The Balancing Act That Is Performance Enhancement And Overtraining – A Look Back At My Omegawave
I came across an article this morning that reminded me of how useful my Omegawave body monitoring system is, so I thought I’d dig up this old post and make it new again! I wrote this back in March of 2014 as a review of the, then new, Omegawave I purchased – how it worked and how I used the data objectively in my training. Given my upcoming StrongFirst cert I think it’s about time I break this bad boy out again. If you don’t know what the Omegawave is you can click here.
Back to March 2014…
In a nutshell the Omegawave is tool that measures your body’s overall readiness to train. In addition to spitting out your overall readiness (scaled from “poor” to “excellent”), it gives you a break down of your current stress level (factoring in both physical and physiological), resting heart rate, recovery pattern (fully recovered, still recovering, or not recovering at all), and adaptation reserves (how well your body will be able to adapt to the given stressor placed on it).
The cool thing is it does this in just 2 minutes.
Following your test you’re also given recommended heart rate zones to train within for the session you’re about to perform.
I personally find this more important for endurance athletes such as marathoner’s, triathletes, and cyclists.
As someone who used to compete in the Ironman triathlon, I immediately saw where a tool like this would have made the absolute perfect self-coaching tool during my brief triathlon career. As someone who always pushed hard day-in and day-out, a tool like this would have kept me more grounded and I imagine would have increased my performance significantly – preventing me from overtraining and under-training at the same time.
Now I focus on powerlifting, sports performance, and metabolic conditioning. I’ve transitioned goals and was curious how the Omegawave was going to benefit someone like myself with more of an anaerobic focus in the majority of my workouts.
So far I have to say it’s increased my performance….but how and why?
How I Started
My schedule for the most part is very consistent; I have a couple days as week when I wake up at 4:40 but other than that I wake up around 5:40 every day.
For the last 6-8 months or so I’ve been on a pretty routine schedule of working out every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and taking off every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.
When I first started using the Omegawave I measured myself every morning when I first woke up, as was recommended in the users manual.
I expected to see a dip in my performance on Tuesday morning after I got a not-so-great sleep Monday night (around 6.25 hours compared to 7-7.5 hours). I monitor my sleep with my FitBit. I find this tool very useful in tracking both the quantity and quality of my sleep. I’ve found it especially useful in measuring “readiness to train” in conjunction with the Omegawave.
However I was surprised to see that the Omegawave still noted “very good” which I interpreted as, get after it!
Wednesday morning came, the day I normally took off. I measured again and again it noted “very good”.
I proceeded to workout everyday during my first week and took the weekend off.
I was surprised how I felt at the end of the week. I somewhat expected to feel beat-up and tired but instead I felt energized and great!
I’m familiar with planned overtraining principals so thought that perhaps I only felt this way because it was my first week of training hard. Certainly maintaining this high volume training load would not hold water.
However after consulting a good friend and colleague of mine, Matt Uohara, I decided to change my testing time.
How I made Adjustments
The second week I decided to start measuring with the Omegawave minutes prior to my session. Despite the fact that the morning would likely give me an accurate account of how I’m feeling “naturally”, the fact of the matter is when I actually started my workout I not only had had breakfast, but I’d been working for 3-4 hours, moving around, and demonstrating exercises.
The point is that given my career and the activities required during my sessions, my “readiness to train” could change every hour and therefore a reading at 5am (lying on my floor) wasn’t helping me determine the intensity of which I should train at 11am-12pm after a morning of work and activity.
What I Found
While I didn’t notice many differences in the “overall readiness” to train, I did notice deviance’s mainly in the “recovery pattern” section. I paid most attention to this and to the “adaptation reserves” section and decide what to do differently based off the relationship between those two factors.
If my recovery pattern was barely above the green line (indicating I’m boarder line not recovering) but adaptation reserves were high, I would allow for some high CNS stress work in my workout but not allow for much volume.
If I saw I was more in the middle of the green section (indicating I’m fully recovered) and my adaptation reserves were high I would pretty much throw as much at myself as I wanted that day.
It’s important to note that I feel I don’t see much change from a day-to-day “readiness to train” standpoint because I take great care of my body, have very little stress, and eat extremely clean. In that regard I would hope my performance would reflect on that, as it appears to be the case.
Another important note is that I have tested later in the afternoon, towards the end of my day, and the Omegawave has read “Fair” and “Good”. I also tested once after a Cryotherapy session. If you’re unfamiliar with cryo, think the exact opposite of a dry sauna – the body is placed under high physiological stress in temperatures below 200ºF in an effort to force the body into a parasympathetic state. Following the session it again it read “good” but more importantly noted a stress level of “5” out of 7. To me, this showed its validity.
Considering by the end of the day our bodies are the most stressed naturally, I wasn’t surprised in my afternoon readings and actually had more faith in the Omegawave and its ability to reflect on my physiological stress and readiness to train.
After a little over 2 weeks of using solely the Omegawave and my FitBit, I have to say I finally broke down.
Was I surprised or disappointed, not at all.
I expected to breakdown at some point. Science doesn’t lie and the amount of training I was performing on a daily basis paired with the amount of CNS stress and volume – I knew it would only be a matter of time before I started to see a decline in some aspect of my life (I became more restless, a common sign of overtraining). But the cool part was actually seeing it in my testing results.
I feel like with information like this it could actually make planned overtraining easier to do and manage. As I noted in the beginning of the article, that first week I felt amazing! Tapering off towards the end of that second week would have been a smart thing to do if I was looking for a planned overtraining effect.
Because of data like this, I personally feel the Omegawave is a great tool to use with any strength and conditioning program. It’s quick, easy, and reduces the risk on injury if interpreted properly. I don’t however feel it’s the only tool you should use. As Patrick Ward has spoke about before in this article, the idea is to keep testing simple and effective.
…Back to the present
It’s neat to go back in time and see what I was reading, the questions I was asking, and how I was extrapolating from what I knew then to make better decisions. It posts like this make me go back and wonder, “why the hell did I ever stop doing this in the first place!?” But then again, I’d like to think applying this “old” knowledge to my current approach will likely lead to further findings and greater success.
It reminds me of a quote I just read in the book Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance –
“…the only real learning results from hang-ups, where instead of expanding the branches of what you already know, you have to stop and drift laterally for a while until you come across something that allows you to expand the roots of what your already know.”
Deep stuff. Great stuff nonetheless.