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

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

Newton Shoes — Standing on the shoulders of giants

There are two kinds of people in this world…

One of my favorite geek jokes is “There are 10 kinds of people in this world, those that understand binary and those that don’t” (if you don’t get it, google it).

Well, a “two kinds of people” moment happened to me yesterday.  I received my “Newton Distance” shoes  in the mail, laced them up, and broke them in for the next hour or so.  The neon green/yellow almost glows in full sunlight.  Every single person I saw said something to the likes of “Whoa, bright shoes”…”Hey nice shoes” (sarcastically)…or better, my mother-in-law says “What in the world are those?!”   An hour later, I headed to the track for a workout and the first person I see says “Hey, nice Newtons!!!” with 100% sincerity.  So, the same joke applies — “There are two kinds of people in this world, those that know Newtons and those that don’t”.

How Newton usurped my Vibrams

For those who are in the “don’t” camp, let me bring you up to speed. Continue reading

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Strassburg Sock, oh my!!!

I was jovially chatting with the jump coach at Cuesta Junior College a couple months back, telling how it has been 18 years since I last strapped on my spikes.  He smiled and just said, watch out for you Achilles.  I had already been running and bounding for a month or so without any problem, but Murphy’s law struck and not a week later did my Achilles start to ache (I still blame that coach…thanks a lot!).

Quickly, I hit the web and found that ruptured Achilles is an extremely common injury for guys over 40 doing ballistic sports.  So, being the good boy that I am, I started icing after workouts and heat during the day, but that wasn’t making much progress.  I read about wearing a splint to bed, but I wasn’t ready to do that.  Instead, I just made sure that upon waking I slowly made circles with my ankles trying to loosen up my calf prior to putting my whole body weight down.  This did seem to help a bit.

Then, a week ago, I was at an orthopedic surgeon (my wife is getting rotator cuff surgery) and asked him if he treated Achilles issues.  Without hesitation he said “get a Strassburg Sock”.  Okay, that was all the nudging I needed. Continue reading

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