As an analyst, numbers fascinate me. After two years of triathlon training, I feel great! I feel even better when I see my fitness improvements on a chart. This is the one of the reasons why I wanted to create a training dashboard that compliments my 2010 triathlon training plan.
This post is one in a series of posts to discuss the building of the triathlon training dashboard and the relevance of each chart and/or component. Understanding how I built my dashboard, I hope it will inspire you to take another look at how you track your training.
As a member of Training Peaks, there are things that I like and things I don’t like about their dashboard. One of the things I do like about their dashboard is the Fitness Summary pie chart. It shows the time and percent training spent on each of the sports like bike, run, swim, strength, etc. Below is my most recent Fitness Summary chart for the past 30 days (October 2009). You can see that I spent the most time running, the second most time spent on strength training, etc, etc.
What I don’t like about this chart is that it lacks trending, which is a problem with all pie charts. What I really want to know is how have these percentages changed? While this month (or whatever time period) I spent about 45% on running, how does that compare to my training three or four month ago. To do this, I have to turn toward an alternative workout tracking solution.
Enter Excel. Microsoft Excel 2007 is a blank slate just waiting to be nurtured into a masterpiece by an analyst like me. After looking at the options, I settled on a weekly summary focusing on four sports: bike, run, Swim and strength. I also decided that not only do I need visibility into the time trained on each sport, but the distance I covered as well. If time stays the same, yet distance increases, it is a good indication that my ability in the sport is improving.
Below is my version of a Weekly Summary.
I use a stacked bar chart by week to indicate the amount of time spent on each sport. This enables me to:
1) See the overall amount of time each week spent on training.
2) See how much time each sport makes during the week
3) How the time spent on sport changes over time.
Using an area chart placed behind the stacked bar chart allows me to:
1) show the distance covered in each sport.
2) trend the distance over time to identify changes
3) placing it behind the bar chart, I can easily compare time with distance.
When you put it altogether, the number of insights you can get from my combo chart above compared to the TP pie chart at the top is much more. It is quite fascinating to see the relationships and changes in my actual training performance each week and over time. Here are some of the interesting things I see in this chart:
1) in the past three weeks, I have almost doubled the run distance compared to week 36 and 37 (time spent running has also increased).
2) the past three weeks, I have not done many bike workouts at all.
3) the amount of time spent on strength training is consistent week over week.
4) swim time has become more consistent, but I need to spend more time in the pool.
Has anyone noticed something missing on the area chart? Yep, that is right, Swim distance is non-existent. This is on purpose for two reasons: 1) plotting 975 yards on the graph with these scales would throw off the rest of the data (one solution is to convert yards to miles) and 2) time spent in the pool focuses on technique, not covering distance and I don’t count laps when I practice, meaning distance is irrelevant at the moment.
Seeing your training on a graph is not only a great accountability tool, but it also drives inspiration. I can see how far my training has come and I want to see how far I can take it!
Can you visualize your training week over week like I outlined here?
Please stay tuned for the next post in this series…
Update: I started a company called TrainingMetrix, that specializes in fitness dashboards, workout tracking, and focused performance for triathletes based on my frustration for finding a solution. Please head over to our blog for more information on fitness dashboards and triathlon workout tracking.