By Brenda Martinez, Track & Field World Championship Medalist and Olympian

After placing fifth at the National 5km Road Championships in NYC, I received a PrP (platelet rich plasma) injection into my Achilles and had to take three weeks of rest. I’m excited to be back running with a much healthier Achilles. I’m itching to go fast, but I also know that I have to be patient and careful.

While I’m working to get back to peak fitness, I’m consistently monitoring my adaptation so that I don’t over- or under-train. This is where Cercacor’s Ember has come into play. I began using Ember (DATE) when I was at peak condition. And, now, as I’m rebuilding, it’s become absolutely invaluable.

I use the Ember to track my body’s responses to training load and recovery. Ember measures multiple blood parameters –each telling me a slightly different thing about my body. Given my intense altitude-training regimen, are a few that I’m especially reliant on:

Pulse rate: On particularly taxing workout days, my pulse rate is elevated post-workout. After a recovery session (which often included cryotherapy, massage and sue of a hyperbaric chamber), my pulse rate should be lower. If this doesn’t happen, then I’m not fully recovered. Similarly, a morning pulse rate that creeps up day-by-day may be indicative of overtraining or illness.  

Oxygen saturation: Post-workout, my oxygen saturation often reads low. At the end of a proper day’s recovery, my Ember will likely show an improved saturation level. If not, then I need to continue with recovery into the next day, and perhaps change a workout.  

Hemoglobin: Living in Big Bear Lake at 7500ft, it’s important that I track my response to altitude. Hemoglobin is a sure way of indicating my ferritin levels. If it’s too low, this means that I am not responding to altitude training. In this case, I may need to rest more, supplement with ferritin, or reduce training load.

Changes to these parameters give me signs of my fitness before I can even feel them myself. Furthermore, Ember is noninvasive, and the feedback is immediate. I get reliable, real-time updates on my hemoglobin levels without the hassle of going in for lab work.

I track my numbers at least three times a day:  1. Every morning, I check that I am well recovered. If I have a hard training session that morning, I know beforehand whether my body is functioning at full recovery or not.  2. After the training session, I quantify how the training stressed my body.  3. After a recovery session (cryotherapy, massage, hyperbaric chamber), I see how my body responded. I can see what recovery processes are most effective for me.

Before Ember, I monitored my recovery qualitatively; that is, I would monitor myself based on how I ‘felt.’ With Ember, I can remove the guesswork. I define my recovery quantitatively. The numbers don’t lie. If my body is stressed, it shows in the data.  My coach takes the feedback from Ember, and tailors my training and recovery appropriately. My coach compares the data with my training log so that we can see where acute overtraining has occurred. My coach is better able to decide when to back off, and when to push me harder. He is more confident in his decisions, because he knows exactly what’s happening with my body. There is very little ambiguity. Since starting with Ember, my training has been more consistent, and my trajectory of fitness more linear. I’m confident in my ability to get back to fitness after this past PrP injection, with the help of Cercacor’s Ember.

Many elite athletes, amateurs, and weekend warriors alike have run into a similar vicious cycle when trying to rebound from a setback. Often, they set a goal and motivation is high. Training starts off hard, likely unmonitored, and before they know, they’ve overdone it. Perhaps this overtraining effect takes the form of illness, an injury or an uncharacteristic drop in motivation. To complete the cycle, athletes find themselves a little further from the goal than when they began, and a little more frustrated.

As a world-class, middle-distance athlete, setbacks like PrP injections are inevitable. But as I rebound, I can’t afford to fall into the vicious cycle that I’ve previously described. Come to think of it, no one can. Why should anyone risk losing out on their goals, simply because their training wasn’t properly monitored? With Ember, it’s easy to monitor one’s training and recovery, and pave the way to one’s goals.