Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Using First Beat Software to Guide Training

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been learning how to use the First Beat software system to analyze workout efforts and recovery.    It’s a very powerful, but complex system and I’ve been lucky to have the guidance of Jim Galanes  (see http://www.jimgalanes.com/).  I think any Masters athlete looking to improve their health and race results would find his coaching quite valuable and worth the money.

To use First Beat software I collect data with two different heart rate monitors.  The Suunto Ambit 2 is a traditional chest-strap and wristwatch combo.  However, the watch can be programmed via a computer program to have custom displays of data for up to ten different sports.   If you’re running on the treadmill then you can turn off the GPS, but when doing a rollerski it is fun to see how much distance you have covered.  The other monitor is the BodyGuard 2 from First Beat.  It uses two electrodes that you stick onto your chest and it hangs on a wire connecting the two electrodes.  It can store several days worth of data.  I thought it would be uncomfortable, but I barely noticed during the day or during overnight sleep. 

The First Beat software can analyze the BodyGuard data to show when you are in a stressed state, a recovering state, or recovered.  If worn after a hard workout you can see the many hours it takes for the body to recover.   One interesting thing I noticed is that driving a car is stressful no matter what the traffic is like.  No wonder I’m tired after a long drive to Craftsbury.   First Beat also can analyze the data from the Suunto and compute a Training Effect number from 1 to 5. Training is supposed to stress the body to enough to stimulate an adaptation response.  So both the duration and intensity of the workout and the duration and quality of the recovery must be carefully monitored and evaluated.

I’m still learning the tools, but it seems that they will let me guide the athletes that I coach to be sure that they work hard enough when they need to work hard, easy enough when they need to go long, and that they properly recover from the hard or long workouts.

Here is a successful interval workout with a training effect of 4.0:

 Here is my physiological state during a good night’s sleep when I completely recovered:

You can read some very clear explanations of the details of using the system by Zach Caldwell here: http://www.caldwellsport.com/2014/07/firstbeat-epoc/