Princeton Rowing Use New Firstbeat and Garmin Health Solution for Effective Remote Training

With the current postponement of most sports competitions and the disruption of traditional training methods, some teams are adjusting to the ‘new normal’ by using innovative solutions based on Garmin wearables and Firstbeat analytics.

Coach Hughes
Coach Hughes

The Princeton University Rowing team’s spring competition schedule was canceled – and all students sent home – just two weeks out from the start of racing season, meaning student-athletes are now scattered around the world and having to find new ways to train. Fortunately, the Tiger’s use the Firstbeat Sports platform, a holistic training solution that now combines all-day health and activity metrics from Garmin wearables with cutting-edge Firstbeat analytics such as TRIMP and Training Effect, to enable them to coach their team remotely.

“We are very quickly moving things towards remote monitoring, thanks to Firstbeat Sports and Garmin wearables. It has been awesome,” explains Greg Hughes, Head Coach of the Men’s Heavyweights. “With the changes to the season, we have made the decision to start our offseason training program right away. We now have 10-12 of our athletes using the Firstbeat Sports platform and wearing Garmin fēnix and Forerunner devices. This complete picture of their health and activity has very much improved our ability to assess training as these athletes switch modes based on the equipment available to them.”

Integrating Data

The Firstbeat Sports platform receives data from Garmin wearables thanks to an integration with the Garmin Health API, allowing users to upload their wearable data to the platform. This means all-day health and activity data collected using a Garmin wearable device can be factored into the Firstbeat Sports platform alongside the Finnish company’s industry-leading, heartrate-based analytics that support 24/7 athlete empowerment and holistic sports management.

In normal circumstances, this data integration would help coaches create training programs based on a more complete overview of an athlete’s day. But it is particularly valuable at a time when training programs have been turned on their heads, athletes are dealing with different environments, and coaches are not present to oversee training sessions.

“Perhaps the biggest positive is that it allows the athletes to know that they are training well even though they’re now training very differently,” says Hughes. “We have some athletes that are in full lockdown and making do with whatever equipment or mode of training they have available and this integration means we can support them wherever they are.”

Firstbeat and Garmin

Firstbeat and Garmin have been collaborating for over 10 years in the consumer wearables market and this latest development is aimed at supporting the 23,000+ athletes and 1,000+ sports teams already relying on Firstbeat for training and recovery guidance.

“The HR data is assessed and displayed just as if an athlete is using a Firstbeat Sports Sensor,” continued Coach Hughes. “The benefit is that the Garmin data is now included in our Firstbeat Sports team report, so for the first time we have more complete data about our team’s training load.”

Increased Flexibility

This process makes it easier than ever for athletes and coaches to collect and analyze activity data, from organized training sessions, individual workout sessions, and even rehabilitation – wherever those take place. Data can be collected from wherever the athlete is working out and allows multiple stakeholders from different locations to view the results. Analyzing this data allows coaches and sports professionals to construct the complete picture needed to support a truly holistic approach to athlete management.

This platform is being put into practice in the most unusual of circumstances at Princeton. “The focus of the ‘offseason’ program is on aerobic capacity development,” says Coach Hughes. “80% of the work we are recommending is in the U3 and U2 range, or 60-78% of max HR. Normally, we would be doing this work in a rowing specific way and using wattage or pace as a primary gauge of effort, but now, with athletes training however they can, and several using cross training to get in work, we have been able to use the data we have on them from Firstbeat and Garmin Health to better guide them on their paces. We have one student-athlete in Ireland that only has access to a heavy bag and an assault bike. These aren’t normal times for training, but it has shown us that there are lots of ways to get good quality work done.”

The Future of Sports

Now further aided by data from Garmin wearables, the solution offered by the Firstbeat Sport platform provides support for the all-round physical and mental well-being of individuals and teams across the globe, as well as opening the door to future incorporation of advanced health metrics like sleep, stress, blood oxygen saturation, and respiration.