One of the most important, and perhaps overlooked, aspects of training is recovery. Without proper recovery, your body doesn’t build strength but instead becomes depleted. The best training plans build in rest as an important part of the process, and most fitness trackers and smartwatches offer some sort of sleep tracking to help monitor nightly recovery, though this is rarely factored into training plans. Sleep is when your body rebuilds muscle fiber and resets itself. When sleep is interrupted or unrestful the body isn’t as refreshed as necessary for the next workout.
The Finnish company Polar has just released a new fitness watch that takes sleep, recovery, and other stress factors into consideration. The Polar Ignite is a GPS enabled training watch that offers similar features to other leading products: a heart rate monitor; route, distance, and speed tracking for runs and rides; a waterproof interface and stroke counter for swimming laps, a calorie counter to record how many have been burned, and a companion smartphone app for reviewing data. However, the Polar Ignite offers more than the standard fitness watch. Instead of only tracking workouts and activity, this watch also tracks sleep and stress, and it alters fitness recommendations based on how well the wearer has recovered from the previous training session.
The heart rate monitor included on the Polar Ignite uses three different sensors to increase accuracy and is designed to be worn at all hours of the night and day. This precise level of monitoring can track not only activity level but sleep stages. That means the watch will tell you if and when you had deep sleep, light sleep, and full REM sleep throughout the night. It then combines this data into a sleep score to help the wearer determine how well they recovered the night before. We have yet to try this, and knowing that other sleep trackers can be finicky and unreliable, we are interested to see how well this feature works.
After the Polar Ignite has tabulated the sleep score, it then calculates a “Nightly Recharge” score that factors in the sleep score plus data about the autonomic nervous system (ANS) such as the heart’s beat-to-beat intervals, heart rate variability, and breathing rate. This Recharge score attempts to assess overall stresses that affect the entire body, which can then inform training decisions for the following day.
If the watch wearer is stressed, the Serene program has guided breathing exercises to help relieve calm the body-mind, a feature that goes above and beyond most fitness trackers to holistically address the overall health of the athlete.
The Polar Ignite also include the Fit Spark smart coaching program, which allows the wearer to select training plans for cardio, strength, overall fitness. The watch then provides guidance for the athlete based on performance, recovery, and goals. Combining coaching capabilities, run and swim tracking, and stress and recovery data, this lightweight device could assist in improving an athlete’s fitness, ability, and overall health in a more complete way than other step counters and fitness trackers. Available now, the Polar Ignite can be purchased from Polar for 200 euros.