Fitdigits Helps Anthony Be Heart Smart

Testimonial by Fitdigits User Anthony D.

When I was a child, I was diagnosed with Bicuspid Aortic Valve, which means that my aortic valve has only two leaflets that open and close. Normal aortic valves have three leaflets, and because of my deformity, blood leaks back into the heart during each pump cycle. As a kid, this was no big deal. My doctors told me that I wouldn’t need heart surgery until I was close to 60 years old, and by the time that happens, robots with lasers will do the surgery and I’ll be out running marathons the next day!

I lived my life without fear of my heart disease. I became very active. I got really into rock climbing. I cycle four times a week. I went backpacking and on other adventures, often very physically demanding on the body. A day without some sort of exercise is rare in my life.

Fast forward to 2011. I’m 28 years old and after a career change, just landed my first teaching job, 8th grade science. With my new health insurance plan, I decided to establish a new primary physician and cardiologist. My cardiologist did the routine checks, most importantly the echocardiogram (a sonogram for the heart). She handed me a piece of paper with a flow chart on it. She circled a spot on the confusing lines and said that someday, soon, I would need heart surgery. “Like ten to twenty years?” I asked. “One to two,” she said, “five at most.” I was shocked. I didn’t believe her.

Fast forward to present day. After two years of bi-annual visits to the echocardiogram technician, on a whim, my cardiologist scheduled a CT scan of my chest. This revealed an Ascending Aortic Aneurysm, a condition common to people with valve problems, where the aorta artery balloons as it exits the heart. The risk: rupture and sudden death. I’m thirty years old and I need open heart surgery.

My surgeon told me that in the meantime, to keep my heart rate under 140/150 BPM. I imagined that with the way I tend to push myself, this would be a difficult task. I immediately purchased a heart rate monitor that connects to my IPhone via Bluetooth. I downloaded over 5 apps, including Fitdigits. I even paid for trial versions on 3 of them. After 2 days, I knew Fitdigits was the right one for me.

Right off the bat, I liked Fitdigits’s look and appearance. Crisp and simple, with bold colors. Most importantly, and the reason I chose Fitdigits over the others, is the ability to customize preferences to you. Because I need to keep my heart rate low, I could create my own heart rate zones, and set the voice feedback to notify me when I enter those zones. The Fitdigits voice tells me when I start to approach 140 BPM, and when I go over my prescribed max, a get a warning. Using these features, I have been able to continue cycling; even going for nice long rides over thirty miles. I have been able to continue rock climbing, though not necessarily as hard as before, I am so thankful that I don’t have to give it up.

Anthony’s Heart Rate Chart

For cycling, I love how Fitdigits displays a line graph that charts heart rate, speed, and elevation. I can see what situations make my heart rate spike, so that I can plan my attack better to avoid those spikes. Another function that I appreciate is a pie graph that displays the time in each zone. I know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to when my results show less than 2% spent in the zones over 150 BPM. Not only has Fitdigits allowing me to continue exercise, but also after my surgery in November, and months of recovery, Fitdigits will teach me how to be a better athlete. Having control over one’s heart rate is important for any athlete, and in my case it is paramount. So far, Fitdigits has taught me how to be more a more efficient athlete. I plan to be a better climber and cyclist this time next year, less than a year after heart surgery.

Fitdigits has supplied me with a service that is invaluable. I would surely recommend Fitdigits to any athlete of any level, in a heartbeat (pun intended). Fitdigits has allowed me to stay strong, which will inevitably be beneficial to the recovery process ahead.

Read more about Anthony’s Heart Valve Replacement Saga on his blog, http://robovalve.wordpress.com/

Advanced Heart Rate Analysis

Fitdigits advanced heart rate analysis is now included with the Star Membership. Heart rate analysis helps you monitor how your fitness is changing through time, making sure that your efforts over multiple workouts are balanced to your goals and helping you reach those goals. It can also help you dial in your personal heart rate zones, allowing you to see how the distribution goes at different intensities.

To access new heart rate analysis charts, log into my.fitdigits.com. Go to Activities. Click the arrows on either side of the dashboard display to switch dashboards. Remember, you can adjust your time in the top left corner to view your stats by week, month, year, or custom. By dropping down the options menu, you can also change the grouping of your activities (to select Runs only, Cycle only, etc) and adjust which activity type is displayed.

BPM (Beats per Minute) Histogram

BPM histograms show your heart rate distribution for the given time frame. Below is the heart rate distribution for all workouts in 2013. Zones can be determined by dropping the Options section and selecting the heart rate zone set of your choice. Check out how Fitdigits determines heart rate zones and how accurately determine zones with fitness assessments. If you have had a fitness assessment elsewhere and know your zones, you can also manually enter them.

Zone Histogram

Zone histograms show the time spent in each heart rate zone as well as a percent breakdown for each zone. In the image below, 12% or 7:22 hours of total workout time with heart rate was spent in zone 2. The zone histogram and pie chart will show just how your time in zones adds up.

 

New advanced graphs allow you to see your time in zones over multiple workouts. Select to view workouts by month to see how your fitness is changing through time. If you choose, you may also view these changes over all workouts or over a specific workout type.

 

This can be great when you are going through different training stages or have different goals in mind. Are you looking to build your base in the off-season? If so, maybe you want to make sure you are mostly in those lower zones for longer periods of time. Are you looking to improve your stamina at race pace? Or perhaps your power for shorter distances?

Each goal has, at its core, a mix of time in the zones; if you are always pushing too hard, it may be time to give your body a break! Can you identify where you are cutting yourself short by not pushing hard enough, or if you aren’t taking enough base building time?

Fitdigits 4 Keys to Cardio Fitness

Heart Rate Spikes and Dropouts With the Polar H7 and Other Heart Rate Monitors

See Also: Troubleshooting BLE Sensors

Have you been having spikes and dropouts in your heart rate monitoring? Especially with chest straps, such as Orange Theory and Polar H7 or other devices.

The way the belt works is that it receives electrical signals from the heart that are then shown as Beats Per Minute. However, without some kind of moisture (such as saliva, water, or a conductive gel) to act as a conductor between the heart and the belt, the signal will not be strong or consistent. We believed this is what causes erratic data, so we threw our lab coats on and decided to run an experiment.

Dropouts, which often are represented by “Flat Line” readings on the chart, are very typically low battery level or lost connection issues. An interesting note however; with certain devices such as the Polar H7 which have dual mode operation, the same heart rate monitor can read just fine on gym equipment while struggling to keep connection with the app. This is because the channel the H7 communicates with the gym equipment requires less battery power, so a low battery can be enough to power that channel (5.8 GHz) than BLE. Check out this great article on changing your Polar H7 battery.

Note: The Fitdigits app does not manipulate the data it receives from a heart rate monitor at all.

Immediate spike caused by conductivity issues

The Experiment: We decided to go out for a run using two devices, the Fitdigits app as well as a Polar watch. We connected both with the Polar H7. The interesting thing about this experiment is that the phone and the watch use two different platforms. The iPhone uses Bluetooth Smart to connect with the H7, while the watch uses a 5.8 kHz signal to pair. This enables us to be comfortable concluding that if both devices spike, it is because of the belt and not because of an issue with the app, or a specific platform (such as Bluetooth Smart). So basically we went out for a run with both devices, and whenever we saw a spike in the Fitdigits app, we compared those results with the Polar watch.

The Results:The run started with a bang, spiking right off the bat and soaring to unforeseen heights all the way out of zone 5! The watch mirrored the results. When the heart chart on Fitdigits showed our BPM going above zone 5, the watch showed exactly the same results, with no discernible difference.

Conclusion We conclude that the spikes are a result of conductivity issues and / or hardware issues, not the app itself. Any time you get a spike or dropout, it is either the result of your body not having enough moisture to get a firm connection with the belt, or, in more rare cases, the hardware going bad, many times the belt, but less frequently the HRM “peanut” (brain) – the part that clips into the belt, goes bad.

We also believe messing with heart rate numbers received from a device is not a good policy, even if it is due to these malfunctions.

ot-hrm-polar-belt-spikes

If you get spikes at the beginning of your activity, typically that points to a connection issue between the strap and your body, since you haven’t yet really begun to sweat. We strongly suggest wetting the strap with either water, saliva, or a conductive gel. Fitdigits has a great blog post on Troubleshooting Your Polar H7, and noted fitness blogger DC Rainmaker also has a great post on How to Fix Heart Rate Strap Dropouts/Spikes.

If you are mostly walking / running / biking, you might consider getting and Optical HRM (like the Scosche Rhythm+ or a Mio HRM) instead of the Polar (or any chest strap). Typically, not being electrical per se, they have less of these issues.

 

If you still are experiencing issues, please contact Fitdigits customer support.

5 Heart Rate Training Myths

The Loch Ness Monster. Bigfoot. The Chupacabra. All of these myths have been circulating since the beginning of time. Since we do not have concrete evidence either way, there is no possibility of reaching a verdict as to whether the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, or the Chupacabra actually exists. However, when it comes to myths about heart rate training, we have answers as solid as steel. Read below for some common heart rate training myths, and the truth behind them.

1. If you want to burn fat, it is best to get your heart rate as high as possible. You better be working out until you are sweatier than John Goodman’s third chin after a set of crunches in a sauna.

WRONG: This statement has about as much validity as Manti Te’o’s girlfriend. The best method for burning fat at a higher percentage is a steady, consistent workout in Zone 2 (60-69% max heart rate), the fat burning zone. This zone uniquely targets fat because fat is a slow burning fuel, so if you do a long and less-intense workout, your body will target a higher amount of fat cells then carbohydrates. While you may burn more net calories in higher heart rate zones, you will burn the highest percent of fat calories in Zone 2.

2. The best way to check your heart health is to see how far you can push yourself during a workout and how fast you can go. After the workout is over, check out how far you traveled and what time you got to truly determine if you are in good health.

WRONG: If you are physically active on a regular basis, a great way to check your heart health is by checking your heart rate recovery after an intense 10-15 minute workout. You can figure out your heart rate be either using Fitdigits iCardio’s recovery feature, or by manually figuring out your recovery. Either way, if your recovery is between 22-52 beats per minute (BPM) after a 10 minute ramped up workout, it is average. If your recovery is higher than 52 BPM your heart is very healthy, and below 22 BPM your heart is slightly older then your calendar age.

3. When it comes to Heart Rate Zones, you are fine just going with the default formula of 220-your age for max heart rate. The corresponding zones are very accurate, and you don’t need more specialized zones unless you are a serious athlete.

WRONG: I would not wish this amount of uneducated bliss on my worst frienemy. Custom heart rate zones are the key to informed workouts, which will lead to better results. Not only will custom heart rate zones make zone based training as easy as a Kindergarten spelling test, but it will also result in drastically more accurate calories burned in your workouts if you are using a fitness application. Custom zones also allow for a caloric breakdown of how many fat and carbohydrate calories burned during a workout. Complete a Fitdigits Fitness Assessment to get custom HR zones.

4. In order to become better at endurance workouts, get your Forrest Gump on and go as far as humanly possible. Try to drive your heart rate higher than James Franco was in Pineapple Express. If you are going less than ten miles a day on your workouts, might as well throw in the towel and try your hand at knitting.

WRONG: The best way to train for endurance is to workout with steady pace workouts in the Aerobic Zone, which is zone 3 (70-79%). Do not run a race distance every day because that is just asking for an injury! However, once a week try to work in an LSD workout. No, I’m not saying you should be scoping out Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and “feeling colors” while you run, but rather a Long but Slow Distance workout, in which you run for a long distance at a slow and steady pace.

5. When it comes to working out, monotony is your friend. If you find a routine that works for you at an intensity level that feels right, make like a Carnival ship and keep cruising. If you mix things up too much you are danger of becoming dangerously spontaneous, which often results in a putrid body odor, sore hamstrings and the inability to pronounce “hospitable”.

WRONG: Interval training based on heart rate zones might as well be called the blender, because they are a great way to mix up your workouts. If you find you are constantly doing the same routine or route during workouts, try an interval workout to add a dash of spice to your exercise life. One great type of interval workouts is High Intensity Intercal Training (HIIT), or more specifically Tabata intervals. Tabata interval training is basically when you elevate your heart rate to Zone 5 (or 90-92 % of your max heart rate) for 20-60 seconds, followed by periods of shorter or equal rest. HIIT and Tabata is a great way to burn fat, or just to switch up your routine to keep you engaged!

Creating Interval Structured Workouts with Fitdigits

Whether doing HIIT or long slow intervals (start slow then taper lol), interval-based exercise has been shown to help you define the best workout to meet your goals.

Fitdigits iCardio, iRunner, iBiker and iWalker with a Pro Plus or Star Membership gives you the ability to create and customize your workout definition, getting visual audio cues and coaching through the routines. When you have a plan, this is the place for you.

Create workouts based on heart rate or pace zones – ideally created by using one of our fitness assessments. Structured interval workouts based on heart rate are a popular feature, and tend to be more efficient and correct, but many plans are often specified in distance and pace, rather than heart rate.

Managing and Creating an Interval Structured Workout

Access your structured interval workouts:

  1. In the app, at the main screen, swipe to select the activity type you would like to create the intervals. Any activity  – run, bike, walk, etc, can be chosen.
  2. Tap the activity options (gear) icon for that activity
  3. Tap Workout Routines

With the Pro Plus package, it comes with some stock routines, targeting different heart rate zones and outcomes, that make a good base for workouts.

Managing Structured Interval Workouts

Launch Routine: To launch a created routine, tap the routine name and tap Launch. Tap Edit Routine on that same screen if you want to edit it.

Edit Routine: Tap Edit in the top right of the screen. That will bring you to the creating / editing interval workout screen described below.

 

Creating or Editing Interval Structured Workouts

At the bottom of the list of workouts, you will see two different types of interval workouts that can be created with a variety of options. Traditional Time & Distance based, or Music based, which is a variance on time based intervals, where you can specify the length of the interval to also be the length of the song(s) you pick, to match the effort to the beat of your favorites.

Create a Heart Rate or Pace Interval Workout

  1. Tap Add at the bottom of the Workout Routines listing
  2. Tap Name and add a description of the intervals you are creating
  3. In the Zone Type, select BPM
  4. Set whether the interval will be measured by Time or Distance. If you chose to create a music based routine, it will prompt you for either a playlist or song, see below for more on Music routines.
  5. Select the Zone you would like to target for that segment
  6. To add more intervals for that series, or even add another series, repeat the above. Check out our Guide on designing fun, effective and interesting interval workouts for more on building fun and effective routines.
  7. Choose if you want to automatically start Recovery once the workout is complete, and / or to automatically End once complete.
  8. Tap Save in the upper right to save your changes.  Heart rate zone structured interval workouts

Pace Interval WorkoutsMusic Structured Interval Workouts