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The Importance of Post-Workout Comments in TrainingPeaks

BY Daniel Matheny

One step many athletes overlook is the importance of post-activity comments. Here is why they should not skip the process, and some suggestions of what could be useful.

Isn’t technology great? We walk in the door at our home or office, and our devices sync to all our training and social platforms like magic across Wi-Fi. By the time we’ve showered, kudos and comments have been amassed. It’s honestly amazing!

But let’s face it, this instantaneous ease, previously a solution to the problem of troubled downloads and data not being reported has created another problem. The process is so automated that it’s made a form-dependency that the data exclusively paints the entire picture for the workout. Thus athletes are becoming less in tune with subjective information, and there is little to no impetus to report post-workout feedback.

Luckily, one of my favorite and least techy pieces of coaching and self-reporting with the TrainingPeaks platform is the post-activity comments. Sure there are tons of bells and whistles with the techy bits, but reporting “how it went” is invaluable in my eyes as a coach and an athlete. It may seem like trivial information, but whether working with a coach or self-coaching, this is an often overlooked and undervalued step from both aspects.

I hesitated reflecting when I started training at the expense of sounding old, but making the point that devices were often only valuable for real-time reporting is critical. Whether due to limited download options, errors in the download process or if you were able to get it from device to desktop, the post-analysis platforms were clunky and limited.

Therefore, it didn’t make much sense to expend that time. But with the lack of data reporting workouts for individuals, those who excelled still logged their workouts, whether in a simple spiral notebook or an Excel file.

The point I’m making is that since athletes didn’t depend on the data being there or when post-workout data wasn’t guaranteed, they reported with a much better sense of their subjective effort.

I still have hand-written workout journals tracking sets, reps and weights as a teen or even daily logs from when I got my pro card. There were notes on the weather, the food I ate, who I rode with and how I felt. Even reflections on things like, “overdid it today on the ride and felt tired while at work. Snacked too much on bar stash in desk trying to make up,” or “full sets; move up weight next week.”

There was nothing to fall back on like the power or pace files, so words and reflections had to speak louder about how the workout felt and how I was progressing in my training.

This may sound so foreign to some, or you may scoff at taking time to make workout notes. Still, similar research that supports the benefits of taking time out to relax and shut down your “monkey” brain with meditation, breathing, or journaling, for example, correlates to this. Taking a few moments to reflect on your training session gets you in-tune with yourself and hopefully develops an honest inward truth.

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Luckily, TrainingPeaks has a robust pre- and post-activity comment system, one of my most overlooked yet effective tools. Like Einstein said, “Genius exists in simplicity.”

Sure I’ve created a library with loads of workouts containing detailed information that I can use across many athletes. However, I customize the pre-activity comments heavily to individualize the training prescription.

I put in the work upfront to convey my intent for the workout, and on the backend, I encourage all my athletes to reflect, providing as much information in their comments as they are comfortable sharing.

I hold myself to this expectation as well since historical information is invaluable. You can always reflect on specific good and bad days or periods and, with detailed notes, have a game plan of why or why not to repeat certain aspects of training or life. I’m developing intuitive athletes who can think for themselves versus just following a workout prescription like a hamster on the wheel.

These post-activity comments are a fantastic way to self-reflect and engage an athlete to understand the process better and make real-time decisions with educated forward thought.

And if used with a coach/athlete interface, a comment thread is created right there that both the coach or athlete can look back upon to gain insight, like why it was a peak performance or equally valuable in my eyes of how to improve (and not repeat) upon mistakes.

And the process of reporting comments is easier than ever with the mobile app. Since the data is often synced up immediately, the athlete needs to bring up the day’s training, tap the “Add comment” button and input comments (maybe while rehydrating or whipping up some recovery food) to coincide with the day’s workout.

“Oh, I’ll do it later,” you say. Not likely. If you’ve ever heard one of the sayings of actions to create the momentum of getting things done, “if it takes less than a minute, then do it now.” then this falls in the same boat as making the bed or putting something away to reduce clutter.

The long-term successful athletes I coach stay on top of the process. You may think you’ll remember the intricacies, but this rarely happens. Days or weeks of uploads go by, and the workouts get jumbled in your mind, and you forget the “acute” of how you felt that day, was it nice and sunny or windy that caused a slower pace or higher HR in one direction or even if you’d fueled well.

I’ve worked in a physiology testing lab, and I’ve always had people finish a VO2 max test collapsing over the bars or off the treadmill, ripping the mask off, gasping for air and barely able to gain composure. But then, later that day, reviewing the test results, the athlete would often respond, “I think I could do better if I had another chance.” Really!? The acute pain seems to pass, so it’s important to note it while it’s fresh on your mind.

So you may wonder what should be reported in post-activity comments. Here are some ideas, but in no way meant to serve as a restraint:

  • What you ate and drank pre-, during, and post-workout.
  • What was your perception of the first to the middle to last repetition of an interval workout?
  • What was your self-talk like at different points?
  • What was the weather like (headwind, change in temperature, sunny, rainy, etc.)?
  • Was there anything you did differently that would lead to this performance or the feeling you reported on this day?
  • Are any life stressors occurring?
  • Your motivation starting or lack thereof.
  • How was your energy once you started or post-exercise?

I hope this helps reinforce that we are indeed in an age of data and unlimited connection at our fingertips, but often we get disconnected in other ways.

My coaching philosophy heavily relies on building relationships, defining the “why” behind workouts and goals, and developing intuition. Hence, the athlete knows how to approach future days of training or competing based on their historical trends and self-reflection.

Keep logging the work, and if you haven’t been, I encourage you to reflect on your workouts by logging post-activity comments for two to three weeks and see if it makes a difference in how you approach future sessions and better understand yourself. Try to be brutally honest, and I bet it will be hard not to grow as an athlete from the process.

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About Daniel Matheny

Daniel Matheny is founder and head coach at Matheny Endurance based in Colorado Springs, CO. He brings experience from regional grassroots to the international elite as a USAC Level 1 Elite Coach, UCI Director Sportif, & NSCA -CSCS working with all levels of athletes. Daniel’s coaching philosophy is anchored to battling it out in the trenches competing as a Pro while correlating science to real-life application individualized for each athlete. Learn more at www.mathenyendurance.com.

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