The Data Driven Athlete

As a technology guy by profession, data plays a big role in my life – not just my career. My wife and I use the iCloud to stay connected with calendars, shared notes, and seamlessly sharing constant photos of our newborn son. As an avid mac user, my whole ecosystem of technology stays connected so that I am always able to pick up where I left off on my iPhone on my iPad, or one of my MacBook’s. And of course, as a triathlete and endurance coach – data and technology plays a huge role in how I train, race, and recover.

I’ve been fortunate to gain support by many companies, which means that I am constantly trying out new gear and deciding if I need to invest in something new. I am going to break this out into four primary tools that I use faithfully, along with the data that they produce and why it matters.

Social Media – Strava

 One of my favorite hobbies and interests is social media. I love it. You name the tool and I can almost guarantee you I’m using it or have at least given it a shot. The list is long, too: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Medium, and WhatsApp - you get the point! When it comes to triathlon though there is one tool that I’ve used consistently – Strava.

Strava has a long list of features. It integrates with just about every big player in wearable technology – simplified, that means that you can automatically have your swims/runs/bikes that are captured on your Garmin (or Polar, Suunto, Timex, etc.) show up on Strava automatically. There is a social aspect to it, which is similar to Twitter or Instagram where you follow people that you are friends with or professional athletes that you are a fan of. One of my favorite parts is ‘segments’ where you can directly compare your performance on specific parts of runs and rides to others.

An example of a Strava Segment. This is a KOM (King of the Mountain) where I was the fastest person on a specific portion of a ride in Beaverton, OR. Here I am compared to all 1,201 athletes who have ridden it.

An example of a Strava Segment. This is a KOM (King of the Mountain) where I was the fastest person on a specific portion of a ride in Beaverton, OR. Here I am compared to all 1,201 athletes who have ridden it.

Social Media plays a few important roles in my training. I am able to stay accountable because everyone on Strava is able to see whether or not I showed up and got the workout(s) in. Additionally, it certainly fuels my competitive drive to know that if I want to get in a hard effort, I can compare my efforts to others to see how I am progressing and improving as an athlete.

Training Planning & Monitoring – Training Peaks

When it comes to planning out workouts for myself and athletes I coach, there are many platforms out there that are used to accomplish this. Since day one of being a triathlete, I have used Training Peaks. I’ve tried many other tools – free versions, making my own, other paid tools, but nothing has compared to the offering that Training Peaks has. They have a free version along with a paid version, incredible integrations with all of the wearable’s on the market to sync your training data into the tool instantly, and an incredible amount of data to help coaches track performance for athletes.

The reason that I have remained so loyal to Training Peaks is twofold – they have a lot of powerful data that I’ve never found elsewhere, and they continue to be revolutionary with continual updates to their platform.

A lot of data to see on Training Peaks. Great for both planning and executing workouts each week!

A lot of data to see on Training Peaks. Great for both planning and executing workouts each week!

I have studied extensively on the various aspects of Training Peaks to learn how to leverage it to create athlete specific training plans. This plays a critical role for myself and my athletes because I am able to keep an accurate pulse on fatigue & fitness – this enables us to know when to push, when to rest, and when we are ready to race for a PR.

Wearable Technology – My Garmin(s)

 I could go on and on about this section. And I will keep it intentionally short. My Garmin watches and bike computers play a key role in keeping me accountable in executing each specific workout. These also play a big role in gathering data so that I can analyze it afterwards in Training Peaks and of course gives me the ability to brag when I have a good day on Strava!

There are a lot of wearable’s to choose from – and to be honest; they all offer a similar level of capability. I love Garmin, and have become loyal to their brand.

Not Technology – My Gut

 I know this is an article about technology, but I believe that every athlete needs to keep a steady pulse on his or her gut – how they feel during a race or a workout. If you are going into a workout and the plan is to run 8 x 800m on the track at a 5:40/mi pace and it simply doesn’t feel right, be smart about it and don’t push. If you are feeling sick – talk to your coach, maybe this is a good day to rest or make it an easy recovery day.

Summing Things Up

Technology will enable you to get better. It helps you leverage data to make informed decisions about what you are capable of in upcoming workouts and being able to realistically plan and train for a goal race time. Don’t lose sight of the most important part of training and racing though: it is supposed to be fun, as most of us are doing this as a hobby, not a profession.

Happy training and let me know if you have any questions!