Everyone Can Benefit From Professional Sports Innovation

In 2014, Firstbeat was recognized as a finalist for the FIBO Innovation Award on the basis of exceptional use of objective heartbeat data to enhance health, fitness, and performance. As this year’s FIBO conference approaches (April 6-9, Cologne, Germany), the Firstbeat Sports platform offers new ways for gyms and recreational sports facilities to aid their clients. Fit4theGame, located in Hamburg, Germany, is one such facility that utilizes the professional coaching tool to enhance participation and boost the training experiences across the board.

“When you become a member at Fit4theGame, you get a Firstbeat heart rate monitoring belt whether you like it or not,” jokes Gavin Nugent, co-founder of the facility. “Firstbeat’s real-time monitoring is a crucial part of our training and service concept, and the rule rather than the exception.” It’s not long before slipping the belt on before training becomes second nature to gym members.

When members walk into the training room, their individual belts are automatically detected by the system and personal training data is displayed on the main screen. In addition to real-time data, follow-up reports are part of the program. “After each session, an e-mail is automatically sent with a personal report for each member,” explains Nugent.

The system offers a variety of benefits for coaches and members alike. “We are able to provide objective insights for individual members based on their specific needs. For some, it provides the motivation to keep pushing, and for overachievers feedback can help prevent pushing too far.” As a result, it becomes easier to reach individual goals using safe and productive methods.

Firstbeat Sports delivers a wide variety of scientific data to help people make better decisions. “In the beginning, we were a bit overwhelmed by all the possibilities, and finding the right way to apply the information was part of the process. Ultimately, we found good, practical ways to put the data to work for us. As coaches, we specifically look to Training Effect and how it is distributed, which makes both individual and group coaching easier and more effective.”

Training Effect is one of Firstbeat’s most popular contributions to the sports and fitness arena. It reveals the true physiological impact of your current training activities and predicts the effect your efforts will have on future fitness levels. Training Effect is reported on a scale from 1.0 (no impact) to 5.0 (overreaching) and is updated in real time which allows it to be used in-session to guide efforts towards the types of fitness improving or maintaince outcomes clients want.

“It is our task as coaches to explain a Training Effect of 5 is not needed for an effective workout. Through this we can sensitize the subjective impression of effective training for each person and support an adequate recovery after each session.” That kind of enhanced body awareness can be extremely valuable for anyone.

During a workout, heart rate, training effect, and calories burned are all displayed on a screen and updated in real time. Each participant’s current training zone is also displayed and is color coded for easy interpretation. “As a coach, I can give it a final push and ask for an ‘all red screen’ in the last round of an exercise,” says Gavin. “At the same time, I can look at an individual’s training development and give personal feedback. So maybe one person should stay more in the aerobic training zone, instead of hitting the anaerobic or high intensity zone too often. We can explain the background, raise awareness, and help educate them towards a better understanding of their own physiology.”

There are a handful of professional athletes among Fit4theGame’s clientele, and these athletes benefit from additional training load and recovery monitoring capabilities of the platform. For example, Firstbeat Quick Recovery Test (QRT) offers guidance for daily training prescription by translating a 3-minute sample of heartbeat data into a training readiness score. The platform also offers flexibility that helps coaches and athletes work together more easily. “One of our clients uses the remote coaching possibilities with her Suunto watch,” explains Gavin. “She can upload the data and we can analyze it in more detail, regardless of where she did her training. This allows us to provide professional feedback, even though the sessions were done somewhere else, and keep track of her training development and follow up.”

Professional coaching can benefit anyone, not just professional athletes. Similar types of feedback can enhance recreational sports and even general fitness routines. The Firstbeat Sports monitoring platform provides easy access to the type of scientific guidance that helps Fit4theGame take their client offerings to the next level. It also makes the trainer’s job easier and allows them to be more effective how they  work with individual clients.

At Fit4theGame, monitoring and feedback have become part of the atmosphere and training experience. It also helps coaches and members develop closer relationships. “We work hard to ensure that our members can apply the data we provide them,” says Gavin. “Behind the scenes we work on a professional level with the information ourselves.” This is part of the effort to make successful training visible and motivate action. “I think we are a pretty exceptional gym. Sometimes it actually feels more like a club or team, and Firstbeat is definitely part of the reason why.”