Want to be a World Champ? Get Your Rest

Jun 8, 2011
Outside
Outside Magazine

Screen shot 2011-05-18 at 4.09.06 PM
 Co-Founder, Recovery Science and Technology |  Matthew Weatherley-White

What do 3-time 24-hour World Champion Rebecca Rusch, 2-time 24-hour Single Speed World Champion Greg Martin, and Single Speed World Champion Heather Irminger have in common?

Answer: Restwise.

Restwise is a new recovery program started by Matthew Weatherly-White and Jeff Hunt—both accomplished athletes who have experienced the black hole of overtraining. Lucky for us they climbed out and shared their solution. Check out their fan base here.--Heidi Volpe

What is the biggest missed opportunity about overlooking your rest period in your training?
There are three sorts of rest/recovery periods: days, blocks and phases. All play critical but very different roles in a coherent training plan. Recovery days are the building blocks for hard training. If you don't plan for regular, consistent, intentional recovery, the quality of your daily work will steadily, incrementally drop and the benefit of hard training will be erased or, at worst, reversed. Recovery blocks are the key to peaking, as they serve as the complementary second half of  the concept known as supercompensation - the brief period of superlative performance that predictably follows a phase of really hard work. Everyone peaks differently, however, so athletes need to experiment to define their personal peaking protocol. Recovery phases are the longer periods during which an athlete recovers from a long season and prepares for the next. Carl Swenson, a World Cup Nordic Skier and World Cup Mountain Bike Racer, used to race all winter, take a full month off, race all summer, take a months off, etc. He once told me that the only way he could go so hard was that he took 2 full months off every year. How many amateur athletes can say the same?

What was the genesis of this tool? Were you overtraining yourself?
Two answers. First, yes, I have overtrained. Massively. I spent a few days in the ICU in 1985 after collapsing in the middle of a workout, with my HR over 260. I basically experienced complete metabolic breakdown, and required nearly a year of recovery before I could exercise steadily - and hard - again. A great learning experience, but a scary one. Fortunately, it has informed my training methodologies ever since. The second answer is that while coaching Rebecca Rusch, I needed a simple, objective way to capture the way her body was responding to the training load I assigned. To make a long story short, that is what brought me and my partners to the recovery monitoring system we call Restwise.

 
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Chart showing Restwise Total Recovery Score over six weeks

You generate the data for each athlete from 11 different categories or daily metrics, which have the most hard science to detect the score?
Fortunately, every marker we track (with one notable exception - oxygen saturation - which we intend to research using Restwise data-mining as a key part of the project) has a wealth of sports science behind it. We are not doing any original research. Instead, we have relied on the extensive body of sports science literature which demonstrates varying levels of correlation between the markers we have chosen and an athlete's fatigue state/recovery needs. Based on the correlation, the markers are given different weightings in the algorithm. The algorithm is (of course) proprietary so I can't go into detail about marker weightings or time-weighted analytics, but I can say that our chief scientist is putting his professional reputation on the line with the selected markers and their role in the algorithm. There is absolutely no BS in anything we do.

How much is perceived information? And how accurate is that?
We include quantitative markers (resting heart-rate, body mass, hours of sleep, etc.) and qualitative markers. Of the qualitative markers, some are objective (wellness, presence of muscle soreness, etc.) and some are subjective (sleep quality, evaluation of yesterday's performance, etc.). Remember that a key value of our tool is in the early identification of non-functional over-reaching, which is the precurser to Over Training Syndrome. Basically, if you can diagnose when you are getting close to over-training, you should be able to avoid it entirely. For this purpose, there is ample scientific evidence that links mood states, sleep quality, and performance evaluation to compromised recovery. Although any one marker, when taken out of context, can be misleading or even meaningless, when combined with a variety of other markers it can become incredibly meaningful. For instance, if you have several consecutive days of elevated RHR, you are experiencing chronic DOMS, are getting less than an average of 8.25 hours of sleep over the last three days and check the box for "lower than normal mood", it is a damn safe bet that the subjective marker is valid and accurate... and the algorithm will reflect that probability. However, if every other marker is solid and you check "lower than normal mood", the chances are that you are just experiencing some sort of reaction to stress that will not influence your body's ability to recover from normal training. And, of course, the algorithm takes all of this into account. To your last question about accuracy, we must recognize that this is an inexact science... which is why our algorithm rounds one's score to the nearest decile.

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Results page showing today’s Recovery Score, its interpretation, and a detailed chart of Recovery Score

If I am taking in a lot of vitamins/supplements can't that also affect  the measurement of dehydration?  
Yes, heavy supplementation can influence your urine color. However, most supplements will clear the kidneys within 8 hours, so if you are adequately hydrated and are peeing more than once during the night, your first pee in the morning should be reasonable clear of supplement traces. Also, most supplements turn urine a bright yellow color, which is noticeably different from the darker yellow colors which reflect dehydration. Additionally, if you check "dark yellow" urine color but your body mass doesn't indicate a meaningful drop, the algorithm discounts the potential loss of points related to the color score. If, however, you tick that box while simultaneously showing a day-over-day change in body mass, the algorithm will adjust accordingly and you will lose more hydration points.

This product has been out for one year, what are the improvements you've made?
I'd love to tell you that, but most of them are related to the algorithm so my lips are sealed. I can tell you that we've improved our user interface based on subscriber feedback, have modified some marker weightings based on data analysis, have added some gender-specific markers (menses being the most obvious), and are in the process of developing a way to tease apart the difference between muscle soreness and injury (I know this sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how little literature there is on this important distinction). Basically, we are committed to on-going improvement, and the more data we get (more subscribers entering their daily metrics) the more accurate Restwise will be.

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