I’m a attracted to the technicalities of training more than the actual training, and I’m always on the look out for a gadget that might reduce the need for the latter.
I was immediately attracted to the BSX Insight campaign on Kickstarter, not only because it’s a cool new sporty gadget but also because it offers insights that should enable me to train smarter (where training smarter means training less). Perhaps not less than I currently train but less than a very eager, yet clueless runner.
BSX Insight Review
BSX Insight is a small sensor, worn in a tight calf sleeve, that monitors muscle oxygenation in order to estimate your lactate threshold. It apparently has a high level of accuracy when compared to the industry standard lactate testing methodology, which involves multiple blood draws to measure the increasing concentration of lactic acid in the system. For the first time, lactate threshold testing has been opened up to the masses, for home testing without invasive blood tests.
What is Lactate Threshold
In everyday practice, the most common use of the term is the intensity at which your body can no longer sustainably keep up with the energy demand. In other words, it is the highest intensity, or the fastest pace, that you could maintain without a steady increase in blood lactate.
In practice, it represents the highest workload that can be maintained for an extended period of time, usually around 45-60 minutes.
It’s still early days with the development of the BSX Insight and at the moment you can only perform LT assessments with it. In time you should be able to use this in daily runs to monitor muscle oxygenation in real time.
Lactate Threshold Assessment
You start with the BSX Insight app which requires you to answer a few questions relating to your current conversational and 10k pace.
Note that this is a gadget for elites and slow pokes alike. If your conversation pace is 10 min/km or 5 min it will still take you through your paces and deliver results for you.
The app then indicates the pace zones it will take you through, aiming to have taken you to exhaustion after about 30 mins of progressive running.
The app then connects (via Bluetooth I think) to the BSX sensor which in turn connects to your ANT+ Heart Rate monitor. I used the HR strap that came with my Garmin 920XT and had to hold the BSX sensor next to the strap to cement the initial connection. Having made the connection it held it for the duration of the assessment.
Once the setup is completed it is time to get on the treadmill and hit start. You really need to use a treadmill for the assessment stage as you are required to maintain a consistent pace for 3 minutes before it bumps you up by perhaps only 0.1 kph for another 3 minutes. It would be extremely hard to hit that level of consistency if you were running free.
During the run the app indicates your current instructions, either a pace or speed target to maintain, along with your heart rate and current muscle oxygenation levels.
I imagine that when you reach true exhaustion the muscle oxygenation level will begin to drop off. Unfortunately I have to imagine this as I’ve done the test twice now and think I have bailed on both occasions, just before my lactate threshold was reached. It didn’t seem to harm the experiment though, and so long as you run for at least 20 minutes I think the app will be able to estimate the LT.
Results of the Lactate Threshold Home Test
The results are calculated almost immediately and your results are compared to any previous assessments you’ve completed.
Probably the most useful feature is the display of your personal training zones. And that’s personal as in truly personal and not just calculations based on 220 – your age. You can view your training zones as either pace based or HR zones.
The trick now is to take these zones and design a training program which utilises your new found insight, to push the boundaries and increase your fitness so you reach your Lactate Threshold at a faster pace.
BSX Insight do offer a free training program to help with this but in a nutshell, I will be keeping the bulk of my runs in the Zone 2 Aerobic Threshold with twice weekly interval sessions where I push to Zones 4 and 5. It’s these higher zones that will work on improving my LT.
I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops and perhaps integrates with other services. At the moment I can see the results of my assessment but I don’t seem to be able to access the data. I’d like to be able to view the muscle oxygenation and HR charts as shown above but at the moment they appear to be locked down.