RestWise: Quantifying Recovery – #8
By: Dave Asprey
October 19, 2011
RestWise is the first software program that enables athletes to track their recovery. This system is being used by everyone from the world’s top olympians to the weekend warriors. Using science based metrics such as heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, mood, and sleep, RestWise gives athletes the ability to look at their recovery over time and make changes based on their results. Jeff Hunt, the cofounder, was nice enough to spend some time talking to us about this unique piece of technology.
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What We Cover
- The 10,000 foot view of RestWise.
- The origins of this unique recovery system.
- Whether or not most people spend too much time on recovery.
- The 12 pieces of data you can use to measure your state of recovery.
- Why you should be monitoring your blood oxygen saturation.
- The importance of measuring your mood to determine your recovery.
- The advantages of measuring your body’s ability to recover.
- How to use RestWise (and how to not use it).
- The people who can most benefit from this software.
- Unique ways people have been using RestWise to improve their performance.
- What to expect when you purchase RestWise.
- Which athletes are using RestWise to gain an edge over their competition.
Links From The Show
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Dave: This weeks cool fact is that exerting your willpower actually increases your brains requirement for fuel. The department of psychology at Florida State University just completed a study where they measure the changes in your brains glucose needs and it turns out that if your brain is well-fueled which happens on the Bulletproof Executive Diet, you’re actually more able to exert willpower than a brain that is less poorly fueled.
Keeping your glucose levels constant by eating a low-carb diet, that’s not too low-carb but not too high-carb either means that you’ll be able to exert your willpower all day long whether you’re doing it in the office, at home or on a field.
Today, we have an interview with Jeff from Restwise. Restwise is the first software program that let’s athlete track their recovery. The system is being used by everyone from the world’s top Olympians to weekend warriors.
There’s even applications for people who are not necessarily athletes but are just looking to track the rest as a way to perform better. Using science based metrics like heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, your mood and your sleep, Restwise gives you the ability to look at your recovery time and to make changes based on the results.
The co-founder, Jeff was nice enough to spend sometime talking with us about this unique and really pretty cool piece of technology. Let’s get started with the show.
Co-host: Hey folks, I’m with a guy named Jeff Hunt from a company called Restwise. It’s all about quantifying your recovery from athletic events or strength training or whatever you’re doing. Jeff, thanks for coming on man.
Jeff: Hey, I really appreciate the opportunity to be here. I’m excited to talk to you.
Dave: Cool. Before we really get in to Restwise. Actually, what is Restwise from a 10,000 foot view like this overall?
Jeff: Restwise is a system for quantifying your state of recovery from exercise. If you’re trying to exercise and get yourself fitter, you’re basically trying to balance how much work you do,.
Whether it’s in the gym or on the bike or in the pool and you’re trying to balance doing the work load with the proper amount of recovery to allow you to get the benefits of doing the exercise.
Simply state it, if you do too much, if you do too much exercise, a bad enough recovery, you can get overtrained, you don’t do enough exercise too much recovery if you’re just not getting soon as it can be. So Restwise is a way of knowing exactly how recovered you are.
Dave: How did you come up with this idea? What is your background behind this technology and just merging technology and athletics?
Jeff: I come from this from a perspective of a businessman and an athlete. I’m not a scientist. In starting the company I hook up with a scientist who is an expert in that area. My perspective that I brought into was that I had been an endurance athlete since the late 1980’s when I was cyclist.
During that time I was invited to be in the Olympic training center and went and did a stint there where I was doing three and four sessions a day and just dug myself into an overtrained state, that took me four months to get out of.
Since then I’ve been really acutely aware of how important was to rest adequately in order to do your best in athletics but I’ve also been really aware of how challenging it is to know how much you need to recover. It’s hard to really get your finger on how well recovered you are.
The way that the company actually started is a very dear friend of mine going all the way back to high school. There’s a guy named Matthew Weatherley-White and he and I had a class of 400, we’re the two people to go into pretty serious endeavors as endurance athletes.
We’ve kept in touch over the years. Matthew is also the coach of a world champion [now 00:03:57] bike racer named Rebecca Rusch. He called me almost two years ago now and it said “Jeff, I’m a coach from Rebecca.
She’s one of the most disciplined athletes I know, incredibly tough and determined.” But in his words, “She’s too lazy to take her own pulse in the morning.” As her coach, he was really frustrated that he couldn’t get any kind of feedback from her as to how well-recovered she was so that he could modify his training plan according to that.
To take away from that call was “Jeff, go find a device that makes it so easy to take your pulse that Rebecca has no excuses. Dug around a little bit and I found this, this pulse oximeter, which, as you know, because you’ve seen in this little device that you put in the end of your finger and you just sit there for 15 seconds and it comes back with your resting heart rate or your heart and your oxygen separation level.
We looked to that and thought, “Yeah, we could sell this to athletes it probably be useful but the real goal here is to help people know how recovered they are. To started it just turning me over the idea over and over and sort of my eyes popped open in the, as I was lying in bed one night and realize that if we could get all the markers that have been extensively studied but that are easy to measure and put them into a single system.
So that people could track all of them together and then figure out to analyze them and take all that information and distill it down to just a single number that tells you how recovered you are.
Then that would be something which be hugely valuable to Matthew as a coach but, they are endurance athletes particularly those who were trying to avoid getting themselves in the same situation I’ve gotten myself in. That was really in my cycling days.
Dave: What are the metrics the Restwise uses to quantify recovery?
Jeff: Again, it’s all things that have been studied very extensively in sports science with one exception that we can talk about. It’s all simple things to measure that have been studied alongside more invasive test.
For example in the hormone test and blood test have been studied to correlate with simple questions like “How is your energy level today?” In answer to your question, the things that we’re looking at are resting heart rate, oxygen saturation and that’s the one that isn’t a traditional marker or recovering. We can talk about that later if you want.
Your body weight, quantity and quality of your sleep, energy level, mood state, how well you perform in yesterdays training session, appetite, illness, muscle soreness and [urine shade 00:06:38] which is obviously a proxy for hydration. That’s off the top of my head, but that’s all of them.
Dave: Right. What does oxygen saturation have to do with recovery?
Jeff: Oxygen saturation is a measure of the number of oxygen molecules that are attached to your red blood cells and it’s not something which is traditionally been looked at when you’re looking at recovery. The reason include it in our algorithm in addition to the fact that we found this really neat pulse oximeter that makes getting your heart rate so easy.
Is it turns out that there are various conditions that option saturation can, the option saturation reading can be an indication of that helps you understand how well recovered you are.
An example of that is if you go from [C level up the altitude 00:07:24] your body has the extra demand of trying to acclimatize in a higher elevation. You’ll see that your oxygen saturation level if you get high enough will drop below the normal range.
When does that, we flag it. There have been cases where we had athletes, and I wanted to be careful about this because I don’t know how scientifically true this is. But there have been athletes who noticed a decline in their performance, have a noticed a drop on oxygen saturation and have later been diagnosed with anemia.
Which make sense because they are not getting enough oxygen in their blood as a result of low blood cell count. Those are the reasons that we included, it’s also been early indicator upper respiratory illnesses. There are various things that oxygen saturation can point to.
It’s not always clear what that’s going to be but basically if it’s out of the normal range, there’s something that is off. If that happens, we flag it, it’s part of our algorithm. Now the important thing is that there are two things about it that’s different from us, the other markers.
One is, it’s not required. So if you don’t have the pulse oximetry you can just leave that field blank. The other is, unlike every other marker, it can only deduct from your score, everything else provides a positive contribution and this only deduction we scored if there’s something abnormal.
Dave: Cool. Another one of the metrics that I found pretty interesting was mood and your overall personality or attitude. Why might that be important for a recovery?
Jeff: That’s really an interesting one and it’s one of those that’s been studied really extensively and when you look at it, you’re wondering “How much does this really going tell me.” It turns out that there’s been a lot of work done, it shown that as you get yourself into a fatigued state.
Your hormonal composition changes and you specifically start getting out of balance with elevated cortisol levels and that in turn has an effect on your mood.
If your finding yourself in an abnormally bad mood in the morning, there’s a pretty good likelihood that you’ve got elevated cortisol levels which is one of taking in the contest of all the metrics is one of the indications of getting into an overtrained state.
Dave: Basically mood and this other metrics, a more subjective metrics like that, aren’t really that subjective because they have basically been clinically compared to side by side to other things like exact hormones does and blood levels and that kind of stuff. Basically it’s an easy way for people to get access to a lot of that kind of testing without having to go through it.
Jeff: That’s a really good way of saying it. Essentially what Restwise gives you is a good proxy for what you would get if you went to the lab everyday and have blood work done. It’s obviously it’s more convenience, less invasive and a lot less expensive.
Yeah, all the markers have been studied and the way the people react sometimes, the subjective markers is, well you know you’re giving me a number and I love the fact that we’re getting something quantifiable out of the output of Restwise but if I’m putting in subjective answers, is that really quantifiable?
As you point out, yes, it really is, there’s a very strong correlation between the answers to this questions and the deeper studies. The one thing that’s really important is it’s up to the athlete to be honest and thoughtful about having answer the questions. If you do that, you’re honest and you’re thoughtful about the subjective questions then it comes back with a really accurate picture of how you are in your [critic 00:10:51] state.
Dave: What are some ways people have been using Restwise? What are some advantages they’ve been seeing once they begin using the system?
Jeff: There are a couple of different ways that people use it. There are definitely people who are just inclined to work too hard, do too much and this is a way of getting an objective confirmation that they are just questioning themselves too hard and they are getting to the point where they are no longer driving the benefits from their exercise.
In cases of people like that, it’s simply a flag of you need to back off, get a lower recovery score for several days in a row then it just gets people to, it gives people more confidence to make a decision that they need to back off.
They maybe feeling tired and wondering whether that’s normal and this is just a way of getting some of sort of objective outside view of whether, other than they are just being lazy but not wanting to do their workout or whether really they’ll be, they’ll benefit more from taking the day off.
But the biggest advantage is that what Restwise allows you to do is make sure that on those when you’re suppose to be going really hard that your body is in a state where it’s prepared to absorb the benefit of that hard effort. It end up making a harder days harder, the easier days easier and as a result of that variation you end up getting fitter faster.
Dave: Right. I remember reading an article recently by [I think Tim DeBoom in Triathlete 00:12:13] magazine where he talked about probably the number one mistake that endurance athletes make is always training in that gray zone.
They have days that are maybe a little harder and a little easier but they never really just go in all out in one day and then resting a lot on the other. It seems like this would definitely help with that.
Jeff: Yeah. Particularly, I haven’t seen that article but it totally make sense because triathletes are, it’s tough to balance the demands of three different disciplines and Tim’s obviously a pro but if you look at most of the people who are doing triathlon, they are age groupers and not only balancing the demands of the sports but a lot of them are married, have kids, have demanding jobs or traveling.
They’ve got all these other things that are going on in their lives that are impacting how they are recovering from the workouts that they do. By enlarge they are given this programs which are designed around in having a lifestyle.
A lifestyle basically for professional in order to keep up in a lot of the training programs the people try to put themselves on, you can’t have your recovery compromise from all of these other stresses that are going on in your lives.
Dave: Right. Another cool part of Restwise is the way it makes you prioritize or turning more, so you are focusing on really being rested for your key workout instead of just saying “Oh, I’m just thinking of some extra miles, it won’t make any difference than not really having a number that says “I can do this much before I get tired and then being forced to stop and rest.
Jeff: Yes, it really does help with [puridization 00:13:42] and making sure that you’re getting the most out of the workouts that you do decide to make the key workouts.
Dave: Right, let’s say Restwise tells me that I’m completely recovered and I feel terrible or let’s say the opposite, “I feel great, the Restwise is telling me I need to rest. Should I take Restwise as a prescription, I need to do what the computers says or is it more of an indication to be used as a metric?
Jeff: It would be pretty rare for there to be that big of difference between what Restwise tells you and what you sort of how you feel. It be really strange for you to say “I feel great” and if you think about that it’s because a lot of the questions that go into that you would be in a way would reflect the fact that you feel great.
Now your energy level, you feel great is probably going to be better than normal, so you can get lots of points for that. You’re not going to be sick, so you’re not going to lose points for that. It be rare for there to be that big of discrepancy, but if there was, every once in a while Restwise will really surprise you and it turns out that an example of this might be if you race the day before, you’re still a little bit jacked up the next day from adrenaline from the race.
Like some of your biomarkers like your heart rate is elevated and some of the other things that are indications of the real question. The effort that you done the day before, those might show up in Restwise where you are still a little bit pumped up from the day before. Maybe you feel better than you should. An example like that, then that will be somewhere where you would say okay, “I’m not going to listen to myself, I’m going to listen to Restwise.”
Dave: Cool. Okay. Who are some of the athletes using Restwise. I know you mentioned Rebecca Rusch who I’ve definitely heard of, she is amazing. Who are some of the other super athletes that you have working with this thing?
Jeff: That’s right Rebecca is trying to defend her three in a row in Leadville starting tomorrow. Yeah, she is one of the mountain bikers, we’ve got a bunch of other mountain bikers Georgia Gould comes to mind. She’s a multi time national champion.
We’ve got straight up cyclist that are, we got ranging from amateurs up to Tour de France riders. We got runners runners, one of our favorite athletes is Ryan Hall who came to Restwise after he had overtrained last fall and pulled out of the Chicago Marathon, decide not start it.
He just completely changed his training approach, started using Restwise among the other changes that he made and as we all know he has a result of training less, rediscovering the joy of training and just being a little bit smarter about the way he went about his own training.
He ended up running the fastest marathon any American has ever run. He’s one of our great case studies. Let see among triathletes, Jarrod Shoemaker, the Olympian, Chris Lieto who is been second of Hawaii. I have Jesse Thomas who is, is having a breakthrough year this year including winning Wildflower.
Those are the endurance athletes, we got Olympic gold medalist in rowing, a bunch of swimmers. But what’s been really bit surprising to us is that even though my partner and I came from endurance athletic backgrounds and we thought that that’s really going to be the audience for this tool.
Our lead scientist told us from the very beginning and it’s proven to be true that there’s much much broader audience for this. In addition to those athletes that I mentioned we’ve got sports that I never would have expected, we’ve got the Americas Cup sailing team are using this.
We got synchronized swimming, field hockeys, softball, a whole range of sports that are at a professional level, the Olympic level and university level in addition to the individual athletes.
Dave: You have to tell me when you get somebody who is a professional golf player on this thing.
Jeff: No golfers yet but we’ve got a lot interest from professional cricket.
Jeff: Which surprises me. The first professional teams that we sign were rugby teams and that make sense because they are thrashing themselves and we got the all blocks, all blacks in the spring box and a bunch of the top teams are doing are using Restwise and it turns out they’re really sophisticated about their training so they’re obtaining a lot of attention to recovery.
Dave: What are some ways the athletes have been using this? Are there any strength athletes using this like powerlifters or just guys who want to get really jacked that kind of thing?
Jeff: Yeah there are, in fact one of the organizations that’s been really interested in Restwise and has talked about it in some of their online workouts that they provided. It’s CrossFit, which I know you are familiar are with them but, it’s different philosophy different approach to working out and it’s a lot intensity and a lot of strength and not nearly s much duration.
They’ve really embrace it, we do have some Olympic level athletes who are weightlifters who were using it as well. There are some differences between endurance athletes and strength athletes, your muscles are going to be sore pretty consistently if you’re a weightlifter.
By enlarge a large of the science of overreaching and overtraining are the same across the different sports. Yeah, there are definitely are strength athletes as well as endurance athletes.
Dave: Right. CrossFit definitely benefit from that. Because I’m always hearing about people saying how beat down they all the time from doing CrossFit. When somebody orders a Restwise, when somebody signs on the Restwise, what kind of stuff will they get? What’s in the package?
Jeff: What they get is the pulse oximeter that I’ve mentioned before. They get an introductory letter welcoming them and explaining how to get on the website and create their account if they haven’t already done so.
What they are really getting is the access to this algorithm and the algorithm, it’s web base software so you can enter your data into the website directly or you can download any of the free applications for an iPhone or Blackberry or android as a way of entering the data.
Essentially what you’re getting is the pulse oximeter, access to the software then applications for handhelds. We’re just about to start kind of educational campaign that goes along with the subscription of Restwise.
As you sign up you’re getting a series of e-mails that are instructive on recovery on Restwise itself but also about recovery in general and the role that it should play in your training. Really what you’re signing up for and we hope to evolve more and more in this direction is the product Restwise as well as and the access to a whole set of intelligence about the role the recovery plays in your training.
Dave: Obviously everybody loves the graphs and charts and things like that, me included. Are there any kind of charts or graphs or trends that you can see when using Restwise?
Jeff: Restwise is a very visual product and if you, when you’re entering your data that we’ve everything as much as possible without compromising any of the science. The data entry is color coded to either questions are coded by red, yellow or green depending on your answer.
Similarly the output is all charted against the red, yellow and green background, so you can do, the first thing you see after submitting all your data and going to the result screen, there’s a graph which shows two weeks of your recovery score [clotted 00:21:35] against the background which shows where you are in that red green yellow zone and where you’ve been over the past two weeks.
That’s all total [accessible 00:21:43] in terms of changing dates and you can drill it down into more specifics if you want to once you get to that. It was definitely designed to be very visual.
Dave: Yeah, that’s actually one of the things I want to mention is how simple it is, I get very frustrated sometimes with this things like training peaks and I forget the other one, there’s some other performance measurement thing.
They are very complicated to use, there’s a really long learning curve and they are still kind of crude in terms of their coding and stuff, it just doesn’t look very nice. But Restwise it’s very simple, it’s very clean, it’s just a pleasure to work with too. I really like that.
Jeff: I totally appreciate that feedback and I got to give credit to our lead scientist who has done so much work with athletes that you just realize that it was really important to make it as simple as possible and both in getting the data in but also in communicating the results. I got to admit he did a great job on that and I’m pretty proud of the result.
Dave: What are some plans you have for Restwise in the future besides, I know you mentioned the e-mail course or whatever, what are the other recovery tools do you see maybe integrating with Restwise?
Jeff: You hit on the keyword which is integrating and that’s definitely the direction that we’re pushing in, it actually use two words. One is integration and one is flexibility. Integration, we want to integrate on two levels, one is taking Restwise and integrating it into other systems that people might be using.
You mentioned training peeks and we’re actually in the process of doing an API integration with them right now so that when you’re in training peeks you can pull in Restwise data so that it’s all in one system.
We also wanted, we’re doing that with a bunch of the other training analysis tools. We also want to integrate with some of the other ways of getting the inputs, ideally what we want to do is make it as simple as possible and as accurate as possible to put all the information into the system.
A great example of one of the things that we’re just finishing doing is allowing somebody to replace the two questions that we have that relate to sleep with a sleep tracking tool like the score from [Azio 00:23:57] which is this great device that you not that you know about them, but you wear them, you wear this strap on your head and it measures your sleep patterns and it’s also is an algorithm that calculates what your sleep score was for that day.
It’s really accurate way of replacing two of our questions with a single number. That’s one of the things that we’ve got on the very very near term horizon that is something we want to do as a way of improving the inputs into the system.
Dave: Are there anyways people can maybe start quantifying their recovery, let’s say they are not totally prepared to buy in the Restwise and they are not ready yet? What are some ways people could start quantifying the recovery just on their own?
Jeff: If I wanted to sort of dip my toe in the water on this, what I’ll do is literally take a look at the markers that we track and get build a spreadsheet and start paying attentions to those things yourself.
If you’re looking to actually quantify yourself, you could do something really simple like a checklist of how many of these questions am I scoring well on and how many I’m I scoring poorly on and do something like that to try to quantify it yourself.
That will be a way to get a start, get a feel for how important it can be to keep track of it. Let’s see, in terms of quantifying it that’s probably the approach that I would figure is actually a great article in runners were a couple months back build around Restwise, it recommended just that.
Obviously we think there’s benefits and really dig into that in getting the single number out of it and simplifying that way but definitely that would be a good way to start.
Dave: Cool. Let’s say somebody has purchased Restwise and were using it and they want to speed up their recovery and you mentioned the education course. Would, let’s say I start doing like I’m rolling and things like that.
Would this be a good way to really see how much difference those things are making? Because I know a lot of people were basically told “Oh yeah just take ice baths and do foam rolling, you’ll feel better.” People are still fuzzy like “Well, I would do it but I’m not really sure how much it’s helping.” Will this manifest those changes?
Jeff: Yeah it would. It may not get down to the level of something like foam roller and reflecting that the next day. Although I’d imagine it would show up in the muscle soreness question.
If you were, it shifts have you paid more attention to recovery on a number of [fronts 00:26:24] better nutrition, better sleep, then yeah, Restwise would definitely be a way of determining whether those changes in aggregate are helpful.
You know there’s so much coming out right now that relates to recovery and you talked about the foam roller and obviously there’s a ton related in nutrition, they are all this compression garments. There are a lot of things that are being [pitch as 00:26:47] recovery solutions.
There’s a lot of lack of clarity about what works and what doesn’t. In fact I was just at a conference a couple months ago and one of the speakers was a guy who had been in charge of a recovery center at the Olympic training center for a number of years.
His basic, the topic of his talk was essentially how we don’t know which of these things do speed up recovery were and he said “The only thing we know that what works is rest.” The body’s ability to do the right things to get you to recover.
But as people get more sophisticated about the types of things they can accelerate recovery, it’s definitely the way to understand pretty quickly whether or not something is working.
Dave: I know some of these more advance tools like those things called the NormaTec MVP, those compression, automated compression sock things you put on your legs. Those are some very advance stuff coming.
Do you ever see Restwise being used as maybe a prescriptive device, if you were, have a recovery score of XXX, maybe you should do this much of this and this much of that, that kind of thing. Do you think it’s going to ever be that precise?
Jeff: That’s definitely the direction we want to go in and one of the things that got me personally really excited about starting business was that overtime we’re going to have a ton of information about the factors that or the markers that relates to recovery.
As we have this huge database and group of users that are entering data into Restwise. Eventually we’ll be able to do a lot of anonymous analysis that will allow us to start drawing conclusions like that and hopefully if we go about this the way that we hope to, we’ll be able to make some contributions to sports science overall.
Dave: Cool. Where can people learn more about Restwise if they are kind of interested now and they want to learn more about recovery and how this works.
Jeff: Well definitely come to our website which is Restwise.com and there’s a bunch of information on that, there’s also, we just started a forum which is intended to grow overtime into a place where people can ask questions about recovery in general and have people chime in with their thoughts and their answers. There’s a link to that former website as well.
Dave: I actually forgot to ask one more question. Do you ever see this being used as maybe a clinical practice like in a hospital or a situation where people are overcoming injuries because it seems like that would be, this would be a much more accurate way of measuring it than just having a doctor come in and say “How are you feeling today?” I know they take other measurements as well, but this seems it would definitely be a good metric to have.
Jeff: We are definitely talking about that application for it. The questions would obviously be a little bit different depending on what it was you were trying to recover from. This whole idea of people doing surveys would make sense in having the answers be easy to understand and easy to, are easily accessible.
That definitely make sense in the clinical environment. We’ve have a lot of stuff in the way for it and that’s definitely the direction we like to go but we want to make sure that we get, we service our core market of athletes as well as we can before we kind of branch into other areas like that.
Dave: Thank you so much for coming on the call today, Jeff. It was an awesome interview. I hope people go over and check out Restwise. I know I definitely enjoyed it.
Jeff: Good. I totally appreciate you having me on the air today. Thank you.
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