I have always loved books. I like the old ones, the hardbacks, the ones with history to them. I prefer the yellowed pages with dog-eared corners, scribbles in the margins, and people’s names in the front. This is not because I am so well read, I just love the transfer of information over time. I find it interesting that some knowledge is timeless and some is not.
Libraries on the other hand make me uneasy. I believe it is a volume thing, or perhaps the library rules that I was bound to break. The love of books is still there, but I get overwhelmed and saddened by the sheer quantity information I don’t have time to delve into or concepts I may never completely understand.
In the same way a library can seem overwhelming, it’s easy to get bogged down by the sheer amount of numbers that we are capable of tracking these days. Seemingly every sport has their key indicators to look for and our trusty GPS-enabled sidekicks have been taught to track them all.
From our heart rate data, velocity, power output and our location, we have all the information about every session we could ever want at our fingertips. This is a great thing—a beautiful thing—not something to be overwhelmed by, but you have start small and use the right tools.
First, find a portion of your data that is in your wheelhouse and don’t be afraid of diving into other topics too. TrainingPeaks has innumerable tools to help with crunching the numbers.
The Performance Management Chart is my favorite for helping me think “big picture.” It also works better with more data points when I am trying to teach my young athletes about patience. I can zoom out to explain to them the span of a collegiate distance running career that involves 12 separate seasons over a four to five year period. I can then show them how much they have done thus far and encourage them to temper their immediate expectations.
Don’t Get Lost in the Details
When working with a team of athletes, the data can pile up fast, but when my athletes are diligent with their logs, TrainingPeaks does an excellent job of helping me tackle it—even in a group setting.
I can dive in the tiniest details (they’re there, trust me) or take a step back and quickly assess the big picture with my athletes. I can find the blown aerobic threshold run caused by the loose dog in the minutia of the data, or use charts on the dashboard to backup my claim that solid cross training during injury didn’t really hamper my athlete’s long-term fitness.
Many times I have different athletes who can get the same workout accomplished in a myriad of ways. I have older athletes who are capable of more volume and/or higher intensities, and younger ones who are eager to impress with their own capabilities. However, the data might tell me they need to be held back.
Did what I have scripted accomplish what I had intended or was needed? Was the timing of the workout right within their weekly or monthly schedule? Looking at their training data allows me to use the information to sight in my workouts and adjust my aim.
It can also give valuable affirmation that my workout accomplished exactly what I was after. Frequently I am at the workout watching and timing every rep and I am still excited to come back the office and check the data to see if it coincides with the feedback from the athletes and my own observations.
Impressed but not Oppressed
So the next time you walk through a great library or pull up someone’s Performance Management Chart do not be intimidated. Be impressed. Be in awe in the sum of knowledge, lessons learned, hard work, sacrifice, toil, sweat and time. After that, confidently find your own space, your own niche and start adding pages to volumes of workouts, data, knowledge and skills that together make great athletes and great coaches.