I have discussed my training and overall plan development in past posts, but rarely have I explained what tools I use to track my progress an for setting monthly and weekly goals. Part of the reason I am writing this post stems from quite a few new GPS enabled fitness gifts received over the holidays. Additionally I would like to share the processes and tools I employ currently for reaching my overall fitness goals.
One thing to note is that I deviate from preset time periods like a year, so my training year currently, according to my plan and schedule, extends from October 2012 to the end of October 2013. When possible I divide all periods into shorter two to four week periods, each with a distinct and unique set of goals based on predetermined training goals and reflective input generated from previous training phases. The break up of my training phases stems from the Joe Friel Triathlon Training Bible. Please note that I am not a licensed trainer, and I do not have any specialized degrees pertaining to sports or athletics. This system and the culmination of tools developed from my identified need and its what I currently use.
I employ numerous tools to track workouts, weekly progress and monthly progress. Each tool has a function and unfortunately I have not found a single tool that functions completely on its own. The following are the components I use currently.
As I mentioned in the plan, the first step I did was to use Freil’s season planning spreadsheet to create a season and my training plan. I currently keep this in an workbook project as the first spreadsheet page, but one of the tools I use, Training Peaks provides this functionality but costs extra. This spread sheet is my plan for the entire year and I broke it down starting in October 2012 extending to the end of next October 2013. I use this as my base outline for all training and to set up my monthly and weekly goals per phase.
The next pages are my summary progress pages divided up by phases identified in the planning spreadsheet. I use these pages as a way of tracking each phases duration (volume) and distances. This allows me to compare each week to see areas of progress and needing additional work. Accompanying the summation of the phase I list all my runs and biking sessions with associated vital information. I generate one page per generated phase. External to Strava and Training Peaks, this is the lowest level I keep track of data.
The totals column of this sheet, for duration and distance goes into a 2012/2013 training summary page. This matches the planning worksheet and keeps tabs on each phases total numbers in a comparative format. Additionally the bike and run data entered into the summary pages are transferred into similar training year sheets.
The spreadsheets provide a means to make comparative analysis as I progress through each phase, as well it provides a method of weekly comparisons. These spreadsheets provide the foundation for all comparative analysis I perform when setting any and all goals. I can determine where I am improving and what needs more work. This functionality Is what both Training Peaks and Strava both currently lack, in either free or paid versions. Those two applications are still useful and provide functionality needed to provide the data for the spreadsheets, as well as some other additional functions.
Part of the reason I use training peaks stems from their relationship with Timex and the software support for the Global Trainer watch. Training Peaks provides the primary interface for workout data directly taken from the watch. There is allot of potential power to this application, but most of the extended functionality comes at a heft cost. Planning is one of those features that is not allowed. Basically, Training Peaks provides a way to view summerizaitons of each weeks activity duration and distance totals. Additionally the software provides a view of laps and routes generated from the uploaded data file. There are some interesting numbers included, such as Tss which is a true measure of difficulty based on various factors.
Weekly distance and duration tracking as well as great basic analysis tools makes this one of the defacto tools for me. At the lowest level I get great simple analysis functions and I can track my runs, heart rate and even equipment usage. There is allot to like with this software, but additionally there is allot to be desired. One of the biggest drawback to this tool lies in a heavy fee to unlock additional features, some included for free in Strava, as well as an inability to share and view other users workout data. Additionally, there is no way to compare performance numbers and the free version offers few extra useful graphs. This biggest dissapointment lies in the additional cost to normalize elevation data, something that Strava includes with their basic service.
I mostly use Strava for its normalization of elevation data and for the social component. In Strava I can share workouts with my brother or anybody I want and we can give comments, hints and tips based on the data. When I upload my workout data from my watch I convert it into a Strava friendly format and upload it at the same time. I often base most of my cycling numbers from Strava instead of Training Peaks as it provides an easier comparison and the elevation data is normalized.
Strava’s short comings mainly lie in their lack of planning capabilities Each workout is added into monthly totals, but weekly totals are not provided. The overall level of detail to the workouts is not as in depth as the information I am able to pull out of training peaks. I currently use Strava as I said for the social aspect and because I prefer its data when it comes to cycling as it normalizes the elevation data for free. One cool thing with Strava is that they include challenges that users can sign up for as well as a low monthly cost should you decided to upgrade.
If you look at my solution from a smaller to larger perspective, the data would move from Training Peaks and Strava for daily and weekly numbers to the spreadsheets for phase/month and yearly comparative numbers. Currently this solution works pretty well, providing the ability to compare various time periods and phases of training. I have found this system to be invaluable as it allows all my training plans to be based on previous phase’s numbers and performance. I would love it if one application had most of the functionality,but I doubt that will ever be the case. I know currently both Strava and Training Peaks are working to progress their software offerings. In some ways it is convoluted, but it gives me what I need to stay focused and heading towards my end goal. What do you use to plan and track your training? Til next time.
- A Strava app review (bigmanrunning.wordpress.com)
- How Strava Is Changing the Way We Ride (outsideonline.com)
- End of Base 3: I Am Glad December Is Over (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)
- End of Week 26: Base 2 Phase Week 2 (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)