January 8, 2019

BLOG: When should I take rest days??

How do I know when to go hard with my workouts or when to have an active recovery day??

There are 4 main factors that I look at together to help me decide on a daily basis how hard to train: my resting heart rate (RHR), my blood oxygen saturation (SpO2), my Acute: Chronic Workload Ratio (ACWR), and my overall subjective gut feeling on the day. I’ll explain more below.

1. Resting Heart Rate (RHR):

First thing when I wake up, I throw on my Masimo Mighty Sat pulse oximeter to measure my resting heart rate (RHR), blood oxygenation, respiration rate and more. While the device is reading this data, I do a scan of my body, but more on that later. After 5-10 minutes, I take a look at the Masimo Personal Health App which has been recording my heart rate (HR). It shows me my minimum, maximum and average. Since, I’m concerned with my RHR I look at the minimum. I can compare this number to my RHR on previous days, which is all kept on the app (see my data from three different dates in the photos below). If my RHR is higher than my average then it indicates that an active recovery or rest day is in order. If it’s lower then I can be comfortable pushing the training intensity.

As you can see from the photos above however, I have had some changes in my RHR since I’ve become pregnant. A good RHR for me pre-baby was between 39-42bpm (“good” meaning that I’m well recovered), at 10 weeks it was up to 44-46bpm and at 20 weeks it has increased to 48-50bpm. The above photos are some screenshots from the Masimo Health app on different dates from pre-pregnancy to 20 weeks where you can see the differences in data. It is definitely possible, that this RHR increase is partially a de-training effect, but looking at all the data (HR, O2, ACWR, Body Scan, etc.) as a whole I suspect it is more to do with the growing demand the baby is putting on my body. But I will keep tracking and learning as I continue to grow!

2. Blood Oxygen Saturation (SpO2):

The next factor I look at is my blood oxygen saturation (SpO2), which is an estimate of the percentage of oxygen bound to hemoglobin in the blood. This data is also recorded in the Masimo App and typically I look at the max and the average. If you click on the above photos, you can see that sometimes there is a good amount of fluctuation, but in each one my SpO2 gets up to at least 98, which is great! If my SpO2 max is 96 or below and if the average is below 95, then this will be an indication that a rest day may be best. If it is above, it is an indication that I well recovered and that I can train hard. I haven’t noticed anything different with my SpO2 during pregnancy… yet.

3.  Acute: Chronic Workload Ratio (ACWR):

The 3rd factor I look at is my Acute: Chronic Workload Ratio (ACWR). My trainer, Austin Einhorn, has developed a google sheets document where I enter my self-reported amount of sleep and sleep quality, length of training and intensity, average mood for the day prior and motivation to train today, and anything else I notice with my body (aches/pains, soreness, stiffness, jet lag, travel, sickness, high stress, etc.). From the length and intensity of training data that I input, my trainer uses a formula that compares my training from the past 7 days to my training over the last month. We typically want this to be ratio to be within .8 – 1.2, If it is below .8 I know I need to step up my training length and/or intensity. If it is above 1.2, I will consider taking a recovery or lighter day of training.

4. Subjective Feelings/Mood:

In the morning, after I put the Mighty Sat on my finger, I take some deep breaths and I do a full body scan from head to toe. I will note if there are any areas of discomfort and if there is any underlying mood or feelings. If I wake up feeling generally sore and tired, I will do some slow movements and then check in with my body again. Often, this is enough to get me feeling good and ready for an intense training day.

Over time, I feel like I’ve honed a pretty good indication of how my body recovers from training each day, but it is really comforting to have this mix of objective and subjective factors to look at each day to help guide me in this process. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

One more thing I’d like to mention–at first this seemed like a lot a first of data to keep track of, but once I got in the habit of just recording the info, the trends started to jump out at me. After collecting about 6 weeks of data, the trends started to typically coincide and reinforce what I was already sort of feeling, but usually I would second guess my feelings as me just being lazy. So if you find yourself in the same boat, second guessing whether you’re overtraining or just being lazy, I’d encourage you to record daily readings to have some objective tools to feel more confident in your training decisions!

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