Suunto + Train.Red = Muscle Oxygen On The Wrist
More: the Train.Red Website
Muscle oxygen is an under-used training metric. This is partly because it can be difficult to understand and implement, and partly because the sports sensors supporting the Muscle Oxygen metrics are limited in number.
Interestingly, there’s an ANT+ profile for Muscle Oxygen, meaning that brands like Garmin and Wahoo already offer support for Moxy and Train.Red, though to varying extents. One challenge is the lack of athlete-grade functionality built around the basic SmO2 metrics. Knowing that your muscle oxygen level is 68% is one thing, but what does it really signify? Unlike HR (heart rate) or power, where the absolute level can be more straightforward, the direction of change in muscle oxygen is equally vital. Consequently, brands like Moxy and Humon Hex (which ceased trading) introduced additional CIQ features for Garmin but not for Wahoo.
Then there are brands such as Apple, Suunto, Polar, and Coros that don’t support ANT+ on their current sports watch ranges. Coros and Polar face a specific issue: the absence of an ‘app store’ where sensor companies can extend support for their devices.
You can probably guess where this article is headed!
Suunto introduced the Suunto PLUS environment, which provides an easy avenue for companies like Train.Red to incorporate Bluetooth support in high-end GPS watches, such as the Suunto VERTICAL. As you might anticipate, I’ve been testing the combination, and it operates rather smoothly.
Suunto App Store
To begin, simply add the Train.Red ‘app’ to your Suunto Vertical using the Suunto smartphone app store. I encountered some syncing issues with the watch, but they were resolved eventually. To initiate a workout, you’ll need to activate the Train.Red app first. Once done, it should be enabled every time you use that particular sport profile in the future. You can also incorporate one more ‘app’ (similar to Garmin watches) which might be the CORE Body Temperature Sensor or the Activelook Heads-Up Display.
What You See
During your workout, you’ll be presented with a new page. This screen lets you cycle through three displays:
1. High level – Displays just the SmO2 value along with HR, speed, and time.
2. Detail – Shows SmO2, O2Hb, HHb, Hb diff, and time.
3. Chart – This seems to be a 30-second plot of SmO2, accompanied by the live SmO2 value.
Post-workout, your watch will display the minimum and maximum SmO2 values from the session. However, when you return to the app, you’ll find more detailed information. Here, not only are the Min/Max SmO2 values displayed, but the Train.Red metrics are also added to the analysis chart, allowing for comparisons with other metrics.
Finally, the Suunto app also supports export to FIT. So you can view the same data in Golden Cheetah, or wherever else supports SmO2. One word of caution here tho is that there is an absolute limitation in FIT files that of 5 values per second. Train.Red has MUCH higher resolution than that and much higher than that from Moxy, so this is a tricky limitation to contend with. Currently Suunto exports this information on a 1Hz (1 per second basis).
Simplistically, your muscles burn glucose with oxygen. energy production is a fundamental part of endurance sports. Tools like Supersapiens let you monitor the former whereas Train.Red helps with the latter. Do you have a shortfall of glucose or oxygen? Do you need to build muscle? A different type of muscle or improve oxygen transport?
Train.Red is an expensive lab-grade tool. I guess only more committed athletes at higher levels will need these kinds of insight.
I’ve used muscle oxygen info on and off over the years. Check out this Humon Hex Review for some of the use cases I had – whilst the product is discontinued, the uses of SmO2 are unchanged.
A few years ago I was worried about Suunto, Polar, Coros and Wahoo. None seemed to address the significant competitive advantage that Garmin gains from its CIQ ecosystem and its ability to link to novel data sources and novel methods of display. Apple offers an alternative but not as good as one for serious athletes. Sure you can get a vendor’s iOS or WatchOS app but that might mean you have to ditch your entire workout tech platform and how you interact with your tech…that just isn’t acceptable for many people, me included.
But hey. Suunto seems to have made the right move and they seem to have done it well with a flexible approach that partners can very easily work with.
More: the Train.Red Website with a 10% discount automatically applied with the link
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