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The Data Arms Race

by My Finish Line

How many steps? How much recovery time before heart rate reduces to “green” zone? What is my functional power threshold? What pace should I calibrate my GPS to? Where can I upload my Strava data to view other people’s plans?

You wouldn’t need to be Marty McFly* and travel back a full thirty years for any of the above to be confusing. You need only go back a decade where pretty much any of the above statements would probably have been met with a wide-eyed glare by even the most ardent of fitness enthusiasts.

(*Editor’s note* if you don’t know who Marty McFly is we can never be friends.)

However, back to the blog, the pace (no pun intended) and ferocity of our absorption of cutting-edge technology and information to educate our training has never been greater. Anyone with a GPS watch and a HRM device now has nigh-on as much data intelligence and sports technology understanding as a NFL or Premiership Team Sport Scientist would have had merely ten years ago. This is seriously exciting, and the fact that an article can be written using the acronyms GPS/HRM without even needing to elaborate on their meaning proves that the universal language, engagement and captivation of sports technology is here to stay and to grow. The genie is out of the bottle.

What does the future hold? It is hard to imagine things being more sophisticated as they are now, but we are merely scratching the surface. My Finish Line was created to give people like you an online community of like-minded fantastic people to interact with, learn from, and share training plans with; but there is a growing wealth of training apps and session generators popping up that use everything from recorded heart rate in previous sessions to AI as indicators of guidelines. We chase graphs on Watt Bikes in 2020 as much, if not more, than we chased actual bikes in 2010. We share Strava runs on Facebook and Instagram now more than we share photos of us lying on sunbeds on holiday.

If the trickle down occurs from elite to consumer, what is happening now at the top? What trends, or info streams will most likely enter our consciousness over the coming decade? Pro team sports include performance threshold measurements currently such as “High Speed Running” for anything above 12 mph. Why 12mph? Because that is the median speed when crossing the first 10m of a sprint. Also ‘live metres per min’ is catalogued as an indicator of intensity in activities that don’t involve constant movement (think playing soccer or touch rugby). This variable does not include the periods when you are resting so informs the user what kind of multi-directional distances are being performed. Also, max speeds and distance run within a percentage of top maximal speeds are factored in. Everything from wind drag and impact forces on heel strike data is being monitored in running and cycling-based sports, with each ream of mirco-data being analysed by Power BI. Don’t concern yourselves too much about the reported yet slightly scoffed-at marginal gains concepts around high-level percentages involving washing hands and bespoke mattresses, the real thought leaders are a thousand miles ahead of such quaint ideas.

This might seem like overkill and a phenomenally laborious data-collection use of data, but the truth is the demands the runner, trainer and fitness fanatic is currently placing on the sports industry and its technology is proving that our thirst for knowledge and sophistication is almost greater than the provision. In what would seemingly be a remarkable twist, the technology is being created to cater for the user’s knowledge and needs and not vice versa.

A watch that analyses your pace against your heart rate versus your blood lactate levels against your position in your run versus the amount of muscle glycogen available is not that far away. And who would want that? Based on the past decade, we all would.

In the quest for better performances and education, knowledge is power. And we think that is fantastic.