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Published April 24, 2011 | Physical Education

A Watch For An Independent Training Paradigm

At Champlain College's Saint Lawrence Campus, elite athletes are registered in a physical education course called Athletic Excellence. The exercise that the students do in their elite sport as physical activity is credited and added theoretical content guarantees the achievement of course objectives.

How to track student workouts has always been problematic. I have gotten reports from people saying they were working out five or six times a week for an hour or two a day, but when they did a cardio-vascular test, they would have a rating below the average of the normal population! I then saw a television show about schools in the States where students used a polar watch. At the end of a workout, they would download their information onto computers, and the grade would be generated based on heart rates achieved.

How the Polar Cardio Training Watch Works in our Courses

The Polar Watch has become an integral part of our courses for elite athletes. It's like a textbook; you buy the watch at a reduced cost and then you get to keep it. A lot of students continue to use the watch for their cardio training after they graduate. You get related software and theoretically, each student would buy their own infrared key to download information on their own computers. We, however, have a common infrared key that's on a computer in my office.

At the start of the course, we make sure the watch technology functions. Students come into my office on a two-week schedule and they download their training data. I look at their log, and I give them a grade on five for their workout period. We put five or six logs together for 30 or 40 percent of the final grade. Be it with hockey players, figure skaters or baseball players, weightlifting or cardio workouts, we're involved with our elite athletes through their physical education course.

Once the scanner in my office reads the workout data on the watch, it transfers it to daily, weekly and monthly personal workout graphs. I can see how many hours a student has worked out, and I can see the intensity that they trained at. Students are requested to note what they were doing on their daily workout sheets. Was it cardiovascular training, running, or skating? What I don't want is people starting to send me e-mails of their workout graphs. I want to have a hands-on approach to make sure that they're respecting the requirements of the course and that I get to see them.

Students also write comments, and the door's open to put in what they want. How did they feel? What was their energy level? Were they confident and happy after the workout? Perhaps, the coach killed them running controlled breakouts, penalty fielding, three killing shootout drills and then they missed the net twenty times and had to do 200 pushups at the end. The more detailed the log, the better the grade.

Polar and the new PE

All this workout data helps students monitor their progress and motivate themselves. When you're looking to explain a good performance, sometimes you look at the environment that led up to it. When every aspect is spelled out for you, there's a chance that you can reproduce it. Students must explain why they think they achieved their goals and the correlation between their workouts throughout the semester and the exercise principles that they are learning.

Cheating and Biofeedback

Just using the polar watch didn't end cheating, but biofeedback is a pretty good way of ensuring that the workout you're getting is the actual workout that the student did. Every semester, the students are tested using cardiovascular tests in the gymnasium. Their scores are established and objectives are set. I also ask the students to wear the watch for five minutes prior to starting their workout to get a resting heart rate. If they lend their watch to their dad or someone else for their workout and during the first five minute period, the resting heart rate is 82 instead of 52, the biometric feedback is enough to let me know that they were really tired when they worked out or someone else worked out wearing their watch. Just as there is plagiarism in Philosophy or in English, there now can be the same thing in PhysEd!

You can also take it a step further. A student lends the watch to their dad who plays a hockey game. A young person's heart rate is going to go up but within a minute drops to 80, 85 or 90. With an older guy, it doesn't drop down as fast, and it doesn't go as high. When a recovery peak is a very gentle slope compared with another hockey workout, you know what's going on if you understand the physiology.

Watching Business Students

We used polar watches for athletes and then two years later the people in the business program came to put something together for their students. We tried to tailor the course for the lifestyle of a fit successful business person. Most of these people have daily workouts that they prioritize. We put together a course where students become independent and work out a minimum of 30 minutes a day six days a week instead of spending time on a basketball court or playing baseball. Discipline is an issue as is developing a routine and being able to have a sound healthy escape mechanism from work related stress.

A Great Start!

A lot of the teachers in PhysEd throughout the province are looking at a paradigm where students exercise independently. Teachers need to know their data is genuine and the polar watch is making this possible. Once the appropriate training guidelines and exercise prescription is presented to the student by the teacher, the student can apply them and receive periodic feedback from the professor when he downloads the information. There is still room for improvement, but the future of this technology is exciting.

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