Getting Started Overview
Technology is great as it can help us better quantify your fitness, optimize workouts and enhance communication. Sometimes technology can also be challenging or frustrating. Realizing that not everyone is a IT professional or "Tri Geek", I've created the following "Getting Started" guide to assist you with finding what you need to get started with Tri2Max Coaching. Here's a quick overview:
Paperwork. You will need to complete the waivers and athlete information sheet, which I will email to you. After these are completed and signed they need to be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that you can scan your signed documents or simply take photos of them for emailing purposes.
Communication & Schedule. You will need a premium TrainingPeaks (TP) account. You can first sign up for a free TP account, and then utilize the upgrade option to sign up for the premium account. The premium account allows us to communicate back and forth via the TP notes and gives you access to premium features and analysis, such as the Performance Management Chart (PMC). Note that if you are an USAT member, if you sign in on the USAT website and go to the member discounts page, you can get a discount code for 20% off the annual price of TrainingPeaks.
Bike Trainer. You will need a good bike trainer that can be used for indoor power based workouts. There are a lot of options out there for trainers… I’d recommend reviewing DC Rainmaker’s annual review, and I am happy to provide my thoughts on a trainers as a whole. DC’s 2017 trainer guide is located here.
Bike Power Meter. The vast majority of my bike workouts are based on utilizing a power meter. You will need a power meter to allow you to accurately gauge your interval efforts on targeted power work. A power meter also helps quantify intensity on general endurance work, as well as assisting with race pacing as well. There are a lot of power meter options out there, and I’d again recommend DC Rainmakers blog to get the basics of power meter types, pros and cons. I’m happy to answer questions on types of power meters and provide general recommendations as well. DC’s 2017 power meter guide is located here.
GPS Watch and/or GPS Computer. Triathletes will need a triathlon specific GPS watch for capturing and quantifying workouts. Cyclists will need a good GPS bike computer for their workouts. For watches I’d recommend Garmin products, simply because they are generally well integrated into the TrainingPeaks account. For bike computers, I have both Garmin and Wahoo products personally, and both integrate well into TrainingPeaks. Again, I’m happy to share my opinion on devices.
Device Accessories. To get the most information out of your GPS devices, I recommend the following:
HR Strap. Heart Rate (HR) straps simply measure and report your current heart rate to your GPS device. This is a required item as it helps to quantify the intensity of your workouts and should be worn for each workout with the exception of swimming (unless you have a swim specific HR strap). Most of the Garmin devices come with HR straps as part of a bundled option. Personally, I’ve tried many different manufacturer’s straps, and I find the Garmin Tri strap to be the most reliable (in terms of not having errors) overall. There are certainly other options besides standard chest straps. In my own testing, I’ve found the wrist based optical sensors (such as built into a Garmin watch) somewhat hit or miss in terms of accuracy. In general, wrist based sensors need to be pretty tight to stay accurate… particularly on a bike. I have found the Scosche opticals when worn on the upper arm to have acceptable accuracy. I do get more reading errors than a chest strap, but overall they do a reasonable job for me. It may be worthwhile to look at options that provide both Ant+ and Bluetooth, as this makes connecting to indoor cycling apps (if you choose to use them) such as Zwift, Rouvy or Trainer road easier for IOS type devices.
Bike Speed/Cadence Sensor. Bike speed sensors are used to capture your rear wheel speed when utilizing a trainer, and the cadence sensor tracks your pedaling RPM both on indoor and outdoor rides. This is another required item as cadence impacts cycling efficiency and the speed sensor is used for estimating virtual power, for those without a power meter. Garmin has a couple different models, one combination system (GSC-10) and one bundled separate system. I own both for different bikes, and the cheaper combined system (GSC-10) works fine. A video showing the installation of a GSC-10 can be found here. There have been reports of the separate speed sensor mounted on a Powertap Power Meter hub causing interference with speed / power data.
Foot pod. Foot pods track your running cadence and can be used to estimate your distance when running on a treadmill or an indoor track. This is a recommended item, but not required. For those using a 920, they have a built-in accelerometer which estimates both cadence and distance, although I find the foot pod to be much more accurate. None of these devices are perfectly accurate, but a well calibrated foot pod does a reasonable job of estimating distances and paces. The latest Garmin foot pod can be found here. You can use the automatic calibration from your Garmin device, or you can do a manual adjustment. I typically use the manual adjustment, based on a treadmill run of 3 to 4 miles. Note that different shoes may have different calibration factors. To adjust your calibration factor, use the following formula:
New factor = (actual distance / device distance) x existing factor
Other Software/Sites. Besides TrainingPeaks (TP) here's a list of other recommended or required software options:
Cycling Apps. Many people utilize third party apps for riding indoors. This is not required, but may be easier to follow and use overall. Common apps are Zwift, Rouvy or TrainerRoad. I have used all three, and Zwift and Rouvy integrate best with TrainingPeaks. All three will upload your workouts to TrainingPeaks, but TrainerRoad will not download your scheduled workout from TP into their app for you. It can be accomplished by downloading it manually from TP and then importing it into the TR workout builder… it’s just extra steps & time. For Zwift and Rouvy, you can simply log in to the apps and select your TP workout as your workout for the data (assuming you have your accounts linked). When you are done, they automatically upload your data to TP for you. Alternatively, you can simply print out the workouts and do them manually, or utilize the workout mode in your cycling computer. Wahoo products will load your workout for you automatically, and provide a better visual (in my opinion) of the workout itself.
Garmin Connect. - Garmin Connect is free and is used to upload your Garmin workout files to a cloud based account. It provides basic information about workouts. I do feel that GC does a great job with swim data, for those utilizing a 910 or 920 for pool workouts.
TP Sync. Although not software per se, this is the site you will go to to automatically sync your data between TrainingPeaks and Garmin Connect. This will automatically transfer any files that you upload into Garmin Connect (GC) to TrainingPeaks (TP) for you... it's a huge time saver. Linking your GC and TP accounts can be done here.
Phone Apps. Here are a list of the Apps I recommend for your phone, and how/why they are used:
MyFitnessPal (MPF). I use MFP to track my daily food/nutrition. You can link MFP to Garmin Connect, so it will automatically sync your exercise calories to your MFP account, making it easier and more accurate to achieve your desired daily calorie balance.
Sleep Cycle. This is a great app I have been using for years, to help track my nightly sleep efficiency. If you are a long course triathlete or an endurance cyclist, often high training loads result in high physical stress, which increase cortisol production and reduce sleep quality. The Sleep Cycle app can help identify poor sleep so we can adjust training loads if necessary. It also has an option to use your phone's camera to get your resting HR in the morning, which is another good indicator of your current physical state for training.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Apps. For those participating in endurance cycling or long course triathlon, I recommend utilizing a Heart Rate Variability (HRV) app. HRV helps quantify your current readiness to train by looking at the beat to beat variation to evaluate your body's ability to handle a challenging workout. Here is a brief overview of HRV. Note that HRV is impacted by both physical and emotional stressors, so HRV is a good tool to help ensure you are not pushing to a point of overtraining, resulting in illness, injury or poor performance. HRV measurements are taken daily when you first wake up, typically while lying in bed or sitting on the side of the bed. I have personally tested / used several different HRV apps, and my two favorites are:
Myithlete. Myithlete was one of the first and is one of the most popular HRV apps on the market. It has does a wonder job of providing simple guidance (green, yellow or red) status and allowing you to track your training load, sleep quality, fatigue, diet and other metrics over time and create simple trend graphs. Note that Myithlete (and most HRV apps) requires you blue tooth HR strap (such as this) in addition to the app.
HRV4Training. HRV4Training is unique in that it can use your phone's camera instead of requiring a separate bluetooth HR strap. Although it doesn't have all of the tracking metrics of Myithlete yet, the developer plans on adding more in future rollouts of the product. I've found that Myithlete and HRV4Training track well together, providing similar workout recommendations.
Resting HR App. If you are not using HRV, I'd recommend that you either capture morning HR through the Sleep Cycle app above, or consider using another app such as Instant Heart Rate. I may periodically ask you how your resting HR has been tracking, as feedback on your training load and/or fatigue levels. Higher resting HR typically is a result of physical stress, mental stress or illness. Prolonged low HR's can be an indication of overtraining.
App versions of TP, GC and TR. Using TP you can see your upcoming workouts, read or respond to notes and see your current fitness trends. For newer Garmin Devices, GC syncs your 920 or 520 via bluetooth automatically. TR mobile can be used (with a bluetooth HR strap) for completing bike workouts when you are traveling at a local fitness center with spin or stationary bikes. For traveling, I recommend a dual Ant+/Bluetooth HR strap such as the Wahoo Tickr since it will pair with Garmin GPS devices and your phone via bluetooth (and will work with HRV apps too).
Swimming tempo trainer (triathletes only). The Finis Tempo Trainer is a good tool for identifying and modifying optimal swim cadence. We will use this periodically when working on stroke efficiency.
Note that these are tools that will enhance and optimize your performance over time. I do not have any ties to any of these companies or products, they are simply items that I've used effectively myself or with my clients in the past. The links I have provided are simply for reference. You may be able to find better deals by shopping around. Please let me know if you have specific questions on any of these products or services.