This month I had the privilege of attending the TrainingPeaks 2017 Endurance Coaching Summit (ECS) in Boulder, CO. While in Boulder, I had a great time meeting other coaches and getting to know a few of the faces behind TrainingPeaks.
I’ve been using TrainingPeaks (TP) software for about 9 years. Despite an influx of recent competition, TP is still the best endurance coaching software on the planet (I wasn’t asked to say this, nor was I paid for my opinion). Over the last decade TP has consistently improved, not only serving as the most powerful way to analyze ride data, but also as the best place to plan workouts and deliver feedback to athletes.
Like nearly every tech industry, the future of endurance training software is seemingly tied to artificial intelligence (AI). Software will get better at highlighting trends, more efficient at mining data, and more precise at predicting future performance.
These improvements will ultimately allow coaches and athletes to make more accurate decisions that result in greater long term success. Software will never do the actual work, but it will give us better tools to make our training more purposeful and efficient.
The power of the human/AI partnership was the topic of a recent TedRadio Hour podcast. While many fear an automated world run by machines, the combination of machine and human working together still produces the best outcomes. Thankfully, human intelligence won’t be obsolete any time soon.
AI is the future of endurance training software, but are there downsides? Always connected, always generating data, always providing the opportunity to measure oneself and model performance. Does all that technology have the potential to sabotage our progress or happiness?
A recent article in the Atlantic highlighted a troubling correlation between the immersiveness of technology and the increasing rate of loneliness among teens (one would have to presume these trends extend to adults as well). Check out the graph below for a snapshot of what was covered in the article.
The conclusions this author reaches aren’t without criticism. Some cite the strictly correlational nature of the article’s core data. Some criticize the cherry picking of research to paint technology as the boogey man. Wherever you line up on the issue, it seems likely that constantly engaging with technology, even fitness technology, has the potential to lessen our engagement in “real” life.
Recent research suggests, the more we substitute “virtual” for “real”, the less happy we become . If you’re striving to get better as an endurance athlete, engagement with technology seems to come with clear compromises.
So how do you fully utilize the power of data and intelligent software while minimizing the destructive impact technology can have?
Here are a few suggestions
- First off, don’t flee technological advances. Data and smart software will give you an edge as an athlete. The best riders in the world are either actively engaged in learning technology or are receiving advice from someone who is.
- Don’t pour over your data too much. Sometimes ride data can teach you something, sometimes it can’t. Develop a workflow for reviewing your data, learning from it, then moving on. Don’t obsess.
- Do group rides often. I don’t care about all the training related reasons why “serious” cyclists shouldn’t do group rides. We can work through those details in another discussion. In a day and age where humans are often starved for real/authentic, face to face experiences, group rides might be the most important mental health exercise of the week.
- Schedule regular (monthly) big rides with friends. It’s easy to get wrapped up in weekly training targets, CTL progressions, and race goals, but a 5 hour ride with good friends will probably do more for your long-term progress and mental health than any tightly planned interval workout.
- Stop looking at Strava so much. I have to think if Facebook has the potential to degrade happiness, Strava has the potential to degrade your love of cycling. Not only does Strava constantly remind you of what you’re missing, it provides an instant, objective means to compare yourself to everyone in your feed. Not riding enough, not riding hard enough, Strava has the potential to be just as destructive to your happiness as Facebook.
- Schedule time to hang out after rides. I’ll go so far as to say you might be better off cutting your ride shorter, and hanging out longer over coffee or beer. Cycling can be isolating, so take advantage of the chances you have to connect with friends.
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1: Shakya, H.B. and N.A. Christakis, Association of Facebook Use With Compromised Well-Being: A Longitudinal Study. Am J Epidemiol, 2017. 185(3): p. 203-211.