Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Not Just For Athletes : ithlete

We all know the importance of rest and recovery as part of our training schedules, right? Overtraining is a very real issue but how do you find the balance? Sometimes it's not always easy to tell when you should rest, when you could push yourself a little or when you're just being a bit lazy. I know I've been there!

There are multiple ways to record your training, whether it's a sports watch with GPS device, an app on your phone or online. But how can you tell how when to train and when to rest? Your heart rate (HR) gives a good indication of this but HR variability (HRV) is even more accurate. The HR increases as you inhale and decreases as you exhale and the difference between these is known as the HRV. If you're well-rested there will be a wider gap than if you're overtrained or stressed.

There is now a system on the market called ithlete, consisting of a HR sensor (various, from £44.99) and an app (£7.99), which allows you to measure and record your HRV, alongside other details such as muscle fatigue, sleep quality, mood and diet, to give a view of how your body is responding to the demands put upon it and how hard you should workout.
I've been trialling the system for over a month now and it has definitely had a bearing on my training. Each morning I plug the finger sensor into the headphone socket of my iPhone, launch the app and carry out the one-minute breathing exercise while my HR is read from my finger. After this I enter the other measure on a 1-10 scale including how hard my last workout was and I get a reading. If the number is green, I'll benefit from a harder workout, amber suggests I should take it a little easier and red is an indication that I really should rest. The chart shows the trend and average over time as well as your other readings so you can spot any trends or correlations.

If you want a little more meaningful data interpretation and guidance then ithlete Pro is a web-based platform that syncs with the app and Fitbits. It gives a pictorial representation of your readings, including more subtle workout zones and summarises guidance in a single sentence.

The ithlete Pro platform costs £3 a month or £30 per year but you can sign up for a free 2 week trial on the website. It's very easy to register and there's a great little tour of the platform; it took me all of two minutes to set up the account, have a look around and sync the existing data from my phone.

I've heard that there are more exciting developments in the pipe line which I may be in a position to write about in the future. For now though, I will be continuing to use ithlete to guide me in the intensity of my workouts, especially as I head into September, a heavy month of events for me.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary finger sensor by ithlete in return for a review but paid for the app myself. All opinions are my own and I genuinely found benefit from using this device and app.


  1. This is actually super interesting- I've heard that resting HR post-event will tell you how stressed your system is (for marathon and ultramarathon) and how much of a break you should be taking. This is a whole other ball game- broken down data to predict how hard you should go at it. It almost makes resting as technical as the workout! Which is good as people under-focus on rest.

    1. I completely agree, people don't focus enough on rest, and it's so important. Even if we're not resting completely, knowing when to push and when it's better to take it easy is helpful.

  2. This is really interesting. I always track my resting hr, and I know when I am getting sick or verging on being overtrained because it's much higher than usual. I was resting after my last ultra until it went back to normal and it took over 3 weeks for it to come back down.

    1. That's a long time, but not unusual when you think that we're told it takes 4 weeks to recover properly from a full marathon.