Written by coach Michael Harvey
Over the years the athletes who I've seen grow and develop the most are indeed the athletes who have learnt how to listen to their bodies. Whilst I coach in triathlon, I'm a student of sport and it's clear to me from a lifetime watching everything from synchronised swimming to mixed martial arts that to achieve your best, Socrates had it nailed all those years ago with 'know thyself'. I've had athletes challenge and push back on the idea of working towards this data free way of doing things and ask if this is 'the best way' to do it.
To be clear I've only one main objective. To do and use what works and gets the best results. I have no particular attachment to how this is achieved so long as it has been done within the rules.
What I do know is this; there is a huge difference between mimicry and proficiency. The first doesn't show any learning or understanding whilst the later brings with it the skill set that can be built on and perhaps more importantly, brings with it a greater sense of personal satisfaction.
So below I've outlined my summary (to date) of my take on: if, how and when data collecting is useful or not.
1) ALL athletes should aim to become proficient in not needing or rely on any external data to assist them in their training/performance. Treat this as the long term objective and something you work towards to gaining a better understanding of yourself.
2) Early in your learning process you will need more guidance. Just like being at school and gaining your 'pen licence' or even before that, tracing letters to learn how to write. Training wheels on a bike when learning are great to get you going, but at a certain point they are holding you back and slowing/halting your progression.
3) Schools have unstructured play for kids between classes as well as the structured lessons. Much of your real learning and understanding will come from the time without the data and allowing yourself the time to listen to your body. Combining experience and how you feel more and more will further increase your ability.
4) Learn what type of athlete you are and what you respond best to. I have athletes who, when given the exact same session but with a watch on their wrist have a terrible session. While others perform much better and respond in a positive manner. Remember it is not one size fits all. The end goal may be similar but the path there is different for each athlete.
5) Do whatever you need to make the process of improving, learning and developing compelling. It is the process and consistency over time that reaps the greatest improvements and results. For many of you that is putting the GPS down, putting on your goggles, helmet or shoes and enjoying the process.
6) Don't be tricked that some little computer will fast track your progress. You still have to do the work.