Jan 29, 2015
Finding Strength in Numbers

By Vern Gambetta

You have max heart rate, resting heart rate, and heart rate variability. You have total distance moved in a practice and blood lactate calculations for in- and post-workout activity. You have spreadsheets filled with so many numbers that the question becomes, “How do you translate all these numbers into useful information?”

That is the million-dollar question. It is not a matter of what we can monitor–it is about which numbers we can use.

The explosion in technology has enabled us to monitor virtually anything we want, but before we go further down this path, we need to ask ourselves, “Why?”

On one level, the answer is very straightforward. We need to get accurate feedback to guide and shape the training process. We need to understand our athletes’ response and adaptation to various types, volumes, and intensities of training.

On another level, we need to determine what kinds information will help us accomplish those objectives. Monitoring more factors is not the answer, because measurable isn’t always the same as meaningful. We need to examine whether the data is helping our athletes improve.

I love data, and I enjoy the challenge of finding meaning in statistics. But–and this is a big but–I wonder whether we’re losing sight of the forest for the trees.

We can get so caught up generating numbers that we take our eye off the ball. We need to see our athletes as individuals, and carefully observe how they handle the stress of training and competition. Watch their body language. Ask how they feel. Train them to read their bodies and understand how they react to training stress. Put the focus squarely back on Hu–the human element–not on the technologies.

Don’t be a mad scientist–be a coach. Use technology to measure what is meaningful and appropriate. Before becoming inundated with numbers, focus only on what you need to significantly impact training.

Look closely at the tools available to help: How much time do you have? How much help do you have?

Carefully choose how and what you are going to monitor. Then use that data to modify your training for meaningful results.

Vern Gambetta, MA, is President of Gambetta Sports Training Systems in Sarasota, Fla. The former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox, he has also worked extensively with basketball, soccer, and track and field athletes. He is a frequent contributor to Training & Conditioning. Vern also maintains his own blog.

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