Does tech help or hinder your progress in sport?

Returning from a 90-minute cycle ride, after a week of regular set exercise activities (swimming, cycling, running, strength and conditioning), I was slightly surprised to see the summary from my Garmin cycle computer…’my progress is steady after a light week’. The following day, I took part in a 15.6k time trail using the software package Zwift, pushing myself to the max. The result of which being that my FTP increased by 20W. So, whilst both electronic messages were obtained for cycling, one was outdoor, based on heart rate only (no power meter), whilst the other was electronically determined from a smart turbo trainer. I may well have been slightly perplexed by what could have been slightly mixed (electronic) messages, but as a coach, I’m aware of the limitations and I too have my coach who is monitoring my whole progression, rather than just heart rate or power output.

Over recent years we have become surrounded by an array of wearable technology. From common manufacturers such as Garmin, Apple, Samsung, Fitbit and Sunnto. All this wearable tech provides instant data such as heart rate and running metrics such as cadence, ground contact time and balance as well as indirect measurements of VO2 max, aerobic training load and ‘performance’. There is also access to coach facilities via your wearable tech. Complementing wearable tech are as many software applications such as Garmin Connect and Training Peaks which can provide feedback on your activities and forecast your possible readiness for performance. There are also several software packages for indoor cycling , in addition to Zwift, such as Biketool and Trainer Road, which provide a fairly accessible way of measuring your Functional Threshold Capacity, using power, which
is a less fluctuating variable of your effort, compared to heart rate.

At Tri and Run, we can make use of technology, for example, using Training Peaks as a platform to upload activities for our athletes and thus provide analysis of the engagement and some outcomes – such as heart rate and power outputs. Also, athletes can add comments to Training Peaks and/or use emojis to provide feedback on a session. This qualitative feedback can give some indication of an athlete’s ‘affective state’ – this is the ‘background information’, such as how they are feeling and encompasses a vast array of endogenous (such as hormones) and exogenous factors (e.g. work stress). The affected state of any athlete can have a significant impact, either positive or negative, on their performance whether it be a training session or a race. Using technology to capture an athletes ‘affected state’ is becoming available. However, it is the coach-athlete relationship at Tri and Run which provides an opportunity to explore the ‘affected state’ more fully, far more so than even using comments or emojis in Training Peaks, and indeed a more holistic way than a Garmin ride report.

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