Taekwondo Podcast

Episode 21 - Heart Rate Variability with Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner

June 07, 2022 Taekwondo Podcast Season 1 Episode 21
Taekwondo Podcast
Episode 21 - Heart Rate Variability with Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner
Show Notes Transcript

     In the age of wearable technology,  Olympic Taekwondo can benefit tremendously from the solutions out there. Monitoring Performance using Heart Rate Variability has been deeply studied in the past decade.

  In this episode, Coach César Valentim interviews Ph.D. Christoph Rottensteiner, Sports Scientist and manager at Firstbeat Technologies, the leading company on HRV for sports.

  Firstbeat technology combines heart rate variability (HRV) data with advanced mathematical and signal processing methods to document an individual’s autonomic nervous system regulation. Their solution has already been utilized by more than 1000 Sports Teams and 100 leading universities and research institutes across Europe, North America, and Australia.

  This podcast is supported by Hawkin Dynamics, Firstbeat Sports and Athlete Analyzer! 

 Visit our Instagram @taekwondopodcast and Facebook @taekwondocast 

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Announcer (00:01):
Have you been looking for a Taekwondo Podcast with qualified people, who know what they're talking about, who help you keep up with everything going on in the Taekwondo World? Well, you found it. This is the Taekwondo Podcast. Taekwondo news, competitions and other events, training and sports science keeping the fans, coaches, and high-performance athletes up to date with the latest news and trends in Olympic Taekwondo. Let’s do this! This is the Taekwondo Podcast. And now your hosts Coach César Valentim and Peter Nestler.

Coach César Valentim (00:41):
Hello and welcome to the Taekwondo Podcast. We are a Podcast based out of Austria in English language for everyone out there who likes Taekwondo. In this episode, we talk with Dr. Cristoph Rottensteiner, sports scientist and director at Firstbeat Technologies. 

<Ad> (01:10):
This podcast is sponsored by Firstbeat sports. Firstbeat sports combines the most comprehensive analytics in team sports with a customizable interface to support real-time monitoring, recovery monitoring, performance management, and much more. The result: data-driven decisions that support your athletes and team training, recovery, and performance goals. Firstbeat Sports is trusted by professionals, over 23 000 athletes representing over 1000 teams around the world rely on the solution to train and plan with confidence on a team and individual level using HRV-based insights. For more information, please visit our website firstbeat.com/sports

Coach César Valentim (01:50):
Welcome to our podcast. I’m coach Césae Valentim and with me is Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner. Hi Christoph, how are you?

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner (01:56):
Hello César, thank you. I’m good and thank you again for this invitation.

Coach César Valentim (02:02):
It is a pleasure having you. It is something we have talked about and we scheduled this for a few weeks already. Christopher, for everyone out there who doesn’t know you, can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner (02:15):
Yeah, I’m as you have probably already guessed from my surname, I am also from Austria, originally. Now living almost 12 years in Finnland and I’ve studied sports science in Austria at the University of Graz. During my exchange in 2006/7, I got in touch with Finnland and the University of jyväskyla. And it was from the beginning very exciting for me to study at this faculty and get deeper into sports science. Therefore I also decided to start my Ph.D. there at the faculty of sports science at the University of Jyväskyla, in 2010. I’ve done that in cooperation with the research institute of Olympic sports and was working there for almost 4 years and writing my thesis related also to performance optimization and youth development. 2014 I got this opportunity to start working at Firstbeat technologies in Jyväskyla, Finnland. It is a Finnish-based company and actually a spin-off of the University of Jyväskyla and I started there in 2014. My main responsibility at that time was to establish the company in the german-speaking market. Nowadays my responsibility has been changing a bit, I’m responsible for all of Europe. We have been growing as a company very nicely and have been existing for almost 20 years on the market already.

Coach César Valentim (04:05):
That’s awesome. Fisrtbeat is definitely one of the best resources out there for coaches. And you, with your background and your experience in sports performance, are the perfect person to invite to this podcast, since it is all about Olympic Taekwondo and performance Taekwondo. Firstbeat is basically a heart rate variability (HRV) solution. Why is it so important to monitor HRV in the sports environment?

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner (04:28):
Exactly. Our core element is the heart and heart rate variability. We are the pioneers, as I said, our company was founded already in 2002. We are 20 years on the market. Many of you already know that Finnland is a very good place not only for technology but also for heart rate analysis. Our focus has always been on professional sports. We know that internal load management and recovery play a quite crucial role in performance optimization and it has been our key element to help athletes perform as well as possible on day x. As well, they care about their recovery so that the performance optimization is set up perfectly for certain tournaments, such as world championships. 

Coach Césae Valentim (05:22):
You are talking about professional sports and performance optimization, what kind of clients, and what kind of teams use your equipment?

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner (05:30):
It differs, actually. We started by getting deeper into human physiology by examining especially endurance athletes, their training periodizations, and their training loads. But nowadays we are mainly working in team sports, but also happy to be present in Taekwondo. We have over 1000 teams worldwide and are working with the best teams in football, Basketball, the NBA, the NHL in Ice Hockey. Also in endurance sports, the biathlon and triathlon customers are using our technology on a daily basis. 

Coach César Valentim (06:17):
For those who don’t know your technology, and I am one of your clients and am happy to be working with Firstbeat for a while now, the entry equipment is mostly a heart rate belt that you use during training but you also use it in the morning before training. Can you tell us a bit about it? 

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner (06:37):
Yes, as already mentioned, there are two core elements in optimizing an athlete's performance. This is firstly to examine the training load. This means that the sensor, the heart rate belt, is provided to the athlete and we are able as the coaching team or even as the athlete to track in real-time the workout and the accumulated load. You see the time spent in high-intensity training zones, heart rate zones or other metrics that are crucial for providing deeper insight. For example, the training effect which provides insight into the aerobic and anaerobic energy system and also training impulse, another metric which is applied a lot in professional sports. And besides these training load metrics, which you are able to track in real-time, we are also taking care of the athletes by examining the heart rate recovery and heart rate variability in a very short quick recovery test in the morning. Meaning that the athlete is lying down for 3 minutes and based on their autonomic nervous system we are able to provide insight to the athlete or the coach about the recovery level.

Coach César Valentim ( 08:07):
That is very important when you mention periodization. I do see a live training load and intensity data when I have my iPad on. I see all my players on one dashboard, I see who actually has a TRIMP value, so a Training Intensity value, and which heart rate zones they are in. Also, I can see movement loads, how many calories were burnt, that’s very important. But the fact that in the morning they do a quick recovery test allows me, before I even leave my house, to take a look at my athletes, to see how the training from yesterday affected their recovery today, and even adapt my training. That’s something that makes me very happy because it’s an amazing tool for my periodization. I can tell you that two weeks, three weeks ago when I flew to the European championships the athlete that was competing had a training status, measured by HRV and also by your dashboard that allows me to monitor the periodization for the last weeks, of 100%. It doesn’t mean that she is going to win, but it definitely means that she went in the competition area to the match with the optimal performance. And her performance status is something that is good for me to know and to prevent burnouts and to optimize my training, but also for the players when they buy into the system and they get to see: “Wait, I am good. I am feeling good and my system says I am good.” All these factors combined, physical, and psychological definitely influence the training. In terms of periodization, what is the secret behind Firstbeat? Why is the dashboard of Firstbeat so good?

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner (10:00):
Thanks for these kind words and I have to play the ball right back to you and also mention, César, that you and your team have been managing this pretty nicely from the beginning. Because you have been creating an environment where accuracy also plays a quite important role. Your athletes get up in the morning and these standardized test conditions are pretty clearly communicated with them. And this chronological data documentation, which is a key element of our dashboard becomes very powerful for example, thinking about this quick recovery test, of course, is a very short measurement for 3 minutes. But at the same time, if you create good standardized test conditions and you set up a nice baseline for the athlete you have a powerful insight based on their databank. You can see certain trends and also expect other external factors which might also have an influence on an athlete's performance or recovery. And this combination of having on one dashboard both the load management and the recovery behavior, I think this is one strength, which we are trying to bring the physiology as smartly as possible to the end-user, to the athlete so that he understands what is actually going on and also communicating data with the coach and also the player. I think this is something that is so important and building this bridge between science and practice so you understand physiology on a daily level. 

Coach César Valentim(11:58):
Yeah well, having standardization of the tests is something that every sports scientist and every trainer should know. The quick recovery test should be like any other test. If you want to do a counter movement jump or even a rate of force development test you should always create the same conditions, the same warm-up, same time of the day, same temperature as possible so that the athletes can replicate the results. The fact that the standardization of the quick recovery test and the players that buy in and understand why it is important to do the test at the same time at the same conditions allow me to monitor other things. And in combat sports where you have factors such as losing weight and in female sports where you have the factor of having the period or not having the period allows your players to understand if they are ready for training. That’s why we call it the readiness test most of the time instead of quick recovery because you understand if they are ready for training or what kind of training they are ready for. Two years ago I detected that the quick recovery test was not matching up with the training load that I was giving to my athletes and we were able to identify three days before we had the first symptoms that we had COVID. And that’s something that we managed to do. It does not need to be COVID, it could be the flu. The first symptoms only show up after the body is infected and you already see it with your HRV that it is not matching up in the morning. HRV is definitely a very powerful tool. 

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner (13:30):
Yeah, I definitely agree. I think there is still a lot of research to be done when it comes to viral infection detection. HRV is one of those tools which can very early on already highlight that there might be something going on in the human body. And one thing that I personally see is that you as a coach have your strength based on the data bank. If you have a nice baseline and also interpreting HRV gets easier and easier per season, per year, because you already have your reference value for the athlete, meaning that you know the maximum and minimum RMSSD for example. It provides you with an excellent tool to communicate with the athlete based on objective data. And I think this is the main and most powerful tool of coaches to have something more in hand than subjective background answers from the athlete or the feedback via conversation in addition to that, which is, of course, a key element of coaching. YOu have something objective and accurate on paper to discuss. 

Coach César Valentim (15:05):
Yes of course. You have to complement the data you get from the internal heart rate sensors to also subjective BORG scales, readiness questionnaires, even as you said, talking to your athletes is something every coach should do before the training or on the way to training or during warm-up. How are you feeling? How was your day? Any injuries? If you have a multi-disciplinary team and there’s a physio and an S&C coach it’s important that everybody talks to each other. The Firstbear dashboard is obviously very useful because everyone has access to the same data and it allows the athletes to have all their important information visible to the team members. One of the things you have that is very unique, and I think you are the only ones out there in terms of sports solutions who have it, is your bodyguard system. Can you tell us a bit about the bodyguard?

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner (15:58):
Yeah, besides the quick recovery test we provide the athletes an opportunity to get a deeper insight into their autonomic nervous system and especially like their behavior outside of the training facilities. This bodyguard is an HRV measurement device which is very accurate. It has a sample rate of 1000 Hrz/min. It is used with two electrodes and as I already said it provides deeper insight into reactions, meaning the parasympathetic and sympathetic activation. So the green and red are gas pedal and stop pedal, that's how you say it in practice. But this gives us a long-term measurement opportunity, where especially behavior in free time, lifestyle, nutrition, social media, blue light, and smartphones, how these actually affect the athlete. And then, one key element, of course, is in recovery is sleep. So we are able to very precisely detect the sleep behavior of the athlete by using this bodyguard device. So you have a very powerful tool which can be used more on a specific momentum, where you select a certain period or training camp where the athlete is wearing this bodyguard device for 24 hours or for 72 hours. Then you also have a report where you can really highlight what is actually doing you good or where there should be some changes.

Coach César Valentim (18:00):
I have two of them. Those are very small devices, as you mentioned, they connect with electrodes to the player's chest. They are fixed, they stay there for a few days. Of course, you can change the pads. You take them off when you go for a shower and you can use them for up to five days. I only use them when I see that my players´ quick recovery is not matching the training for a few weeks. If I detect that my player is having some stress and they are psychologically affected, they have no motivation for training, that they have trouble sleeping then I ask them to use the device. The athletes actually understand why they are using it and we can measure how their day goes, and where they have stress. If it’s in the morning before school or during school, after school, before training, or after training. How they sleep or which time of their sleep is the best recovery time. So we can evaluate if they are late sleepers or early sleepers if they should sleep longer in the morning. That’S something in which we can guide them and it’s all thanks to Firstbeat. So people might not even understand until they see your website how good and how much data you can have and that data can help the athletes in their daily life. Not only in sports but also changing their life habits as you said nutrition, their time on social media, their interactions with other people, what is making them anxious, and what is making them perform worse. All these tools are available out there. It’s amazing that you guys came up with this. How do you usually use the bodyguard in team sports?

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner ( 19:45):
As you said, it is a very powerful tool in team sports. Communication from the coach is so crucial. That the athletes do not have the feeling that only data is collected and some guy is sitting behind his laptop and analyzing this data and it is never shared and transferred to the athletes themselves. You always have this feeling that there are cables somewhere around you, but at the same time you never get any kinds of results or feedback on that and in team sports, I have to say, it is becoming more and more like this. Because nowadays we track all these variables in pro sports, but it’s also very sensitive in that way because we need to make sure that when we collect data that it is also openly shared with the athletes and that changes are made based on the data collected from the athlete. I see that in the coaching part there are a lot of opportunities to prepare yourself better in that way so that you are not just storing and collecting data. In football, we know that this bodyguard device is sometimes challenging, especially in pro sports, mainly the athletes do not want to wear anything in their free time and all is related to the time they spend at the training facility. Outside of the training facility, they want to have this freedom. But at the same time, we know that there are millions of drills and actually training plan is either an S&C session or technical tactical aspects. The amount of new stuff is not so huge and I think therefore we as a coach should also keep in mind that a week is long and outside of training we don’t actually know what the athlete is doing. When he says he is recovering it might be in the shopping mall or doing something private that is actually quite heavy and not related at all to recovery. Therefore I think this bodyguard device really shouldn’t be only a tracking and monitoring tool. From the psychological and pedagogical point of view, especially for young athletes but also for older athletes it can be a key element for professionalization in Pro sports.

Coach César Valentim (22:48):
As you mentioned the athletes don’t like to be monitored outside of training. I also don’t need to know about their private life so that’s why I only use it with the ones that understand when they need to be monitored and they ask to be monitored. We will take a little break and we will come back with more developments on Firstbeat.

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<Ad> (24:28)
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Announcer (25:50):
You're listening to the Taekwondo podcast. Now back to your hosts, coach César, Valentim, and Peter Nestler.

Coach César Valentim ( 26:04):
Welcome back. We are here talking to Christoph Rottensteiner from Firstbeat. We talked about your heart rate sensor, the sports solution, and also the bodyguard which is a 24hr HRV monitoring device. Can you share with us some of the other things Firstbeat has planned in the future?

Dr. Chrisoph Rottensteiner (26:25):
Yeah definitely. Since we are a technology-driven company and our strength is analytics. We from our R&D team are always trying to listen to the feedback from the customers from the field. It’s part of our strategy, of our company idea to get the feedback from the field and try to then use our scientific, evidence-based know-how to combine it. This is also some reason why we are often asking through our platforms for feedback from the coaches and then we evaluate the feedback and try to put it on our road map. So like the opportunity with the new sensor to examine movements, movement intensity, and movement load based on acceleration. We are really trying to use this in the future to combine it with the so-called movement efficiency score, where you combine external and internal training load data and try to give you more insights about the actual performance. So performance behavior throughout the seasons, throughout certain periods. And as I already said at the beginning of this podcast, Firstbeat does not only provide heart rate like other variables where you see time spent in certain training zones, but we are really trying to provide metrics like this “training effect” or “training impulse”, which gives you deeper insight into the internal behavior. Hopefully, with this movement efficiency, we are also giving coaches a parameter which combines both and which helps them with the long-term development pathway of the athlete.

Coach César Valentim (28:30):
One of the abilities that your device has is the ability to connect several devices at the same time to the coach dashboard. Do you have plans for the players to have all this data accessible by individually acquiring the equipment? I’m thinking about all these players that do not have big structures like my training center. THey’re individual players, sometimes the only fighters in the club where they are and they have to travel alone, and do some of their planning alone. Can they also get these devices on their own?

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner (29:03):
This is also something that was with all this COVID, but the past two years led us as a company to decide that we need to get more involved with the athletes themselves and we created a new webshop. So the athlete is actually also on an individual level able to purchase our technology. Our webshop as well as the new athlete application is actually built up for that, so the athlete is able to see real-time data and also is able to do a quick recovery test by himself through the smartphone. And I think this is exactly the right approach to hopefully get feedback from the athletes in the future but also get them to be more aware of physiology and their reactions to certain training periods or workouts. 

Coach César Valentim (30:03):
What I am going to ask you is to imagine that I was not already a longtime user of Firtsbeat and you want me to start using your solution so that every other listener that is a Taekwondo trainer a Taekwondo coach or a Taekwondo parent or player. Why should I get Firstbeat? Why is Firstbeat advantageous compared to the other solutions out there?

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner (30:29):
Very good question and I will try to answer honestly, not as a salesperson, but more as a sports scientist. Those are my rules. I think we are all aware that in a collision sport if it’s rugby, Ice Hockey or Taekwondo if we think about really heavy body contact happening that the heart rate sensor or heart rate belt is, in the beginning, it might disturb the athlete, he needs to focus on the winning part, of course. But I have to say we have made so many contracts and long-term partnerships with exactly these kinds of collision sports or martial arts where it always comes down to the communication. What is the coach saying? Do you trust what we are doing? And do you actually understand why we are doing it? And there Firstbeat can really help to give the coach objective feedback about his workout. Is the Intensity high enough? Is it low enough? Is it right on that day? Is the workout, the drills, challenging enough for my top athletes, or is it more for our amateur or lower-level athletes? Did I do the right workout at that time? And also to plan it for specific tournaments, so that you are tapering your athletes. With this objective data from Firstbeat, you have a very powerful tool with which you can convince not only athletes but also yourself that you are on the right track or you learn that you actually need to make changes. So this is something where we from Firstbeat can provide extra tools and support the coaching staff and the athletes themselves.

Coach César Valentim (32:33):
Well, very well put. You do not need to sell it to me, I am religiously engaged with Firstbeat by now. I’ve used many other heart rate monitoring solutions since the wearables are actually affordable, but Firstbeat is definitely the only solution I want. And the fact that you guys are available when I write you a WhatsApp or an email I get an answer on the same day with the solution to my problem or with some tips on how to work this or that. The customer support, the information, and the science background can also be there to help me, it’s definitely priceless. I think you have been on my speed dial for a long time now. 

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner (33:27):
Thank you, that you for highlighting this so nicely, and I am really happy to get this feedback because this is what makes me as a Firstbeat employee and also or company happy. Because we want to help the athletes and also the coach in general. Like also maybe taking away some of the reluctance to use technology, for some it is not yet a concept, but I see in the future it brings the whole sport forward if we apply technology to Taekwondo step by step and I think this is also what we are trying by having our own customer success management department, where our clients really have from the beginning the feeling that we really want to learn from them and also help if there are any questions through online support but also through the learning center where there is also a lot of material available.

Coach César Valentim (34:30):
Definitely a lot of resources out there. Besides the learning center where can people find more information about Firstbeat? But also about you Christoph can you share with us your public social media and the ones from Firstbeat as well?

Dr. Christoph Rottensteiner (34:47):
Yeah, i wouldn’t call myself old-school. I have all kinds of social media channels from Facebook to Instagramm to LinkedIn, so feel free to contact me in this way but you can also share my Email adress and also phone number. I am really happy to discuss with other sports scientists and coaches about our company or in general the topic performance optimization, athlete monitoring. I am always really happy to learn, but also to share experiences I’ve made in the past decade in pro sports. 

Coach César Valentim (35:27):
Amazing. Thank you Christoph. We will make sure to link you and tag you on our posts when we release this episode on Instagram and Facebook. It was a pleasure being here with you and everyone who was listening. This was the Taekwondo Podcast. If you haven’t already listened to our other episodes, they are available online, wherever you listen to your podcasts. We are releasing new episodes every Tuesday. Stay tuned, subscribe to our podcast, leave us a positive review and share it with your friends. See you next time!

Announcer (35:54):
You've been listening to the Taekwondo podcast, keeping the fans, coaches, and high-performance athletes up to date with the latest news and trends on Olympic Taekwondo your host coach César Valentim has all almost 20 years of experience with high-performance Taekwondo and has worked all around the world. As a Taekwondo trainer. Peter Nestler has been teaching Taekwondo for more than 20 years, and he's currently one of the top referees in Europe. We hope you enjoyed the show, make sure to like, rate, and review and we'll be back soon. But in the meantime, find us on Instagram @taekwondopodcast on Facebook @taekwondocast, and the website taekwondopodcast.com. See you next time.