Dynamic Loading via Daily Readiness Assessments

Quite a mouthful, that title.

Put simply, I have been adjusting my daily plan based on my morning metrics.

This article will explain those metrics => overnight, morning and active.

For a guy, who used to plan his workouts 7-10 days in advance and his season 13-20 weeks in advance… this is a radical change!

Lots of lingo in this article – Marco’s articles are a big help.


My Readiness Dashboard – explained below

OVERNIGHT via Oura Ring

The overnight assessment is the easiest. I keep my Oura ring charged and download first thing. The ring was helpful getting my health back on track at the end of 2021.

However, for making the decision if I’m ready to absorb load, the overnight reading is not as accurate as my morning test.

I don’t recommend the ring to you. I think you’ll get more useful information using the next two options.


MORNING via Polar H10 Strap and HRV4Training App

My morning ritual:

  • Wake up (no alarm)
  • Head downstairs
  • Drain bladder
  • Relax on my couch (supine) with my pulse oximeter going
  • Take reading via HR strap to HRV4Training app.

The whole process takes ~5 minutes.

If you pay for the PRO level (HRV app), then normal ranges are calculated and shown with baseline (below).


HRV with trend and normal range – you can pinch to show more days

Morning Resting HR with trend and normal range.
COVID recovery was May 25 – June 11

Overnight and Morning are passive metrics – I’m either asleep or lying down. There are good reasons for passive assessments (see Marco’s articles linked at the end).

My advice, start collecting the morning metrics and learn your healthy baseline.

These baseline metrics were a big part of my being able to return to training relatively quickly after catching COVID (link is my day by day return diary).


My active readiness test is based on an Olympic Champion’s warm-up routine.

The 400w segments are done only in Threshold & Specific Preparation
More in Nils’ Document Linked Below

SWEDISH ACTIVE READINESS TEST (SART)

I have been working with an Olympic Coach, Johan Röjler. Johan had the idea for me to perform a daily assessment based on NVDP’s warm-up.

My bike numbers are FAR below Nils’ level. However, the principles are the same.

  • Six minute steps
  • Start at 50% of “fit” Threshold watts
  • End at 65% of “fit” Threshold watts

Nils did his Threshold at 400 watts. At 53, I picked 300w.

The key isn’t the Threshold number.

What’s important is getting a 50%/65% number that is NOT demanding. You want to have a test you can get through at every level of fitness and fatigue.

I’m using 3 steps (150w/165w/180w). Power via Favero Assioma Duos and total test takes ~20 minutes. Johan is testing himself with a run-based protocol.

We are looking for heart rate suppression and “jumpiness.”

  • Day One of the training cycle – we expect HR to be responsive and jumpy following the 2 off days
  • Across the micro cycle – we expect some HR suppression BUT when there is material suppression, combined with other factors (mood, HRV, MRHR, soreness, energy) we gauge the risk/benefit for loading

The chart shows two cycles – one where I pulled the plug after three days, and the other where I pushed through fatigue (D2 & D4) and finished strong.

The SART is a nice warm up. My total output is 200 kj and no matter how wrecked I am (see June 22 & 23 above) – the test is doable.


With Passive Metrics (HRV, MRHR), the Red & Strong Green days are obvious.

What’s less clear is the signal for the Yellow and Weak Green days. Yellow and Weak Green days are where I make most of my mistakes.

Our hypothesis is fatigue (not-readiness) will manifest via heart rate suppression at submax levels.

By learning my normal response to training, I can decide if I’m in a “better to rest” or “train through” situation. The idea being to back off when my body isn’t in a position to absorb more load.

My readiness metrics, when combined with my training log, let me see the sessions that most kick my butt.

  • Are those sessions “worth it”?
  • Could there be a more effective way of loading?

These are judgement calls and part of the art of loading.

Overall => make mistakes visible, and learn from them.


LINKS

Optimizing Training Protocols for Middle Aged Doctors

In the Steep Gullies of A-Basin, teaching my son how to lead men

In your 50s and 60s, you’re going to have the money to do neat stuff.

Are you going to have the body?


I propose three goals to guide your training:

  • Burn fat
  • Add muscle mass
  • Maintain sexual function

If you’re still into race performance then bookmark me and come back in a few years.

Why?

Because you might be screwing up all three by leaving sustained tempo in your program.

🙂


The ability to do fun stuff with those I love.
A form of wealth.

Now, you’re probably thinking that it’s impossible for an older person to add muscle mass.

You might have even resigned yourself to a long, slow decline in personal function.

That’s certainly the way aging was taught to me (by members of your profession).

Are you sure?

An elder surgeon confided in me that “half the stuff I learned in med school, turned out to be false.”

Perhaps a shift in approach could get you a better outcome?

Besides, there is little downside from shifting your program, away from endurance fatigue, towards doing what it takes to add functional strength.


My son’s definition of heaven.
Bit of a survival ski for me.

So how might we do that?

During the pandemic, I learned this protocol by accident.

I was locked in my house, with three high-energy kids, and I needed a way to chill out before endless days of Home School.

I turned to weights, a lot of them.

I worked my way through Rob Shaul’s SF45 program. The full program was eight modules and took me 60 weeks to complete.

Total body transformation.

Not only did it transform my body, my wife started having fire fighter fantasies. 😉

I became much better at moving through the mountains.

Rob’s redone the modules and now splits them by age (40, 50, 55 and 60). You can find them under General Fitness Plan Packets on his website.

I’ve taken what I’ve learned from Rob and interpreted into my life as a coach to kids, adults and elders. I use pieces of Rob’s protocols to address specific concerns (balance, fall risk, muscle activation, injury prevention and rehab). I tweet about these on Wednesdays.

I use Rob’s stuff for creating a valuable form of stress on my 53 yo body.

  • Gaining functional strength
  • To do neat stuff
  • Outside
  • With the people I love
  • For as long as possible

My training schedule is built around placing my key days (my strength-focused days).

I never skip a strength day but… I do delay it when I know it would be counter-productive to stress myself further.


Can you spot the gully entry above my son?
Me neither.
We had to billy-goat a bit.

So how to place those key days?

That was my central problem across 2021.

I kept getting run down, I felt old, my mood was crap, I was worried that I was “done” as an athlete.


To be sick of sickness is the only cure

– The Tao Te Ching

Eventually, I committed to do whatever it took to get my recovery on track. If that meant “getting old” then I’d just have to deal with the consequences.

It wasn’t all that complicated. My Garmin watch had be collecting resting heart rate data for years. Data that I had been ignoring because I was scared to recover properly!

To my resting HR data, I added heart rate variability from an Oura Ring. Recently, I added HRV4Training to better see the differences between my acute and chronic movements.

I don’t use the Readiness Scores because I don’t need precision (and have doubts that any of us can predict outcome on a complex system, like the human body).

All I am seeking is a signal from the raw data.

  • Red – you’d better dial it down
  • Yellow – no surges, just aerobic maintenance (ie fat burning)
  • Green – Go For It, Bro!

Feb 20 (red) – chronic (shaded) and acute are low
Feb 11 (yellow) – chronic is in normal range, acute a bit below
Feb 8th (green) – chronic and acute both high – I went big at altitude, we see the impact on Feb 9th

Similar info in the resting HR data, which seems to be more sensitive to the elevation where I’m sleeping. During the upward trend in HR, I was sleeping at ~8,500 ft.

So when I’m at home, it’s a simple choice each morning.

Strength or Cardio

  • Strength is whatever plan I’m using from Rob.
  • Cardio is a bike workout, usually with a 130 bpm cap.

If I’m not “green” for a strength day, then I dial it down, or delay.

If I’m “red” then I spin easy on the bike (HR < 120) and schedule a neighborhood walk for the afternoon.

ZERO anaerobic load on a “red” day.

By waiting for a green signal, I avoid putting myself into a hole, that takes days to clear.

I’d been running this system (morning strength or cardio) for most of the pandemic (2020 & 2021) but was not paying attention to my HR, and didn’t have the HRV data.

With the HRV data, and guidance from Dr Jeff Shilt, I am able to better place the days that make me tired. Doc J shared his traffic light system, which let me create this article I’m offering you.


This season saw me hand over the title of lead-skier to my son.
With recognition comes responsibility.

As we age, how best to define “getting better”?

My proposal…

We will work towards improving the self-confidence that you’ll be able to continue to share outdoor activities with those you love.

We will use a training approach that builds a large physical reserve against the fears we hear from our elders.

Confidence that, while absolute performance is declining, we continue to enjoy the physical side of life.

Confidence that, while we’re all going to “get old” eventually, we will be able to live independently for as long as possible.

This is going to require a shift in focus from “athletic performance” to maintaining “functional performance.”

The very good news is this approach is time efficient.

Yes, the strength days will kick your butt BUT, when they are placed wisely, you will bounce back and end up with more energy across your week.


Keep it simple.

Start every day with a win.

Burn fat or strength train.