Episode #37: Interview with Tricia Sterland – Omegawave North America

Tricia Sterland is the head of Omegawave North America.  Tricia has been working with elite athletes and military for over a decade.  She previously worked for Polar (heart rate monitors) and is now working with Omegawave.  Omegawave specializes in the development of training and performance management solutions, providing athletes, teams and coaches a faster way to maximize results while avoiding injuries and overtraining.


Omegawave’s trademarked ‘Windows of Trainability’ represents an innovative approach to athlete preparation, one that can be easily integrated into any system of training without imposing radical changes on a coach’s existing methodology. Omegawave’s approach centers on the concept that the amount of the load should not be the primary focus of the training process, but rather the timing of when the load is applied.

This technology allows for the optimization of the athlete’s training process by addressing and providing comprehensive answers to the fundamental dilemmas of coaching:

  • Is the athlete ready for another workout, and at what volume and intensity?
  • Which physical qualities – endurance, speed & power, strength, or coordination & skill – should be developed to produce the greatest training?
  • How can the training process be optimized to achieve the best results in the shortest period of time and with the least amount of physiological cost?

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Full Transcription of Our Podcast with Tricia Sterland from Omegawav


COREY:         Hey guys, this is Corey Beasley with Fight Camp Conditioning. I’m on the phone with Tricia Sterlandfrom Omegawave. Tricia, how are you?

TRICIA:        Good. Great. Thanks for having me on, Corey.

COREY:         Of course. Thank you so much for taking the time. I know you’re super busy out there in Chicago.

TRICIA:        Absolutely, busy and I’m cold.

COREY:         Yeah, sure, that time of year, huh?

TRICIA:        Absolutely.

COREY:         So Tricia, give everybody an idea about who you are and what you do.

TRICIA:        Sure, absolutely. I’ve been in Omegawave for about three years. Before that I was actually a Polar heart rate for 11 years. So, always been on the technology side. My markets have always been sports so I’ve always dealt with professional collegiate athletics, always special performance, lot of special operations, a lot of military. So my market didn’t actually change from one job to the next. Just upgraded the technology and here I am.


COREY:         Right on. So you’re on the technology side of monitoring performance output, recovery, that type of stuff, correct?

TRICIA:        Absolutely. Yep, sure I am.

COREY:         Okay. Can you give everybody an idea, if they’re not familiar with Omegawave? Can you give them an idea of what that product does and how it can help people?

TRICIA:        Yeah, absolutely. So Omegawave as a general rule of thumb is a piece of technology that monitors your physiological state. But as it’s doing that, or what it does, it’s four minutes at rest. So we do nothing at work. We don’t work like a heart rate monitor where you’re tracking the intensity of your training session. We don’t work on GPS where you’re tracking a number of different variables. We are an at rest test. With that, you are monitoring really the readiness of where you’re at and if you’re not ready, what is not ready, what variables — what is your limitation? We look at our product a lot as adaptation and cost. So what can you adapt to and what does it cost you? That’s the way we look at it. So our product that is online right now our individual is based on the [inaudible] trainability. And with that, you’re basically looking at your four systems of endurance, strength, speed and power, and skill and coordination. And it will give you based upon your reading, what windows are open, what are limited, and what are closed. As you know from the measurements that you do and you’ve posted, you can see what high intensity after a session will look like too.


COREY:         Yeah absolutely. So the product is basically, people work out and then after they worked out, or they’re monitoring doing a reading and then from that reading, you can tell what systems got to attack.

TRICIA:        Yes, if that’s the way you’re going to use the product. So the other way to use it is obviously prior to training to decide which methodologies I’m going to use today. So what windows are open. Is endurance is wide open, that may be a day that you’re very adaptable to that discipline and you would want to work that one. Is speed and power is closed is probably not a good idea to work that, there’s no adaptability there. So we like to take measurements before to see what you’re doing and then we also like to take them after to give you an idea or give a coach an idea of actually what the session did to them. This is probably the most interesting piece of it. And I always try to have athletes test after because — and I learned this on myself exactly what high intensity means. Sometimes your high intensity is actually not and sometimes when you think something’s very, very easy, but it had or took a lot of central nervous system power for instance, it’s much more taxing on your body than you can ever imagine. So it’s always, always very interesting to look at that and then decide, do you want to have that athlete obtain that stress, or do you want to recover that athlete? So obviously, if they’re getting ready for an event in two days, I’m going to want to push some recovery methodologies. If it’s at a period of time where I know that they’re going to have a lot of stress, I may want to keep that stress on them to have their body adapt to that stress. So you have that option if you just after,


COREY:         Right on. Now I know traditionally, the linear progressions and stuff like that, where people are doing varying intensities for three week periods or maybe varying intensities throughout the week, where they have these stuff that’s taught in traditional books and strength and conditioning programs and stuff like that. This sounds like it’s kind of making it a little bit more customizable and a little bit different than those linear progressions.

TRICIA:        Yeah, absolutely. And from training, you probably agree with this statement. If you took five people even from the same team and trained them the exact same way, two people would adapt, two people wouldn’t be enough work for and probably one person it was more than enough work. So even doing the same exact training session with five people who you think are physically conditioned about the same time, it doesn’t work. So what happens is if you don’t know what limitations are there, as you progress, you actually simply won’t. So figuring out which windows are open and closed and what is able to be adapted allows you to do your progression in a manner that is efficient, it’s effective, it keeps injuries lower, and you actually know what systems to work. And that’s the beauty of the Omegawave system.


COREY:         Right on. And the monitoring system, like how is it monitoring all those different systems?

TRICIA:        Yes, so I should have probably said that at the beginning. So we monitor three different systems. We’re monitoring the autonomic systemcardiac systemcentral nervous system, and the energy supply systems. So at rest, and again, four minutes, you can measure all three of those systems.


COREY:         Right on. So basically, I know we put — like I put a pad on my palm, one on my forehead and then I have that plugs into almost like a heart rate monitor strap that goes around my chest, and then it’s able to monitor all of that different stuff. Now the cool thing at least that I noticed and thought of was that, for athletes, a lot of them will think about, okay, well, I have my skill training and then I’ll have my strength and conditioning and then maybe do some road work or whatever else. Right? How does this system — and this system basically monitors stress as a whole. So I don’t think a lot of people will take into account that maybe a crying baby all night, combined with sparring and then a nasty conditioning session is all stress. Right?

TRICIA:        Absolutely. And that’s a good point. I just said that in the meeting the other day. Our professional new baby athletes are always the most stressed. It’s kind of funny actually. But with that, that’s the thing. You have training depending on what kind of ability you have and where you are in your athletic career, you could have training for an hour or you could have training for three sessions a day for two hours of [inaudible]. And the thing about that even at a high, high intense day of six or eight hours of training, there’s still another 16 or 14 hours in the day that are unaccounted for when you’re training. So unless you know what those other hours do in combination with your training, that’s where it gets really difficult. We have a big presence in the collegiate sport market obviously and one of the things they realized almost across the board and we talked about this all the time is right now everybody’s heavy in the basketball season, and its final at school, and it is a huge, huge deterrent to being physiological ready during finals week and the teams notice. So they have drastically cut back on mainly intensity this week due to that. So there’s certain things in people’s lives that happen, new babies and new jobs. If they’re not a professional athlete and can do it, take time and recover and do things in between their sessions that are going to certainly affect their reading. It could simply be one of your in laws are in town. And you want to see stress around the holidays? So there’s a lot of things and so when you are stressed, your body knows that it is not optimal. And so taking everything into account at the same time is the most important piece.


COREY:         Right on. So the interesting part is I know at MMA and combat sports and especially those sports the injury rate is through the roof, right, those are incredibly taxing on the system both physically and mentally as well as on the joints and everything else. Now with that type of a sport and monitoring your system, going into the gym, from your experience working with those guys, how once you have these readings, are they able to customize the workout?Because I know for a lot of guys, when they show up coaches have got a plan, and coach wants them to do X, Y and Z. And I don’t care what your little computer says I want you to go in and spar. You what I mean?

TRICIA:        Exactly, it happens and it’s a lot of it at first the amount of coaches that one combat athlete could have that don’t talk to each other. And that’s first and foremost, one of the biggest problems is a strength conditioning isn’t talking to the sparring coach or the wrestling coach or Muay Thai coach. If they’re not talking to each other, then you have a problem anyway because everybody wants to do what they’re doing without taking into account what else the athlete did. So that’s kind of a basic thing. But with the readings themselves, there are going to be days where you take a reading and you are less than optimal and the coach is not going to adjust his plan and that happens across every sport that I have in every different sport and every level. And so with that, what this helps you with or what Omegawave does is that if you are able to test after what you can do is you can push that recovery. So if you test out and find out that yeah, you know what, I’ve got four red windows now, and I wasn’t able to adapt to that sparring session at a level that I needed to, you can now take the information and do extra recovery and do the things that hopefully at this point you know, what recovers you a little bit faster. So sometimes you’re going to end up having a work post rather than before and it just is. And hopefully at some point, you’re not reading enough that you’re going to start to get injured or over-trained to the point where you’re fatigued. You have to monitor your fatigue levels. Sometimes you feel great and your Omegawave reading will tell you, it’s probably not a great day to do this, or vice versa. Sometimes you feel terrible and Omegawave is like, you’re fine, go do it. And I look at mine sometimes and it tells me I’m doing just fine, and I’m thinking: No. No, I’m not. And then about 20 minutes into practice, I’m thinking okay, I’m not so bad. So yeah, it happens both ways.


COREY:         Right on. So from your experience in using that system and how people are using it, how do you sense progress as you’re kind of moving forward? Because I know that there are readings, it’s basic, it’s simple. You have a green, yellow and red reading for all those different four categories. But moving forward, there are a lot of different methodologies as far as strength and conditioning goes and then you combine that with all the different things out there that athletes can be doing from their training. How do you kind of combine all the different methodologies maybe that are out there and then see progress moving forward because you’re able to work so many different aspects of fitness at one time?

TRICIA:        Sure. And that’s a great question. This could be debated for hours. I actually liked these questions, because the first question is, is people think progress means green windows all the time. So every time you go to measure no matter what you did, you are green and you are absolutely 100% ready to go. So the question then becomes, does your body get enough stress in the first place? So if your body’s not experiencing stress and having the ability to adapt to an overload of stress, how do you know if you progressed, right? And that’s the Omegawave piece of it. The other piece is the simple progression question on the other side is very easy. If I get faster, if I perform better, if I can jump higher, those things are easy to measure, right. So when you’re measuring progression, you’re usually measuring on the mechanical load side rather than our side because sometimes I get somebody that has green reading for seven days in a row, I may up their intensity and see if I can get the reading to yellow or red on purpose. So there’s other ways to look at that too. There’s other ways to see that.

Sometimes recovering your athletes all the time doesn’t allow them to get to the point where they’ve had too much stress and so once they have this stress, for instance, if your sparring sessions are always at less than your fight session and they have a fight session, they’re not going to be able to adapt to it, right? So you have to, at some point have specificity on intensity at different levels.


COREY:         But it’s good to be able to see because I know a lot of times, you have the body sparring type stuff going on, not all places, but a lot of places that might just kind of take it easy on sparring day a little bit less, right?

TRICIA:        Absolutely, and you don’t have to. Because you’re prone to injury, you’re going to get banged up in there anyway. No matter how good you are, you’re going to take punches. So one of those [inaudible], you’re going to get banged up and sparring, and sparring can be very painful. But the fact is that the intensity level at some point during your session is going to have to be equal to what you’re going to put out in a fight and it’s a very challenging process right there.


COREY:        Now, from your experience working with not only fighters but the elite military and all these different types of athletes, when they do start using that Omegawave program, what kind of a learning curve do you see, and then moving forward, are people are adapting, are they figuring stuff out? Like what works, what doesn’t, different types of training and how it stresses them?

TRICIA:        Yeah, it’s always interesting with the technology because working with Polar for instance, for 11 years, you think, hey, it’s a heart rate monitor. That’s easy, right? I think there’s 50 features in age Polar monitor and the average person was using between two and three of them. Technology in general, for people that are not into technology, it can be tough. I think what we did when we developed the windows to trainability is now a perfect fit for somebody that is not necessarily inclined to buy technology because it actually gives you the prescription. At one point in Omegawaves career we were very good at reading but not necessarily prescribing any information for you. You have to decipher it yourself. But with the window to trainability we’re actually telling you, hey, you’re adaptable here, you’re not unnecessarily adaptable here; this particular window will cost you. So it kind of gives you your roadmap, gives you your GPS for your workout.


COREY:         Right on. So as far as this program goes, they have the Omegawave program with the windows of trainability. How does that differ from — I know you were talking about the heart rate monitors, I know a lot of people are starting to use those in different ways, as well as with HRV or the heart rate variability programs.

TRICIA:        Yeah, so again, heart rate monitoring or GPS or anything that you use, you’ll be using that at work. So if I’m using a heart rate monitor, I’m probably trying to figure out what the intensity of my session was when I did this, how high was my heart rate, I want to stay between this zone today so I’m going to use it when I run because today’s a moderate run and I know my moderate zone is between this and this. So you’re using that to guide your session for intensity mostly. We are opposite. We’re looking at what did the actual session do to you plus all those other stressors that we talked about. So again, we’re at rest, heart rate is generally at work. We may get a resting heart rate but most of the time you’re buying a heart rate monitor to use it at work. HRV, on the other hand, is an important piece of the puzzle but it’s just a piece. And even most devices on the market are very incomplete in how they measure it. They’re only using a portion of HRV. They might be like, for instance, looking at the parasympathetic system, or a root mean square related to that. And that can oftentimes be very misleading because it’s a small portion. When we look at heart rate variability, we’re looking at statistical methodsgeometrical methodsrhythm, wave structurenonlinear methods and integrated analysis. So we’re looking at the complete full picture of heart rate variability as part of our autonomic information that we give back to the client.

So we look at not only the parameters put in place in 1996, but we cross correlate those to the Russian parameters and those were developed 50 years prior to that. So even with all the analysis, we go through the heart rate variability and how extensive it is, without the central nervous system, you’re only looking at one side of the coin. Central nervous system is very, very, very often a limiting factor for many athletes.


COREY:         Right on. Now from your experience and working with — I know you said a lot with elite military and different team sports as well as all the combat guys. What are some big holes that you’ve seen or things that you guys have learned that really revolutionized? Because a lot of the stuff that we’re talking about is very different than even what people still learn in school today. People are applying strength and conditioning field and it’s very, very unique. What are some of the things that were like big rocks that changed things?

TRICIA:        Yeah, one of the big gaps and still a gap, it’s getting better, for instance. Up until probably a couple years ago, most teams didn’t hire any person to manage data or manage the science aspect of the teams. Strength and conditioning department had somebody in that department that really liked data and technology too. As a team start to move to an independent person to cover technology or science — this is what they call? They call it like Head of Sports Performance, they can call it Head of Science. So whatever they’re calling it now, those have been really critical positions to fill. And I can’t believe every team doesn’t have one. Because those are the guys that are specifically in charge of data. So the biggest gap for us is always people want to collect data, everybody’s starting to think about that. But then they don’t actually know what to do with the data because they’re either: A) in a position where they’re busy. and my I love, love who I work with, I get to work with strength and conditioning coaches. And there’s like the best industry, but these guys are busy, and they’re busy for 20 hours a day and to shovel tons and tons of data on top of them and have them try to decipher it which is a full time position is crazy. So oftentimes that hole is now being filed a little bit, which I really like to see. So with that we still have the different departments within the same organization that don’t necessarily talk to each other. We still have strength and conditioning running independently of the athletic training, or we have the science team running completely independently of strength and conditioning. So even though they’re in the same building, sometimes they’re not communicating. So a lot of what I see going into each sporting team and I’m lucky because I get to go into all different sports from all different leagues, is a lot of the same problem is it comes down to communication amongst the coaches. You might have a strength and conditioning guy that is an older school guy and you might have a coach that wants to be more progressive and they don’t necessarily don’t fit.

So I think it’s the data piece, a lot of people is get the data because without going through data for a couple of years and actually utilizing collection methodology and stuff, you can’t find necessarily say, okay, my data is here that equals this, they’re trying to find some linear correlation really quick to go show the coach and say, hey, look, this measurement was 18 days in a row red, so he got injured. Of course he did. Well, that would be great. It’s probably, not going to look that way. So I don’t know, did I answer that question?


COREY:         Yeah, I mean, it’s a lot about communication and gathering information and talking about what guys are doing and how they look and how are they performing. It’s just another piece of the puzzle I guess to help keep people healthy and keep them performing and moving in the right direction.

TRICIA:        Right, and the other thing too is that a lot of teams have started again, to solve this issue with using technology like ours. But you see the injury rates at these sports now. It’s crazy. I mean, it’s crazy when you have 50% of your guys out due to injuries and that goes back to them trying to do everything at a high level instead of the different departments playing off each other saying, okay, we’re going to go light here, this is going to be hard, this day is going to be hard, practicing three and a half, four hours on a Wednesday when you might play eight to 12 minutes of a game on Sunday doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever.


COREY:         Yeah. Now, another question I have is from — I get a lot of questions about developing the mental side of things; mental toughness and being able to be mentally strong, mentally tough, being able to grind if they need to grind. I know a lot of guys will especially — I think all sports probably do it but you have those 90 minute sessions that are just [distortion]. Right? And people want to be test, they want to be strong mentally and physically, but this system will help kind of see what they’re doing to people maybe? Maybe it’ll open some eyes?

TRICIA:        Yeah, I mean, the mentally tough thing, it is one of those debatable topics throughout sports that, again, could take days. If somebody’s really mentally tough if you can too provide that stressor over and over and over to them again, that helps them become mentally tough to the stressor because you’ve inoculated them to that. So there’s always that piece of it too. But there are things that will tax somebody on both sides, central nervous system and autonomically if they’re doing something for say, the first time. So when we get — in Special Operations, if they’re looking at something on the selection side, something that they did Monday, they’ve never done before, it’s going to really tax those guys, but if they do it repeatedly until the end of the week, it’s probably going to have — they’re probably going to be more adaptable to it by Friday.

So there’s that piece of it too that one of the elite MMA fighters that we work with picked up kind of a different type of movement that he wanted to try. Well, the first like 10 sessions of that, that movement put him way red and yellow versus the green that he was normally but after a while when he started to adapt to it, then he was, you tell me, he started to go to yellow, green, because his body, his mind mentally wasn’t as taxing for him. So yeah, you can utilize this and that methodology too.


COREY:         So from the sounds of it, I mean, there’s always that struggle between physical preparation and skill preparation and life, right? And these guys have to balance those things, and they don’t — I think a lot of people without the data, maybe they feel like they’re just being worst that day, or they’re weak or whatever. And I think what this does, at least from my perspective, is it can take and kind of blend those worlds together and they’re not separate and it can kind of help maybe organize someone’s training so that they can kind of blend those things together and understand really what’s going on with their body.

TRICIA:        Yeah, exactly. And a lot of times, for elite level athletes, small changes make huge differences. And so that’s some things that we’ve learned throughout the years, like, hey, this guy’s been going in cold tubs for years, he’s not adapting to it at all. We take the cold out, we put them in warm water with Epsom salts and whoa, look at him. Or hey, he’s not eating enough carbohydrates at night so his central nervous system is taxed in the morning. So there are things that are so small to change. And yeah, you have to work with the system and learn about yourself more, that once you start experimenting and say, I’m going to go try this and this and then take a test before and after. And you start to figure out what really puts you back into an optimal reading, it’s exactly what you need. And sometimes, there are athletes that are full time athletes, right, so they get to work out, train, rest, recover, eat right and go back. So that happens. But amateur athletes and even collegiate athletes, they don’t have that opportunity. They have stuff that they need to do all day. Some people might be carrying jobs and compete at night. So with that, trying to figure out what those other hours in the day do to you is critical to be able to say, hey, you know what, I simply just might need a day off on Thursday instead of Wednesday this week.

COREY:         Yeah, right.

TRICIA:        I might get two days off; I’m a little bit of an older competitive athlete. Two days for me is better after a very, very high intensity session. The other thing we learned a lot that is that those rest days sometimes aren’t what you think they were when you give them to people. So okay, well, you obviously worked hard for the last couple days. Today’s a rest day. It might not be a rest day, you may need to do some more active type of recovery and other low intensity work, maybe a much better solution than a full rest day for some of these athletes do.


COREY:         Right, right. Yeah, it’s pretty incredible because it’s really just individualizing these things and showing people that you can’t just have a one size fits all program and just toss everybody in and expect them to get all the same output.

TRICIA:        Exactly, exactly. That’s exactly down to what we said right at the very beginning. We’ve come full circle.

COREY:         Yeah. Well, Tricia, if people want to learn more about what you guys are doing, what’s the best place for them to find more info?

TRICIA:        Yeah, just www.omegawave.com. I run the Omegawave North American Facebook site. And then we have our corporate one, which is just the regular Omegawave Facebook site. So those are good. On mine, I tend to post a lot of things that other people are posting about their readings, their workouts, articles that we’ve been in and things like that. So it’s a nice way to just kind of, look at what’s going on.

COREY:         Very cool. Well, Tricia, thanks again so much for joining us. Guys. I’ll put all the links and stuff like that below the podcast. And yeah, thanks so much again.

TRICIA:        Oh, thanks for having me, Corey. Appreciate it. Have a great day.

COREY:         You too.