By Kendall Wisehart DPT, ATC
What is sport readiness? Sport readiness refers to the body’s ability to match the requirements necessary for a particular sport or activity. This has become a popular term in the world of physical therapy and physical preparation, and for good reason. In the past, athletes have relied on experience and general “feeling” in order to grade their training volumes and intensities for the day. While this has served many for decades, the ever growing world of wearable technology allows us to abandon this subjectivity for the data driven high ground. This historical lack of objectivity increases the chances of either under or over-training. While the former is a shame and results in lost opportunity, the latter can lead to a cycle of fatigue, poor performance, and injury. The curse of lost time applies in both of these situations. The question becomes: What can athletes do to objectively monitor their sport readiness? or more specifically: What measurements are the most important?
The good news here is that there are a host of products and apps out there that can help. Companies like Fitbit, Whoop, and Polar are capitalizing on the data-hungry athlete and consumer. I will highlight a few products that are popular today, but the focus here will be on the metrics themselves.
Common data points include, steps, temperature, heart rate, heart rate variability, sleep hours and sleep quality. These can all be collected via a variety of devices including smartphone, wristwatch, and/or chest strap. Prices for these devices can be as low as ~$40 for the lower-end Polar and Fitbit models all the way to ~$500 for devices like Whoop and higher-end Garmin and Polar models, just to name a few. As with any commercial product, it’s easy to get lost in the features. Higher cost isn’t always better, a ~$40 Polar H7 heart rate monitor (paired with a smartphone) can provide even the most casual athlete with loads of great data.
Key values of resting heart rate (RHR) and heart rate variability (HRV) are excellent determinants of sport readiness and can be collected via relatively inexpensive means. For adults, normal RHR ranges from 60 beats per minute (bpm) to 100 bpm with a lower rate implying higher levels of fitness and cardiovascular efficiency. Heart rate variability is a little more complex. Instead of measuring the average beats per minute, HRV is a measurement of the time between beats and is used assess the effects of stress on the body or the relative state of the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
Together, an athlete today can use RHR and HRV, usually taken first thing in the morning, to determine the total effect of stress on their body and meter their exercise outputs accordingly. Some of the products on the market can analyze this data and give out a “red” “yellow” or “green” light for training that day and even allows athletes to track this data over the course of training program or season.
At the end of the day, no data point has value unless it is has context. So set goals, get moving, and remember that no change is expected without a change in behavior.