In a recently reposted Triathlete Mag I explored How to Track Your Training Progress. The methods ranged from the basic (excel spreadsheet) to advanced (Training Peaks and Today’s Plan). Today, let’s cover some general principles for tracking training. Next week we’ll discuss the most important things to track.
I talk to athletes all the time who are overly focused on, say, ground contact time, or SWOLF score when they should be worried about getting to the pool three times a week and working up to consistent running first! So let’s get back to basics. With all the metrics available, let’s explore a few key things to keep in mind as far as generating meaningful data for both you as an athlete and for a coach who you may report to. I will give you a few general principles I keep in mind for myself and for others.
You need data to build an honest history. Otherwise that history can morph into remembering your marathon as ‘under three, high twos’ when it’s really an hour slower. How so? Our memories are fallible and misremembering past times will color your future training and define your expectations in an unhealthy way.
Why does it matter? Because someday you will look back at that data and be very angry that you somehow magically ran a three hour marathon when in fact you run a four hour marathon and so forth. And in the happy event that it works out the other way you see that you’ve improved greatly you will want to be able to look at an accurate training log to see how you get there.
Help Future You
Perhaps you’re currently not very ‘serious’ about training and you’re just running or cycling for fun. That doesn’t mean your future self won’t appreciate the data! There is nothing better than starting with a new athlete and finding that they have months or years of training data to reference.
Perhaps you had your best running year ever in 2014. What were you doing then? What kind of mileage, volume, and intensity made you so fast? Having a history takes out the guesswork. It also keeps you from mis-remembering details.
Keep Things Objective
Perhaps you missed a week of training due to illness and you’re wondering whether you have training in the bank to take on your next race. Having data to reference gives you a realistic perspective on other races you’ve completed with a similar training load and the outcome. Conversely, it can give you an objective wakeup call if you’re not where you need to be and need to refocus your training or change courses.
Use data in a way that doesn’t drag you into a negative emotional state. For example, if you have trouble making easy runs easy, then you might consider ditching the watch for easy efforts and only using it for tempo and interval efforts. Otherwise you can become obsessed that this week your ‘easy’ effort is a 10 minute mile and last week it was a nine minute mile. Sounds crazy but it is more common than you think.
Using the Performance Management Chart to track your training load scientifically takes a lot of the guesswork out of your training. And even if you don’t want to get that detailed now, you can have the data to reference (or for your coach to use) in the coming seasons.