In a previous post, I talked about basic concepts of recovery activities. I wanted to update you with a couple new months of data gleaned from two additional tools: the Morpheus Recovery Band and the Polar A360/370 fitness monitor. I’ll review the Polar tomorrow.
The Morpheus band and system are the only gizmos I know of that actually calculate how much a particular workout helps you recover, or knocks you back. (Update Feb. 2019: Biostrap also appears to do this, as well) Joel Jamieson, the creator, has done a ton of work around active recovery and avoiding overtraining. Probably 95% of what I know about recovery training came from his info. So I was very excited to try this tool.
You take a morning reading with the Morpheus band (on arm or leg) and get a baseline score and your set of target heart rates. There are three zones: recovery, conditioning, and overtraining, each with a heart rate range based on your age and your current state of fitness. Then you exercise – using the Morpheus band, or another HRV monitor such as the Polar 10 chest strap – and at the end of the workout, it calculates your recovery points. For me, I was always trying to maximize recovery points, and generally avoid negative recovery point (a sign that you worked really hard – which is great for hardcore athletes but not good for people desperately trying to avoid overexertion as they recover from a long illness).
- Recovery scores were super-helpful! I learned that my body is “recovering” at much higher heart rates than I’d imagined.
- My max recommended heart rate is about 176 (220-age), so I’d thought a good “recovery” heart rate maxed out at 110. But no – I was reliably seeing high recovery scores up to about 125-130bpm. And critically, I was seeing higher recovery scores at 125 than at 110.
- I did take with a grain of salt Morpheus’s recommendation that on good days, I would be recovering up to 143bpm – that felt like way too much exertion for me at this point in time.
- What I thought were good “recovery” activities (seated yoga, light t’ai chi) actually were calculated as “rest” and had little or no impact on my recovery scores.
- The upshot is that I dramatically increased the intensity of activity I was doing, and continued to feel better.
- Morning baseline readings were also helpful, but I was already getting very similar information from my chest strap and Elite HRV/HRV4Training apps. All of them seemed to agree pretty well.
- The daily variation of HR zones was less useful than I’d expected, because they were nearly always the same. On a good day, the breakpoint between recovery and conditioning was about 143. On a bad day, it was about 135, which was not a very meaningful difference to me. In addition, this corresponds pretty well to the Polar zones 1-3 for recovery, 4 for conditioning, and 5 for overload.
- The app doesn’t let me easily track HRV changes over time. It’s very much a “what should I do today” sort of device.
- The app gives no information on LF/HF readings, which are useful for understanding how my parasympathetic system is/is not engaging. I don’t want to give up that info, so every morning, I was taking 3 simultaneous readings with two different devices.
- The band is impossible to use during exercise. It was constantly slipping off my arm, and I don’t even sweat heavily. So I had to use my Polar chest strap during all exercise, but the Morpheus armband for the initial morning reading. (Update: Morpheus apparently now has a chest strap, which might help with this.)
- You can’t just take a reading to see how you are doing “right now,” except for once a day in the morning. There were many times when I’d come home from work, and want to get info on how much my day had taken out of me, but it’s not set up to do that. That info was somewhat reflected in my next morning’s reading, but it didn’t help me narrow down non-exercise stressors.
- The app and community were definitely focused on high-performing athletes and avid gymgoers. No one could really answer questions I had from the perspective of someone in deep recovery mode.
I ended up returning the Morpheus during its 60-day no-questions-asked return period. I do still occasionally miss the recovery score readings, but I wasn’t willing to pay $150 to keep having them – especially since I seemed to be able to track that data solely with my Polar chest strap.