Expert Interview Series: Roger Schmitz of Moxy Monitor On How Activity Trackers are Changing the Way Athletes Train and Work Out

By Aaron Eisberg

Roger Schmitz is the inventor of the Moxy Muscle Oxygen Monitor and a founder and CEO of the company behind it, Fortiori Design LLC. We recently chatted with Roger to learn more about the newest metrics being used to track physiologic performance, and how this data may one day transform the way athletes train for their sport or maximize the impact of their daily workouts.

What exactly does the Moxy Monitor do?

The Moxy measures muscle oxygen saturation (SmO2) and total hemoglobin concentration (THb) in the muscles of athletes while they train or perform their sport.

Why is it beneficial to measure muscle oxygen saturation levels during performance training?

These parameters let trainers see exactly what's going on in the muscles in real time. They use this information to determine which physiologic system is limiting the athlete's performance, assess the level of recovery of various systems, and guide training to stress a particular system in a controlled fashion. This allows them to target training to be more effective with less unnecessary stress on the athlete.

Identifying the limiting system isn't a measure of good or bad or a quantification of performance. It means that the trainer can determine whether the cardiac, respiratory, muscular, or neurological system is the first one to max out when the athlete reaches their highest performance level. This can change depending on the sport or activity, and it can even change depending on recovery level. For example, if a cyclist is cardiac limited and goes out and trains hard every day, they would always be stressing the same system and never giving it a chance to recover - and they could actually get worse over time.

Once the trainer identifies which systems have recovered and which have not, they can structure the training accordingly. For example, it's possible to adjust breathing to cause deep oxygen desaturation in the muscles at significantly sub-maximal intensity. This allows the trainer to stress the muscles while giving the heart and lungs an easy day.

For everyday fitness, can an awareness of muscle oxygen saturation levels improve a workout or make it more effective? Or is this beneficial only for top-tier athletes?

Athletes that are serious about their training really have the most to benefit from a technology like the Moxy. For the most part, beginner athletes will get better fast no matter what they do. The super elite athletes already have access to lots of time with top trainers and the most expensive technology out there. It's the athletes that are already training and might be starting to reach a plateau that can benefit the most. In a lot of cases, this information provides much more actionable training guidance than even the most sophisticated sports labs can provide.

How can a person be assured that a wearable technology fitness device is providing accurate data during a workout?

Our technology was developed based on our team's experience measuring tissue oxygenation for medical applications. The leap forward was to make the technology accurate under the much more rugged conditions needed for measuring on athletes.

The Moxy has been tested by sports scientists around the world. It's been used underwater, on the forearms of motocross riders and downhill skiers, during rugby and hockey games, and in other applications.

Could you provide an example of how recording and analyzing workout data can help someone identify physiologic problems or issues that may be hindering their performance?

We did an assessment on one triathlete while he was on the bike. In his case, it was clear that he had an imbalance between his left and right legs. After discussion with the athlete, we learned that he had suffered an injury two years prior to the assessment. Even though he no longer noticed any pain or other issues from the injury, it was clear that he had not completely regained the performance of the injured leg. This was a case where he could use his power meter to show that both legs were producing the same load. However, the injured leg was getting a lot more stress. He needed to adjust his training plan to stress the recovery the injured leg.

A more simple case is just helping athletes guide their intensity on their recovery days. Athletes are competitive, so they tend to go too hard on their recovery days and then are unable to go hard enough on the hard days. When athletes are instructed to keep their SmO2 as high as possible on their recovery days, they have real-time physiologic feedback on the correct intensity for them.

Given the huge increase in nutrition-related information available that has often resulted in confusion for consumers, is there a concern that a substantial increase in fitness data will overwhelm people in a similar fashion?

This important issue is really getting chipped away at from two directions. First, there is a lot of data infrastructure available to help athletes and trainers manage this data. The Moxy interfaces with the Garmin ConnectIQ system, which allows athletes to see their data live on their watch or bike computer and have it automatically synced with their GPS, heart rate, cadence, and power data. These devices are capable of syncing to the cloud using wifi or a smartphone. So as soon as their workout is done, the device uploads it to the cloud and lets their trainer know it's there. We're also seeing many training software applications add support for this type of data so the trainer can update the training program for the athlete and send it back to their device automatically.

The second direction is that many of our longer-term users tend to stop using their other measurement devices. For cyclists and triathletes, we see them reduce their dependence on heart rate and power. Many athletes stop VO2 and blood lactate testing entirely. For daily training, muscle oxygen data is often sufficient information. Power is a very important performance measure, but it provides very little information about the athlete's physiology that is producing the power. The other physiologic measures can be great additional information, but they aren't nearly as rich or practical as muscle oxygen data.

What are some of the technological breakthroughs in fitness technology that you expect to see in the near future?

There are two technology trends that I'm really excited about. The first is a transition to physiologic-based training. In recent years, the pendulum has swung in the direction of performance-based training mainly because of our ability to measure performance with devices like GPS watches, power meters, and accelerometers. Our ability to measure physiology has lagged a bit. The limits of previous technology left VO2 testing mostly in the lab. Blood lactate testing could be done in the field, but it still required a blood draw. Heart rate monitoring is great because it can be used anywhere, but it only provides limited physiologic information. Muscle oxygen monitoring breaks through these limitations to provide actionable physiologic information to guide training for almost any sport. With this development, we should see training guidance swing toward more physiologic-based training.

The second breakthrough, which is maybe a little further out, involves Big Data and artificial intelligence. Athletes can now measure their performance and their physiology on every training session and potentially during every competition. They can collect more and more information about their nutrition and even their quality of sleep. The technological leaps in Big Data analysis and AI that are leading to self-driving cars and selecting music playlists for you will become immensely valuable to process all of this data for athletes. Big data techniques have already uncovered that NBA players are more likely to be injured in back-to-back road games in different cities. This kind of analysis will become available to more everyday athletes to help them prevent injuries, achieve their goals more effectively, and have even more fun doing it.

The Accurofit system can sync with your smartphone so you can view your workout data in the palm of your hand. Download the app today!
Accuro Mobile Health App