While finishing medical school, Dustin Freckleton was working on a new technology project that measured the muscular recovery in patients when he realized there was a crossover opportunity for endurance athletes. A few years and a few degrees later, Freckleton and a business partner launched BSX Athletics in 2012 to offer a wearable lactate-threshold monitor for cyclists and runners that pairs with Garmin computers and watches. Today, BSX launched a Kickstarter campaign to secure funding to put the units into production, and to expand compatibility to other computers and watches.
Mounted inside a calf compression sleeve, the BSX Insight monitors lactate threshold via a light array shined into the calf. "Each type of light interacts dfiferently with different type of tissues," Freckleton said. "Some reflect light, some are absorbed. Based on those interactions of distortion and absorption, we are able to determine what is going on inside the muscle."
The BSX Insight pairs via ANT+ or Bluetooth to a Garmin computer or watch just like a heart-rate strap or a speed sensor. The BSX data is recorded by the Garmin while an athlete rides or runs. When the user uploads the Garmin's .TCX file to the BXS website, they can see their lactate levels plotted along with pace, power (if a meter is present), heart rate and more. And the real benefit, Freckleton says, is how the data will be used going the other direction. "Our BSX servers break down the data into simple and actionable training zones that the athletes needs, and that information can be uploaded into a Garmin computer or watch so athletes can train with perfectly calibrated zones," Freckleton said.
Currently, many cycle computers and running watches in the market offer data fields for heart-rate and power zones, which are generally based on lactate threshold. The problem is, most athletes can only estimate their lactate-threshold heart rate or power through field testing, as actual lactate testing done with blood sampling has traditionally been the domain of medical centers and a few elite training centers. So, the heart rate zones autopopulated into a running watch, for example, are often based on a company's educated guess based on sample data from many athletes.
"Most of the training tools we have traditionally used as cyclists or runners are things based on aggregates for data," Freckleton said. "But no one is average; half of us are better, half are worse."
"Lactate threshold is the gold standard of performance testing, and the blood-testing method has been around for 50 years," Freckleton said. "Researchers discovered that by doing these incremental testings [as power and/or pace ramps up], taking blood samples along the way, and plotting results of lactate concentrations, you see this thick hockey stick curve towards the end. What that spike represents is the point at which the athlete moves from a predominateantly aerobic state to an anaerobic state."
Just before that sharp ramp is the lactate threshold, the highest sustainable effort an athlete can achieve. By pairing this with a specific heart-rate, power output or, for runner, pace, athletes and their coaches can dial in training with effective specificity and measure results with equal precision. The problem for most amateur athletes, however, is access to a medical facility or a high-end training center that can measure lactate.
"I always trained with heart rate and power, which were good," Freckleton said. "But I was always more interested in how my body was adapting or dealing with a training load. Athletes have never had a good way to measure how their bodies are responding. Heart rate can be helpful, sure, but everyboy knows that it is susceptible to many variables, like caffeine, temperature, fatigue, et cetera. We wanted to go down to the source of the muscle, on a moment-by-moment basis."
BSX is offering a 30 percent discount to those who support the company now, with units starting at US$179. If and when the product gets off the ground, there will be the basic US$249 unit targeted at runners, and a US$329 unit targeted at cyclists. At these prices, Freckleton is hoping to bring this lactate measuring technology to a much larger population.
Right now, Garmin does not have any data fields to display lactate information on screen. However, as Garmin now owns ANT+, the company can easily develop one, as it has for new power data fields like left/right balance and pedal smoothness, for example. Freckleton said BSX is working with 'This Is ANT' to create a lactate protocol. For now, the BSX Insight data is embedded into other sent over ANT+, and extracted after the Garmin's .TCX file is uploaded to the BSX website.
BSX plans to have units shipping by the end of 2014. BikeRadar will test and review a unit when they become available.