing thousands of dollars.  iThlete, built on some of the same science, was less than $100 with app, dongle, and chest strap (cheaper if you have the strap already).  Now that’s more like it!

So, what is HRV and why is it important?  Well, HRV is a way to test your current fatigue, but more specifically your CNS (Central Nervous System) fatigue.  An HRV test measures the time between your heart’s beats.  When rested, the time between heart beats will vary efficiently based on your breathing.  Your CNS regulates beats so that your heart beats more rapidly when inhaling (new supply of O2) and less rapidly when exhaling.  However, when your CNS is fatigued (like after a hard workout), your “heart beat efficiency” drops and times between beats are more regular (a little counter intuitive at first — I originally equated consistent beats with recovered — but your body is smarter than that).

The CNS and PNS (peripheral nervous system) controls everything about how we move.  Every stride is a complex loop of sensory input and coordinated motor unit firing.  Thus, understanding how your CNS is taxed and how long and well it responds to being stressed (via workouts) can greatly greatly benefit the athlete and coach.  A low HRV score means your CNS is suffering and working sub-optimally.  And thus your chance of injury is higher, especially if your workout calls for a taxing CNS regiment (e.g. maximal velocity sprints, heavy deadlifting…).  A high HRV score means you are primed for a good workout from a CNS perspective.

Think about it this way: A low HRV score means you are going to be less coordinated.  I don’t mean coordinated like rub you tummy while patting your head.  I mean motor units firing in synchronized and successive order to make accurate and powerful movements.

At least, that’s the theory.  My experiences weren’t perfect, but they were very good. Continue reading

Categories: Coaching, Products, Sprinting | 5 Comments

Barry Ross revisited

In a previous post, I doubted that Barry Ross’ training methodology was adequate for the 400m runner.  My reasoning was that only training at distances of less than 70m did not tax the longer anaerobic metabolisms (Lactate/H+).  Since then, I’ve had an epiphany about why this training would work for the High School athlete and I’ve written about Weyand’s study on anaerobic metabolism and how terms like “Lactate Tolerance” may not be correct (thus I’ve begun to use the terms Anaerobic Speed training, Anaerobic Fatigue training, and Aerobic Fatigue training).  So a revisit was in order.

While I still believe that you couldn’t successfully train a world class or even collegiate athlete by only sprinting repeats of 70m or less, I do believe that it has a lot of merit at the high school level for athletes who only train during the track season(s). Continue reading

Categories: Coaching, Sprinting | Leave a comment

Sprint Metabolism Myth — and coining a new term — Anaerobic Fatigue

Peter Weyand and Matthew Bundle recently published their research paper entitled “Sprint Exercise Performance: Does Metabolic Power Matter?” which calls into question how we look at sprinting metabolism.  Their conclusions immediately make a lot of sprinting books, articles and websites out-of-date.

So what exactly does “Does Metabolic Power Matter?” mean?  Well, first it means  all those charts and descriptions that describe how your body “fuels” the sprints are wrong.  Here’s a few links that need updating:

and the list goes on and on…

All of these articles are based on the old theory that the body’s ability to maintain sprinting velocity is controlled by anaerobic fuel limitations.  And that old theory is dead wrong. Continue reading

Categories: Coaching, Sprinting | 4 Comments

Freelap — this changes everything.

I love everything about the Freelap timing system, except what it’s telling me.  And it’s screaming that I’m “OLD AND SLOW”!!!

What is Freelap?  Well, that’s easy to answer; it’s a very precise timing system that an individual can use without or without a coach.  Imagine the timing system they use at the NFL Combine (Brower system), but way cooler!  It comes in several configurations, including a starting finger pad or foot pad, timing gates, and a watch with hip strap (they also make systems for mountain biking and swimming…very cool, but not relevant to a track blog).  How it works is also easy; the timing gates emits a magnetic fields which is detected by the watch and registered.  The watch will record each time you pass one of the timing gates (called TX Junior).  The watch can store a boat load of times (over 700) and those can be transferred to a computer via infrared…there’s a lot more to be said about what Freelap is and you can find it on their website:  Watch the video below to see exactly what I’m talking about:

But what it DOES FOR YOU is not immediately apparent.  When I first saw it online, I thought mildly, “that’s kind of cool.”  But now my eyes are open. Continue reading

Categories: Coaching, Products, Sprinting | 3 Comments

I take it back…Weyand was right and Bolt can run 42.80

I made a statement in my last post that I now consider wrong.  I said “Weyand suggested you could use his equations for up to 240 seconds. I disagree with this.”  After making some adjustments, I now think the equations works perfectly well (97% accurate) with a few caveats.  These caveats are where I made my mistakes.

First caveat, you must use flying times (thanks Chris).  I knew this, but I fell victum to the example in Weyand’s own study.  In the study, as a side-sample, he uses Michael Johnsons 200m and 400m world records to create a speed curve.  I likewise used Usain Bolt’s 100m and 200m times from Bejing to estimate what he might run in the 400m.  But Weyand results are really based on average speed and thus including block starts throws it off, especially for shorter distances.  Taking this caveat into consideration, I should have used something like Bolt’s split between 30m and 60m in his 100m and something like his final 180m in his 200m. Continue reading

Categories: Coaching, Sprinting | 1 Comment

Who’s Afraid of Loren Seagrave — not me (Barry Ross)

Not everyone agrees with Loren Seagrave’s sprint mechanics that I highlighted in my first post.  One of the most vocal opponents is famed strength coach Barry Ross.  And today his most claim-to-fame athlete Allyson Felix,  won the 200m at the Olympic Trials, setting a new PR of 21.69 and becoming the fourth fastest woman of all time.  It only seemed appropriate to highlight his ideas.

First, however, I need to clarify that Barry is not her current strength coach.  Nor was he ever her sprinting coach.  Barry was her high school strength coach.   Her high school sprint coach is Wes Smith and her current coach is legend Bobby Kersee.  Regardless, Ross was her high school strength coach and she did run a blistering 22.11 while in high school!!!  So, Ross deserves major “props”.

I must admit, I haven’t read his eBook “Underground Secrets to Faster Running”, but I have read much of his blog Bearpowered and his article “The Holy Grails of Speed Training” and he makes a lot sense.  Moreover, you have to respect someone who doesn’t shy away from controversy (and perhaps brings it on). Continue reading

Categories: Coaching, Dorsiflexion, Sprinting | 7 Comments


Why in the world would my first post be about dorsiflexion.  I guess because in all my years training, I’d never heard this word.  In fact, the training in “my day” was focused on pushing off your toes.  Not until I moved to Texas and trained with Dan Pfaff did any coach ever tell me to “pull my toes up” as soon as my foot left the ground (still didn’t use the word dorsiflexion though… 🙂 ).

Now-a-days, every good sprint coach knows about dorsiflexion, which promotes “front side mechanics”.  So, this seemed as good a place as any to start.

Loren Seagrave explains the advantages of dorsiflexion is his article “Neuro-Biomechanics of Maximum Velocity Sprinting” (link to’s file).

“To minimise the moment of inertia of the thigh, it is critical for the athlete to make the leg as short as possible, as soon as possible. This means that high angular acceleration values must be realized at the knee joint.  Dorsiflexion of the ankle joint accomplishes both these tasks. Occurring actively at take-off, dorsiflexion facilitates the triple flexor response.  In addition, it facilitates knee flexion by the gastrocnemius.  Use of stored elastic energy in the gastrocnemius and its high contraction velocity makes it possible to generate high values of angular acceleration at the knee joint.  The result is a short lever as soon as possible.  The ankle remains in dorsiflexion, which maintains a small knee angle throughout the entire Recovery Phase.”

Continue reading

Categories: Coaching, Dorsiflexion, Sprinting | 1 Comment