Here are some answers to questions we’ve received from customers. This list is growing, so if you have a question please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to post the response here.
For what sports is Restwise useful?
Athletes who rely on Restwise come from almost any sport you can imagine. They include professional soccer teams, Olympic sailors, amateur triathletes, professional rugby teams, collegiate rowers, national cricket teams, mixed martial artists, collegiate field hockey, Olympic runners. You name it.
What level athlete should use Restwise?
Because Restwise also tells you when it will be most productive to work out hard, it is also an extremely valuable tool for people who simply want to get the most out of a limited amount of time they have to exercise.
Once I subscribe, do you help me learn how to use the product effectively?
Would it help to use Restwise with a coach?
Are all the inputs weighted the same?
How can I make sure I get the most accurate score possible?
What does my recovery score tell me?
How do I use the score?
Will my recovery score predict how I'll perform in competition?
Why are there so few choices for answers?
But doesn‘t it make a difference if something is worse than normal or much worse than normal?
When should I enter my data?
Restwise is designed to provide a snapshot of how prepared your body is to absorb training that day, and the questions are meant to be answered first thing in the morning. You should take your resting heart rate while still in bed, note your urine shade on the first visit to the bathroom, weigh yourself before breakfast, and capture the more subjective information before your day changes the answer. True, it is hard to know how your mood is until you spill your coffee or to know how much energy you have before you stand up, but the key is not to let the day's events change your answers. So, it is OK to wait a while to answer some of the subjective questions or even to go back and change them, but you don't want the jerk who cuts you off on the way to work affect your mood score or the third cup of coffee to alter your answer to the energy question.
Here's what a lot of people do. Leave your phone and pulse oximeter on the bedside table and use the phone as an alarm clock. When it goes off, hit snooze and put the pulse ox on your finger. Note the readings. At this point you can do one of three things. You can make a mental note of them and enter them later when you answer the other questions. You can enter just those readings into the phone. Or, you can enter them and answer all the other questions at the same time. If you do, you can go back after visiting the bathroom, stepping on the scale, and having a few moments to ponder mood, appetite and energy level and update as necessary.
Even if you don't get to the second step before your first workout, you'll get a pretty good read, and over time you'll get better at answering the questions while still in bed, so you will be able to incorporate it into that morning's workout. But also keep in mind that much of the value in Restwise is in the results over time. A low score on a single day might not mean much, particularly the day after your longest run of the week, but if it fails to come up after a couple of rest days, it's a good sign that you are doing too much.
What should I do to improve my recovery score if I am training for an Ironman?
Embracing this goal means that you have also embraced a level of training stimulus that will, and should, result in periods of compromised recovery scores. But, remember, that this is the point of training: to load the various physiological systems to the point that they, and your body, is in a state of stress (fatigue) and then recover from that state such that you have introduced an adaptation resulting in increased fitness. The recovery score is a result/symptom of training and can guide your training decision process. For a test case on how effective Restwise can be in guiding Ironman training, read "(My) Secret sauce to a Sub 9hr Hawaii Ironman: Unconventional wisdom," by Sami Inkinen, appearing in Incurable Data Geek.
Of course, there are also ways to focus on recovery strategies which can ameliorate the impact of heavy training, thus increasing your body's ability to recover and thereby increasing the adaptation process... leading to better performance. Many of these strategies are the derivatives of the questions we ask in the application. Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep. Ensure that you stay hydrated. Try to avoid non-training stress. Pretty simple stuff, most of it. We are less inclined to support some of the more esoteric methods like EMS, various compression garments, ice baths, low-gluten diets, etc.... simply because the scientific data around these strategies is inconclusive at this point.
What do you think of HRV as a tool for measuring recovery?
First, HRV is a valuable tool. Initially studied by the Finns in the mid-80's as an artifact of capturing precise HR data during exercise (Suunto, in fact, has most of the patents around measuring HRV. They call it R-R on their devices, and it plays a big role in the TE calculation. Have you noticed that even if you are crushing yourself several days in a row, so that both your PE and your quantified training load stays steady, your TE will steadily drop? That is the effect of HRV on the TE calcuation, because it is measuring how rapidly your heart contracts and how quickly it returns to a rested state. It has become a common way to talk about fatigue, as expressed in the variability of the cario-electrical patterns that govern heart rate.
Second, the science around HRV is not conclusive. By this, I do not mean that the studies undermine the idea of HRV as a valid marker. Rather, I mean that of the studies completed by third-party sports science teams (as opposed by the studies conducted by the companies marketing tools or systems based on HRV), no consensus has emerged as to its validity as THE ONLY marker that an athlete can track. In a sense, this is the holy grail - a single marker which can identify impending OTS - but HRV has not been demonstrated to be that solution. I'll refer you to this 2005 study by the ECSS, a fantastic position paper on the diagnosing and treatment of OTS.
Third, there is some debate about the validity of HRV when captured only at rest. Differences within a population's base R-R can explain a great deal of the variability in HRV values. This is why Suunto recommends that you capture your R-R both at work and at rest, although they do a terrible job of informing their users about this. However, this is being debated, and I think most companies who present HRV as the idea way to track recovery suggest that one does so at rest.
Fourth, HRV must be measured with incredible accuracy to be valid. There are a number of mobile applications which purport to capture HRV, but which do so via a light source probing a fingertip, similar technology for pulse oximetry. In short, there is no way that this is even remotely accurate enough to be valid. Remember that HRV expresses the interval between the cessation of one beat and the commencement of the next, compares each beat in a series, and then quantifies this difference against normative data. When you are pounding away at 180bpm, the interval is a fraction of a second. To detect differences requires a sophisticated device, and a lot of data crunching. Suunto does this really well, and I think Polar does it as well.
Fifth, and this is the big one, HRV when measured carefully and used for more than just a snapshot of your stress state, does a good job of expressing the fatigue in the muscles that drive the heart... but it can't tell you WHY they are fatigued. We talk a lot about TS vs. NTS, as that is one of the biggest challenges for athletes to integrate (remember your experience towards the end of your Bellingham Bandits enterprise - that was the result of a massive amount of NTS combined with a steady TS load). HRV offers the promise of articulating this better than any other single, quantified, marker. Seriously, it is a great measure. But taken alone, it won't really tell you anything. It would be like if you went to the mechanic with a car that was running poorly and your mechanic said "The engine isn't working." Great. Really helpful. Yes, the engine isn't working... but WHY isn't it working, and what do you need to do about it?
In summary, we like HRV. In fact, we are talking with a few companies to integrate HRV into our algorithm, possibly replacing (or augmenting) RHR as a key marker. But as a stand-alone marker, purporting to give you all the information you need to define training load? No way. There is a good reason that FirstBest had a great deal of commercial success initially in Europe, and has been basically discarded: promising technology, great idea... inconclusive (at best) results. And I think that all of these companies that are springing up to market HRV are doing so because it is such an easy thing to capture - it sounds like the proverbial silver bullet: Just take one measurement and you will get fitter, faster and stronger! Just follow my plan! etc. etc. As you well know, there are no short-cuts. Measuring HRV is promising, for sure, and it is better than NOT measuring HRV... but there is no demonstrated correlation between capturing HRV and improved performance. Some day, perhaps, but not yet.