All that exercise data: what’s the point?

Without the right approach, your data are really just a bunch of confusing numbers.

Welcome to the days of Big Data. Whether it’s the government collecting your text messages, your kid taking tests every day in school, or your NikeFuel points, we have the ability to quantify everything.

Many athletes are data-driven. And you should be, at least to a certain extent. Collecting data is the best way to determine your training status, your health, and your progress towards accomplishing your goals. But only the data that makes sense; the kind with purpose and interpretability.

I’m sure I could walk down to the hospital and order an entire map of my genome. But I’m not really sure I even know what a genome is, much less how it will provide me meaningful information that can help me accomplish my goals. Do I have the R577X variant of my ACTN3 gene that will make me a superstar endurance athlete? For only $170 and an ounce of spit, I can answer that pressing question and finally rest easy.

Or I could stick to what already makes sense: intensity, duration, and my body’s response, whether that’s a subjective rating or a simple heart rate.

We all know there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach to performance training. And so much of athletic success comes from factors that we will never be able to quantify. So why try to fit your square-peg training into someone else’s round-hole metric?

The main reason to collect data is to interpret it! If you can’t interpret it, and you have no purpose for even collecting it, why do it?

Do you know how to measure your FTP in kilogram-meters per minute? How about your PMC, CTL, TSS, TSB, MVC, BSA, VTI, FVC, TLC, or TCB? (Only one of those was made up.) But I bet you know how to measure a mile – and you can even convert that to a kilometer. And you definitely know how to measure time, heart rate, pace, and perceived exertion. Those are the values you should focus on. Let the exercise science wizards worry about the messy stuff, but only if you’ve already maxed out every other aspect of your training.

The beauty in Addaero is its simplicity. You can still record every watt of cycling power, every step, or every heartbeat (which you probably should do every once in a while). Or you can simply track your workouts, compete with friends, and coach your athletes, without ever being doused with confusing “data.” And the real data that you are tracking – intensity, duration, and energy cost – are in one easy to understand picture that’s really worth a thousand words, not a thousand questions.

The whole point of quantifying yourself and collecting data is to empower you to make informed decisions, make your life easier, and be the best (insert goal here) possible. Can you really get there when you’re buried under confusing data?

photo credit: collegedegrees360/Flickr