It’s April and most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are itching to get the racing season going. After a couple months of rest around the holiday season and then starting back from the bottom, feeling your fittest might seem far-fetched, bordering on impossible! However, having patience and building gradually into your season slowly is paramount. After all, you want to be a hero on the race course, not during your early season training.

How can you keep yourself in check? Start off by having a good line of communication with your coach about your season goals. They should be able to guide you through the fitness building process and keep your day-to-day training focused on constructing a solid foundation for the season, with emphasis on key events. Trust your coach and make sure to not push harder than prescribed in the initial phases, even if you feel amazing.

Getting your coach access to your physiology can also be extremely valuable. The team at Cercacor Ember has just released a new Dashboard feature which allows your coach to track your readings and monitor your parameters. In my experience, having another set of eyes to monitor the data is essential, since it can be easy to miss trends or fail to see the bigger picture when we are tired and just trying to survive from session to session.

When using my Ember device, Oxygen Content (OC) is one of the parameters that I often consult to make sure my fitness is heading in the right direction, and at the right rate. An OC reading is comprised of the total amount of oxygen in your blood, derived from your hemoglobin and oxygen saturation levels in milliliters per deciliter of oxygen (ml/dl). Everyone's parameters are different and it takes at least a few weeks to establish your normal baseline. That said, at rest, values can range between 15.2-23ml/dl. By tracking this number, you may discover that you have better endurance, recovery, and overall performance when your OC is trending higher.

There are a couple of different ways to view and apply your OC reading to monitor your fitness and readiness for the next workout. The Smart Gauge is the main screen in Ember and will highlight your current reading as well as give you a visual to easily see if you are trending higher or lower than your established average.

As you can see from my above Smart Gauge screen shot from February 21, I was a bit below my 18.5 ml/dl average reading at 18 ml/dl. Currently, that number is not too alarming to me. However, what might happen if I was significantly below my 30 day average? Using the Ember app, I would take a deeper dive into the overall picture by pulling up the OC ‘trend’ graph. Is my OC level decreasing or increasing over time? If it is increasing, this is a positive, even if you have one low reading. Below, you would be correct in assuming that something was a little off with me in the latter part of January, into early February. I was fighting a respiratory infection and not feeling my best during training sessions. I had a few days easy to recover, get healthy, and start the build again. Since that time, my OC is once again trending higher.

Another way to make sure you aren’t over doing it would be overlay your results with other parameters. The ‘multi-parameter’ graph is a very helpful mode to view your OC against other parameters. Using this graph, you can view both your OC as well as your pulse rate (PR) to determine if you are on track. Is your oxygen content increasing and your pulse rate decreasing? That is what you are looking for! If your OC is below average and your pulse rate is higher than average, this may suggest that you need more time to recover. As you can see below, my pulse rate has trended lower while my OC has trended higher over the past month, indicating I am introducing the correct stress/rest balance for performance gains.

Train smart, keep discovering how your body reacts to training loads and other stimulus during these first few months, and don’t be afraid to rest if you need a little more recovery. It’s all about being a hero when it really counts… on race day!