Live Recording & HRV (R-R)

What if I told you that you might be able to convert your entry-level turbo trainer into one that could show you power? And what if that might only cost you GBP10 or thereabouts?

What if I told you that, bundled with this, you also got the ability to monitor your turbo workout on a big screen/computer screen?

What if I told you that, bundled with this, you would get the ability to analyse your readiness or not for high intensity/VO2-type training sessions ie a training tool to help maximise performance and stop the risk of over-training?

Sounds to good to be true doesn’t it? Often that means it is too good to be true but this time, with a few caveats, it pretty much is true.

This is a review of an app/plugin called ‘Live Recording and HRV’; part of SportTracks.

Here’s what you can get.

Below is an example of the live dashboard you can get on your PC. I’ve configured it to link to my HRM, my Garmin GSC-10 and Garmin Vector (power) pedals [this could equally display the power from your current turbo trainer AS WELL as broadcasting it back to your ANT+ enabled WATCH]. Perhaps not the best looking dashboard in the world BUT stats-are-stats, however they are presented. Even having the display on the computer has the benefit that you can position it so that you look ‘up’ to see stats rather than ‘down’ at the device on your handlebars. Continual practising looking down is not good.

Live-Recording-SportTracks-OMB

Live-Recording-SportTracks-OMB

Below I have changed the display metrics to show HRV (R-R) data. Just to illustrate that the numerous metrics that can be displayed are MORE than those available on your watch.

hrv R-R data from the MIO Link

hrv R-R data from the MIO Link

Equally of course we could add metrics from an ANT+ footpod and HRM for indoor treadmill running. Indoor rowing, indoor cross-country skiing and so on.

So. Where’s the catch?

Well you need a PC, ANT+ devices and a turbo trainer. Oh yes and a bike as well!!!  If you are still with me then let’s go through the other extra bits that you really need (to buy).

  1. A USB ANT+ stick, which many of you should already have.
  2. An ANT+ Heart Rate monitor if you want to display any HR information – this is all you need if you JUST want to record HRV R-R data. Almost any ANT+ one will do, even the wrist based optical ones like the MIO Link (this might be les accurate but I don’t think that would be too relevant for monitoring a trend) Some HRV/R-R analysis packages cost US$200+++.
  3. A Garmin GSC-10 (or similar) if you want to display cadence, speed or power (yes power) data. Really if you are at all serious in your cycling endeavours you should have a cadence sensor as a minimum. This model is about GBP30.
  4. Sporttracks software v3.1 or above: US$59. There is a free, cut down version, which you can use. This will limit you to two devices in Live Recording (but if you have a HRM and a GSC-10 that should be all you need).
  5. Live Recording and HRV Plugin V3 for SportTracks. This comes as a trial version. After a few weeks you will have to pay Eur10 to use it.
  6. To display power is a little more convoluted. IN FACT YOU WILL NEED TO CREATE AND DISPLAY PROXY-POWER. Each resistance setting on your turbo trainer will have a power:speed ratio curve. You need to get that curve onto sporttracks so that the speed from the GSC-10 can be converted to power. To do this you need the TRAINER POWER plugin. This costs US$6.00. Or you can buy all the developers plugins (I did) for US$25.00 some of them are very useful. The free version will only create a power track for 20 minutes.
  7. For indoor running you need an ANT+ footpod like this one (Garmin 010-10998-00 and 010-11092-00), oh yes and a treadmill as well !

So many of you with existing kit have probably only spent GBP15/US$20/Eur17 so far. See ! I was telling the truth about it being too good to be true.

And don’t forget, you do NOT need a fancy sports watch AT ALL – there you go, I’ve just saved you US$300 ;-). That’s in addition to the saving of several hundred pounds/dollars by NOT buying a power-based turbo trainer AND also the US$200 from NOT buying a HRV/R-R package. Cool.

How to make it work

This is my review and thoughts on the plugin. So I’m not going to replicate the installation instructions.

Below are links to the installation and configuration instructions

1. Trainer Power Track plugin: Getting Started

I specifically draw your attention to the graphic below. Specifically the blue lines BOTH need to point to YOUR trainer before it will work. The “getting started” link explains what you need to do to get to that point.

Trainer Power Track Settings - mechgt

Trainer Power Track Settings – mechgt

2. LiveRecording and HRV Plugin: Getting Started & The Manual

I draw your attention to the graphics below. Specifically, in order to get the power (from speed) to show, you need to have your trainer already configured with trainer power (previous point 1.)  AND showing where the purple lightening arrow is. The “getting started” link explains what you need to do to get to that point.

The tricky bit is making sure you have the right category set-up. I created one called Turbo (below my Cycling category) and assigned my trainer (a piece of equipment as SportTracks sees it) to that category. LRV-2

Then once that is done all should be OK. You see here I used a MIO optical wrist-HRM and a Garmin GSC-10 and a TACX-FLOW with the Slope-0 (minimal resistance) selected. And as you can see it works.

LRV-1

Note that I let the mouse hover over the key part of the screen so it displays a message in the screen shots I included above.

Recording HRV and R-R intervals

If you don’t know what this is then I wouldn’t worry too much! It gets very complex, very quickly. But…

Your heart does not beat at a consistent rate. eg if you ran for a hour at exactly 150bpm on  your watch then there would, in fact, be variation in the time from beat to beat (R-R).

When this variation is measured at rest and compared, daily over time it is possible to look at your pre-exercise state of ‘readiness’.  IE it might tell you to avoid today’s hard session or it might tell you that you are ready for a VO2 session.

Counter-intuitively, a higher variation is good.

The variation is measured in milliseconds (ms). But over a 2-3 minute period that variation can be analysed and that information is stored in SportTracks here (look for R-R data and the RMSSD data):

RMSSD R-R HRV Heart Rate Variation

RMSSD R-R HRV Heart Rate Variation

This data will then need to be analysed or displayed elsewhere.

Some of the apps that show ‘readiness’ look at the natural log of RMSSD ie readiness=20 x lnRMSSD. the nearer to 100 this is the readier you are. For endurance athletes it should be over 90. I’m going to write more about this throughout mid-2014 and I’ve prompted the developer of TrainingLoad (SportTracks) to have a look at adding this data to his plugin. You could probably do it quite easily on a spreadsheet with rudimentary spreadsheet knowledge and the formula shown above.

Anything else?

(This) link is also useful – explaining how to broadcast back power to your watch.

I have occasional access to Garmin Vector pedals, which have inbuilt power meters. The data produced from this can also be displayed ie Left-Right power balance, Torque Effectiveness and Pedal Smoothness (shown above in the first diagram).  Presumably also with the extra “vertical oscillation” data you could display that on an indoor treadmill session along with cadence. The developer (OMB) is committed to developing the product and I imagine that adding new metrics as they come along is not too difficult. Presumably also calculated metrics like stride length could be added. Getting super-clever you could start doing power/cadence/gear quadrant analyses…but please remember there has to be more than a market-of-one for a software developer to do these things for!

If you are in the unusual position of NOT having a Garmin Edge BUT having Vector pedals then this plugin/app displays watch that your 910XT (for example) cannot.

So all the data metrics are there already or would easily be added if of-value.

The developer is actively working on integrating LiveRecording with exercise/session plans – so getting appropriate signals at the end of an interval and integrating exception alerts such as ‘cadence out of zone’. All good stuff to come in the future.

It is possible to undock the graph and display that underneath a video that you are watching at the same time.

It is possible to change the size of the font/display.

My only slight criticism would be that the presentation is not too great. It is limited by the software used to write SportTracks, no doubt. So some form of ‘dials’ or ‘bars’ (rather than lines) might sometimes be ‘better’ than the existing line graph and simple ‘numbers’ for the metrics.

You might also want to consider avoiding sweating onto your electronics..so use your boss’s work PC 🙂

Anyway, overall it is a great tool for home training. Even at the most simplistic level an older Age Group athlete might find the display on their watch hard to read, not so on a PC screen.

You might be interested in more than 4 (910XT) or 6 (Edge) metrics; let’s face it scrolling through them (even automatically) whilst doing your session is not great. Well on LiveRecording you can probably display ALL the ones you would even need all at the same time! Another real benefit is being able to track a particular metric over time – sure you can do that sort of thing on, for example, the new Fenix2 but the implementation of this is much better on a larger screen.

Value for money 10/10 !

General geeky-cleverness 10/10

Persistent usefulness 9/10 … well nothing’s perfect 🙂 Enjoy.

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