Using SportTracks 3.1

SportTracks

For the past couple of months I’ve been using SportTracks 3.1 to record my runs. It’s a superb tool, and I recommend it highly. This one does it all! It offers GPS import or manual entry, GPS routes with street, topographic and satellite maps, chart workout trends, detail pace, elevation, and heart rate graphs, dynamic split time, distance and pace analysis, user-defined workout categories and custom data, equipment and use tracking, etc. That’s a lot of content, but it means I can configure the data from my runs in the way that’s most useful to me.

SportTracks exports data from almost all Garmin devices (including my Garmin Forerunner 210). And it supports the use of a whole library of third party plugins. (A plugin is a small package you download and install to extend the features of SportTracks. They can add support for new devices and file types, perform advanced charting and analysis, allow you to share with online websites, and much more. Most are free, while some of the more complex ones require payment.) A list of the plugins most suitable for runners can be found here. The only plugin I’m using right now is the Dailymile Plugin, developed by fellow dailymile member Jonathan Savage. An example of a more complex plugin is one called Training Analysis, which allows the SportTracks user to see how the outcomes of his or her training match the goals of the training plan, and if and how it might be changed.

If you want to dip your feet into the SportTracks experience, you can get it on a 90-day free trial. If you want to get all the features, pay US$38, and SportTracks is yours. (A full list of SportTrack’s features can be found here.)

OK, that’s all very nice, you say, but why do you want to keep track of all that stuff?

Because it’s data. And data is fun. Not only that, data is (or “data are,” if you want to be pedantic) useful. With SportTracks, I can use data in two ways. First, I can input the data about my run, as well as information about my equipment, weight, resting and maximum heart rates, and sleep cycles, into the program, so that I have an ongoing record of what I’ve done. That’s not dissimilar from the paper-based journal I used to keep when I started running, many years ago. Second, I can get feedback from the data I’ve recorded with SportTracks. Some of that feedback comes in the form of charts.

I didn’t get charts from that paper-based journal. With SportTracks, I can get a whole whack of them. Here’s an example:

SportTracks Chart

(Note: This isn’t one of my own charts. I haven’t used SportTracks long enough for my charts to be good illustrations. The one above is a sample chart that I chose from a Google search, because it shows some of the complexity that’s available. Click on the image to see it at a higher resolution.)

Charts, which can be thought of as infographics, are a powerful tool. Not only do they afford a one-time snapshot of data, they can, by combining various sets of data, be made to point to new information and new learnings. While the primary feedback for me is – and always will be – my feet, my body, and my brain, the kind of numbers – hard data – supplied by SportTracks informs and enhances that primary data. Knowing all that I know, I can then put the data to one side, get back into the flow of the run, and, over time, improve both my performance and my enjoyment of the run.

Let me emphasize that the point of this whole data business is to make my runs – long and short, slow and fast – more enjoyable. I’m a recreational athlete, after all. I’m not into winning contests.

SportTracks is certainly helping me learn. About things like CTL (Chronic Training Load, a fitness indicator), ATL (Acute Training Load, a fatigue indicator), and TSB (Training Stress Balance, a freshness indicator). It’s helped me understand what TRIMP is. I’ve read about TRIMP in various exercise science books, but seeing it applied to my own runs makes it real. Seeing my figures for Training Monotony has made me look at what my training schedule is and why keeping variety in that schedule is necessary.

Will using SportTracks make me a faster runner? Probably. Will it make me a more informed runner? Definitely. Will it make me a happier runner? It already has. As I say, highly recommended for those who like data and can make good use of it. Why not give it a try?

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