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:

  1. Paperwork.  You will need to complete the waivers and athlete information sheet, located here.  After these are completed and signed they need to be emailed to me at ggrandgeorge@tri2max.com.  Note that you can scan your signed documents or simply take photos of them for emailing purposes.
  2. 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.
  3. Bike Trainer.  You will need a good bike trainer that can be used for indoor power based workouts.  There are a couple of options for getting power data.  The first is to buy a power meter for your bike, which would be recommended for more advanced or committed athletes.  The second is to utilize a trainer that is either predictable enough that power can be calculated for it (using virtual power from TrainerRoad... discussed later) or by using a trainer that contains a power meter and/or manages power for your.  For either of these options, I strongly recommend one of two models:
    • Kurt Kinetic Road Machine.  This is a great product and one of the best "bang for the buck" products on the market.  It's a basic fluid trainer so it does not contain electronics nor does it calculate power for you.  But, the reason this particular trainer exceeds most of the competition is that it has a VERY predictable resistance curve.  They use medical grade silicone in the trainer, so unlike competitive products, the resistance doesn't change as the fluid warms up or cools down.  The benefit is that we can use "virtual power" (described under TrainerRoad below) for your indoor cycling workouts.  The CycleOps magnetic trainers and CycleOps fluid trainers I've (or my clients) have tried simply have not been predictable and reliable enough for consistent workouts.  If you go this route, make sure you get the KK Road Machine, not the magnetic trainer.  If you are local and a member of the TriRacers of Iowa, you can get our club discount from Discount Tri Supply.
    • Wahoo Kickr.  This is really an expensive option and it does include the electronics to both project and control your bike power.  In my opinion, it is one of the best trainers on the market.  The advantages of this trainer are that it actively controls your power to specific wattages, so you are always hitting your target power within a couple of watts, and it doesn't use a rear wheel/tire, so there isn't tire wear or friction.  This would really be focused on the advanced triathlete or cyclist.
    • If you have an existing trainer and simply want to add a power meter for your bike (anything from $400 to $2000+), let me know and I can give you some recommendations.  The advantage of this is that you can use it both for training indoors and outdoors.
  4. 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.  In both cases, I recommend Garmin products, simply because they are generally well integrated into the TrainingPeaks account.  For Triathlon, I'd recommend a Garmin 910 or 920 watch, as these both offer pool swimming metrics as well as cycling and running options.  For cyclists or triathletes who are looking for a good bike computer, I'd recommend the new Edge 520 or possibly a deeply discounted 500 or 510.
  5. 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 (including strength) 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.  Garmin has standard HR straps, running specific straps, swimming HR straps (new) and triathlon HR straps (new which includes swimming).  The running strap and triathlon strap include running dynamic data for the 920 watch.  This can be helpful in understanding your running form, but is not necessary.  As an alternative to Garmin straps, you can also consider an optical HR strap as well.  The advantage of optical is that they tend to rub less and in some situations read better (less dropouts and less prone to static electricity, but they don't work well with the 920's VO2 Max estimator or recovery advisor (they only estimate beat to beat variation), nor do they include running dynamics.  If you travel a lot, you may want to consider a separate HR strap for traveling.  My recommendation is a dual Ant+/Bluetooth model such as the Wahoo Tickr, as it will pair with both your Garmin GPS device and you phone (so you can use the TrainerRoad App at a local fitness center). 
    • 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
  6. TrainerRoad.  TrainerRoad (TR) is a software service subscription that costs roughly $10 per month and provides fantastic indoor trainer workouts utilizing cycling power.  TR is unique in that it also has the ability to estimate power usage for those without actual power meters, based on your speed and the bike trainer's power resistance curve (which is why having a repeatable resistance curve is so important).  Here is a great overview of how TrainerRoad works.  I select workouts from TR's library as part of your overall weekly schedules, based on your specific needs.  To get started in TR, here is a getting started overview for TR.  Note that to use TR, you'll need:
    • Bike Trainer, as discussed above.
    • Power meter (optional) if you have one, or you can simply use virtual power instead.
    • Speed & cadence sensor, as discussed above.
    • A computer or iphone/ipad, with either the TR software downloaded on the computer or the app downloaded for the iOS device.  My personal preference is a laptop rather than an iOS device, but either works fine.  Note for your computer or iOS device to be able to communicate with your power meter (optional), speed and cadence sensor you need an Ant+ device:
      • For a computer, you'll need a Ant+ USB stick, such as shown here.  Note that if you have a Garmin 910, the Ant+ stick that came with that system will work fine with TR.
      • For iOS devices you will need a different type of Ant+ device since they do not have USB connections.  The device for a the older style iPhone / iPad connections is here.  Note that they do not have an updated version for the new smaller connection (models 5 or newer), so you need the older Ant+ device plus this convertor shown here.
      • When traveling, you can also use the TR app on your iPhone paired to a bluetooth HR strap such as the Wahoo Tickr.  You will need to adjust the settings  to use HR rather than power for your workouts.
    • When using virtual power in TR, getting accurate speed is critical to having repeatable and reliable workouts.  To ensure you have accurate data, I suggest the following:
      • You need to make sure that your trainer wheel is not slipping as you apply power/force to your pedals if you are using a trainer where the tire rides against a spindle (like the KK Road Machine).  If the tire slips, it registers as extra speed without the corresponding true resistance.  This overestimates the power you are applying and defeats the purpose of power based training.  To ensure your tire is not slipping, check the following: 
        • Consistent air pressure.  Make sure you air up your tires before every workout, to the same air pressure.  Assuming a typical tire capability of 115 psi, you can simply air up to 100 psi each day before your ride. 
        • Consistent pressure setting on your trainer.  When you take your bike on and off the trainer, it is a good habit to apply the same amount of pressure on your tire.  For trainers that use a knob to tighten the spindle against your tire (such as a KK Road Machine), I'd recommend tightening until the spindle just barely touches the tire.  Then count the number of rotations you need to make until the tire doesn't slip.  I add a piece of tape to the knob pointing upward and count the rotations from that point.  For my KK Road Machine, this is typically 3 turns after the spindle touches the tire.  Going forward, you can then just loosen the trainer 5 turns to remove your bike and tighten 5 turns when you put the bike back on the trainer.
        • Clean tires.  I have used both standard tires and trainer specific tires, and found no big advantage to purchasing special trainer tires.  But, when you ride outdoors oil and dirt from the road can cause the tires to slip on the trainer.  To clean the tires, simply use a rag with rubbing alcohol and just quickly wipe off the tire as you spin it on the trainer.  Make sure to let it dry before riding it.
        • Checking for slippage.  To see where your initial application pressure needs to be... make sure you have your tires aired up to the desired pressure, dial in the pressure to a starting point (i.e. 3 turns after touching the tire) and make sure your tires are clean.  Next, hold the flywheel of the trainer with one hand so it does not rotate and pull up on the wheel/tire to see if you can make the tire slip on the spindle.  If it does... you need to tighten the spindle against the tire more.  Keep adjusting until the tire is very difficult to make slip, or not at all.  You don't want it so tight the tire is completely deformed, but you also do not want it to slip... it should take a considerable effort when pulling up on the tire to make it slip, when set correctly.
      • Wheel circumference.  It is also important to make sure you have the wheel size correct in TR, otherwise the power estimate will be off as well.  Attached is a chart showing typical tire circumference values.  Look at your existing tires... most typical would be 700c with 23mm tires (at 2098mm) or 650c with 23mm tires (at 1938mm).  Note that there are some variation in actual tire sizing and the impact of rims, so if you want to double check your tire size, you can do it manually.  Typically I will put out a 25' tape measure on the driveway and start my rear wheel valve stem at the bottom at the beginning of the tape measure.  With your tires aired up to your target air pressure, lean on your bike seat to put weight on it while rolling the bike forward in a straight line until you have three complete revolutions of the tire.  Check the distance, divide by 3 to get a single revolution (using 3 helps reduce the error factor) and convert to mm to get circumference (25.4mm per inch).  Do this three times and take the overall average, and you'll have an accurate reflection of your wheel size.  Note that you may want to also set your Garmin device to the same value, in your speed setting.
      • Here is a quick video overview I created to assist with the key points of setting up TrainerRoad.  If you want to be able to capture power on your Garmin device (using the Ant+ communication), you need to enable TrainerRelay option as discussed in the video.
  7. Other Software/Sites.  Besides TrainingPeaks (TP) here's a list of other recommended or required software options:
    • 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.