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Seven Ways Data Collection Can Lead to Triathlon Success

Many triathletes pore over all the information they can find, convinced it will make it clear to them how they should train. What tends to happen, however, is usually the opposite. According to former elite triathlete Jim Vance, athletes often try to put into practice everything they have read about the latest interval set, or strength equipment, or long ride with big gear climbs. The only thing all of this information overload does is confuse them and lead them away from sticking with a specific plan that addresses their own needs.


Vance, now an elite coach with TrainingBible Coaching and author of Triathlon 2.0: Data-Driven Performance Training, encourages triathletes to instead train by the numbers through the power of data, although he runs into many athletes who think power meters and other technological tools are a waste of money. “It's ironic that usually these athletes own some sort of smartphone, use complex software at their day jobs, or use computers in just about every aspect of their daily lives,” he says. “Yet there is a disconnection that prevents them from realizing that technology could be as much of a benefit to their training as it is to their daily life.”


If you are a triathlete and are still wondering if using technology is best for you, Vance points to seven benefits of data collection:


  1. It helps you determine exactly when you have had enough aerobic fitness training, letting you maximize training time by focusing more on weaknesses instead of aerobic work.
  2. It lets you see your exact weaknesses while offering direct, measurable feedback on how well your training is addressing those weaknesses.
  3. It lets you see exactly how many intervals you should do in a workout to get just the right amount of training stress so you can recover more quickly and achieve a better week of training.
  4. It helps you find the perfect tapering strategy and replicate it perfectly for each major race, essentially letting you see where your fitness will be in the future and how well the taper will be executed.
  5. It helps you hit certain performance markers in your training, thereby dramatically increasing the chances of achieving or exceeding your goals.
  6. It allows you, in only a matter of minutes, to look at your training from the past season or longer and see where you made training mistakes or errors in judgment for training load, what training load got you sick or injured, or where you plateaued.
  7. It reveals your training tendencies so you can come up with a new and better stimulus to get the fitness and performance jump you've been seeking.


“Believe it or not, all this can be done, and it really isn't that hard,” Vance stresses. “You just have to know what data to collect, the elements of the data to look at, and when to look at them, according to your goals and time line to race day.”


So what data should you collect as a triathlete? Depending on how many variables of your training you want to control, Vance thinks you should consider a power meter for your bike; a speed–distance device for your running, such as a GPS or accelerometer-based watch; a heart rate monitor that will work for both devices; and something that can measure swim pace and distance. Athletes who have and regularly use all of these items will be able to do all of the things Vance mentions.


“What way best helps athletes to reach their potential, given the resources available, strengths and weaknesses, and race goals, can be calculated and measured, giving you the freedom and power to create your best way of training,” Vance concludes. “When you've been tracking and seeing the improvement in your training, it is hard not to be confident in the preparation, which keeps you motivated to train and step to the start line ready to race with a positive and confident attitude.”


As the first program to take advantage of the latest science and technology, Triathlon 2.0 examines the sport's most popular devices, including cycling power meters, GPS trackers, and heart rate monitors. Vance helps you put the numbers to work, translating data into a comprehensive program based on your performance needs and triathlon goals.