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How much does data matter in training

Short answer is A LOT

Long answer as to why and which data is a little more in depth.


Every athlete is individual around how much they personally care about their data, their fitness scores, their TSS each session, what their FTP is, how their recovery is tracking and every other metric that is presented to you when you become a triathlete. It can be a very confusing world of what it all means, how it all comes together what you should be achieving each week and how it all correlates with your overall goals.


If you want to improve in any aspect of life there is a series of small stepping stones you need to take to get there. The promotion you want at work or the 3 month trip around Europe you want to do or breaking 10 hours in an Ironman; they take planning. As a coached athlete understanding all your data isn't fundamentally important as you have someone doing that for you but even if you have a coach it is always good to ask 'why', question the theory behind the session and be well informed.


You would struggle to find two coaches who have the exact same way of thinking and one way is not superior over the other however there needs to be a plan behind it which can be articulated and supported with the athletes data. Swim more, bike more, run more - works for a little while before you either break down, your improvement plateaus or you come to a point where your fatigue is so high that you cannot get through a session.


I could write pages on this topic but want to focus on three key areas


Testing - Making sure your training is based on the correct baseline

Testing can look very different for each athlete and does not have to be the time trial, the FTP test or 20X100 in the pool. Essentially you want a baseline to measure progress and to ensure your training is in the correct 'zones' to achieve improvement. Some athletes thrive when the see the word TT in a session and some crumble with nerves and fear of 'failing'. Whatever method used it is fundamental in any training plan to test regularly (even if it is disguised as something else).



Fitness (CTL)- Making sure you are trending in the right direction sustainably

You fitness is made up of a variety of different factors and if you are using Training Peaks this can be seen in your Chronic Training Load. Over the years of coaching I have come to use CTL as an imperfect guide - some athletes don't wear watches swimming, they may wear a HR monitor for one session but not the next, their power meter may be dropping out and giving incorrect data - but as a general rule as athletes fitness should be increasing in a build to an event. If fitness is dropping and it is unplanned this may indicate there is something that is not working and amendments needs to be made in one area or another. The exception to this is when taper starts, your fitness numbers will drop slightly as you 'freshen up' for race day. Form; is the measure of making sure your body is ready to race where fitness and fatigue have to balance out.


Feeling

This is not technically data which can be measured by a watch or a test or the time it takes you to complete a lap of the pool but how you 'feel' is incredibly important. Your data could be showing you are nailing each session for the week but inside you are struggling. Work may have ramped up, there could be a personal issue going on at home, you are stressed about life etc. All these things can eventually catch up to you making you either sick or disrupting consistency, motivation and impacting your 'why'. Data is great but it never tells the whole story, make sure you are checking in with yourself and start to understand when to be kind to yourself or when to push through.


Happy training

Loren

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