The Data Driven Athlete

Sports technology has really evolved over the past couple of years. We have more metrics than ever to track us to help us train, predict our performance and recovery. Only ten years ago we were all mostly confined to four primary metrics, heart rate, pace, bike power and rating of perceived exertion. Now the data is somewhat limitless. We can track how many hours we slept and the quality of our sleep. We have devices that can tell us if we are rested enough to train or overreaching. While training, we can see more metrics than I could have ever imagined a couple of years ago. We can see data that ranges to where the pressure is being applied on our feet cycling to vertical oscillation while running.

All of these advancements in technology are great, yet they are not all going to make you better and trying to hone in on all can just leave you feeling confused.

The metrics that tell you how rested you are and how ready you are to train should be taken with caution. What a device tells you and how you feel are two different things. Keep in mind your device may be pulling from one or two metrics to make this decision (such as resting heart rate and sleep) while only you truly knows the whole scoop of your body. So be sure to really look at your situation as a whole. Remember that diet, life stress and hydration can play big rolls on readiness to work train.

While training there are a lot of metrics to look at. But how do you know if you are getting good data? For swimming, biking and running, here are a few tips to ensure you get accurate numbers from your training:



When using your watch in the pool first be sure you have the correct pool size entered. When taking rest intervals or grabbing gear off the swim deck be sure to hit the rest/stop(depending on what watch you have) button to ensure no extra distance is added. In addition if you are performing swim drills be sure to use the drill mode if your watch has the feature - this will help you better keep track of your total distance during the workout.

Open water swimming:

For open water swimming be sure to let your watch find GPS at least a couple minutes before you take off for the swim. Since your watch only has a GPS signal when you hand is above the water waiting for a strong signal is very binnacle when tracking distance and reviewing data. In addition if taking a rest interval in open water I suggest keeping your watch hand above the water to maintain a strong signal.


If you ride outdoors often and use an auto stop feature on your device to keep the moving time of your ride correct a speed sensor is key. GPS is good but tall buildings or trees may not have a good enough signal to see your exact speed and could show that you are moving when you are stopped. If you ride with power I highly suggest you calibrate your power meter before every ride. This takes a couple of seconds and will ensure accurate data. When training with heart rate be sure your chest strap has a good connection by wetting the strap in the appropriate locations before putting it on. Many heart rate monitors will have a instructions on right on the strap.


Just like swimming and running GPS can play a big role in the accuracy of your run. If you are running in a city with tall building or in the woods a foot pod can help you see your true pace. For running pace I suggest investing in a quality foot pod and setting your watch to use the foot pod for pace and GPS for distance. Once again, just like biking being sure you have a good heart rate monitor connection is key.

It is key to always keep in mind that training and racing with data is helpful if you have accurate data and listen to your body as well. Metrics can help make a decision but you are the athlete who is ultimately in control. Read the metrics, listen to your body and enjoy the process!

- Coach Carly