TRIQ Daily Heart Rate Check-In: The Why, the How and the What
Why to Scan Your Heart Rate Each Morning with TRIQ
When it comes to endurance training, there are always vital questions coaches and sport practitioners ask. Namely these are, “When should I do more training?” and “When should I do less training?”. As simple as this may appear, answering these is critical for both sustainability and consistency. Providing training based on an athlete's ability to "absorb" that training is essential. Coaches are constantly striving to first ensure the athlete will complete the given workout to the best of their ability. Secondly, remaining free from injury or excessive fatigue is key; and finally, to be in the correct emotional state to optimally adapt to the training session.
The Science of Readiness in Endurance Sports
Indeed, studies have shown that athletes respond and adapt differently to the same training stimulus based on their physiological and emotional status. For example, a meta-analysis reviewed training prescribed via conventional methods compared to the training prescribed via heart rate variability (HRV), which allows conclusion about how well-rested a person is. The results showed that prescribing exercise based on HRV was significantly better at increasing VO2max, a great indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness. Other studies that evoked emotional stress before training showed that performance declined over time as well as worsened recovery.
To simplify, by closely monitoring your physiological and emotional "readiness" every day, it’s possible to ensure three primary outcomes:
• Training adaptation is maximized with every training session. Getting more "bang for your buck" every time you train.
• Training is long-term sustainable, without injury or fatigue.
• No session is ever wasted. Not in the mood to have a high-intensity session? No problem, just swap the session for a more suitable session on that given day.
To enable these key outcomes, at TRIQ we have the "Daily Readiness Check-In", so let's learn a little more about what it does and what happens in the background.
How Does TRIQ Calculate and Adjust the Training Plan?
The TRIQ Daily Check-In is based on multiple factors. Before we get into the check-in itself, let's discuss how TRIQ uses training load and recovery rate to predict individual "readiness" to complete a training session.
Training Load and Recovery Rate
Training load is an essential consideration for first ascertaining the resulting level of fatigue associated with a given training session. At TRIQ, we calculate training load based on a few factors such as training intensity, volume and modality (swim, bike or run). This is important to understand the level of disturbance in specific physiological areas and, therefore, the recovery needed. For example, as you can see in Figure 1, muscle soreness takes a longer time to restore compared to autonomic balance. Therefore, we need to consider the recovery from fast running (with more muscle damage) differently than the recovery needed after hard swimming (with more minor muscle damage).
Figure 1. Time-course of recovery for various physiological variables following a demanding bout of exercise.
From the moment training stops, the training load is calculated, and the given level of fatigue is then assigned the athlete. From this point, "readiness" to train, or recovery, starts to increase. At TRIQ, the speed of this increase is known as the “recovery rate” and is mainly based on an athlete's fitness level (Figure 2). Still, TRIQ uses the Daily Check-In to permanently perfect and adjust this recovery rate individually. At TRIQ, we want this recovery rate to be personalized to every user. This is where the Daily Check-In also plays a critical role.
Figure 2. Factors that accelerate and decelerate recovery from demanding exercise.
TRIQ Daily Check-In: HR Scan, Feedback on Muscle Soreness, and Training Motivation
The daily check-in takes a snapshot of how ready you are to perform a particular type of training on that given day. This is done using both objective (such as heart rate variability and resting heart rate) and subjective measures (muscle soreness, motivation to train, mood). However, the complex algorithm at TRIQ uses a combination of all these measures to calculate one ultimate score. But there's more! Based on the training the athlete did the previous day and their expected recovery rate, TRIQ compares the recorded score (from the Daily Check-In) to the expected (the last days training load and individual recovery). And this is where the real magic happens! By comparing the two and getting confirmation from the user, the recovery rate is optimized individually to continuously improve the its exactness. Thus, making it more and more tailored to the individual. The perfection of the recovery rate is essential. It helps us ensure we don't place two workouts too close together if the user's fitness level doesn't allow it. This really helps us plan and space each workout optimally.
How often Should Triathletes do the Daily-Check-In?
As the name suggests, it's actually essential to do your Daily Check-In every day. The more you do it, the more accurate and tailored the training plan will be to you. If you can't manage every day, it's crucial to complete the Daily Check-In a minimum of 3 times per week. TRIQ recommends you try particularly hard to conduct the Daily Check-In on days when a high-intensity workout is planned. Each TRIQ workout or "training type" has a specific readiness score associated with it. As such, TRIQ is much more likely to prescribe a basic endurance workout if your readiness is low, than asking you to do a higher intensity VO2max workout. Remember, the number-one goal is to have sustainable training; the Daily Check-In is one measure to ensure this is the case.
HRV Recording – The Tech
To record your HRV, we use Smartphone photoplethysmography (PPG) technology. PPG is measured via reflection through the illumination of the skin using an LED (e.g. the smartphone’s flash). This is carried out by detecting the amount of light reflected by a photodetector or a camera next to the light source. And the good news is, it’s very accurate. Compared to the gold standard of HRV measurement electrocardiography (ECG), it has a near-perfect correlation (R = 1.00 (90% confidence intervals (0.99-1.00)). This is the same as other practically applicable methods of accessing HRV, such as heart rate monitor belts. The use of PPG also removes the need to have a sweaty heart rate belt by your bedside (nobody needs that!) and means minimal disturbance before you take the measurement. In addition, the type of heart rate belt used would also be a major consideration and critical for the accurate measurement of HRV. It’s not just a simple as using any heart rate strap as the accuracies vary vastly.
What if my Daily Check-In Fails or I Forget?
Mishaps happen from time to time. If your Daily Check-In fails, that's ok. Of course, if you can, try and do the recording again. However, suppose there is still a problem: In that case, we can still get valuable data from the subjective measures such a muscle soreness, motivation to train and your mood alone, so just make sure to enter those. Also, we've been tracking you since your last training session with your individual recovery rate. So we will still have a reasonable idea of your overall "readiness". That said, as mentioned above, try and perform the Daily Check-In at least three times per week, with the most important days being the ones when you have a higher intensity workout prescribed into your training plan.
At What Time Should I Perform the Daily Check-In?
When it comes to the timing of your Daily Check-In, there are some crucial points to consider. First, it must be taken in the morning, as close to waking up as possible. This doesn't mean you HAVE to take it lying in bed or before you get up, but it should be one of the first things you do as part of your morning routine. HRV, the critical metric taken during the Daily Check-In, is very sensitive to stress, food etc. So even if you perform the measurement after a coffee or reading a stressful email, the score will be affected. If it's easier to walk out of the room, so you don't disturb your partner in bed for example, that's fine. But try and keep all the activities in-between waking and taking your heart rate measure to a minimum.
This brings us nicely to the second central point concerning recording the Daily Check-In: CONSISTENCY! Whichever way your choose to register your check-in, really try and do it the same way every day. This helps TRIQ ensure a change seen in the measurement is accurate and largely based on recovery, meaning training is adjusted when indeed required.
Last, the heart rate measurement doesn't need to be taken lying down. In fact, it's even better if taken sitting up. So, by all means, sit up in bed or on the couch when performing your check-in.
Resulting Recovery Status: The TRIQ Traffic Light System
In the TRIQ app, we present a simple traffic light system to help athletes understand and easily detect their readiness to train. Just so you know: The system is far more complex than red/orange/green, with a very granular level of both readiness calculated and readiness required for each training type. But put simply, the red, orange and green traffic light system can be viewed as follows:
Red Score – High levels of fatigue, low levels of readiness to train.
Orange Score - Moderate levels of fatigue, moderate levels of readiness to train.
Green Score – Low levels of fatigue, higher levels of readiness to train.
An excellent way to think of the Daily Check-In as a "safety valve" (Figure 3); its main feature is to ensure athletes continuously adapt to training and progress in a sustainable manner. Ideally, we want athletes to be reporting green scores as much as possible; this is a key aim of our complex algorithm. However, when life gets in the way (work stress, family commitments, more training than expected, loss of fitness), the Daily Check-In will try to help you get back on track by adjusting training to get you into the green again! Maybe you’re now wondering how exactly TRIQ adjusts training based on the traffic light system? We got you!
Figure 3 - The Daily Check-In is like a safety valve for athletes
Red Score: Major adjustments to training. This means either full rest days or very low-intensity training.
Orange Score: Moderate adjustments to training. If you're “orange”, you will certainly still perform basic endurance training and moderate-intensity (tempo) training. However, we likely won't be scheduling very-high-intensity workouts such as VO2max into the training plan.
Green Score: Anything can go! If you have a green score, you could have any type of training. But the choice here is based on what's optimal for you at that time, based on your race goals and current training intensity distribution. This doesn't mean
The Daily Check-In is literally like having a coach around 24/7, adjusting your training to make sure you get the most out of every training session, every day. I can really be the gift that keeps on giving! The more often you take the measurement, and the greater the precision, the greater the accuracy of your training prescription given by TRIQ will be. This can ensure sustainable endurance training all year round!