Applying technologic devices within recovery routines can be highly advantageous, particularly during instances in which our full routine cannot be implemented.
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The previous article described the importance of recovery, as well as the understanding of the common pathway amongst the various recovery skills. This recognition allows for the understanding of how best to optimize recovery under circumstances in which we are not able to implement our full routine. From the polyvagal informed perspective, this relates to utilizing mind-based and body-based skills and strategies to increase ventral vagal activation. In so doing, our body is able to move towards homeostasis, thereby allowing for recovery and restoration. This paradigm is optimally employed when we can implement our full routine and can also be utilized to mitigate situations in which circumstances do not allow for application of our usual recovery routine.
It was briefly mentioned in the previous article that technologic devices can assist in optimizing recovery, both within the full routine as well as in scenarios in which we are utilizing modified recovery strategies. The integration of technology within the polyvagal informed toolbox has also been described in a previous article. While there are numerous applications of these devices to assist in the training of mind-based and body-based skills and strategies, the focus of this article will be their usage within the recovery paradigm. Michael Allison and I discussed these topics in detail on his YouTube channel, LINK.
For the purposes of an overview, these devices include wearable technology as well as other devices which all can be utilized, at least in part, to contribute towards recovery. These devices can be broadly categorized as those which provide data regarding recovery and those which directly influence recovery. While there are several devices available within each category, this discussion will be limited to a subset of those on the market. Additional information regarding these devices can be obtained on my website, LINK.
The first broad category of devices for consideration are those which provide data regarding recovery. These can be further classified as to whether they are worn on a continuous basis or are used on a more periodic timeframe. Typically, these devices will provide data regarding sleep, heart rate variability (HRV), physical activity, and provide an overall recovery score. It is important to note that this information must be interpreted within the larger context. It is a piece of the overall puzzle. The goal is not to optimize these metrics for their own sake, rather it is to use the information to then update and adjust strategies and implement skills in order to improve our overall state, which will then be reflected in the metrics.
The sleep information which is provided by the various devices can be measured in different ways and interpreted according to different proprietary processes. The usual information which is available, irrespective of the device, is the duration of sleep, interruptions or awakenings, HRV over the course of sleep, and, depending on the device, time spent across sleep stages. While the extent to which these data correspond to formal sleep studies is open for discussion, comparison within the same individual over time is likely more reliable as the same method of interpretation is utilized over the course of time. The information provided regarding sleep can be informative as it is not necessarily recognized, for example, how often we may awaken during a night. The significance of this data then becomes that the amount of actual time asleep can be far less than the amount of time spent in bed. In addition, this information can be utilized to measure the impact of implementing various skills and strategies to optimize sleep, as well as better understanding the impact of other factors on our sleep, such as late night meals, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and exercise. Given the importance of sleep in our overall recovery, this information is indispensable.
There are also wearable devices which provide real-time measurement of various metrics, such as heart rate and HRV. This can be beneficial to our overall training of skills and strategies, as well as recovery. Given the relationship between HRV and recovery, detailed information regarding our HRV can be utilized to determine our level of recovery and the impact of various training exercises, such as breathing, on our HRV, thereby indicating the level of recovery. Particularly while optimizing recovery during periods in which we are not able to implement our full routine, it can be beneficial to undertake additional training and recovery exercises, such as breathwork, and directly observe the impact on HRV.
The second broad category of devices under discussion are those which directly impact and improve recovery. The predominant device in this category is one that applies vibration in order to enhance autonomic nervous system recovery though the sense of touch. This can be a powerful contributor to both the standard recovery routine and the modified routine during times in which the full routine cannot be employed. By virtue of its nature, this wearable device can be utilized while performing other tasks and activities, thereby permitting a degree of recovery, for example, even while working at the computer. It can be readily appreciated that additional degrees of recovery can be obtained through utilization of this device even during periods of time in which we must be performing other tasks.
The information provided by these devices can be utilized to understand our current level of recovery, the impact of various variables on recovery, in both positive and negative directions, as well as to adjust aspects of our daily schedule dependent upon our level of recovery. For instance, if we are under-recovered it can be advantageous to adjust our physical activity schedule, such that we shift towards less intense types of exercise. In addition, we can adjust our work-related tasks, to the extent it may be possible, in consideration of our level of recovery. For instance, where possible, it may be beneficial to reschedule activities requiring higher levels of creativity or attention and focus during times in which we are less recovered. It is well understood that, given the nature of the healthcare profession, it is not always an option to adjust work activities.
As has been previously described, recovery is an essential aspect of the polyvagal informed Practices of the Healthcare Athlete. While it is important to establish and implement a regular recovery routine, it is also necessary to develop skills and strategies to optimize our ability to recover during periods of time in which the full routine cannot be employed. Application of technology can be highly advantageous in this regard, as well as for the ongoing measurement of recovery related metrics.
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Allison, M. The Play Zone: A Neurophysiological Approach to our Highest Performance. https://theplayzone.com.