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Give Your Data a Spring Cleaning

BY Andrew Simmons

If you've been procrastinating on reviewing your athletes' data, you're not alone, but now is the time to comb through & optimize for the coming season.

As a former engineer and now a coach, I have a different lens through which I view my athletes in TrainingPeaks. I am conscious of data quality and how important it is to accurately predict fitness, build quality workouts and ultimately paint the picture of the athlete’s training. As coaches, we need to be conscious of how our athletes adapt and respond to the training we give them. We must create an enduring investment in our athletes and do more than just update their data when they hit new highs. We have to manage the progression and regression that comes with the seasonality of an athlete.

Data Management

Working with athletes in TrainingPeaks requires that we are good stewards of the ‘root information’ of each athlete. This includes Pace, Power, and Heart Rate. Along with writing workouts, we need to manage this information as it changes. Keep in mind that we can’t completely rely on TrainingPeaks to notify us when an athlete’s threshold has changed. We are only notified when an athlete achieves a new, higher threshold Pace, Power, or Heart Rate. Generally, new thresholds are set during the peak times of fitness which is impossible to maintain for months at a time.  It is the paramount responsibility of the coach to ensure that this root information matches the athlete as their training changes.

Protect the Root

In addition to Pace, Power, and Heart Rate, the zones of an athlete are also considered root information because every calculation in TrainingPeaks draws on them to determine a training stress score (TSS) by sport. Effectively, if we have old or incorrect threshold information we aren’t getting an accurate picture of our athlete’s current fitness and abilities. 

Workouts that assess an athlete’s zones and thresholds are very demanding, and can be the hardest effort they’ve put in for months. These workouts often ask athletes to max-out or maintain a high level of performance. Make sure you prescribe these test-based workouts judiciously. Coaches should conduct formal zone tests every six-to-eight weeks and no more than four-to-six times per year. 

Alternatively, you don’t always need a demanding test to assess and affirm your athlete’s fitness. Utilize ‘check-in workouts’ to cross-check their current fitness levels and gain insight into their progress. For these, focus on secondary success factors like pacing, cadence, and overall endurance. Coaches should schedule these workouts at least once every three-to-four weeks.

Remember, TrainingPeaks only delivers information on zone improvement – progress is not linear and with seasonality comes the necessity to determine progression and regression. If you need a refresher on zones and how to set them, check out Joe Friel’s Quick Guide to Setting Zones. This is a great article to share with new athletes too.

Quality Trending Data & Outliers

ATL, CTL and TSB are crucial performance management metrics for tracking your athlete’s fitness, fatigue and readiness to perform. If an athlete has been tracking their data for more than two-to-three months, you should set new zones or recalculate their previous zones to improve their data accuracy.

Luckily there is a quick process to correct and QC their previous data. It’s crucial that you determine all outliers, as a 5,000 TSS workout or 5.0 IF workout will severely skew the data even if it lies beyond the 42-day window. If you have been managing the athlete for an extended period of time, look through the PMC and see if there are workouts outside an IF range of .64 and 1.05 or workouts over 300 TSS that don’t coincide with a long day or race.

Ensuring that your performance management data is correct will ensure that you’re maximizing your athlete’s training. It won’t matter how perfect your workouts if the data you’re using to make decisions is sloppy and incorrect. They say that data is like water – neglect it’s quality and suffer the indigestion.

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About Andrew Simmons

Andrew Simmons is a USATF Level 2 and TrainingPeaks Level 2 certified coach and the founder/head coach of Lifelong Endurance. Athletes who want to improve their race times in distance running have found major success with his Individual Coaching and Training Plans. Andrew resides in Denver, CO, where he still trains as a competitive amateur. Follow Coach Andrew on Facebook and Twitter.

Visit Andrew Simmons's Coach Profile