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Some of you will be data-driven athletes. You will use your historic or live data to actively work on areas of improvement.
This is GREAT. And you should continue with that approach if you want to.
There might be a danger, however, in becoming the data-laden athlete. You can guess what that means easily enough: so many sensors; so much data; too little time; too little understanding; too few obvious decision that follow from the data.
I think I’ve got to that point with all my kit.
Starting off with my first sports watch, a Polar S625x (right), I soon started to look at heart rates, lap paces and similar ‘basic’ data that all seemed fairly clever at the time. Or at least clever compared to a rudimentary TAG time-piece I previously used. HR zones become fairly obvious what to do with. Cadence is nice and later, the GPS on my Garmin Forerunner 305 really got the data-ball rolling. Add in a footpod and a speed & cadence sensor for your bike and let the data roll BIG TIME!
But now CONSUMER-ATHLETE data has moved to a whole different level; at least it has for you if you have chosen to go to that level. Simple HR soon morphs into HRV; L/R power comes in the mix on your bike; then power for running; then muscle oxygen; then gross measurements of running bounce; ground contact time when running; leg spring stiffness; metrics for your pedal stroke; muscle oxygen; more complex gross measurements of running form; and more detailed metrics of footstrike. The we add in readiness, recovery, training effectiveness, training load and I’ll finish the list off with EPOC.
I guess I’ve missed some…not even mentioning SWOLFs and other swimming stuff.
I probably just about understand all of those reasonably well and most of them, but certainly not all, I know how to act on in my training decisions. I just can’t help think for newbie runner Jo-average (Jo-normal) it’s quite daunting. Maybe even quite meaningless?
I set myself the pointless task of performing the most data-laden run I could using a vaguely realistic scenario of a Garmin user (wedded to Garmin Connect) who perhaps has one ‘special’ non-Garmin toy as well as LOTS of Garmin-compatible toys. And I’ll present to you the data derived from the run.
- Garmin 920XT – collection mechanism for all data apart from the toy
- Special Toy – Runscribe PRO gait-meister extraordinaire.
- BSX Insight – Muscle oxygen sensor on my calf (using MOXY CIQ Data Field)
- Garmin HRM-TRI
- STRYD Gen 2 footpod
So how many types of measurement does that record? eg cadence and pace would be two. But lap pace and average pace wouldn’t count as anything extra. I’ve cut and pasted two images to make the one image below and you can see there are over 20 measures (some are derived, I know). I was a bit disappointed not to have a TEMPE temperature sensor 🙂 although, despite the lack of that one sensor, I think I self-qualify for a Guiness World record…c’mon, you know you want to beat me – images below please!
The point of all this is “so what?”. What are we actually going to do with all this data? If you are a sports scientist or high level coach then you can probably do something with much of this data – although you wouldn’t use Garmin Connect as it is a limited platform for data analysis (a great platform for most people though).
I’ve used STRYD and RUNSCRIBE PRO; their sites DO have great resources. If you go there and read some papers then you can start to gain much more of an insight into what all of this means. Yes it will take time but most of us are reasonably intelligent enough to read a scientific-based paper and draw out actionable insight for ourselves.
If any of you remember my review of RUNSCRIBE from a few months ago and some related posts you will see that my running technique was asymmetric. Look at the chart above. Now it’s not. I have been working on correcting/tweaking my technique and some of these metrics HAVE been useful as a pointer to the improvement in my symmetry. Now I am working on my IMPACT/SHOCK.
I’m also continuing to use POWER for running in certain circumstances.
A Tentative Conclusion and a few Thoughts
- If you have a specific problem then a gadget might help draw attention to the cause or to the improvement of the symptoms.
- Extra data takes TIME to analyse
- You will likely need to do some background reading to understand about the data and about your gadget.
- Manufacturer sites or 3rd party data platforms like Training Peak or SportTracks may be a better place to analyse data than Garmin Connect/Movescount/Flow
- don’t buy every gadget you can afford. Do it incrementally and avoid going from a barren data-desert one week to a data laden athlate running through metaphorical data-treacle the next.