Written by Christopher Kelly
March 30, 2018
Tommy: Hello and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive Podcast. I'm Tommy Wood and today I am joined by Don Moxley. Hey, Don.
Don: Hey. How are you doing today?
Tommy: I'm doing really well. I'm very excited to finally get you on the podcast. For people who maybe haven't heard of you, you are the sports scientist for the Ohio State wrestling team and actually we first spoke a few months ago now when I think you had Chris on Jason Moore's Elite HRV podcast which you have been on since. It was great and we'll link to that show too.
And then I think you emailed us to ask about some of the nutritional stuff we do and then you and I talked on the phone and you told me about all this incredible stuff that you've been able to do in terms of tracking the performance of your athletes using things like HRV. And then, actually, just a couple of weeks after, I got an email from Ken Ford at the IHMC who said, "So, who are your guys that you go to when you want to learn about HRV?" I thought of you and Jason immediately.
And then serendipitously we all met down in Pensacola at the IHMC last year, which was a really incredible experience, I'm sure you'll agree. So now I've heard you talk a couple of times about this stuff that you do with your data and, I think, people are really, really going to find it very interesting. But before we get cracking into that maybe you can just tell us a little bit about yourself and where you've been over the years to get to where you are today?
Don: Well, thank you for the introduction, first of all, and the opportunity to be on here. This is the kind of stuff I love doing so I appreciate the opportunity. Going back to how Don Moxley evolved, I grew up in eastern Ohio on a great big beef cattle operation. If you know eastern Ohio back in the '70s and '80s, it was in the middle of the strip mining work over there and we grew up in the middle of a strip mine.
My dad was a coal miner but he was also an entrepreneur before we used that word on the farm. At one point in time we had about a thousand head of beef cattle over there. So, you grew up on [0:01:56] [Indiscernible] end of the hay baler all summer. Really, the only sport I was able to participate in was wrestling because we were farming the rest of the time. That was the one sport we got to participate in.
My older brother started wrestling. I followed him in. I was a decent high school wrestler, nothing compared to what we're doing at Ohio State now. But went to Ohio State with every intention of going home and feeding beef cattle and walked on the wrestling team. My freshmen year, I practiced a total of 15 days before I tore a knee up and had surgery on that and came back as a sophomore.
Now, I was cutting big weight. I was cutting from my 230 down to 177 back then. My sophomore year, we had a returning All American at 177 so I moved up a weight class to 190, cut from about, again, about 240 to 190. Did twice as well that year, practiced 30 days, tore up the other knee and I'm sitting there saying, "Holy moly, what does it take to do this?"
Which kind of set me on a vision quest for lack of a better term. What does it take to compete? So, this is the early '80s. Strength and conditioning is emerging. I started asking questions and I had three just wonderful mentors back then. One was a guy by the name of Bob Bartels. He was a physiologist. He had been a former swimmer and the swimming coach at Ohio State.
Consequently, he was also a protégé of a guy by the name of Dr. Ed Fox. Ed Fox was the first American to really describe energy systems in the literature in the early to mid '70s. Dr. Bartels was his protégé. I learned a lot from him. I had a teammate whose roommate was a shot putter. He had the third longest shot in the world at that time, a guy by the name of Kevin Akins.
I was over their apartment one night. Kevin says, "If you want to get strong, I'll show you where you go get strong." Kevin takes me over to a guy by the name of Louie Simmon's garage. So, Louie has then gone to establish what's called Westside Barbell but this is before Westside was Westside. You walk into this gym and here are these mutants moving through doing thousand-pound doubles and squats and just doing crazy stuff. Louie is a genius so I got to learn from him.
And then we also had a strength coach by the name of Ted Lambrinides. Ted was connected with what's called Nautilus Midwest. It's gone on to become Hammer Strength down in Cincinnati. Ted was a graduate assistant and really helped me learn with a strength coach at Ohio State by the name of Steve Bliss who was an early president of the National Strength and Conditioners Association.
It was kind of that convergence of mentors that really helped me start to develop a concept for sport performance. I was my own guinea pig. I started applying a lot of this stuff and I got successful that when I got strong I got good and finished up my career at wrestling at Ohio State and captained the team in 1985 and won a Big Ten title that year which was a pretty big deal back then. I finished up my undergraduate degree in animal science then did my masters work in Ex Phys and had been in the field every since.
Tommy: That's an incredible story being right at the beginning of all that stuff emerging. Louie Simmons right at the start, I can just imagine that the experience must have been incredible. How then has that adapted over time to where you are now? Where is your, I guess, your training and your professional experience gone since then?
Don: What came after that was kind of interesting. I was working, training, managing, doing things back in the early '90s. Something has been consistent with me all along, is that I almost always have a teaching position either at a community college or a college here around central Ohio. I love to teach.
After I had about two years of it, I recognize how valuable it was to my learning. If you want to teach these concepts you've got to make sure they're communicated. You have to have a handle on it. The fact that you teach them just makes you sharper. I was running a lab at a big community college in Columbus called Columbus State Community College. We put in this human performance lab. We were teaching exercise scientists how to be exercise scientists.
We put in these computer system for measurement that measured strength and flexibility and cardiovascular and body comp and it all fed into the computer. Well, this company out in New Mexico made this that was called HealthFirst. We put about four of these units in my lab and it was going great and they reached out to me one day and they say, "Hey, we want you to work for us and, by the way, we were just purchased a heart rate monitor company Polar."
All of a sudden I get this opportunity to jump from academics to the dark side and sales, but here I am sitting in the belly of this technology company called Polar. Back then I was still measuring heart rates using two fingers on the carotid and all of a sudden I see how technology, it's not about heart rate, it's about the record, it's about your ability to make decisions with good data.
So that was like giving an addict crack cocaine. I mean, I've got all this technology and it was off to the races at that point. I spent eight years working for them and just really getting a look at technology in general and how you apply it to the exercise science game which was really valuable. I left them about that time -- I have a daughter that's 20 years old now.
When I was working for them I was on an airplane every week flying somewhere. I didn't want to be that dad. My daughter was getting old enough that I didn't want to be on an airplane so I left and started my own gig, opened a little fitness facility, high tech fitness facility here in the community I live in and just kept accelerating the technology piece and how do you apply it to measure human performance.
It was that interesting confluence of working for literally the biggest technology brand on the face of the earth in this area combining that with interfacing with some pretty interesting athletes along the way, having the budget to buy toys to play with and just kept evolving the process.
Tommy: That's very cool. Again, it seems like you've positioned or been positioned right at the genesis of all this kind of stuff that we're seeing today which I think is why your experience is so incredible and valuable. I know as we talk about data and how you use data, we're going to focus in on some of your experience with wrestlers, some of your more recent stuff, on how you can predict performance particularly based on some of these parameters.
So, maybe for people who don't know that much about sports and wrestling, and I will include myself in that group, you can give us a little bit of background about the sport, how it works, how you might score points or win a match and then from there what kind of physiological adaptations or things that an athlete might need to be good at because then that will sort of inform what we might be able to or what you can look at in terms of the data?
Don: Yeah. Wrestling is kind of a funky sport. If you've not experienced it then a lot of times people -- But Genesis 32, Jacob wrestled with God and we're pretty sure that God cut weight for the match. Wrestling is the original sport. Two guys look at each other and ego takes over and one tries to dominate the other and it's gone on from there.
In the sport of wrestling, it's really two people -- We have a weigh in so we match the opponents based on weight classes. When you step on the mat, you've stepped on a scale an hour previous to make sure that you qualify for that particular weight class which is interesting in sport because all of a sudden weight cutting becomes a very important element of the sport both chronic long term and acute weight cutting. Done incorrectly, it will dash all of your training. Done correctly, it gives you competitive advantage.
So, you've got these matched athletes who go out on the mat. Basically, the first objective is to gain control of your opponent. If I'm able to gain control of my opponent, it's called a takedown. I get two points. If I escape control, I get one point. If I reverse control, it's the same as a takedown, I get two points. Now, one of the real interesting things about wrestling is that in rugby can you imagine kicking a point that's so long that they just say, "Okay, screw it, game's over. You win."
Or in basketball, if you shoot a shot that's so long, it's like, "Okay, that's good enough. You're done." That doesn't happen in most sports. But in wrestling, if I can take my opponent and hold his back to the mat for a two-count, the match is over. No matter how many points you scored on me, I can be losing by a considerable amount, but if I can put his back on the mat I win.
That's one of the unique things about the sport, is it's got this terminal aspect to it that's always there. That's an interesting part of it. Typical matches at a collegiate level, a typical match is scheduled for seven minutes. You have a three-minute first period and then you have second and third periods. They're both two minutes each.
If you happen to have a tied score at the end of that, you're going to an over time. Matches are rarely longer than ten minutes. They're normally seven. And while they're seven minutes they're not continuous. We have natural breaks, when you go out of bounds on the mat, when there's a stalemate. So, the sport of wrestling is made up of random intermittent maximal efforts. But that process will extend if we're looking at a clock on the wall from the beginning of the mach to the end. It usually takes between 15 to 18 minutes to wrestle that actual time amount of seven minutes.
Tommy: Based on that description, I think based on other people I've spoken as well -- You have that maximal effort which is going to be very glycolytic but then, obviously, recovering between bouts, getting back onto the mat is going to require good or a very strong aerobic component. So, it's basically you have to be good at everything, right?
Don: Yeah, that's one of the interesting things about the sport is that -- I have a thing that I call my long term athlete development model. There's a physiological, psychological skills. I have elements that extend from that. There's ten elements. On the physiological side, there's movement, strength, energy systems and resilience.
On the psychological side, we look at one element is the combination of mindset and grit. The second is flow and focus and the third is emotional and intelligence. That's kind of the elements on the psychological side. And on the skills side, we have technical, tactical and life skills. The unique thing about wrestling, if you score a zero in any of those elements you lose. I don't care how strong you are in any of the others.
So, there's a lot of figuring out what your weakness is and fixing your weaknesses which is a little different. Most sports, it's about enhancing your strengths but we probably spend more time identifying weaknesses and opportunities and constraints than we do about necessarily worrying about maximizing any of those elements.
Tommy: Okay. I mean, that makes perfect sense. And also I think will, particularly if you're trying to create longevity in an athlete in the program itself but then also going out and performing well in the world at large, I think focusing on all of that is going to be really important which is such a great part of your model. But then how are you identifying these weaknesses? So, you have everything from strength to life stills. What are you measuring? How are you doing that and how are you identifying which areas you need to work on?
Don: So, back in 2015, I was not working with the team directly at that time. Our head coach Tom Ryan and I had a very good relationship that literally when I was teaching over at Urbana University there's an article going off my desk to him every week. He would send a question and I would answer it or I would see something and we had a real vigorous level of communication going on.
He called me one day and said, "Listen, I've got an athlete that I'm struggling with. He wants me to test." Tom had cut -- One of the things I have in my lab is what's called a Velotron. It's a bike ergometer. It's made there in Seattle. It's made by who's called CompuTrainer. This is their big ergometer. It's got a 54-pound fly wheel and it plugs into a computer. It's just a great ergometer. I love this thing.
Tom a couple of years before that wanted to -- We have this event. We have this cancer treatment fundraiser called Pelatonia here. They get thousands and thousands of people to ride their bike about 100 miles. They raise millions of dollars for cancer research. It's an Ohio State sponsored event so, obviously, Ohio State has a high level of participation. Tom wanted to ride Pelatonia 100 miles about five hours. I said, "Well, want to know how to train for it?" We were talking about heart rates and heart rate monitors and zones and so forth.
He came over and I took him through the testing protocol. I just do a ramp testing protocol, tried to find out where his threshold is, the anaerobic threshold, where do we flip from pure aerobic work to where we start to recruit anaerobic energy and teach him how to train with that. Tom loved this. He had an athlete he was struggling with. He says, "I just want you test him."
Because they'd run him through the ringer at Ohio State through medical testing, everything said it's fine but he was struggling. He was really struggling to perform. This kid was a good wrestler. He's a three-time Pennsylvania State champion which is really, really difficult to do. When you win Pennsylvania State three times you're a really good wrestler but he just wasn't performing here.
So, he brought him over. One of the first things I did was I put -- I have a Zephyr Bioharness that I use when I'm doing most of my testing so I can see heart rate respiration and it also tells me HRV. So, as I wired him up and we stand there, we haven't even put him on the erg yet, he's standing there with an SDNN of about ten milliseconds.
This is a Sunday morning, hopefully sleeping as good as he did, didn't train the day before, had a match on a Friday night and he's standing there at ten milliseconds. So, I didn't say anything. I'm like, okay, this is something. I had him go lay down in my facility and as he laid down for five minutes that SDNN climbs to about 100 milliseconds. And I thought, okay. As soon as he stood up, it crashes back down to ten.
That test tells me that he's probably -- He's at least stage four overtraining syndrome, maybe stage five. It's hard to tell at that point but certainly stage four. We put him on the erg and he comes off the erg at like 1.8 watts per KG where it should be 3.1, 3.2. So, he's half the workload he should be doing. He's got a bad HRV. This kid has classic overtraining syndrome.
He says, "So, what's going on?" I said, "Well, I'm not sure what the outcome of this is going to be but I can tell you this, you have to stop training him the way you're training him. He is maladapting to your process. We need to program him based on his readiness. We need to do work that he's prepared for. Don't just do work for work's sake. Let's do work that he's prepared for."
This was my original engagement with the program at that time. You got to go through NCAA hoops and so forth particularly when you're an alumni working with the team. And we went through that and, basically, started monitoring readiness. That was the primary key back then. And then we used the process as HRV improved particularly as his RMSSD improved, I would turn him loose a little bit more.
Tommy, we would up modifying nine workouts between when I started working with him and when we sent him to the national tournament. We went from monitored his nine workouts, four of them were put in training ceilings on right before our conference tournament, the Big Tens. And then after Big Tens we did some prescribed aerobic work because my hypothesis at that time was that he had been training way too glycolytically.
Wrestlers love training with their face on fire. There's a point of pride that comes with it. They think that if I'm not suffering, I'm not improving. And I understand where it comes from but the program had lost its ability to feed his oxidative system. So, literally we did four workouts before nationals on the biker that were purely oxidative moves and literally we saw RMSSD move about 20 points every workout, improve every workout, until four days before nationals, he woke up with a morning RMSSD of about 100 milliseconds which I was told.
Then he goes to nationals and finished fifth in the country which back in 2015 Ohio State had a wrestler by the name of Logan Stieber, that year he won his fourth national title. There's only ever been four wrestlers do that in the United States. We had three super freshmen, one of which has gone on to win an Olympic gold medal, Kyle Snyder.
When we go into nationals here in about a month, if these three make All American again, it will be the first time three people from the same program have made All American four years in a row. And then we kind of throw Kenny's points in and we win a national title. It's first time in school history in 2015. That's what started the monitoring process with us.
So, the next year, everyone liked what I did and all of a sudden they're like, "We want more of your voodoo." I took a more active role in the staff the next year and so part of my personal philosophy is that if you do something, have a reason why. Don't just do something because someone else did it and you're picking up their habit. That's not programming. That's culture to a certain degree. It drives dogma.
I believe everything you do needs to have a reason. And I'm not saying you have to measure everything you do but you need to measure the important stuff and figure out what is important.
So, we started a process. Again, if we get back to my performance triangle, on the physiological side, we started measuring functional movements. Do you move? Does your top work with your bottom, your right with your left, your front with your back? We started measuring -- Up until this time they would do strength workouts and no one wrote anything down. They just went in and lifted.
Again, this is a wrestling thing. "I had a good workout, I trained hard, I'm sweating. Look at the pools of sweat, man. I feel big." And I'm like, "Well, that's fine. We'll at least going to measure some of these important exercises that we think is important and move on from there." They were doing a cardiovascular test. They were doing a 3k run which I like that test for them.
We do a 3k test back then and I'm trying to -- Oh, body composition. So, we do DEXAs and we do skin folds. We do DEXAs twice a year. We do skin folds more often for kids that we're monitoring pretty closely. We just started a process of collecting data to figure out is what we're doing making a different? That same year, one of my alumnus and a former teammate of mine, Dr. Ron Gharbo, who's a pain management doc out in Newport News now, Dr. Gharbo uses HRV and mindfulness to wean patients off of opiates.
He's very much an HRV guru and he's a huge help for me. I understood HRV at a very technical level but he also gave us a Firstbeat system. So, we started wiring up the guys, looking at 24 or 48-hour time periods looking at night time resting RMSSD, looking at workout quality using the Firstbeat stuff. This was the first time that we were able to go back and say, "Wow, resting night time RMSSD predicts success in our wrestlers."
That Kyle Snyder, our Olympic gold medalist, was the highest. We have two-time Olympian on our coaching staff, [0:22:03] [Indiscernible], he was second highest. Our third highest was our national champ. Our fourth highest was a guy that finished third in the country that literally RMSSD that year predicted success for us which was the strongest key performance indicator we have.
That was kind of the second year of the program where we really started collecting data. I started to build a resource that we could go back and then take a look at to analyze. We've really just ramped that up every year after that. This year we had a heart rate monitoring program. We've got a system in our room. Polar makes a shirt now that has a sensor that fits back between the scapula.
You can't wrestle at our level with a chest trap. It just can't do it. But this Polar shirt gave us the ability to wrestle. We could measure heart rate real time. I don't use Polar's hardware. We're using a hardware from a company called AccuroFit. They make Orangetheory. They used to make Orangetheory systems.
With this year, with all of our heart rate, we're in a partnership with the Air Force Research Lab out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, they've given us starting last year, I have 16 Omegawave systems that were measuring daily five-minute resting HRVs prior to practice. We'll collect about three and a half million data points this year with the addition of the heart rate data. Back in '15, it was one wrestler and we modified nine workouts and this year we're going to have three and a half million data points.
Tommy: That's incredible. There's many, many questions that come out of everything you were just talking about. I guess, the first one, you mentioned RMSSD as a key performance metric of how these guys are going to perform on the mat. Your top guy is the guy with the top RMSSD. Is this something are they just physiologically gifted or have you been able to see RMSSD improve over time in individual athlete and then performance improves at the same time? Is it something that we can truly fix or train and adapt and improve that number and then see improvements in performance or is this something that some guys are just gifted in that way?
Don: No, it's totally programmable. I've seen it on both ends of the spectrum. I've seen guys with outstanding -- Here's a perfect example. We had a wrestler last year, when we looked at physiological status, when we looked at strength and cardio, this guy was one of the best on the team at all the physiological measures. Lean, strong, and had a big gas tank.
Skill set wasn't good enough that he was able to crack the starting lineup on a regular basis. So, skills come into play there. But from a physiological standpoint, this kid was phenomenal. We're tracking, tracking, tracking, all of a sudden his numbers totally tanked. We're going from RMSSDs in the 90s to where he's coming in and we're doing measurements below 20 for like three days in a row. And I'm like, "Whoa, what's going on?" So, I sit down and talked to him.
The situation was he was an accounting major, in his last year, and accounting classes go on cycles. So, if you flunk a class, it takes a year before you can come back and get that back. He's in his last year and he had two of these classes that he was struggling in. You sit down with him. I'm like, "Okay, what's going on?" He tells me what's going on. At that point, I say -- Whether he was in the starting lineup or not, he had two classes he was failing, he had big midterms coming up.
I said, "Go home. Go study. Go get prepared for this, because the stress that's coming from your academics is ruining any ability that you have to improve athletically." When you have someone whose readiness is so low, you're throwing away workouts. You're doing all this work and it's leading to no benefit. So, he sends him home. He spent two days out of the room, comes back, passes both of his midterms that he's worried about, back on track, numbers back into the 70s, within a week they're back into the 90s.
That's one end. That's from high performance dropping down to low because of stress. I've got a wrestler I've worked with several years ago that is just from a talent level he is off the charts, just phenomenal. But he walks around with the daily resting RMSSD of less than 30. And what's interesting when you send this kid to Olympic trials or to the world trials back when he was still wrestling, if he's wrestling the world champion in one match, I'm betting on him. I'm betting the house on him.
In two matches, if he has to wrestle two matches to get to that championship, I'm probably going to bet on the field. If it's three matches, I bet on the stands. Someone can come out of the stands, he can't get through it. He can't recover. He can't be ready. Now, what was interesting was we worked with him to start to build his readiness, to change his training and the numbers were moving. But all of a sudden I'm watching this, the numbers are moving, but all of a sudden they tank back down again.
I went to him, I said, "What's going on?" And basically he said to me, "I don't like that training I was doing with you. I wanted to go back to doing stuff I was doing." And I said, "So, you recognize what--" He made a choice. By the way, he didn't play in the world team trials. And again, his talent level is incredible. But he has no resiliency when it comes to this multiple meet event. And I see it with my guys. I see numbers drop and I see losses happen. I see numbers improve and I see wins happen. We have a really high correlation between performance and these HRV measures.
Tommy: Yeah, which is very, very cool. Just briefly I want to ask you about that guy. Maybe you had more experiences with him or other guys who are similar. As the coach, you know what the athlete needs or you have a good idea what the athlete needs but that's not what the athletes wants to do. Do you have any tips on how to engage them and get them to -- A friend of mine who's a strength and conditioning coach says that the best coaches get the athletes to want what they need.
Tommy: How do you approach that?
Don: This goes back to classic what we call transtheoretical model. If you want to read about this, the author on this is James Prochaska. Transtheoretical model is stages of change. You may have heard of it in this area. How do you get people to change behaviors, to engage? When we started this, it's a lot easier to get someone to engage in change when they're in trouble.
And so our first couple of years, particularly that first year, I had that athlete here, did everything I asked him to do because he was in trouble. I didn't have the rest of the team and it takes time but you have to make the athlete want what you have, number one. That goes back to the classic transtheoretical model processes of when you're in contemplation, when you're trying to get them to consider, you've got to make sure that they understand the value of what you're offering is greater than the hassle they have to endure to change their behaviors.
And this is one of the real challenges with technology that there's a pretty high hassle factor. Omegawave has a really high hassle factor. I mean, I basically have to stand over these guys. This is not where you give the equipment and the kids go home and I get great data every day. That's not what happens. It takes a tremendous amount of energy on my part to get the data in but it's valuable enough that I'm willing to put that time in.
Now, the three years we've been doing this, I have more and more athletes come along that recognize the value, that accept the process and flow right into the system. So, where I was having to stand on the neck of ten kids three years ago, I'm probably standing on the neck of three of them right now. I've got three that I'm not even thinking about anymore, they're getting their measurements done, they're doing what they need to do.
I've got about four of them that I've got to push a little bit and then I've got three that just, you know what, the hassle is still too much. Ego is an interesting thing. There's some kids who don't like being told that they may be in a different state than what they feel. And it's important that the process not damage that ego. I tell my guys that when we measure on match day, I meet them in the morning at the hotel and we do the measurement, and the only thing that ever comes out of my mouth is, "Man, your numbers look great."
There's been a couple of times when they've sucked. But me telling a kid that his numbers sucked the morning of a match doesn't do anybody any good. I have to go back and think, okay, what's going on? Why is this [0:30:44] [Indiscernible]? Is there anything we can do? We keep learning from the process about preparation, what tools we have access to to change these things. Does that answer your question?
Tommy: Yeah, that's perfect. It's very cool that you mentioned the transtheoretical model because our now resident sports psychologist Simon Marshall has actually written about this fairly extensively when he was doing the science behind it. That's like a nice confluence of all the different people that we talk to, sort of see this stuff come together is very cool.
The next thing that I wanted to ask you about very briefly was you mentioned the Firstbeat system, continuous HRV, night time RMSSD. How can people who don't have access to that kind of system measure that kind of thing? The one thing that I know that you like and that maybe you can talk about the utility of, for an expanded population, something like the Oura ring. Can you talk about your experience over that and whether that's something that we can maybe use instead of this more sort of complex clinical type systems?
Don: So, if you want to start to look at HRV, I recommend the first step is do the simple basic stuff. We've already talked about it. We have a relationship with Elite HRV. They do a really good job. They've got a really simple product that everyone has access to. You get the app for free. If you have a heart rate transmitter, you've got to make sure the heart rate transmitter is of high enough quality. It's got a sample greater than 200 hertz.
We always recommend Polar H7s or H10s which is if you're training you should have one anyway. You combine that with an Elite HRV app and you've got a tool that you can start to track this with for free. Now, the Oura ring is something I am very optimistic about particularly the fact they're just finishing up the release of their second gen device.
I have some connections to the people that have worked on that project. The idea that maybe next year I hand my guys ten rings that they wear and the only hassle they have is making sure this thing is charged every three days and I'm getting data from, makes me very happy. Because the initial work that we've done on this, you know what, the night time resting RMSSD, they look pretty close to what we're seeing with our Omegawave data.
It's pretty close to what we see with our Firstbeat data. It certainly looks very promising. I think this is the challenge with technology and human performance right now, is how do you collect this data in a fairly frictionless environment? What we're using in five years probably doesn't exist today. Someone's going to invent. Band-Aid is going to come out with something one of these days, it's got a battery and a heart rate sensor in it. It's not here yet. So until then we've got to use our tools.
Oura ring, I'm a huge fan of. What's been interesting about -- The main driver of recovery is sleep. In the absence of good sleep, you're screwed. I mean, frankly. And it's not just one night of bad sleep. You can deal with that. It's not being able to establish your routine of recovery. So, Oura ring gives you this kind of a sleep piece too that we're starting to build awareness about that.
Actually, in the last, probably the last three weeks, this has been one of the hottest topics my athletes have come to me with on. "Listen, I want to get my sleep fixed." They're starting to think about it quite a bit more. I love that product and the potential that exists with it.
Tommy: That's cool. You want to have the athletes be interested and engaged. They're asking you for the questions rather than you sort of dumping all this stuff on top of them. You're now getting to the point where with the success and teaching them how this stuff is monitoring, this tracking can help them then all of a sudden they become the interested party that starts to drive it forwards.
Don: It's all about teaching whether I'm in a classroom or in a wrestling room. It's about them cognitively buying into the concept and making a decision that leads to a better behavior. Behaviors become culture and once you fix your culture the decision gets easier but the way you change that is with data and knowledge. Again, going back to that early stage transtheoretical model stuff, is that it's about driving up the value. We're having to drive down the hassle with human assessing. My investment as we drive that down some more it gets even faster. So, that's part of the opportunity right now.
Tommy: Yeah, absolutely. So then from there you mentioned, what, three and a half million data points that you're going to be collecting this year. How do you start to figure out what becomes useful? You're collecting all this data. Obviously, you can't know what you're going to intervene on or try and change or improve unless you're collecting that data but many people we work with or who listen to the podcast will track a mass number of things.
How do you, when looking at a team or an individual, how do you start to pass out what's really important or what needs some direct attention versus just what's interesting data to have? Or can you have too much, other things that you could track less often and that may give you some benefit too?
Don: Yeah. Well, this is the challenge of where we're at right now. I go back to, I think one of the best books I ever read about this was Nate Silver's book The Signal and the Noise. Right now, we have a lot of wearable technology coming out that's just creating this incredible data flows. Whether it's Zebra or the Catapult or the Polar systems, a lot of times these companies -- and I've watched this on several companies.
These companies have really good engineers deliver this data to you. Wow, look at all this data. But the challenge is what's noise and what is signal? One of the things that we do that has been really valuable in the last two years is that -- On our team, we have 35 guys in the room right now. Seven of the guys in the room right now have achieved All American status in wrestling.
You want to win national titles, when you're one of the top eight in the country, you've really done something different. You get All American status. We have about another five or six guys that have been in our starting lineup but have never achieved All American status. Then the rest of the room hasn't made the starting lineup for some reason or another.
One of the things we do -- So, if you've made All American status you get labeled at one. If you've been a starter but not All American you get labeled at two and if you've not been a starter you get labeled three. And then we go back and run correlations against everything that we do and we look at -- What we know is that if you can't deadlift 2.2 times your body weight, there's a 0.08 correlation effect that you can't make level two.
The ability to deadlift separates ones from twos and threes. When we look at your 3k time and estimate your VO2 from it, that separates ones from twos and ones from threes. Cardiovascular -- Everyone thinks wrestling is a glycolytic sport. There is a glycolytic aspect. But from a cardiovascular standpoint, it's critical. It's what predicts All American status, VO2.
We don't have to do VO2 test. We're doing a 3k test. We're estimating VO2 using just standard equations and, like I said, it's got a 0.08 Pearson correlation on it. We do that test with everything we do. Bench pressing predicts nothing. Squatting is nearly as powerful as deadlifting. Deadlifting is a little stronger. The fact that it's an all body, that the force is being transmitted not just through the body but also down through the hands probably makes it a little better predictor.
We're not using traditional deadlifts. We're using sumo deadlifts mainly from a posture -- Wrestlers tend to be really quad dominant. So, if we're doing a lot of traditional deadlifting, they get out of balance. We've got to really work on posterior chain work and that's why we do sumo deads on that. Vertical jump, what's interesting, so we just started using the force plates, looking at vertical jump last year.
Vertical jump was significant in the spring right after nationals. It was not significant in the fall when we reported back, which makes sense. I want my guys bouncing in the spring. We're looking at absolute strength in the fall. It did not align in the fall but it does the spring. It will be interesting to see as we kick up the next three weeks and keep measuring.
Tommy: That's very cool. I then have some questions about some of the, I guess, philosophical side behind some of the measurements of things like HRV. So, you've talked about the strength premises which I think the force plate and the ability to jump, and I think those are generally things that predict athletic performance across the board and I think it doesn't surprise me that those are strongly correlated with performance.
But some of the things to do with HRV brings me back to the Omegawave. So, you mentioned the Omegawave a couple of times. We have a mutual friend, Val Nasedkin, who helped develop the Omegawave. At that time of our recording, I think my podcast with him will probably come out this week so people may have heard it.
He's mentioned a couple of things about the HRV that I just love your opinion on. The first one is that -- So, if you're measuring something like RMSSD his thoughts -- and again, he's been doing this with so many athletes for decades and then basically athletes in every kind of sport since. The HRV or the RMSSD might tell you not necessarily how you're going to perform but what the cost on your body is going to be when you do that particular training session, if that makes sense.
He uses the story of the fact that many world records are broken by athletes who are actually right on the brink of becoming sick. At that point, your body is basically liquidating assets just to try and perform in whatever it is that's going to happen right now. Then the HRV might not look good but somebody might still perform well. I mean, does that translate to wrestling too? Do you have any thoughts on that kind of that other way of thinking about it?
Don: I listen to those guys and I've not been able to apply necessarily at that level. So, from our standpoint, I can have a wrestler with a low HRV, and this could be low RMSSD, this could be low SDNN, this could be, when we look at LF divided by HF, it's a very high value, very high stress value there. We can get them through one match, a dual meet.
Now, if it's a match against a good competitor, our data says the odds of them -- We actually have data that shows that as the parasympathetic rises and sympathetic drops it yields a differential in points earned in a match. So, last year, we took all our HRV data and compared it at the match performance data. There's a point where it flips from winning to losing and it's the straight bright line.
Now, from a theoretical standpoint, the Omegawave system uses some parameters that come from the Russian literature. It's not the traditional European journal stuff. They refer to a parasympathetic-sympathetic balance. That has been a very powerful indicator. And I think it makes sense that if you're very parasympathetic dominant you may be drawing resources to recover.
And, yes, that shows up in those Russian parameters. Part of this is, are we using the micrometer to measure something that we can use an odometer for? Are we just getting -- We're early on this. I've gone from where I really pay attention to one variable to where now I can see, I'm looking at about five of them at an applied level with the team that I understand very well.
Part of the challenge is the change in -- I'm not convinced you can create an algorithm for performance that works on a marathoner and a sprinter alike. There's too many other things coming into play. I don't see that yet. I've kind of gotten shape the data to the population I'm working with.
Tommy: Yeah, which makes sense.
Don: So, to go back and answer your question, yes. So, we're not just looking at train-train-train, turn the training valve off, stimulate recovery, roll in the competition. It's train-train-train, start to bring down the training valve, start to bring up the recovery valve so that when the athlete steps on the mat they're neither sympathetic dominant or parasympathetic dominant.
And, frankly, my belief is that sympathetic dominance when you step on the mat is easy. That's the fight or flight. We're spilling the drugs in our brain that we kind of all get off on. The beauty is when you can bring in parasympathetic co-stimulation, that's the sweet spot. And I talk about parasympathetic, no parasympathetic is fear.
Bear walked in the room, get out. Parasympathetic, no sympathetic, that's fishy. I'm standing next to a lake, I got no thoughts in the world, I'm looking at a lion in the water. That's pure peace. But when I can get a co-stimulation of sympathetic and parasympathetic that's valor. That's flow. That's the place that we're looking for and if you don't watch your taper and you don't watch your peak, that's a hard point to hit, if you're still cannibalizing resources for recovery.
Tommy: Yeah. You could probably equate that very similarly to the Yerkes-Dodson arousal curve where in any particular sports you need a certain amount of arousal and that will change based on the sport but having too much is detrimental to performance as is too little.
Don: Yeah, I think so. It's that glide path that we're all experimenting with. And then with wrestling, we throw in weight cut. We taper them down and then we say, okay, let's go and throw the stress of dropping 70% of your body weight in about three hours, or dropping 7% of your body weight in about three hours. 70 would be too much.
So, we throw in that little stress piece too. It's been interesting because I do believe using this kind of information has helped my athlete. A lot of times wrestlers will try and dehydrate for long periods of time. I've seen kids cutting water for three or four days which is just suicide. The best wrestlers will cut their weight for about an hour and they step on the scale, they make their weight, boom, they start to rehydrate.
We don't give an antidiuretic hormone response. It's just the natural hydration-dehydration cycle. You don't get the cortisol with that, the vasopressin response. Vasopressin is going to come with cortisol pretty strong. Lactate comes with cortisol. So, a lot of what we're trying to do is how do we bring these kids in that glide path where we're not getting the significant cortisol response and we can get recovery out of them?
Tommy: One of the things that we use at Nourish Balance Thrive to track performance, general health, risk of illness and injury is subjective monitoring, subjective questions. Though they're absolutely not mutually exclusive when you compare subjective questioning, sort of a standardized questionnaire, to HRV monitoring then particularly the things like injury risk overtraining risk, they seem to be fairly similar in terms of their ability to predict risk.
I'm thinking about this in various different populations and, obviously, you're working with undergraduate athletes and you've talked all about ego and then doing what they want to do. Do you do any subjective monitoring? Can you ask a 20-year old how he slept, how he felt during training, and get like a truthful response that might allow you to track some of that stuff as well as other risk factors through this subjective side?
Don: Well, I'm going to flip back to the stages of change models. So, we are currently not doing any subjective questions right now. I think it's important to look at the two different populations. When someone comes to you at Nourish Balance Thrive, they are motivated enough that they've sought you out, they've looked you up, they've invested. So, their transtheoretical model is contemplation moving to preparation. They're preparing. They recognize the value. They're willing to accept the hassle. That ratio is very pro change.
When I go back to college athlete and say, "Here, I want you to do this questionnaire," there's no value proposition that's been built into this. Now, we're doing it with some of the athletes here at Ohio State. I say some of the other teams are doing it but it takes time and how you launch that and your population readiness is significant.
To answer your question, we're not doing subjective. Again, if the world were different and part of me wants to have these kids in a classroom for an hour a day and teach them a course on performance. I don't get that pleasure so I've got to kind of slip it in when I can and that's less than ideal environment but I'll tell you I am looking at mechanisms. I want to take over their mobile phone to a certain degree.
The last time I was teaching, one of the challenges you have as a professor right now is you're in a classroom and these kids who I feel responsibility to deliver a product to are distracted dramatically. I had a no technology policy in my classroom. Even with a no technology policy in your classroom, you got the phone downs between their legs and they're still sneaking it in.
So, what I started doing is I use an online teaching product where I built real time assessments into my lectures so that they had a running app on their phone. So, as I'm doing my lecture, we've stopped, I'd say, "Okay, here's the question. Go ahead and let's answer this real quick." I had this app running. All of a sudden their phone belongs to me now. It was phenomenal. The attention was just phenomenal.
What I want to get to now is I want these to wake up in the morning with a message based on their own personal status that reinforces the concepts that we're talking about. This is a big project but I think this is the next step on this, is how do you get them to buy in at a more rapid pace? I think that's a real opportunity right now.
Tommy: Absolutely, and beautifully said. This is something that we've been thinking a lot about too is how to get people to engage, get people to enact behavior change in a way that is going to benefit them and is driven by them but it's also personalized to them. I think if you start to figure that out, we'll create some steps to do that. We'd be very interested to hear about that in the future because I think that's going to be super, super important.
The last thing I just wanted to ask you about was most of the data, say, that you talked about is from wrestling, college wrestling. These are elite, absolutely elite athletes in a male dominated sport.
You kind of sprinkled some stuff throughout it but do you have any tips for either just the average athlete or would your approach change in females or is all of this directly translatable to most of those athletic populations?
Don: Listen. There's nothing that says a female central nervous system is different than a male's. Now, there are different things. One of the challenges with female athletes and between being in the classroom, I've got kids that I coach that are out there in the field, one of the challenges that you have is how do you respond to coaching, how do you view it from a fear standpoint?
One in four girls are being sexually molested now by the time they're 18, one in six boys is what the literature says. So, when you have that athlete in your room and you don't necessarily understand why they're maladapting, you have to respect that. Again, there's a lot of freaky people out there and they're just doing damage to our kids and you've got to recognize that.
They're not broken. They're just tuned differently. Someone who's had to experience this sees everything as fear. And you have to recognize that as a coach. When I'm working with coaches, at the beginning of practice, it's a sympathetic event. There's high anxiety, what's going to happen, we're getting ready to go. Again, we're dumping cortisol, we're dumping adrenaline, we're dumping noradrenaline. We're getting all these resources ready so that we can practice hard.
If at the end of practice a coach finishes up by saying, "You guys suck today and if there aren't some changes you're not going to be around," you basically extended the stress event for at least 24 hours. Whereas if a coach will simply say, "You know what, we've had better days than we had today. I appreciate the work that you put in. I love you, guys. We're going to get this right. We're going t figure it out."
If that athlete feels that their leader loves them, respects them, has their best interest in mind, you begin their recovery process. This is not gender specific. This holds the truth. If you're a coach listening to this -- I love watching coaches. One of my favorite things in the world to do is to watch coaches. I love watching coaches in practice in particular, how do you run your practice, how you do these things?
I watch football coaches mainly because you can see him so much like in football games and so forth. And I see a kid make a mistake and I see him come to the sideline and I see a coach screaming in his face and I'm thinking to myself what learning took place there? What did we do to get this kid into a position of flow? What did we do to disconnect the prefrontal cortex so that we can create a full flow environment so they can perform the way we know?
I don't think that coaching event did that as I'm watching [0:52:55] [Indiscernible]. Now, that coach is coaching the way he learned, the way she learned, the way she was coached. I think this is the opportunity right now is that this data gives us some guidelines but at the end of the day it comes back to practice, best practice, best practice for the athlete in preparation for the event and fueling for the event and recovering from the event, best practice for the coach in understanding the change that they're going for which rarely yield positive change.
And again, back to your strength coach, it's that challenge of getting kids to a position where they're hungry for what you're offering. And that starts with love, them knowing that you love them and that then relationships become transformational not transactional. This is not about what the kid does for you. This is about how you change the kids.
My experience is that we don't have a fine enough pen right now to determine is there difference between males and females. This applies to elite and common. Listen, we know this applies -- This is the same science we use with post traumatic stress whether it be coming from warfare base or sexual abuse base or regardless of where the trauma comes from. The continuum that we're working on is the same continuum and the techniques are the same. I don't see a need to -- They work. They work.
Tommy: Yeah. I mean, that's just such a beautiful place to stop and a great way to summarize. I would certainly say I completely agree with you. Whatever it takes to fix a disease or fix a broken human is exactly what it takes. Maybe broken isn't the right way to describe it, but if somebody is in a disease state, what it takes to fix them is exactly the same as what an athlete needs to perform their best.
We can use all this data and we can absolutely inform the process and with you that's a huge part of what you've been doing and it's been showing some really amazing results, which is fabulous. Yeah, I mean, this has been brilliant and a great way to finish up. I know people listening to this will want to find out more about you and how they can engage with you and learn from you so maybe you can tell us a bit about how people can find you online or work with you if they want to.
Don: Don Moxley. Gmail is my -- I've sewed up all the Don Moxleys in social media. Don Moxley in Instagram and Don Moxley in Twitter and Don Moxley in Facebook and Don Moxley in Gmail and about.me/donmoxley, those are -- If you Google Don Moxley, I'm one of the ones that comes up first.
If there's a way we can work together or if there's something I can do to help you out, feel free to reach out. Typically, I learn as much from these interactions as you do. I tend to invest myself and I'm so -- If you did have questions, let me know. I love what I do. I'm always looking for the next project, the next thing, so don't ever hesitate to reach out.
Tommy: Okay. Fantastic. I'm certain people will and I encourage them to do so. Thanks again, Don. This has been brilliant.
Don: Tommy, I really appreciate. I'm grateful for what you've done with the meetings that we had, the introductions that we've made. I think you guys are doing a great job. Keep up the great work. It's all part of the process, I think.
Tommy: Yeah, absolutely. Cheers.
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