I’ve mentioned a variety of Apps in previous blogs so I thought it might be useful to dedicate a wee post to describing which Apps I find useful. Interestingly this list has grown steadily over the last few months and I wonder if I’m a little bit addicted to them. I think people are either very much pro- or against all the training apps you can use. Long time athletes often claim to know when they’ve pushed themselves, or run their best, just by how they feel during the session. I seem entirely unable to do this. Some sessions will feel sluggish and slow and it will turn out I’ve performed a PB; other times I’m convinced I’ve been on top form, only to discover it was a really slow effort.
Using Apps to chart your progress really works for me – it makes it clear where you are improving and what you still need to work on. I also find it psychologically helpful looking back over previous training which really highlights your improvements, especially if you are having a bit of a dip in motivation.
So these are the ones I use – as I’ve mentioned before this is just my non-expert opinion, and certainly no one asked me to promote any of them!
Training Peaks has become an integral part of our lives! We have it on our desktop computer and also in our phones. This is where our full training plans exist and it updates whenever we complete a session as it is linked to all the other apps we have that record our exercise. It sends us emails every morning to remind us what we have scheduled for that day. We are linked through it with Crawford – he inputs our weekly training schedule and can monitor how we’re doing, and we can also schedule in other commitments, for example weekends on call when it will be difficult to do normal training, or events that we are signed up for that we need to work around. Crawford can give us specific sets we need to do (for example I can open up one of the ‘swimming’ boxes and there will be a detailed plan for my swim session that day).
Training Peaks also tracks your fitness, and since we started using it in November-ish time, we can see how our fitness has improved (which is a lot). It also gives all sorts of read outs of various metrics that I don’t quite understand yet.
For me, having someone else in charge of my training plan, which I can open at any time to check, and just do what I’m told each day, has taken an enormous amount of pressure off. There is no anxiety of ‘am I doing enough?’, ‘am I doing too much?’, ‘should I be doing a different ratio of exercise?’ etc etc. And as mentioned, seeing the steady improvements in our fitness levels is very reassuring (who doesn’t love a chart). There is a basic free version of Training Peaks, but we subscribe to the premium version which allows us to do a lot more of the functions and analyses.
Love Strava. It’s a little bit like Facebook for sporty geeks. Strava is where you essentially upload all your activities. But rather than just keeping a record of what you’ve done, it compares all your efforts with when you’ve done the same thing before, and also compares you to anyone who has ever done the same thing (who has recorded it on Strava). You can follow fellow athletes, and they can follow you – you then see what everyone else has done that day, and you can give them ‘kudos’ for their workout – a bit like ‘liking’ someone’s post on Facebook.
What you don’t realise is that everywhere in the world, there are thousands of Strava ‘segments’ dotted about – these are segments of routes of varying lengths that you get timed covering. If you do a particular segment one day in say 2:16 mins, and then when you cover the same segment a week later in 2:10, you get a little achievement badge for your session for being better. If it’s the best time you’ve ever done it, you get a celebratory PB, and if you are really marvellous you get a cup! (This almost never happens to me – you need to be in the top ten either that year, or ever, to get a cup). Once you are aware of a particular segment on routes you often take, it’s amazing how it gives you a wee extra push to try and get through it even faster. And obviously it is then a great way for tracking your progress.
Kudos is a funny thing too. There are very definitely patterns to what get’s you most kudos. If you do a long, hilly cycle, you gets loads of kudos. People always seem impressed by that. If you do either a very long, or a very fast run, you will get lots of kudos. No one is that impressed with swimming but if it’s a very long set you will get a reasonable amount of kudos. Very few people give you kudos for your cycle commute to work (although I feel we should be applauding that) and you get practically no kudos for strength and conditioning type workouts. However, there are also some lovely loyal followers who will give you kudos for literally anything you do. Love them. And you’ll get rather a lot of rude comments if you happen to do a late evening strength/conditioning workout and forget to edit the heading stating what it was, so it’s just labeled as ‘night time activity’.
I use the free version of Strava, but there is a premium version that you can pay for that will give you more analysis of your workouts, and I think you need the premium version if you want to create any segments.
Everyone has a different way of tracking their activities. I would say the majority of people I know who are training and recording regularly will have a multi-sport GPS watch. There are a variety of models available and I have always used a Garmin watch. I’ve just had to get a new one in fact as my last one finally gave up the ghost after 3.5 years. If you have a multi-sport watch it will record all manner of activities including running (indoor and out), cycling (indoor and out), swimming (pool and open water), triathlon, aquathlon, strength, duathlon etc etc. Some of these watches now have wrist heart rate monitors on them, others will come with heart rate monitor straps that you attach round your chest and they transmit you heart rate by bluetooth to your device. I never used to use a HRM, but actually it is a good way analysing your effort during a workout.
If you have a Garmin device for recording your workout, at the end of the workout the data recorded during it is uploaded to Garmin Connect, and in fact it will give you a number of different analyses of your set. It then connects to all your other Apps (eg Strava, Training Peaks etc) which will automatically show your workout. I find looking at things like running cadence useful to look at here. The Garmin Connect App is free.
I spoke previously about Sufferfest in my blog about indoor cycling. It is the training app I use for any indoor cycling workouts which I do on the smart turbo trainer. Sufferfest has many different workouts that you can download onto your phone (or other device) and then play. The workouts will be focused on different aspects of your cycling, for example endurance or speed, and they are of differing lengths. You can search through the available workouts to find one to match your planned session and then off you go. Sufferfest also has yoga and stretching workouts of various lengths, focusing on different muscle groups (for example ‘core strengthener’ or ‘hamstring and calf flexibility’) which are really useful for short, targeted stretching.
You need to subscribe to Sufferfest to use all the workouts but it’s relatively cheap. It then also connects to your Strava/Training Peaks to automatically upload your workout once it’s completed.
MY FITNESS PAL
This is a very new App for us – we’ve just started using it this week and it’s a bit of an eye opener! Although we have been a bit aware of our nutrition since we started training, we haven’t really focused on it. Since starting my Ironman training I’ve had lot’s of very nice comments about how well I’m looking and that I must have lost lots of weight. Interestingly, I haven’t lost any weight, but I have changed shape quite a lot. I think I am much more toned than I was, and have more muscle and less fat. I am essentially starving all the time, and whilst our diet is not awful, we are getting away with eating what we fancy which includes I suspect rather a lot of rubbish. Paul, who has always been slim and never gets particularly hungry, is actually struggling a bit on this front and is wasting away to nothing.
So we have decided to track our daily food/drink intake, both to help improve what we’re eating, but also to be able to set goals to make sure we’re having enough. With My Fitness Pal, you log everything you eat and drink (it can be a bit of a faff but loads of things can be scanned in if they have a barcode which makes life a bit easier) throughout the day, and again, because it links to our other training apps, it works out what we need after taking into account what exercise we have done. It also gives a breakdown, not just of your calorie intake, but your ‘macros’ (carbohydrate, protein, fat, fibre etc) and nutrients. And it’s really interesting already to see how we are doing. It is clear already that I don’t eat enough protein and Paul is a bit of a sugar fiend.
I think this is going to be really helpful guiding us to a more balanced diet, with emphasis on eating what we need for training and optimising performance.
SIMPLE INTERVAL TIMER (SIT)
This is a handy wee app that Fiona showed me for timing strength and conditioning circuits. One of the things about circuits is building intensity by either increasing the time or number of each exercise, or reducing the recovery between each one. If you’re doing these exercises at home it can be easy to cut short the length of the exercise, or take a bit too long recovery, but with this app, you set the number of reps, length of each one and time for recovery between each. It then beeps so you have to keep going. Simple but effective! (and free).