Heart Rate Training and Wearables

Marcelo Aller, Vice President of Sales at Bio Strap, joins the podcast to discuss heart rate training and wearables.

Spotify Link to the MetPro Method Podcast

Crystal O'Keefe: Welcome to the MetPro Method Podcast. I am your host, Crystal O'Keefe. Today we are joined by Marcelo Aller and he's vice President of Sales at Bio Strap. And today we are discussing heart rate training.

Marcelo, thank you so much for being here today. I really appreciate it. I was wondering if you could start by telling us a little bit about your background and how you became such an expert on heart rate training.

Marcello Aller: Thank you. My background really starts off with 12 years on the service side of the industry as a CSCS coach, personal trainer, working in health clubs, having my own speed, agility, quickness camp and I really was an advocate of wearable technologies ahead of time.

So as a user, I collected data on my clients, on the athletes I worked with. I had access to some unique, population sets after 12 years, I became a subject matter expert and I really took that opportunity to work with a lot of vendors that I worked with at that time and took that passion and brought it into, where I spent the last 20 years with companies such as Polar, uh, Zephyr, Mio, as well as now Bio Strap, where it's an evidence-based, platform that allows me to use 20 years of know-how experience, from the end user all the way over to operations. And I'm currently, actually finishing my MBA. The passion has really been a life learner. I've used this with various different types of organizations.

I've worked with different populations based on fitness goals and then that usually is consistent through all the populations. So, tests, applying training zones, there's many different ways. And this kind of says, how do you do it? And it really depends. It's asking the right questions and it's usually applying evidence-based approaches.

Crystal O'Keefe: Okay. For those people that are tuning in who may not have heard some of the verbiage you're using before a wearable is simply any kind of device that tracks data, and in this case specifically your heart rate. Correct?

Marcello Aller: Yeah. Now it's actually more than just heart rate. If you really take a look at it, it's going beyond heart rate.

The evolution that, when it started with Polar, it was the father of chest belt technology. Since that, have there been more updates for that technology? There have been. It still does the same thing. What's new now from a wearable definition is optical sensors, magnetometers, galvanic skin sensors, more dimensions of accelerometry data.

So, it's a wearable to be almost anything. It really depends, but you are right. It's more than just heart rate. So people should understand that should be. The right, what does that mean? And is it the right choice for them?

Crystal O'Keefe: Yeah, and there's so many to choose from today. I mean, there's a heart rate monitor in your Apple watch.

There's Woop, there's obviously a Bio Strap, and Polar still has a million different kinds of different things that you can get. There's chest straps, there's wrist straps, and so yeah, it is very confusing. First of all, what are heart rate zones and how do you make sure you're using a device correctly?

Marcello Aller: Yeah, yeah. so heart rate zones, it depends on who you ask about that definition. But if we go by textbook it's really based on intensity and duration of time. And that tells, theoretically, what energy you're using, fat and carbohydrates to keep it simple.

A conversation has been questioned more about is it accurate, and what are the methods that you have available to you? So there's many forms. There's a talk test, there's blood testing, there is ventilation testing of some type, which you would use a wearable that could measure ventilation deflection.

That tells us where the threshold number is, and anything below that technically is fat burning predominantly. But at the end of the day, energy target zone training is really a sport. So, it really depends on what are you trying to do? Are you trying to train for an event or are you trying to train for weight loss?

What, what's the zone training for?

Crystal O'Keefe: Okay. So that's a great point. If you kind of back into this whole thing, there's a million different ways you can come up with what heart rate zones you should be looking at, but, once you've decided whatever you're going to use for that and at MetPro as a coach, I recommend the talk test unless you want to spend money to get a testing done.

And then I feel like the gold standard is that VO2 max going through that process. But it's expensive and it's not always easy to find a place to do it. But once you have those zones and you're saying, okay, now I understand what my training zones are or my zones are, then you have to decide, well, how are you going to use it for training?

Because there are people who are training for something like a marathon or they're training for an Ironman, but then you have the person who they're just trying to get fit. They haven't been moving and they just want to start moving. Those might be two different sets of heart rate zones that you would look at.

Marcello Aller: Yeah, correct. A hundred percent. That’s why I bring up, you bring up a good point. It's like what's, what can be done that effectively measures work and intensity. And then based on that, how does that apply to the sport? Or the goal that I'm trying to train for and in for a person with weight loss it's more about caloric expenditure, but also, energy efficiency.

And that could be measured in HIIT training or moderate intensity training or long intensity as well. It's a healthy mixture of all those intensities. That's where heart rate zones are meaningful. It’s time spent in zones that you need to spend in to be able to make an impact on those goals.

That's how it should be used, testing it and if you can keep it simple, like a 1.5 mile run to get your VO2 max score and to get your target zones. It's great. It's simple. If you can do it. It's also a great, longevity, testing solution that you can do anywhere.

And to your point, it's really for free if you have a wearable.

Crystal O'Keefe: So, you're saying there are wearables that, try to mimic that kind of in laboratory VO2 max experience, is that what you're saying?

Marcello Aller: Yeah. Field testing. Yeah. Field testing is how I refer to it. Like Polar has a running test.

Bio Strap has a VO2 max test. It's based on known information, distance covered, and then the heart rates associated with it and the time. Okay. And that can then give us an estimated VO2 max based on the activity that we're looking at. Typically ground-based activities and cycling activities are the other ones that we see indoors.

But not many people love to get on there and give me like a walk test because that's really what I would do. I would be like, here's a five minute walk test. Not pleasant. But, very effective training tool for any population.

Crystal O'Keefe: Yeah, I've done two in a laboratory, and they are, they're not pleasant. They're not pleasant. I mean, you feel like you're going to die.

Marcello Aller: Yeah. Yeah, but it's a great fitness tool, right? It tells you your size engine. You know how efficient you are and then it really helps you understand that max number and then you can back it into your training zone.

Crystal O'Keefe: Yeah, that’s interesting. I find that I do better in a laboratory because I wear an Apple watch and a whoop, and my Apple watch will tell me, oh, here's what I think your VO2 max is.

And my Apple watch consistently tells me that my VO2 max is way lower than what I did in the lab. Do you have thoughts on that? This is just for me.

Marcello Aller: This is one of the things that I have a gripe with in our industry that I've worked in. There's no standardized model out there, so if we're going to get this to a point where we can get a bigger impact, the opportunity now is to help manage this foreseeable health crisis.

And that's really, as a company, we're envisioned on where we want to make a real good sensor that allows us to do this. So, wearables today all have different algorithms. Everything is a black box, everything's proprietary. Very few companies provide you raw data as well as process data.

They feel like, you know, it could probably expose the secret sauce. Okay. Um, I, I don't believe that's facts because not everyone's going to be able to make sense of raw data sets. That algorithm may be different in some capacities and you just have to continue validating it. And I think that's where the big difference is in wearable devices.

No standardization and the ability to provide raw data. To do the right thing, to be able to make sure that everyone is comparatively doing the right. Data processing and have the proper standards. So, it frustrates me because, to your point, I use multiple devices too.

I have, you know, I usually wear four devices at the same time. So it's like, I'm just constantly looking at data sets and I try to understand, it's like, why is, why does Garmin tell me my VO2 max is at a 51 while my Polar is telling me 47? And when I do a ground-based exercise, like a 1.5 mile run, it's more like in the 40 ones based on that.

So, it's like, okay, which one is right? I look at work being actually done. And so I combine, some of the metrics, but usually the standard deviations are higher. I do lab testing. I go down to Columbus and at Ohio State's labs, I'd like to do a DXA scan and some physiological testing, but to your point, it's not cheap, right?

The value of wearing a wearable is that you can fill in these gaps. Because the episodic measurements, the day that you tested, so what, that was that day, right? That variable. Everyone likes to look at one metric and it's the end all, be all. And people have to understand it's not just the one set of data, but it's the trend as well.

Crystal O'Keefe: Right? So, so, My Apple Watch gives me a totally different metric than your polar and you're wearing four different things. Even if they all give you different ones, you should still be able to see are you making progress with your training by the trends you're seeing, right?

Marcello Aller: Yeah. Yeah. Correct. And that's where everyone's like, well, everyone tracks heart rate.

But are you looking at your resting heart rate variables? Are you looking at heart rate variability? Are you looking at blood oxygen? How does pull reference to your activity that you've done throughout your active daily living? And then if you add in sleep, which at the end of the day is I think, you could measure certain things like latency, duration for now, effectively REM as well, effectively without, you know, making, extreme claims.

That's meaningful information on your training behavior on your lifestyle. So that's where I think wearables today are really making more of an impact to be able to make changes on a longevity scale, on a health scale, and also on a fitness scale.

Crystal O'Keefe: So, what kind of impacts do you see them making?

Marcello Aller: Yeah. Heart rate variability is really being used, unique applications from biofeedback as an indicator of, impact on the autonomic nervous system. So let's say, I like to do box breathing to prepare myself for either a meeting or for some type of stressful situation.

Who knows why we would need to have that process in place. Right? Um, so I-

Crystal O'Keefe: A weekend with your family check in.

Marcello Aller: Yeah. Who knows, you know, Thanksgiving. We could do a session of breathing where we can do a pre and post measurement, and you can then see the delta change.

But you could more importantly see what was my stress rate going into an intervention coming out of it. So, looking at variables like heart rate variability, and looking at heart rate. Those are two variables that I think are great. And I think we do that right now in our Bio Strap solution. And it's actually being used too by practitioners in research studies for like PTSD for people with a stress condition where we're being used in an assortment of populations too, with that methodology.

Just looking at it from a biofeedback simple bio, is this working? No. And seeing the state your body's in, so, heart rate in a training situation, no one's disputing that. It’s pretty evidence based. It's where else can this wearable technology fill in gaps outside of the training hours that I feel is really meaningful to have a wearable today.

Crystal O'Keefe: So when we talk about why should you wear a heart rate monitor of any kind, a wearable of any kind, that makes sense. But I remember, I'm dating myself here, when I was a kid, you know, you used to have to do the little test where you used to feel where your pulse was and you'd check it for 10 seconds and then multiply it times six.

And that was your heart rate. If somebody like hates the idea of using a wearable, are there still ways to be able to, like, can you just exercise and not worry about it, I guess is what I'm saying?

Marcello Aller: No.

Crystal O'Keefe: Okay. Why?

Marcello Aller: No, realistically, everyone assumes that they're healthy and that they're never going to have a condition with their heart.

Wearable technology can actually save, individuals from doing harm and understanding where the stress of the vehicle is, right? It's like you're driving a vehicle, you have a dashboard, you're seeing your gas gig, you're seeing your, your gasoline gauge. That's really important.

And that's really where a wearable of some type, because I've seen it personally, where, four years ago I'm doing my day-to-day like I am doing today with you. I fit in a small HIIT session. So I'm, I run down and my standing heart rate was at 176 beats per minute. Uh oh. Um, standing like this, right?

Wasn't aware. Put on different devices, made sure it wasn't a battery issue because I've come across, Many different types of reasons of the heart rate might not be accurate, right? So then I put on other devices and find out it was accurate, within that 36 hours if I did not have a wearable on.

Let's say I would not be having this discussion with you. I was cardioverted and ever since then, knock on wood, made some, lifestyle changes as well as, um, you know, I've been a person who's been passionate about heart rate technology, but I've always had it because at a young age, I even had a, a condition as well.

Oh, wow. It's no joke when people like really love their tagline. And one of the taglines, that I like to use is “Train With Heart”.

Crystal O'Keefe: Yeah, that's a good one. That's a very good one.

Yeah, I know that I've had some friends who have had experiences using wearables that have saved their lives.

I agree with you 100% and I like to wear mine because I'm not only do I do a lot of different kinds of exercise, but I'm also what I would call a data nerd. So, I love to see how different things, how they'll affect the wearables different, like you said about sleeping or if I do meditation or if I eat a whole lot of carbs the night before, what happens to my heart rate variability?

How do I feel the next day? My heart rate has trouble staying lower. It's just interesting data. Yeah.

Marcello Aller: Yeah. Heart rate variability is something that I think, is very hard to understand initially. I would say it took 20 years for people to understand heart rate technology.

It was developed in the seventies. So, you know, it's not that old chest belt technology, but the culture from let's say that until the two thousands wasn't really, you weren't adopting heart rate training mainstream. It was endurance athletes, at best, or Olympic athletes at best.

Heart rate variability is a really new novel metric probably used in the mainstream. After the year 2000, prior to that, in super soldier programs in research and mortality studies really has been the larger genre of heart rate variability where people with high heart rate variability have been associated with longer lifespans.

So, it's a great stress marker. I feel like that's a marker that you're going to see a lot more, not just from a recovery standpoint, but it could be a great stress score as well. And that's really where a lot of the novel biomarker development that I'm seeing in the market space, um, being pursued by everyone

So, some are evidence-based, some are not.

Crystal O'Keefe: Tell me more about that. What do you mean?

Marcello Aller: A lot of these algorithms are grouping of these metrics. Oh, like, okay, heart rate, resting heart rate, heart rate variability, and one other variable. And it gives me a training load score or a recovery score of some capacity.

Right? So that's their proprietary algorithm. That's what they're making this assumption of recovery or training load or some form of feedback. Some are based on. Like known, research based that's been shared and people have been peer reviewed and shown to be true.

Crystal O'Keefe: I gotcha. It's so new at this point that those algorithms have not necessarily been proven out for all the different devices that are out there that tell you recovery scores and things like that.

Marcello Aller: I would say, they, some have evidence. How strong is that evidence, number one, and how available is that for people to ask that question when you're, making a purchasing decision for your company, for yourself, or for anyone? I feel like consumers are really smart today.

80 or 90% know what they want to have based on researching the internet. And I hope one of the questions they're asking is this evidence based and. Is this a real number to look at, before I adopt anything and change anything and do I understand it? That's really it.

It's making the most out of the technology that's available to you, and not that it doesn't become a gadget.

Crystal O'Keefe: That makes sense. And, going back to just like heart rate zones, specifically for people who are looking to, use them for training. Whether that be they're just starting out or they're more advanced athletes, if they don't know what they're looking for when it comes to heart rate zones.

Is there a place that a person should go just to get started for, here's what I should do. Day one.

Marcello Aller: It really depends on how the body adapts. So certain people adapt better to certain types of training styles. That's a trial and error basis. You can do testing of some sort. A good example is, if you are looking for an event training, the biggest argument is you have this group of polarized training individuals where 20% of their training is only at a high intensity and the rest is in this zone two category.

And then you have this other school of thought that's more high intensity interval training. and there's pros and cons on both sides. It really depends upon how much time you have to train, and your level of fitness. But certain people really respond well.

To polarize training, and certain other people. And you have to test yourself. So, yeah, definitely. Having an indication of that helps, um, I believe in a happy mixture of them all.

Crystal O'Keefe: I agree with you there that you shouldn't do all high zones where it's that high intensity.
You also should not have every activity you do just be kind of like real easygoing. There needs to be a mixture of all of the above. Yeah.

Marcello Aller: Yeah. And the biggest thing if you look at it too, is what I love about wearables today is I can take the trended data like I was talking about, like if I see ideally as I'm coming off of 16 weeks of training load.

So, what I suddenly saw was a decline in my HRV and also an incline of my resting heart rate. I started seeing that accumulation occurring. So now I'm unloading and I start a new phase. So then, most of my workouts are easy, low intensity, long.

So, it's not a little bit all the time. It's some certain phases should be loaded with, maybe a lower intensity and certain other phases should be loaded with a higher intensity, but that's based on having access to a great coach trainer or a facility that programs based on heart rate intensities.

Crystal O'Keefe: Yeah. And for listeners out there, we do that at MetPro. Whenever you have a concierge coach, we help you with those types of questions, so don't feel like you're alone out there. When you're looking at muscle building versus burning fat, are there any considerations you should look at for heart rate training?

Marcello Aller: Yeah. You know, if we had a solution for weight loss, I think it would be, um –

Crystal O'Keefe: You'd be a millionaire.

Marcello Aller: Yeah. Easily, easily. There, weight loss is, there's many things associated in that process. So that's where sleep, tracking helps. That's where heart rate variability helps and then from fat target load training or, it really depends on the individual.

Like if a person's super sore after a HIIT session, they're useless to you. So if they're not fit enough, they're just going to have to understand that maybe they have to do more homework on their own. And this is where digital fitness technology helps. You can have a digital dashboard where you can just coach them from it.

And that's something that we do at Bio Strap is where I can give them access to how they're sleeping and that's what we do with coaches and that's what we do with wellness organizations or researchers to, okay, be able to remotely train your population. But looking at their variables, it's like sleep, their heart rate variability, their resting heart rate, and looking at those longevity metrics and health metrics.

More importantly, SV02 is a number too that I think is really an untapped resource, especially during sleep and nocturnal measurements.

Crystal O'Keefe: Can you tell us more about what that is?

Marcello Aller: Yeah. Blood oxygen level. So, it's measured really in a couple different ways. We do it through red and infrared light and in our actigraphy, where we are looking at the sleep metrics and the quality of sleep.

And then we are looking at heart rate and heart rate variability along with the SVO2 metrics. So, we want to see a stable trend. Anything 95 and above is okay, typically. But if you're dropping below 95%, it could indicate that you might have some type of potential risk for sleep apnea.

It's not a medical device, but we've been used to identify potential risks and screens. And that's really what we're known for, we're a comprehensive, sleep wearable that allows people to see that information and see the quality of information. We could even measure your snoring through your phone, um, which a lot of people, like, oh, I don't snore. Okay, put it on.

Crystal O'Keefe: Turns out you do.

Marcello Aller: Your significant others going there. Yes, yes. It's a metric that I think for weight loss. Point that bringing up is, it's a no-brainer. Most people, that carry a lot of mass around their trunk in their chest, are going to labor at night to sleep.

It's going to be disturbed sleep. They'll start noticing impact on their sleep , as they modify their active daily living, doing a workout regiment, adjusting and just cleaning up their diet. Might not need to drastically change anything. Obviously, seek professional counsel, understand that they have good blood sugar, but weight loss, is such a tough nut to crack.

I've implemented HIIT programs very successfully with that population, where I always only saw a high outcome from that population, but sometimes it's short-term results. And what ends up happening is they rebound and gain that weight back because they finish the program achieving some results, but are kind of broken down, worn down, and not mentally haven't been addressed.

And that's where there's a mental side of working out as well, and weight loss that I think is, not discussed enough in our society.

Crystal O'Keefe: Oh, I definitely agree with that. And I think that nutrition comes into play as well. I've learned through working with MetPro that, you know, if you're a person who's eaten pretty clean, and you've been a person who's dieted, a lot throughout your life and exercised, it's still going to be harder for you to lose weight no matter what.

You do. It's just going to be harder than a person who is overweight and hasn't done any of those things. They're going to have a much easier time and it's counterintuitive to the way it should be and that's why you say it depends all the time or that's why Angelo says it depends all the time here at MetPro

And it sounds like you have a very similar, it depends on the person because you don't know their background.

Marcello Aller: My Kinesiology professor always told me that, I would always be eager to ask a question but, there's no panacea, there's no utopia, there's no silver bullet. You have to do the work at the end of the day.

So whatever you're going to say, it depends. I feel like I always say that. My kids always mock me too about it. They're like, “Hey, there's dad.” It depends. Yes, it does.

Crystal O'Keefe: What else do you wish that people knew about heart training in general or wearables that they don't necessarily know and we haven't covered?

Marcello Aller: Try to understand what type of technology adopter you are. Are you an early adopter? Um, are you more a follower? Or are you just like still on the iPhone one or iPhone four, complete laggard, understand what that means, right? If you're an early adopter, understand that this might not be completely evidence-based.

Crystal O'Keefe: That's a very, very good point.

Marcello Aller: You know, you're believing in an opportunity that is still being flushed out. Not saying that's not valid, it's valid, but still needs more of a population size to make that assumption. And hopefully they have those resources. On the R&D side, on the developing always.

Crystal O'Keefe: I think that's a very valid point. Whatever wearable you're using, maybe check it out, make sure all the things you're looking at are evidence based and, if not, maybe take a look around and see what else is out there. I am definitely an early adopter, so I am definitely guilty of, “Ooh, new and shiny… pretty!”

Marcello Aller: Yeah. I've always been an early adopter, but now I think, because I do so much testing, that I've gone to be more of a wait and see . . And then I verify and trust. Personally, because, a lot of gen one, gen two, products are just, you know, especially in new and there's very few new technologies now.

It's really all about the, what you can do with the data and the quality of the data and then the processing limitations that there might be limitations because of the hardware that you're using. But what we have available today is cloud processing, and machine learning, and AI, which opens up a whole other variable here. Imagine having, you know, a virtual you that can use the camera or the wearable device and start taking those data sets in and coaching. It's possible in a near future. If not done, you know, in augmented reality, more or less that's being done now.

Crystal O'Keefe: Wow. What would be the benefit of that?

Marcello Aller: Training could be like astronauts do now. Military does that now. So, I can put through people through simulation training in a VR world and with a wearable and use that biofeedback to coast them through scenarios, to guide them through a workout.

There are many different applications, so that's a whole other up and coming. Well at least certain tech companies hope it's up and coming. I would say meta right now in the market, AI is probably the leading one on that with Oculus. But there are other VR companies and AR companies.

Crystal O'Keefe: Wow, that's fascinating to think about. Marcelo, I really appreciate your time today. And before we go, I want to make sure you have an opportunity to tell everybody where they can find you and find out all about Bio Strap as well.

Marcello Aller: Sure. They could find me on LinkedIn, so just look me up on LinkedIn.

Connect with me if you're not. As far as Bio Strap, it's biostrap.com. And take a look at what we have to offer. We're a B2B company providing wearable devices, but we're really a data company trying to give you access to data for research for unique enterprise services.

Crystal O'Keefe: Fascinating.

Well, again, thank you. I really appreciate your time. Thank you and listeners, thank you. That's all for this week. You can find all the MetPro Method episodes anywhere you get podcasts or metpro.co/podcast. Please be sure to follow the show and rate and review that lets other people know what they can expect.

You can also learn more about MetPro at metpro.co. I'm your host, Crystal O'Keefe, and I'll be back next week. Until then, remember, consistency is key.

Others Found These Interesting

Performance Nutrition for Moms: How to Prioritize your Health for your kids

Performance Nutrition for Moms: How to Prioritize your Health for your kids

Unlocking your Evolving Fitness Goals with Aleta Jeffress

Unlocking your Evolving Fitness Goals with Aleta Jeffress

Weight Loss Myths: Extreme Diets

Weight Loss Myths: Extreme Diets

Golf as Exercise: How to Shave Strokes off your Game and Inches off your Waist

Golf as Exercise: How to Shave Strokes off your Game and Inches off your Waist

Browse All MetPro Academy Content