When math improves your workouts


adam thibault

Interval training (PPE) is the best way to increase your cardiorespiratory capacity and overall athletic performance. It pleases the athlete preparing for the Olympic Games as well as the amateur athlete or the patient who wants to improve his physical condition or health.

There are many tools available to help kinesiologists, trainers and athletes develop PPE sessions. But none seem to be designed to adequately balance the different components of PPE—the nature of the activity, the number, duration, and intensity of effort, and the recovery fractions, as well as the number of sets that divide these fractions.

This is what has always bothered Guy Thibault, an exercise physiologist and associate professor at the University of Montreal’s School of Kinesiology and Physical Activity Sciences (EKSAP).

Having recently retired from the post of scientific director of the Institut National du sport (INS) du Québec, the scientist is fully committed to developing a Web application for his main area of ​​expertise, PPE.

“This is the culmination of a 35-year career, the challenge of a lifetime,” he says enthusiastically.

A detachment of various abilities

First of all, you should know that PPE applications work thanks to mathematical models, algorithms that try to balance the difficulty level of each session in order to guarantee progress. But even the most popular models can offer sessions that are not physically possible.

“Fashionable models can lead to sessions where one has to perform the first part of one’s effort with greater intensity than one’s own record, which is clearly insane,” explains Guy Thibault, citing a recent computer simulation study.

The physiologist tries to develop a more efficient and user-friendly model that will allow the level of difficulty to be controlled at all times according to the needs of the athlete.

And to get there, he drew on the expertise of Jonathan Tremblay, PhD and professor of physiology at EKSAP, and Jérémy Briand, a graduate student in exercise physiology at UdeM, data scientist at INS, and Canadian triathlon champion.

Together they designed a graphical model in the form of a rotating cube, in which all the parameters of a PPE session are integrated. The final algorithm will allow users to properly control the difficulty of the sessions; None of them will be too easy or too difficult.

An app for everyone

If Guy Thibault and his team’s implementation seems complicated, it’s not just for insiders. It will be available to everyone as soon as it is released, scheduled for early 2023.

“Basically, we are considering the app for elite athletes and their coaches, but it will be easy to use. It will not be necessary to have a scientific background or to understand the mathematical mechanisms behind its functioning to appreciate its functions.

That is Guy Thibault’s true motivation: his deep desire to help people without prejudice about their level and to spread his passion for the sciences of physical and sporting activity.

“After all, what makes me happiest in life is when someone tells me that my advice or my methods have improved,” he concludes. I almost have tears in my eyes.”